Do You Actually Need to Take a Beauty Supplement?

Taking your vitamins used to be as simple as choosing which Flintstones character you were in the mood for. Now companies want you to down supplements with names like Heavenly Hair, Killer Nails, and Brain Dust with breakfast; Sparkle Fiber at midday; and DTF and Sleeping Beauty before bed (yes, those are all actual names of products you can buy).

It's a lot to swallow. The supplement market is estimated to be valued at a whopping $71.37 billion by 2028. And recent surveys suggest that more than half of all Americans most likely took some form of supplement in the past 30 days.

The vitamin aisle is overflowing onto beauty shelves as more skin-care, hair- care, and wellness companies capitalize on our national obsession with an inside-out approach to overall health. Who wouldn’t want glossier hair and skin from a magic pill? In some ways, it's part of "a movement toward 'integrative dermatology,' a holistic look at how our gut health, stress levels, and sleep patterns impact our overall health and the health of our skin," says Whitney Bowe, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. She recently launched Bowe Growe, a blend of polyphenols from blueberries and concord grapes, plus lemon juice and pomegranates, designed to be added to water.

  • Whitney Bowe, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and the founder of Bowe Growe.
  • Elizabeth K. Hale, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
  • Keri Gans, a nutritionist based in New York City.

Last year, the health and beauty supplement market for women was valued at $55.4 billion, and this year's capsule launches are off the charts: Dr. Barbara Sturm Sun Skin, Biologique Recherche Toleskin, Murad Youth Renewal, and Perricone MD Skin & Total Body all promise to give you healthier skin. Phew, that was a mouthful (no pun intended!). Now, here come a couple more: Ouai Thick & Full, and Briogeo B. Well Vegan Omega 3, 6, 9 + Biotin want to give you bouncier, shinier hair.

But here's the catch: Not a single one of these products is regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, and they are not intended to treat any medical condition. "Supplements are such a deep, dark box of unknowns," says board- certified dermatologist Elizabeth K. Hale, MD, who is based in New York City. Regulations stop at the packaging; you have to list things like ingredients, but you don't have to prove those ingredients make good on their claims.

None of these supplements are miracles in a bottle. "What you eat, how you hydrate, sleep, and exercise have a lot more impact," says Dr. Hale, who does carry in her office both Nutrafol (an outlier with significant research showing it helps treat thinning hair) and Isdin Sunisdin (a pop-in-your-mouth antioxidant that can help reduce some of the effects of sun damage, but that still requires the use of sunscreen).

A "glowing skin" ingestible doesn't replace a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which is more powerful than any vitamin. "We need to recognize that supplements are there to do just that — supplement," says Dr. Bowe. A topical vitamin C serum is often unstable, so Dr. Bowe recommends that her patients also get vitamin C through diet or supplements, adding 60 to 90 milligrams per day, along with a plant-forward diet.

Nutritionist Keri Gans suggests her clients "have blood work done to see if certain supplements are needed or not, such as [correcting a deficiency in] vitamin D or iron." It is essential to consult with your doctor instead of taking what looks pretty in the bottle. If you're downing something for hair, skin, and nails, says Dr. Hale, it is possible to overdo it, causing nausea or cramps, for example. "You can overdose on vitamins. Too much of a good thing is bad."

Now watch Quannah Chasinghorse's beauty routine.

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