What if one little pill could give you the swingy hair, clear skin, and healthy nails you’ve always wanted? That’s the unspoken premise behind the business of beauty supplements, a former fringe movement that has slowly mushroomed into a powerhouse industry over the past decade.
These days, a daily serving of omega-3s or a handful of superberries is practically par for the course—but what of the latest crop of complexion-enhancing, mind-stimulating, metabolism-boosting vitamins and powders? Arriving in the form of skin-plumping collagen pills, digestive aids, and portable powdery greens, they make for an intriguing set of new possibilities.
According to Washington, D.C. nutritional advisor Ashley Koff, R.D., not all supplements are created equal. And while some of the latest boast solid science, the long-term benefits of others remain to be seen. Before incorporating anything into your diet, she stresses the importance of consulting a professional to screen for potential allergies or complications. There’s no pill, she emphasizes, that can compensate for a poor diet or a chronic lack of sleep—but a proven, high-quality supplement can potentially act “as a good safety net” to a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Here, a look at same of the most buzzed-about beauty supplements out now.
THE SKIN BOOSTERS
In the battle of good fats versus bad fats, the naturally occurring medium-chain triglycerides (or MCT) found in coconut and palm oils have been identified as one of the best alternatives for a healthy diet by nutritionists including New York City’s Frank Lipman, M.D. (who recently began selling the supplement under his own label). More easily digested and processed than longer-chain fat alternatives, MCT oil’s benefits are touted by Lipman to include boosting cognitive function and memory retention, and aiding the body in weight management. Koff believes that it’s the oil’s additional antimicrobial digestive properties, which target skin issues from the inside out, that make it a standout. “If I’m working on treating skin issues—dryness, eczema, acne, or related digestive issues—it can be part of the overall process to address those challenges.” However, caution should be taken in terms of quantity. “I would recommend incorporating [MCT] into your diet rather than adding it to your meals,” says the nutritionist. “Replace fats you’re already eating, like bacon, or margarine, with it instead.”
The collagen loss that comes with aging is the culprit behind everything from fine lines to sagging skin. In recent years, ingestible supplements have appeared on the market with the goal of replenishing the body’s internal supply of natural building blocks. Supplements like BioSil contain ch-OSA, a trademarked combination of essential nutrients (choline) and minerals (silicon), have been clinically proven to boost the skin’s elasticity and strengthen hair and nails. Koff guides her clients toward a diet laden with collagen-promoting foods such as omega-3- and omega-6-rich hemp seeds and wild salmon, to give additional support to their skin care routines.
Bee pollen, which is rich in protein (approximately 40 percent) and contains vitamins including folic acid, has recently been found on nearly as many restaurant menus as it has in health boutiques. Its proponents swear by its super-cocktail of nutrients, which may promote healthier, better-looking skin through digestion-aiding enzymes and antimicrobial activity. Strong reactions have been known to occur in those who are allergic to pollen—and Koff is quick to stress that because bee pollen is an essential food for young members of the hive, it’s important to look for a responsibly harvested source.
THE EASY GREENS
GREEN COFFEE BEANS
Though recently popularized in extract form, Koff prefers to guide her clients toward organic, whole, raw green coffee beans in supplemental powder form. When paired with a diet and exercise plan, she believes the beans and their active ingredient, chlorogenic acid, may help elevate mood, suppress food cravings, and stimulate metabolism. If you do plan on incorporating it into your diet, she suggests adding the powder to a smoothie, but skipping your daily Americano or ice Matcha tea to limit your overall caffeine intake.
Powdered greens mixes—including Neal’s Yard Remedies’s Organic Greens Complex, WelleCo’s Super Elixir, and Aloha’s the Daily Good—are swiftly becoming the traveler’s answer for on-the-go juicing. Prepared in alkalizing blends boasting super greens like spirulina, moringa, and chlorella, they offer a nutritious option when a hectic travel schedule means none other may exist. Their at-the-ready convenience is a clear plus for frequent flyers, but Koff stresses that they’re not a long-term substitute for ingredients found in their freshest forms. “It’s not choosing between a green juice and a packet of Aloha,” she says. “You still need to eat your vegetables.”
Your body uses this mineral for a number of critical activities, including…
- Maintaining normal muscle and nerve function
- Keeping heart rhythms steady
- Supporting a healthy immune system
- Keeping bones strong
- Helping regulate blood sugar levels
- Promoting normal blood pressure
- Reducing the impact of stress on the body by helping switch off the fight or flight response
- Helping reduce cramps, headaches, and migraines
Food sources: pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, black beans
Top 3 picks: Natural Vitality Natural Calm; Now Foods magnesium citrate powder; Solaray Magnesium Glycinate
Precautions: Only exceed the recommended dose if advised by a healthcare practitioner as excess supplemental magnesium intake can cause loose bowel movements or diarrhea.
An essential vitamin in the body, folic acid helps…
- Build new cells
- Is critical to the prevention of birth defects
- Plays a key role in heart health by preventing the creation of homocysteine, an amino acid naturally produced in the body that’s connected to cardiac problems
Food sources: lentils, pinto beans, chickpeas, spinach, parsley
Top 3 picks: New Chapter Perfect Prenatal; Sprayology B12+Folic Acid Spray; Vitality B Complex
Precautions: All women of childbearing years (ages 15-45) have increased needs of folate at 400-800 mcg/day to prevent potential birth defects in baby. Breastfeeding women require 500 mcg/day and pregnant women require 600 mcg folate/day.
A B vitamin that’s sometimes referred to as vitamin H or vitamin B7, biotin…
- Ensures that the body correctly metabolizes sugar and uses it for energy
- Is key for fat metabolism, specifically playing a role in the fats needed to keep skin healthy
Food sources: Swiss chard, carrots, nuts
Top 3 picks: Reserveage Keratin Booster; New Chapter Tiny Tabs (this may not suitable for menopausal women); Whole Foods biotin
Precautions: Pregnant women need more biotin during pregnancy; needs increase from 30 mcg to 35 mcg during pregnancy to prevent birth defects.
Get enough of this vitamin, and your brain will thank you, as it’s necessary for…
- Preventing heart disease and stroke by limiting the production of the amino acid homocysteine (which is linked to increase risk of heart disease)
- Keeping nerve and blood cells healthy
- Helping make DNA
- Preventing the blood disorder pernicious anemia, an uncommon disorder that vegetarians, vegans, and the elderly are at an increased risk of
Food sources: sardines, grass-fed beef, yogurt
Top 3 picks: Sprayology B12 + Folic Acid Spray; MegaFood Vegan B12; DeVa Vegan Vitamin B-12
Precautions: People with digestive issues should have B12 levels checked. If low, consider sublingual or spray source.