Beauty Supplements: Do Any of Them Really Work?

Neeru Singh, MD
December 14, 2021
5 mins

With the holiday season in full swing, so are advertisements for beauty supplements, promising to help you get that glow up in the new year. In this post, we’re taking a look at what beauty supplements are all about, whether they live up to their claims, and whether they are worth their frequently high prices.

What Is a Beauty Supplement?

Similar to many other types of supplements, beauty supplements promise to treat nutritional deficiencies — touting results like:

     • Brighter or more youthful skin

     • Longer hair

     • Stronger nails

     • An overall younger appearance (which they define in a number of ways)

The supplements come in many different forms — including capsules, powders, and liquids — and usually consist of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. 

Like all supplements, one of the biggest issues with beauty supplements is that they are not very well regulated. The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) categorizes beauty supplements as food, not as medicine. Because of this, it’s important to do your research. Watch out for products that seem to be riding on beauty supplement trends. And it’s always a good idea to consult your primary care provider when you’re considering a new supplement. 

What Are the Most Common Types of Beauty Supplements?

Some of the most popular beauty supplements on the market include:

+ Antioxidants

Antioxidants are a popular beauty supplement used to combat the effects of aging. 

+ Beauty “blends”

From promoting hair growth to promises of brighter, youthful-looking skin, makers of beauty blends make a wide range of claims. You’ll often find that the names of these products include words like “glow” or “radiance.” Most often, they’re a blend of vitamins, including vitamins A, B12, C, D, and E. 

+ Biotin

Also referred to as vitamin B7, biotin is a popular product used to promote healthier hair, fingernail, and skin cells.

+ Collagen

Collagen is a hot item in the beauty industry at the moment.  Collagen is a protein that is naturally found in connective tissue. Beauty gurus claim that if taken in high quantities, collagen can make hair, nails, joints, and bones stronger and healthier.

+ Sleep supplements

Many celebrities and influencers say their biggest beauty hack is a good night’s rest. So it’s no surprise to see a rise of sleep supplements on the market. Filled with ingredients like magnesium, these supplements claim to help you fall — and stay — asleep. 

Do Beauty Supplements Actually Work?

Unfortunately, there isn’t an entirely straightforward answer to this question. Whether or not a beauty supplement “works” depends on what you are expecting it to do.

Many beauty supplements are marketed as miracle elixirs that can deliver striking results. However, most existing research confirms that the effects of beauty supplements are minimal at best. 

This doesn’t mean that you won't see any results from a beauty supplement — everyone’s body is unique, and you might find that an extra dose of a certain vitamin does make a difference in your skin. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll see drastic results from supplements alone. 

And since most supplements aren’t thoroughly researched and tested, there is always a possibility that it may cause unwelcome side effects or interactions with medications you’re taking. (This is one reason it’s important to discuss new supplements with your healthcare provider.) 

How Should I Choose a Beauty Supplement?

When it comes to choosing a beauty supplement, it’s important to be diligent, as there is a growing market of choices, and not all of them are trustworthy. 

Here are some things to look for when choosing a supplement to add to your beauty regimen:  

+ Approval

Most supplements do not require FDA approval to be sold in stores, and even those that do receive approval do not go through the same strict testing as prescription medications. When possible, it’s important to purchase your supplements from a reputable supplier. 

+ Ingredients

In addition to checking for any allergens, it’s important to check the label, so you can be sure you are putting healthy ingredients into your body. Things to check for include:

     • Artificial colorings

     • Artificial preservatives

     • Eggs

     • Gluten

     • GMOs

     • Lactose

     • Peanuts

     • Shellfish

     • Soy

     • Wheat

+ Doses

In the case of supplements, more is not always better. In most cases, your body can only break down and absorb a certain amount of each supplement at a time. If you can, try and ensure that you aren’t buying a product that provides more than your daily requirement of the vitamins or other nutrients it contains. 

+ Cost

When you’re buying a new supplement, it’s important to consider the cost versus potential benefits. Some manufacturers put a high price on “supplements” that can easily be found in other places — such as a food — for a much lower price. (For more on vitamins, read “Do You Need a Daily Supplement?”)

What Are the Best Beauty Supplement Alternatives?

If you like the idea of beauty supplements but don’t want to take something that isn’t fully backed by science yet, here are some alternatives that may have similar benefits. 

+ Eat more healthy fats

Looking for glowing skin? Try upping your intake of healthy fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, and fish help your skin stay firm and flexible. Plus, they’re heart-healthy. 

+ Find the non-beauty equivalents

Although it might sound odd to suggest finding a different supplement, a lot of the time, with a beauty supplement, you’re paying a higher cost for the product marketing — the lovely label, the celebrity standing behind the product, the influencer markup, and so on. Look at the ingredients of the product you’re interested in. You may be surprised to find that you’re paying a much higher price for a simple vitamin you can find in the health aisle for a cheaper price (and a more reputable brand).  

+ Get more sleep

There’s a reason they call it beauty sleep. Getting a good night’s rest has a range of benefits, including fewer wrinkles and brighter, less puffier eyes. (Read “Sleep Better with These Tips.”)

+ Increase your intake of fruits and veggies

Adding more fruits and veggies to your diet is a great way to increase the amount of vitamins your body is getting. Many beauty supplements are just vitamins that we can get from our foods. 

+ Limit alcohol intake

Sometimes it’s not about what you add to your beauty routine, but what you take away. Alcohol is extremely dehydrating, which has a negative impact on our skin — especially when it comes to wrinkles. 

+ Stay hydrated

Looking for plump, glowing skin? Staying hydrated can help your skin look and feel better. 

+ Quit smoking

In addition to a list of other negative effects on the body, smoking is also incredibly damaging to the skin. It leaves the skin looking dry, wrinkled, and prematurely aged. (And this includes vaping — read “The Harsh Truth About Vaping.”)

+ Wear sunscreen

Sunscreen isn’t only for a day at the beach. Adding a daily moisturizer that has a strong SPF — especially when you are outside often — can help protect your skin from harmful rays and keep your skin looking healthy. 

Before making changes to your diet or adding a new supplement to your routine, make an appointment with a primary care provider to discuss your health goals. At Carbon Health, our primary care providers are ready to help you make informed decisions and partner with you on your journey to great health. Make a same-day virtual or in-person appointment today.

Carbon Health’s medical content is reviewed and approved by healthcare professionals before it is published, but it is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition, and before making changes to your healthcare routine.

Neeru Singh, MD

Neeru Singh, MD, is a Medical Director at Carbon Health. As a primary care physician, she enjoys educating and guiding patients on important health decisions.