It’s certainly true that healthy skin, hair and nails starts from the inside, but which supplements, if any, are worth their salt? And are we to trust a celebrity endorsement over that of a doctor?
You can’t open Instagram at the moment without seeing a celebrity or influencer promoting beauty supplements. Whether it’s collagen drinks to plump your skin or multivitamin supplements targeted at hair and nails, is it more than just hope in a bottle? Sugarbear Hair gummies, for instance, are the supplement of choice (apparently) for the Kardashians and their Jenner half-siblings. Bearing in mind that Kylie Jenner wears wigs almost exclusively, are we to believe Sugarbears actually work?
With the beauty supplement market exploding over the last few years, we’ve seen many different formulations all with similar promises.
Personal Nutritionist Laurann O’Reilly (nutritionbylaurann.ie) says that just like with the food we eat, we need to check the ingredients and look for synthetic “filler” ingredients before we buy.
“The vitamin industry is saturated with products that make a lot of promises particularly in the area of anti-aging, hair, skin and nails. While a lot of them are genuine, we must be careful of what products that we purchase. As a nutritionist, when looking at such products I firstly look at the ingredient listing. Are the ingredients pure or synthetic, what fillers do they have? These will have an impact on how our body reacts to them, how we absorb them and use them. Similar to a food, the purer the ingredients supplement are, the better our body will react to it. I also look at the brand and how they are manufactured, if you are not familiar with the brand, do your research.
Buying a supplement seems like an investment in our wellness, so we can almost write it off as a health purchase rather than a strictly beauty one. But will we see real results or are we being sold an idealised lifestyle via social media promotion?
“There are some fabulous supplements out there,” says Laurann. “My favourite is the Terra Nova Beauty Complex, it's got similar ingredients to all the well-known hair supplements, but also contains a combination of herbal ingredients which are amazing for hair, skin and nails. It’s also affordable and suitable for vegetarians and vegans.”
When it comes to shopping for supplements, what should we be looking out for?
“Stick to the brands that you know,” advises Laurann. “If they have some research studies behind them all the better. Be aware of pyramid sellers or affiliate sellers who often try to get you into a contract buying a range of high cost supplements, you should never have to enter into a contract to buy your vitamins.”
One of the biggest reasons people are buying supplements at the moment seems to be relating to hair loss. Sure. it's Orla Walsh is a dietitian, (@OrlaWalshNutrition on Instagram) and she says that before you jump straight for buying expensive supplements, try to find the root of the hair loss issue first.
“The cause of hair loss isn't always clear, but it may be related to anaemia, fungal infections, and possibly a deficiency in L-lysine or other amino acids,” says Orla.
“It's also common to see hair loss after significant weight loss and in those that are underweight. The first thing to check is your protein intake. Hair is made of protein called keratin. Sometimes the biggest issue is not eating enough protein at each meal. Often people do not eat enough protein at breakfast time, with lunch time being a bit hit and miss. This is why I encourage lots of dairy and eggs at breakfast while promote rich protein sources at lunch such as tofu, meat, poultry and fish,” she advises.
DIET IS KEY
So, as we suspected, diet plays a vital role in healthy hair, skin, nails and the anti-ageing effort. Laurann says that too much sugar and not enough water is more damaging than skipping a supplement, but than consistency in everything will take effect eventually.
“The mistake that many people make is having a bad diet, not drinking enough water, consuming too much sugar and so on and then looking for one pill to counteract everything without making the necessary dietary changes to detoxify their bodies. People often expect radical changes over night. The key with these supplements is to eat as clean as possible, again with plenty of water, lean meat, fish, fruit and vegetables whilst reducing the sugar and processed foods. Top this with adequate sleep and combining it with the right supplement can make a huge difference.”
Always be mindful and aware of what you’re ingesting, even in a supplement that has “all natural” claims - Laurann advises checking filler ingredients again, and buy trusted brands with proven track records in other areas.
“Again one must be very careful that they buy a trusted brand and to be aware of the ingredient listing. It can be extremely dangerous to buy supplements online for instance. Many products have cheap fillers such as such as talc. Also unlike the pharmaceutical industry, the nutritional supplement industry don't have the same quality control measures. In fact they are considered a food so the regulations around their safety are far more relaxed!”
Always consult your doctor before taking supplements. If one is taking any medications, have an existing medical condition, are pregnant or breastfeeding it's always best to consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking any nutritional supplements as a safety precaution.
Photography by Jason Lloyd Evans.