We Asked a Doctor Whether Your Hair, Skin, and Nail Pills Actually Work
It seems like everywhere you turn on Instagram nowadays, a reality star is promoting one beauty supplement or another. They all make the products seem so enticing, but here’s the big question: Do any of these hair, skin and nails vitamins actually work?
With a slew of them on the market touting benefits from detoxifying skin to straight-up erasing wrinkles, sometimes it leaves us wondering if just applying our vitamin serum at night isn’t enough—must we ingest it too? We spoke with Dr. Marina Peredo, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital and Josephine Tutrani, a clinical nutritionist who specializes in customizing diets for antiaging, weight loss, hair loss, acne and other skin conditions, to get the lowdown on what’s on the market, what works and what’s just a bunch of hokum.
The top three vitamins:
“I recommend supplements to patients who are looking to address certain skin, nail or hair issues,” says Dr. Peredo. In particular, she suggests three supplements that have proven to be extremely effective in addressing certain skin issues.
“Biotin encourages the production of protein for nail growth when absorbed in the core of the nail bed, where the cells are generated,” says Peredo. “In addition, it also stimulates new hair growth and promotes healthier texture by protecting against dryness, scalp flaking and increasing elasticity of the hair’s cortex to prevent breakage. I recommend it to my patients who have any concerns with thinning hair or brittle nails.”
“I usually advise my patients who have acne to take a vitamin B complex to help clear them up,” says Peredo. “Vitamin B acts as an antioxidant for the skin, which can assist in removing bacteria. It helps to balance one’s testosterone levels, which keeps acne at bay. Vitamin B deficiency is also a major cause of acne, so making sure your body receives enough will help prevent and treat the condition. And if that’s not enough, vitamin B also helps to reduce stress and address the adrenal glands, so it’s beneficial to those who break out when stressed.”
Marine fatty acids
“When ingested, marine fatty acids such as omega-3 work to combat dry and damaged hair, hair loss and a flaky scalp. The DHA and EPA found in omega-3 adds luster, elasticity and shine to dull strands, promoting the restart of hair growth,” says Peredo. “Furthermore, the dietary fat found in omega-3 fatty acids helps protect and repair skin cells, moisturizing the skin from the inside out. Omega-3 can even protect skin from burning and overexposure to UV rays, so I suggest to my patients to have at least one to two capsules of the supplement a day.”
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Vitamins with (some) beauty benefits:
What about the rest of them? They’re not harmful, says Peredo, but to see dramatic skin benefits, one would have to ingest megadoses of the vitamins, much more than what is actually in the supplements. Though one shouldn’t expect dramatic results, clinical nutritionist Josephine Tutrani says that getting enough of vitamins A, C and E is very important for healthy skin—and surprise, surprise—many beauty supplements on the market usually feature a combination of those ingredients.
Tutrani says Vitamin A helps keep skin smooth and rejuvenated and is especially recommended for preventative purposes and those with acne-prone skin. However, to see dramatic skin results, one would have to take a synthetic derivative of vitamin A, such as Accutane. The good old natural vitamin pills won’t hurt, but also won’t cause significant changes.
Vitamin C is important for the formation of collagen; however, it would really require a very high dosage to see results, according to Peredo. And since this vitamin is water soluble, taking more of it orally would just result in it being dispelled through urination. So make sure you have enough in your diet, but don’t expect it to perform miracles as a supplement.
Vitamin E is a great antioxidant and natural anti-inflammatory. In patients with eczema or psoriasis, Peredo has seen vitamin E supplements help soothe inflammation in some cases, but there is not enough medical evidence to state conclusively that it will always work.
The final verdict? Nothing wrong in popping these pills, we say, but be realistic about their product claims and don’t expect to see dramatic results.
Beauty supplements to skip:
Recently, we’ve also come across new supplements that increase human growth hormones—and with it, promise to get rid of wrinkles and make you look years younger. According to Peredo, this is one category you can skip. While human growth hormone therapy is helpful if you have pituitary gland concerns, there is no proof that it will do anything for anti-aging.
One last thing to remember: Although most beauty supplements and vitamins on the market are harmless, it’s important to consult with your doctor or nutritionist before starting on any kind of regimen, especially if you’re taking other medications, as some additives in supplements can interact adversely.