Do beauty supplements actually work?

Do beauty supplements actually work?


For some beauty enthusiasts, supplements are a way of life.

Popping a couple of complexion-enhancing pills, adding a spoonful of collagen creamer to their morning coffee, or downing a bottle of ready-made elixir is as essential as slathering on SPF in the morning and taking off their make-up before bed.

Others aren’t so sure. Even among beauty buffs, there’s a degree of skepticism about whether these capsules and concoctions really make a difference to your looks.

With so many products out there promising glossy 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.

collagen pills and powder drink
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We asked experts to talk us through some popular skin, hair and nail supplements, and whether they think they’re worth trying…

What are some of the most common beauty supplements?

Collagen

A massive trend in recent years, the global collagen market was said to be worth $4.1 billion (€4 billion) in 2021, thanks to sales of pills, powders and drinks that promise to virtually stop the clock on skin aging.

“Collagen acts as 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.

“Collagen synthesis begins to reduce at a rate of 1.5% a year after the age of 25, at which point signs of aging will become more visible,” Sanguinetti adds – and some people claim supplementing with edible collagen can help prevent the effects of this process.

biotin

Also known as vitamin B7, biotin is a water-soluble vitamin found in many celebrity-endorsed hair gummies.

“Many people with a biotin deficiency develop hair loss or dry skin, so it’s thought that increasing your biotin intake may help improve your hair, skin, and nail health,” says Emily Rollason, senior nutritionist at Holland & Barrett.

“This is because our hair, skin and nails all contain a basic protein called keratin. Studies into keratin have found that biotin can be shown to improve the keratin infrastructure within our bodies, but how this happens, and how biotin supports this process, is still very much a mystery.”

woman taking supplement tablet
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antioxidants

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 oxidative stress to be a root cause of premature aging – playing a major role in the breakdown of our skin’s collagen and elastin,” says Lauren Dewsbury, senior research scientist at Vida Glow.

“Not only this, but we can also see its impacts on our skin’s radiance and uniformity. Oxidative stress caused by excess sun can prompt an overproduction of melanin, which results in hyperpigmentation and a dull, even skin tone.”

Derived from the bark of the maritime pine tree, pycnogenol is another popular skin supplement with beauty buffs.

“Pycnogenol has a very powerful antioxidant effect,” suggests nutritionist and trained nutritional therapist Daisy Whitbread.

“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 holds onto water in the tissues, keeping our skin hydrated, glowy, youthful and plump. “

beauty supplement and products
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Do beauty supplements make a difference?

While brands and influencers make impressive-sounding claims about what a supplement could do, it’s 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 has been some reported success.

“A 2017 Study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment reported that taking 2.5mg of biotin a day could improve brittle nails, while a review of clinical trials in 2018 concluded that biotin could improve fitness, hardness and thickness of brittle nails, but called for larger trials to be carried out.”

Dr Ross Perry, GP and medical director of Cosmedics is not convinced ingestibles are a short-cut to eternal youth.

“Sadly, a lot of supplements make unrealistic claims with clever marketing and celebrity endorsements and rarely do they work,” he suggests. “How we age is down to a number of factors, which include lifestyle and genetics.

“Having a good skincare regimen, eating healthily, drinking plenty of water, exercising and getting plenty of sleep will all help to slow down the aging process alongside keeping our bodies healthy and strong, more so than any type of vitamin or supplement.”

woman taking supplement tablet
(Alamy/PA)

He’s particularly skeptical about collagen, believing that any wrinkle-busting results may be down to the placebo effect.

“Collagen has to be made by the body and just simply adding it in the form of a capsule or powder does not mean it will boost the natural collagen. To stimulate collagenesis [the process of collagen synthesis] it is only possible with using a process whereby the body will heal from some degree of trauma or wound.”

Therefore, some treatments can potentially boost collagen production, he says, including: “Certain skin creams such as retinol, abrasive treatments such as dermabrasion or skin needling and more aggressive treatments that involve skin resurfacing such as CO2 laser or Tixel Thermoablation.”

You may be better off spending your money at the supermarket rather than the beauty counter, according to Perry. “[For collagen] eat protein-rich foods like chicken, beef, fish, dairy, eggs, and beans. For vitamin C, zinc, and copper, citrus fruits, tomatoes, leafy greens, shellfish, nuts, and whole grains.”

If you feel you’re lacking certain nutrients, it’s best to speak to your GP before trying any supplements, and be wary of trends.

Perry’s thoughts on the matter? “As a consumer, we see a celebrity or influencer looking radiant, fresh-faced and youthful, yet the reality is that isn’t down to the supplement,” he says.

“Steer clear of Instagram trends making all kinds of claims, the chances are they don’t work. Supplements which are backed by doctors or founded by medical professionals are often far more reliable.

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