Beauty supplements have been around since the middle of the 20th century. But never has the cosmetic industry been this obsessed with them. In today’s social media age supplements that promise beautiful, plump skin are more and more common and being thrown at us non-stop. These pills are supposed to be packed with skin-beneficial nutrients to boost the condition of skin. The theory behind this is that what we put inside our body shows on the outside, and what we eat has a major impact on how good or bad our skin looks. But do they actually work? Is the secret to having great skin as easy as popping a pill? Being the sceptic that I am, I decided to do a little research on these beauty supplements and find out whether they actually work or if they’re just an overpromoted gimmick.
Beauty supplements come in many forms; liquids, powders, pills. They now even come in gummy bears.
First let’s start with the content of beauty supplements. What do they contain? Beauty supplements usually contain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are meant to benefit your skin. The following nutrients are typically included in beauty supplements. Let’s go through them one by one and decide whether they’re effective when taken in orally.
Collagen is the main protein in connective tissues all over the body, from skin, to cartilage, to bones. It acts like a glue that keeps cells together and gives the body form and support. Collagen gives the skin strength and elasticity. Our bodies stop producing collagen in our mid to late 20s, which is why taking collagen pills sounds so enticing. But collagen is a protein, which means it gets broken down in the digestive system. Collagen cannot be absorbed by the body wholly. When taken in, the digestive system breaks collagen down into amino acids that the body uses wherever they're needed, not necessarily your skin. Above that, there´s very limited scientific data supporting the efficacy of collagen supplements. So before you spend your money on collagen supplements, remember that #1 they don’t survive the digestive system, and #2 their efficacy has not been backed up by any reputable scientific studies.
Verdict: my advice would be to skip collagen supplements.
Essential Fatty Acids (omega-3/6)
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are called ‘essential’ because your body cannot make them on its own; you can only obtain them from your diet. Omega-3s and omega-6s are key building blocks for healthy cell membranes. They help produce the skin’s natural oil barrier, which is vital for keeping skin protected, hydrated, and plump. In fact EFA deficiency leads to dermatitis (scaling and dryness of skin). Unlike collagen supplements, there’s plenty of research suggesting the benefits of EFAs for skin. EFAs have been shown to reduce UV-induced photo damage, reduce signs of aging, and reduce inflammation associated with acne. Besides having great benefits for skin, omega-3s also have been shown to lower risk of heart disease, and symptoms of joint pain and depression. They boost your immune system and can help prevent Alzheimer’s. Talk about essential!
Verdict: omega-3 and omega-6 supplements are definitely worth checking out.
Vitamin A plays an important role in supporting the skin’s health, helping in cell reproduction, wound healing and growth. If you’re getting enough vitamin A from your diet, taking supplements won’t do much extra for your skin. But if your vitamin A levels drop a little below normal, you will notice some skin-related issues, including dry and flaky skin.
Be careful with vitamin A. Vitamin A is fat soluble, meaning that if you’re taking in too high doses for a prolonged period of time, it will build up in the fat tissues of your body and may eventually lead to serious health conditions.
Verdict: vitamin A helps to keep your skin healthy. Those with acne, keratosis pilaris, psoriasis, and flaky skin can especially benefit from vitamin A supplements. Just be careful that you don’t overdo it!
Vitamins C & E
Vitamins C and E are both antioxidants. Their main function is to reduce the damage caused by free radicals from sunlight, smoke, and pollution. Free radicals destroy collagen and elastin -the fibers that support skin structure- causing premature wrinkles and sagging. Vitamins C and E neutralize free radicals and in that way reduce the harm they cause to the skin.
Vitamin C also slows down signs of aging by stimulating the body’s natural collagen synthesis.
It’s also been shown to help heal damaged skin and prevent dry skin. I’ve actually written a blogpost on both vitamins. If you want to read more about these vitamins in skincare, click here: C and E.
Verdict: both vitamins have been proven to be effective and help to maintain your skin in a good condition. I would definitely recommend vitamin C and E supplements.
Also, if you’ve been thinking about taking collagen pills to increase your collagen levels, but you’ve been hesitant because of the lack of data proving their efficacy, maybe try vitamin C pills. Because unlike collagen supplements, vitamin C supplements have been proven to stimulate collagen levels.
There are many forms of vitamin B, but the 2 most important for skin are
vitamin B3 (Biotin) and vitamin B7 (Niacin, or Niacinamide).
Biotin and Niacin are nutrients that form the basis of skin cells, nail cells, and hair cells.
More specifically, Biotin and Niacin act as coenzymes in the body for the metabolism of fatty acids, proteins, and sugars. This means that when we eat foods that contain fatty acids, proteins, or sugars, Biotin and Niacin must be present in order to digest and convert these nutrients into energy. Without Biotin and Niacin those nutrients cannot be absorbed by the body. They play a major role in maintaining healthy cells.
Verdict: both vitamin B3 as well as vitamin B7 has been proven to help maintain a youthful and attractive complexion. A deficiency of any of these vitamins not only has troubling effects on your skin, but also on every other cell of your body. So vitamin B supplements are definitely recommended.
Before I end this post, I just wanted to remind everyone that vitamin and mineral supplements are called supplements for a reason. They’re supposed to supplement your diet, not replace them. While there definitely is a place for supplements in our diets, their primary goal is to compensate for small nutritional gaps. They are supposed to add to our diet, they cannot turn a bad diet into a healthy one. With that being said, when combined with a good diet the right supplements can help keep your skin looking not only healthy, but also younger. So they can be a good addition to a healthy lifestyle and a Korean skincare routine. I hope I’ve been able to help you choose the right supplement(s) for you.
See you next week!