From powders to pills, beauty supplements are having a moment. It seems every month there is a batch of new ingestible beauty products promising to make you glow from the inside out, but how do they achieve this? We spoke with experts in the field, including dermatologists and some of the minds behind the top beauty supplement brands, to learn about how ingestible beauty works and which products to trust.
What are beauty supplements?
First things first—let’s iron out exactly what constitutes a beauty supplement. “A beauty supplement is a powder, capsule or pill that is formulated with known beneficial ingredients for skin, hair and nails,” explains Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD. He adds that ingredients commonly found in these supplements include vitamins A, C and E, niacinamide, biotin, amino acids and various other antioxidants. “Antioxidants, in particular, are very popular in beauty supplements, as they have been shown to counteract the inflammation that leads to all types of skin aging,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “Ingestible zinc can help counteract oxidative stress, improve acne and even help wounds heal.”
Ingestible beauty has come a long way. “Beauty supplements were traditionally created to support naturally occurring processes in the body. For example, marine collagen supplements look at the depletion of our body’s collagen as we age, stimulating fresh collagen production to deliver firmer and plumper skin,” says Anna Lahey, founder of Vida Glow. “But today, innovation has progressed so far that we can now be targeted in our approach to beauty. [We are now] developing ingestible solutions specific to concerns like pigmentation, hair loss, dryness and wrinkles.”
Ingestible beauty is having a moment right now—why is that?
There are a lot of factors contributing to the surge in popularity ingestible beauty is seeing right now, mainly due to post-pandemic beauty goals and ease of use. “People are always looking for new ways to enhance their self-care routines, support their skin health and look and feel better—especially after our last couple of years in a pandemic,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “A well-formulated, thoroughly researched beauty supplement may be able to do that.” Punam Patel, OLLY VP of Product, says OLLY has seen the rise in supplement popularity reflected in the brand’s sales. For example, its sales of the Heavenly Hair ($26) supplement doubled over the last year.
West Palm Beach, FL dermatologist Kenneth Beer, MD echoes this sentiment and notes that he’s seen a rise in people seeking lasers and injectables for the same reason. He feels the industry will only continue to grow. “Ingestible beauty has amazing potential to help the skin, hair and nails,” says Dr. Beer. “There will be a day when you will be able to look at skin and design supplements that address the individuals’ issues,” he predicts.
How are beauty supplements different from other vitamins?
“Unlike general vitamins, beauty supplements are specifically formulated to have a direct, positive effect on skin, hair or nails,” explains Dr. Schlessinger. This means they need to contain a high enough potency of ingredients to ensure that it’s absorbed and used by the skin, hair or nails. “For example, a general supplement that contains vitamin A (which is also what retinol is derived from), may help counteract overall inflammation issues in the body, but may not have a direct, anti-aging effect on the skin.”
While Dr. Schlessinger often feels a vitamin-heavy, well-balanced diet is the best way to support the health of your body and skin, he notes that sometimes “there are nutrients that are beneficial to skin that are just impossible to get enough of in your diet,” in which case beauty supplements come in handy.
Why might a beauty supplement be more powerful than topical skin care?
Beauty starts from within, notes Jennifer Martin-Biggers PhD, VP of scientific affairs and education at HUM Nutrition, which is why a supplement can provide benefits beyond topical skin care. “The ability to increase delivery of molecules that can help the skin is enormous. You can boost delivery of active ingredients by delivering them from the inside and outside of the skin,” says Dr. Beer.
It’s not necessarily about one or the other, but rather using every tool in the toolbox. “Ingestible beauty offers an additional tool for consumers to augment their wellness and beauty regimens,” says Patel. The experts all advocated for tackling beauty from both sides—supplements and topicals.
“Unlike a topical treatment, which may only penetrate as far as the epidermis, an ingestible beauty supplement may be able to work deeper into the dermis of the skin, helping skin from the inside out,” says Dr. Schlessinger. Lahey points out that topical skin care only reaches three percent of your skin, which is primarily dead cells. “Ingestibles operate below the surface, reaching the other 97% of skin, where real change is created on the deepest, live layers of skin,” she adds.
How do experts decide the medium of a supplement?
Supplements come in many different shapes and sizes, from powders that go on your tongue or in your drink to pills or gummies. While powders and capsules can both be efficacious, some ingredients do better in one format over the other. Lahey explains that to optimize her brand Vida Glow’s formulas, they “consider what scientific evidence says and how ingredients behave in combination with each other when deciding on delivery format.” She notes that “actives vary in their sensitivity and how they perform in the body. So, creating an optimal environment for the formula is crucial in ensuring it performs at its best once ingested.”
For example, the brand’s product Radiance ($56) employs a capsule to act as a protective barrier for the sensitive formulation. “It ensures that all actives get to where they need to be and are absorbed in the intended place for optimal efficacy,” explains Lahey. “Whereas robust products like Natural Marine Collagen ($50) are most effective, pure and more readily absorbed as powders.”
Some expert-recommended products to try
If you’re looking to reap the wonderful benefits of beauty supplements, we’ve rounded up some expert-approved products to check out. However, Dr. Schlessinger notes that you should consult with your physician before beginning a new supplement to ensure it doesn’t interact with anything you’re already taking. Additionally, he advises never to take more than the recommended dose because more doesn’t always equate to better.
Lahey recommends Vida Glow Radiance, as mentioned above, for uneven lackluster complexions. She advises using Natural Marine Collagen to combat signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles. When it comes to fighting off accelerated aging effects of diet, pollution and oxidative stress, Lahey recommends Anti-G-Ox ($58).
Patel says she loves the OLLY Collagen Rings ($20). “There’s a clinically studied dose of Bioactive Collagen Peptides(R), and I really noticed a difference after I started using them. Plus, they have this delicious nostalgic peach flavor, so I can’t wait to take them every day.” She also recommends Ultra Strength Hair Softgels ($20), which help “reduce breakage and support healthy growth. We see a lot of reviews from consumers taking this to help with postpartum hair loss in particular.”
Dr. Schlessinger has a wide range of supplements he suggests. To support your acne regimen, he advises trying jane iredale Skin Accumax Dietary Supplement ($66). To achieve a more even skin tone, Dr. Schlessinger recommends Hush & Hush SkinCapsule BRIGHTEN+ ($48). To supplement your sun protection and boost antioxidant activity, he likes HELIOCARE Advanced Antioxidant Supplement with Nicotinamide ($37). “Heliocare is one of my favorite products as it not only helps with sun protection but also helps to improve melasma and can be helpful for skin cancer prevention.”
Dr. Martin-Biggers says she always recommends people address any issues with their digestion at the onset of a beauty supplement journey. “Research has shown a connection between our gut health, mood and skin, making it an important part of any beauty regimen,” she explains. Taking one HUM Nutritions’s Gut Instinct ($26) daily should help with digestion.
If you have dry skin, Red Carpet ($26) employs omegas to boost skin hydration and Glow Sweet Glow ($26) has hyaluronic acid and amla fruit for glowy, hydrated skin. Dr. Martin-Biggers suggests Collagen Love ($40) or Collagen Pop ($30) to improve skin firmness and elasticity. To reduce the appearance of wrinkles, she suggests Artic Repair ($60), which has lingonberry oil. Mighty Night ($40) promotes overnight cell renewal and includes powerful ceramides and antioxidants to support the skin moisture barrier, elasticity and hydration.
Another worthwhile brand to consider is Inner Glow Vitamins, which features products formulated by a dermatologist and a plastic surgeon. The brand offers a Hair, Skin & Nails Formula ($55) and Age Defense Vitamins ($50).
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