Do Skin and Hair Vitamins Really Work?
Flawless, poreless, blemish-free skin. Long, luscious, healthy hair. We all want them - and some skin and hair vitamins promise to deliver exactly these results.
But what’s the truth and what’s hype? Here’s what we know.
Skin and Hair Supplements 101
What’s In the Supplements?
As the main suggests, these supplements are meant to supplementthe vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that we normally get our diets. The goal is to make sure that you’re getting every nutrient that you need to have healthy hair, skin, and nails.
That said, most supplements that are meant to stimulate hair and nail growth or clarify skin contain ingredients like:
Biotin:Biotin is a type of B vitamin found naturally in foods like salmon. It is essential for nail growth and it can potentially help increase your hair density.
Fish oil: Fish oil makes hair and nails shiny. It’s also a great anti-aging supplement, as the omega oils found in fish oil stimulate collagen production and improve the overall appearance of the skin.
Vitamin A: Vitamin A, much like its synthetic counterpart Retin-A (isotretinoin) can help to treat acne and reduce fine lines. Taken orally, it reduces sebum production, which is great if you suffer from acne since it can reduce acne flares. Vitamin A is also anti-aging due to its ability to stimulate cell turnover.
Vitamin C:Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which helps us fight free radicals, brightens the skin, and stimulates collagen production
Vitamin E:Vitamin E is an anti-inflammatory and also helps with cell turnover
Collagen: The jury is still out on whether collagen will preferentially concentrate on the hair or skin when we take it orally, but the point is that it can help strengthen and plump the skin.
Iron: You’ll see iron frequently in hair loss supplements because iron deficiency and anemia frequently cause hair loss
Adaptogens:The logic here is simple: stress and cortisol can impact hair and skin health, and adaptogens can reduce stress and inflammation.
You can find a complete list of the best vitamins for beautiful skin here.
Do These Supplements Work?
Yes - but only for people who really have a problem.
If you have health concerns that interfere with your natural ability to absorb nutrients, then you could benefit from taking supplements.
Biotin, for example, was found to be effective for hair and nail regrowth in a study of 18 different cases, but all of the patients using biotin had an “underlying pathology” for damaged hair and nails. The study concluded that biotin might not be effective for people without medical conditions causing hair and nail breakage.
Similarly, recent studies have also found fish oil to be effective in treating keloid scars, while topical Vitamin A has been used for years to treat acne, hyperpigmentation and fine lines.
That said when it comes to healthy people just looking for stronger nails, clear skin, or hair with a little healthy shine, there’s really no evidence to prove - or disprove - that these supplements really work.
Need Supplements? Steer Clear of Gimmicks
The biggest problem here is that these supplements aren’t heavily regulated by the FDA. This lack of regulation means that companies don’t have to be honest or forthcoming about the efficacy of their products - and they could absolutely be selling pills that are basically just sugar or junk.
That means that you have to be diligent and do your homework to make sure that you’re not purchasing snake oil.
So what are you looking for?
Overall, look for:
- A label that lists all-natural ingredients with no synthetic fillers
- Dosages that are actually proven to be effective - you can delve into that here.
- Look for evidence about how well the product works in scientific studies from credible publications. Search for such studies in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) PubMed database and the National Institute of Health - Office of Dietary Supplements.
- If a product claims it will “cure” a disease, is “all-natural,” or has a “money-back guarantee,” be on guard. Any supplement that sounds too good to be true likely is.
- Choose brands labeled with the NSF International, US Pharmacopeia, Underwriters Laboratory, or Consumer Lab seal. These verify that the product actually contains the ingredients that the label says it does, and that the product doesn’t have any potentially harmful ingredients.
And gummies are fine - just take them before you brush your teeth to avoid the sugar problems. Finally, if you do decide to start a supplement routine, stick with it—most people don’t see results for three to four months.