If only you could pop a pill to make all your skin and hair woes magically disappear, right? It turns out you could—well, sort of.
Lucky for us, these “magic pills” are no longer figments of our collective imagination. They now exist and most of them have real science behind them. Nutricosmetics. Beauty supplements. Skin food. Hair and nail vitamins. Whatever you name it, they all make clear skin, shiny hair and healthy nails possible by giving your body an extra boost of nutrients you are otherwise not getting from food.
To learn more about how beauty supplements work—and to get some tips on how to choose the right one for you—we spoke with Corina Crysler, one of North America’s leading natural health product experts and Co-Founder and formulator of GliSODin Skin Nutrients. Here are seven things we learned from her.
According to Crysler, the term “nutricosmetics” refers to a category of supplements that are specifically formulated for skin, hair or nails. If you’re taking a vitamin C supplement, even though this is generally great for skin, it doesn’t mean it will have a direct effect on your skin.
“When taking an ingestible product for skin, it is critical to take a formulation that has been designed for the structure and function of the skin,” she explains. “You want to make sure the product will be used by the skin and, more importantly, that it is actually being absorbed by the skin. It’s also essential that you are taking the right amount of an ingredient, otherwise known as a therapeutic dose. If you are not taking enough of a medicinal ingredient, it simply will have no effect regardless how beneficial it is.”
While beauty supplements didn’t receive much recognition and press until a few years ago, these pills aren’t just “nice-to-haves.” They actually provide real benefits to ensure your skin does its job well.
“Skin is no different than any other organ in the body in that it requires nutrients to function. By supporting the skin with specific nutrients you are supporting the overall health of skin. It is also important to realize that skin cells develop internally on a dermal level. This is where the nutrients go when you take them internally, targeting the root of skin health,” says Crysler.
As much as nutrients are important for skin health, so is controlling inflammation. To many experts like Crysler, inflammation is the main cause of aging in all forms. This includes skin aging, which comes in the form of collagen breakdown, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, redness, acne and loss of elasticity.
“The way we reduce inflammation is by controlling free radicals as much as possible,” she adds. “Free radicals are unstable molecules that create oxidative stress when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. When there are not enough antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals the inflammation cascade begins. Antioxidant supplements have been shown to improve the overall texture and elasticity of the skin, help reduce hyperpigmentation and aid in healing and rejuvenation.”
Crysler explains: “There are definite benefits of a clean diet and foods rich in antioxidants and healthy fats. However, some nutraceuticals that have been clinically proven to help with skin health simply are not consumed in our diets, or the therapeutic dose is hard to achieve by food alone. For example, lycopene is a very effective carotene that has been clinically proven to help with sun protection and damage. However, you would need to eat several pounds of tomatoes to get the amount of lycopene require to have a medicinal effect. Krill oil as well has many benefits for skin hydration and reducing inflammation but it is not something we consume in our diet.”
We asked whether skin supplements are meant to replace your existing skin care creams and serums—the verdict, not at all. “Serums and creams work particularly on the epidermis of the skin and nutricosmetics work directly on the dermis. Therefore by using both, you are treating both inner and outer layers of the skin achieving the best results.”
It is also important to remember that it takes a few skin cycles to notice a change and that’s because supplements work at the lower levels of the skin. “The new healthy cells will start surfacing about every four weeks so it’s best to try something for at least three months to notice significant results,” says Crysler. “When beginning your skin supplement routine, start simple. That way you can see if the product works for you. Like topical skin care, you might have to try out a couple products to see which best suits your needs. I would suggest talking to a health care practitioner if you want to take multiple things.”
Much like finding the right skin care products, finding the right beauty supplement for you isn’t a one-size-fits-all affair. Thanks to established supplement brands like GliSODin Skin Nutrients, Hum Nutrition, Vitamedica, as well as professional skin and hair care brands that also offer ingestible beauty products like Murad and Sanitas, Perricone MD and Rene Furterer, we can target specific beauty concerns based on the supplements’ key ingredients. For starters, Crysler gives us a few of her favorites.
“First, you have to identify what you want to target. For a general skin enhancement, look for a product that has antioxidants, essential fatty acids and something for structural support like hyaluronic acid. Adaptogens are amazing for reducing stress by fighting free radicals and controlling inflammation while also strengthening our systems to properly regulate our adrenal system. Ashwagandha is a favorite of mine and can be easily added to a smoothie. Maca root is another adaptogen that is great for skin, especially hormonal acne.”
She also recommends green supplements with ingredients like spirulina and chlorella. “Not only are they a great natural source of vitamins and minerals, they also have detoxifying benefits which can help with breakouts and general well-being.”
Ready to try skin supplements? Here are just some of our favorites:
Featuring a nutritious blend of krill oil, hyaluronic acid, red clover and cocoa, this beauty supplement boosts the body’s capacity to combat oxidative stress, retain moisture and absorb nutrients, strengthening skin from within for a more youthful appearance. “Other antioxidants can only target one free radical at a time because they get destroyed in the process. GliSODin features an antioxidant enzyme called SOD, which has the ability to destroy millions of free radicals to reduce oxidative stress which leads to inflammation,” Crysler adds.
Hum Nutrition’s Wing Man helps get rid of dark under-eye circles related to alcohol consumption and stress by helping your body flush out toxins. Featuring extracts of milk thistle and artichoke, this supplement helps detoxify and protect your liver while strengthening your spleen and gallbladder.
This clear-skin supplement features an innovative complex of vitamins and natural extracts to prevent acneic breakouts and blemishes for a clearer, healthier complexion. Vitamin A encourages normal cell production, while yellow dock and burdock root extracts eliminate toxins and discoloration. Zinc soothes and calms redness, inflammation and irritation.
This dietary supplement is specially designed to help you grow out stronger and healthier hair and nails. Matrix 5000 combines a high level of biotin with two other nail and hair enhancers – Silicone Dioxide and L-Cysteine. This is an essential vitamin for those with dry, brittle, weak hair and nails.