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Hair, Skin & Nail Vitamins: Do They Actually Work?

October 28, 2020

Hair, Skin & Nail Vitamins: Do They Actually Work?

We’ve all seen them—ads for vitamins and supplements that claim to make your hair grow at rapid speed, strengthen nails, and give you glowing skin. But what’s in these vitamins, and do they really work?

The American lifestyle and diet leaves many of us vitamin-deficient without even knowing it. This can manifest itself in many different ways, from low energy levels, to thinning hair, to weak, brittle nails. 

If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, you’ve most likely looked into the “magic” beauty pills, gummies, and drink mixes that so many companies are promoting today. While some may offer amazing benefits, it’s important to know that many are not regulated by the FDA and are simply scams.

Before you spend a pretty penny on beauty vitamins and supplements, let’s break them down. We’ll take a look at what’s in them, how they work, and if they’re really worth the hype. 

What’s in Beauty Supplements?

When it comes to beauty vitamins and supplements, it’s important to make the distinction between vitamins and supplements. 

In general, vitamins are designed to contain simply vitamins (such as vitamins C, D, and so on). Supplements, on the other hand, contain additional ingredients, such as herbs, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids. For the sake of this article, we’ll refer to supplements as a broad term.

No two supplements are exactly alike. However, there are a handful of ingredients that many have in common: 

  • Biotin: Part of the vitamin B family, biotin improves your body’s keratin infrastructure. Keratin is a protein that makes up your hair, skin, and nails. It’s often associated with hair growth.
  • Collagen: This protein is a main component of the connective tissues that make up several body parts. It gives skin its structure and is known to help slow the aging process and reduce wrinkles and dryness.
  • Fish oil: Fish oil is high in omega-3s, which are great for skin and hair. Omega-3s may calm acne, protect against sun damage, improve skin barrier function, and boost hair growth. 
  • Vitamin A: A common ingredient in multivitamins and supplements, vitamin A is a key player in skin health. When consumed, it can prevent cell damage, premature aging, and various skin diseases.
  • Vitamin C: This vitamin plays an important role in the growth, development, and repair of all body tissues. It’s also involved in the formation of collagen, which is essential for hair, skin, and nail health.
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E provides many benefits when applied to the skin topically, but when consumed, this antioxidant helps to protect cells from damage and fight against free radicals, ultimately slowing the aging process of your cells.

How Do They Work?

Beauty supplements are designed to provide a boost of targeted ingredients that work in conjunction to nourish your hair, skin, and nails. Essentially, they aid in healthy cell regeneration, which in turn may boost hair growth and reduce hair loss, strengthen nails, and support glowing, youthful skin. 

With that being said, one of the most misunderstood things about supplements is that they are meant to do just that—supplement a healthy diet and lifestyle. They are not replacements for key nutrients your body needs to function.

The results of supplements are dependent on whether you’re deficient in the nutrients they provide. For example, if you’re low in vitamin D, then consistently taking a supplement with vitamin D will likely provide you with results. However, if your body is in balance and you eat a wholesome, well-rounded diet, supplements might just be extra fluff that your body doesn’t actually need.

It’s also important to note that dietary supplements are not reviewed for safety and effectiveness by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they are marketed. While some are established and well understood, others need further study. So, always take the claims of supplements with a grain of salt. 

Do I Need to Be Using Supplements?

The answer to this question is different for every individual. Taking vitamins and supplements is dependent on whether or not you have deficiencies, and what you have deficiencies in.

When it comes to getting your essential nutrients, “more is more” isn’t always the right approach. For example, while it might seem like the more vitamin C you take, the better your skin will be, this isn’t necessarily true. 

Vitamin C is not stored in the body, therefore excess amounts are excreted. Overdose isn’t a concern, but it’s suggested to stay at or below 2,000 milligrams per day. Otherwise, you may experience symptoms such as nausea, heartburn, headache, or insomnia. 

The overconsumption of vitamin E, on the other hand, has the potential to cause more serious side effects, such as blood thinning or even an increased risk of stroke. For this reason, it’s recommended to not exceed 1,000 international units (IUs) per day if you’re using supplements. 

So how can you decide if you need to be taking supplements? Here are a few tips:

Research, Research, Research

As mentioned, no two supplements are created exactly alike. This can make things confusing, but it’s critical to do thorough research before trying anything new. If the marketing seems gimmicky and the claims sound too good to be true, then most likely, they are. 

Always choose products from reputable brands, and check to ensure they’re NSF certified—which is a test developed strictly for dietary supplements. It may also be helpful to ask the manufacturer or distributor to provide information to support the product’s claims and the safety of its ingredients.

Know Your Goal

The first question to ask yourself when considering supplements is, “Why am I taking this?” In most cases, supplements only deliver results when you’re deficient in a certain area. Taking more than what’s recommended actually has the potential to be harmful, so it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.

Choose the Right Nutrients

While doing your research, take a close look at the specific nutrients in each supplement. This will take some time, but it’s best to find a product that contains the right nutrients for your specific needs. For example, if you’re experiencing thinning hair and brittle nails, biotin might do the trick.

Talk with Your Doctor

Many supplements are harmless and are designed to be incorporated into your routine without being prescribed by a doctor. However, a professional opinion always helps. 

If you’re not sure what nutrients you are deficient in, your doctor may be able to do bloodwork to help you determine this. Or, if you’re experiencing symptoms, your doctor might have a good recommendation for a vitamin or supplement to take. If you take other medications (whether they’re prescription or over-the-counter), be sure to ask your doctor if it is safe to combine them with supplements.

Have Realistic Expectations

Unfortunately, supplements aren’t magic, and their results aren’t either. In most cases, the results you experience will be subtle, and they won’t come overnight! Consistency is key, so once you choose a supplement, take it regularly to increase your chances of reaping the full benefits.

The Importance of a Well-Balanced Diet

Many of the nutrients our bodies need can easily be incorporated into our diets without the use of a supplement. If you’re looking for some foods to help boost the health of your skin, hair, and nails, here are a few recommendations:

  • Salmon: Oily fish like salmon are full of omega-3s, which can help to prevent skin damage and maintain its youthful glow.
  • Beans: Beans are high in amino acids, which are the protein building blocks the body relies on to heal and make new tissues, such as muscle, bone, hair, skin, and blood.
  • Carrots: Carrots contain vitamin C, which aids in faster skin recovery. They also include beta-carotene, which reduces skin inflammation.
  • Eggs: Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can reach for. They contain vitamins A D, E, and B, folate, phosphorus, and selenium, all of which support healthy skin, hair, and nails. They’re also an amazing source of protein, which is an essential building block for bones, cartilage, muscles, and skin.
  • Blueberries: Small yet mighty, blueberries are packed with antioxidants, which help to fight cell-damaging free radicals that lead to premature aging.

At the end of the day, the best way to get good nutrition is by eating a well-balanced diet. However, supplements can help to provide a boost of nutrients in areas you may be lacking. As mentioned, it’s always best to consult with a doctor to determine what your body’s needs truly are. 

Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re browsing supplements, and you’ll be on your way to healthy skin, hair, and nails in no time!

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