Do beauty supplements really work?
For some beauty enthusiasts, supplements are a way of life.
Popping a few complexion-enhancing pills, adding a dollop of collagen cream to their morning coffee, or drinking a bottle of ready-to-use elixir is as essential as slathering on SPF in the morning and removing makeup before bed .
Others are not so sure. Even among beauty enthusiasts, there is some skepticism as to whether these capsules and concoctions really make a difference to your appearance.
With so many products promising lustrous hair, glowing skin, and unbreakable nails, it’s hard to know if supplements are worth your money, especially at a time when many of us are looking for ways to cut costs.
We asked experts to tell us about some popular supplements for skin, hair, and nails, and if they think they’re worth trying…
What are the most common beauty supplements?
A massive trend in recent years, the global collagen market is set to hit $4.1bn (£3.4bn) in 2021, driven by sales of pills, powders and drinks that promise to virtually stop the clock skin aging.
“Collagen acts like the glue that holds ligaments, joints and bones together. It works by strengthening the skin and promoting elasticity and hydration,” suggests Tony Sanguinetti, CEO of Gold Collagen (gold-collagen. com).
Gold Collagen Pure, from £38 for a 10 day supply
“Collagen synthesis begins to decline at a rate of 1.5% per year after the age of 25, at which time the signs of aging will become more visible,” Sanguinetti adds – and some people claim that supplementing with edible collagen can help prevent the effects of this process.
Manifesto Beauty Vitamin Gummies, £39.99 for 30 servings
Also known as vitamin B7, biotin is a water-soluble vitamin found in many celebrity-endorsed hair gummies.
“Many people with biotin deficiency develop hair loss or dry skin, so it is believed that increasing your biotin intake may help improve the health of your hair, skin and nails,” explains Emily Rollason, senior nutritionist at Holland & Barrett.
“That’s because our hair, skin, and nails all contain a basic protein called keratin. Keratin studies have shown that biotin can improve the keratin infrastructure in our bodies, but how does this happen? and how biotin supports this process remains a mystery.
Usually found in pill or liquid form, antioxidant supplements are a variety of vitamins and other molecules that protect cells against oxidative damage.
“We know that oxidative stress is a fundamental cause of premature aging – playing a major role in the breakdown of collagen and elastin in our skin,” says Lauren Dewsbury, principal researcher at Vida Glow (vidaglow.com).
“Not only that, but we can also see its impacts on the radiance and evenness of our skin. Oxidative stress caused by too much sun can lead to overproduction of melanin, which leads to hyperpigmentation and a dull complexion and irregular.
Vida Glow Anti-G-Ox Berry, £43 for 30 servings
Derived from the bark of the maritime pine, pycnogenol is another popular skin supplement for beauty enthusiasts.
“Pycnogenol has a very strong antioxidant effect,” suggests nutritionist and qualified nutritional therapist Daisy Whitbread (daisynutrition.co.uk).
“It encourages the production of collagen, which is what keeps our skin strong, supple and wrinkle-free. It also stimulates the production of hyaluronic acid, which retains water in the tissues, keeping our skin hydrated, glowing, young and plumped up.
Holland & Barrett Pycnogenol 30mg, £17.99 for 30 capsules
Do beauty supplements make a difference?
While brands and influencers make impressive claims about what a supplement is could do, it is important to consider what there is in terms of evidence from reliable clinical studies.
Regarding biotin, for example, Rollason says, “While there are only a small number of studies in this area, there have been some reported successes.
“A 2017 study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment reported that taking 2.5 mg of biotin daily may improve brittle nails, while a review of clinical trials in 2018 concluded that biotin may improve physical condition, hardness and thickness of brittle nails, but called for larger trials to be conducted.
Dr Ross Perry, GP and Medical Director of Cosmedics (cosmedics.co.uk) is not convinced that ingestibles are a shortcut to eternal youth.
“Unfortunately, many supplements make unrealistic claims with clever marketing and celebrity endorsements and rarely work,” he suggests. “How we age depends on a number of factors, including lifestyle and genetics.
“Having a good skin care regimen, eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, exercising and getting plenty of sleep will help slow down the aging process while keeping our bodies healthy and strong more than any type of vitamin or supplement.”
He is particularly skeptical of collagen, believing that any anti-wrinkle results may be due to the placebo effect.
“Collagen has to be made by the body and just adding it in capsule or powder form does not mean it will stimulate natural collagen. To stimulate collagen [the process of collagen synthesis] this is only possible using a process by which the body will heal from some degree of trauma or injury.
Therefore, certain treatments can potentially stimulate collagen production, he says, including: “Certain skin creams like retinol, abrasive treatments like dermabrasion or skin needling, and more aggressive treatments that involve a skin resurfacing such as CO2 laser or Tixel thermoablation”.
According to Perry, you might be better off spending your money at the supermarket than at the beauty counter. “[For collagen] eat protein-rich foods like chicken, beef, fish, dairy products, eggs, and beans. For vitamin C, zinc and copper, citrus fruits, tomatoes, leafy greens, shellfish, nuts and whole grains.
If you feel you are lacking in certain nutrients, it is best to talk to your GP before trying any supplements and be wary of trends.
Perry’s thoughts on the subject? “As a consumer, we see a celebrity or influencer looking radiant, fresh and youthful, but the reality is that it’s not because of the supplement,” he says.
“Stay away from Instagram trends making all sorts of claims, chances are they won’t work. Supplements backed by doctors or founded by medical professionals are often much more reliable.