Want thicker hair? There’s a supplement for that. How about glowing skin? There’s a pill for that too. And stronger nails? Yep, you see where we’re going with this. Beauty supplements are all the rage these days.
“The ingestibles craze is basically the remarketing of existing vitamins and mineral supplements which are supposedly formulated to help improve your exterior looks,” says Robb Akridge, PhD, CEO and Founder of REA Innovations. “The real novelty of these beauty ingestibles is where they are sold. Vitamin supplements are no longer restricted to the health supplement section — they reside in the cosmetic department of your favorite retailer. The convenience of getting your beauty supplements and your favorite facial serum all at once is great. Having these supplements next to your favorite skin care brand is not a bad thing, since you should treat both your outside and your inside.”
That’s not the only change — instead of the drab bottles typically associated with vitamin aisles, beauty supplements have been repackaged for the Instagram era. “However, they have the same vitamins, minerals, and proteins found in existing vitamin supplements located in health supplement stores or pharmacies,” Akridge says. “It can be good to take these beauty supplements, but don’t be fooled or think that the ingredients somehow know that they are supposed to go straight to your skin to make it better. Any benefits derived from them would be for your entire body, inside and out.”
While these beauty supplements are obviously good for you, it’s important not to let them do all the work and still get the ingredients from your diet. “Beauty ingestibles should not be looked at as better, but more as additional or helping you overcome a deficiency due to poor diet,” Akridge says. “Nothing can replace a varied diet of fruits and vegetables. The more diverse in color the better. My philosophy is to eat a rainbow of vegetables every day. And even if you take these supplements, taking them with certain foods can help with their absorption into your body. For example, vitamin A is better absorbed if consumed with a meal containing fat.”
To make the most of your beauty ingestibles, look for these ingredients in supplements and your diet:
Sweet potato / retinol drinks
“I think taking both are great,” Akridge says. “The sweet potato goes beyond just giving you vitamin A — one average size sweet potato gives you over 400 times your daily vitamin A requirement, plus vitamin C, fiber and choline (a vitamin-like nutrient thought to help reduce inflammation and help with nerve function). Retinol drinks provide you with a natural form of vitamin A (aka retinol) and water for hydration. If you need to hydrate, you might as well get some supplements at the same time but if you can just add a quarter of a sweet potato to your diet, it’s way less expensive and has other great benefits.”
Vitamin E / kiwi
This helps as an antioxidant that help capture oxygen radicals. “Vitamin E capsules used on the skin can also scavenge oxygen radical to fight damage,” Akridge says.
Oranges, grapefruit and citrus fruits / vitamin C supplements
“Vitamin C is the poster child ingredient for topical cosmetic products,” Akridge says. “Although highly unstable, it is touted as a key antioxidant to neutralize oxygen radicals that can damage the skin. Internally, it also helps in collagen production, which is thought to help skin health. Vitamin C also helps you absorb iron better. Realistically, if you can get it straight from the source without added sugars and other random ingredients that it takes to create those other forms of ingestibles, then it may be better for you.”
Kale, spinach and collard greens / calcium supplements
“People automatically think of milk for calcium but I love greens like kale, spinach and collards,” Akridge says. “They are powerhouse veggies providing vitamin A and C, plus many minerals like calcium. Calcium is known to help with bone and teeth health. It is also helps the skin regulate epidermal cell turnover and sebum production. You get so many great added benefits!”
Vitamin C / papaya
One of the healthiest fruits to eat, not only does papaya have vitamin C, but it also has a host of elements, including iron, magnesium, manganese potassium, phosphorus and copper. “Copper is critical for pigment production (melanin), contributes to better elasticity of skin, and collagen production,” Akridge says. “This is one situation where it is better to get the element from food rather than supplement. Very little is need and too much may have side effects.”
B vitamin complex / range of foods
The B vitamin complex — especially Vitamin B3, aka Niacin— is key to healthy skin. “Also known as niacinamide or nicotinamide, this Vitamin B3 is a water-soluble vitamin that works with the natural substances in your skin to help visibly improve the appearance of enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, fine lines and wrinkles, and dullness,” Akridge says. “It also works to provide protection against environmental stressors and improved barrier repair function by preventing water loss and retaining skin’s moisture content. We can’t produce it, so we have to take a supplement, eat it, or apply it to our skin for cosmetic results.” Some high content Vitamin B3 foods include liver, chicken breast, turkey breast, salmon, tuna, avocados, green peas, peanuts, whole wheat, potatoes and mushrooms.
At the end of the day, if you’re conscious about your wallet, if you can get these perks from your diet you could save a lot of money over time. “You’ll also be getting a ton of other added nutrients when your diet is packed full of fruits, veggies and lean proteins — like the ones listed above,” Akridge says. “And if you are on a budget but you still want beauty supplements, there’s nothing wrong with going to a pharmacy to get your daily supplements there for a better price. You don’t always need the fanciest new form to get the nutritional value you are looking for. I would just urge you to double check that you aren’t overdoing the recommended dosing with multi-vitamins you are already taking. Lastly, if there’s a very specific spot you are looking to target — say on the face — I recommend using topical solutions in conjunction with getting nutrients from your diet or supplements, since the benefits derived from the ingestibles would be for the entire body, not targeted to the one area of your concern.”
Also, if you’re pregnant or are taking medications, consult your healthcare provider for any potential interactions between supplements and your drugs.