Should you take a beauty and skin supplement?

By: Megan Ashton

Author: Canadian Living


Should you take a beauty and skin supplement?

By: Megan Ashton
There are a bevy of beauty supplements (sometimes called "ingestibles") on the market today -- everything from omega-3 fish oils to potions and pills formulated by famous Hollywood dermatologists. Eating a well-balanced diet full of leafy vegetables and plenty of fruit and water is always a great way of enhancing the way you look, but can popping a pill really make you prettier?

To learn more, we turned to Sherry Torkos, a holistic pharmacist and author of The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Wiley, 2008). We asked her to guide us through the plethora of pills and their claims to find out which work -- and which don't.

Beauty pill basics
While they may not make your wrinkles disappear magically, beauty supplements can help you achieve a healthier overall appearance, reduce future signs of aging and strengthen hair and nails, explains Torkos.

The advantage of supplements is that they get absorbed into your bloodstream where they deliver the nutrients that are necessary for healthy skin, hair and nails, she says. Certain ingredients also have a protective effect in your body meaning they can help slow the aging process by preventing free radical damage to your cells and DNA.

1. What works for your skin (and what doesn't)
There are a huge array of supplements on the market that claim to promote beautiful skin, but many do not deliver. CoQ10, DHEA and HGH are a few supplements which are often marketed as wrinkle-fighting miracle workers, but Torkos warns that these products are often overhyped. Unless you have a pre-existing deficiency of one of these, chances are ingesting these ingredients are not likely to enhance your appearance, she says. (A deficiency would be detected in a routine blood test by your family doctor.)

On the other hand, a fish oil supplement is beneficial to almost everyone. Fish oil provides you with omega-3 fatty acids, which help to maintain your skin's elasticity and radiance.

Page 1 of 2 -- Looking to treat acne or boost your hair and nail health with a pill? Discover what to look for in beauty supplements with our guide on page 2
Antioxidant-rich ingredients, such as green tea extract, grapeseed extract, lycopene and astaxanthin, are also helpful, explains Torkos. These ingredients enhance the production of collagen and elastin, which help skin to maintain its firmness. And if acne is your main skin concern, Torkos says zinc can help because it is known to help regulate sebum production and promote healing. Vitamin A and its derivative, beta-carotene, may also be useful to help reduce inflammation from the inside out.

2. What works for your hair and nails
We can't all be blessed with long, glossy locks or super strong nails. If you are otherwise healthy but feel that your hair grows too slowly or lacks the shine and lustre you crave, look for a product that contains the amino acids L-isoleucine, L-leucine and L-valine, Torkos says. The minerals silicon, magnesium and sulfur, as well as all of the B vitamins, also help to promote healthy hair. B vitamins also help to strengthen nails. If you have soft, brittle nails or white lines on your nails, you may also benefit from biotin and zinc, Torkos says.

3. Choosing a supplement formula

For convenience, consider a supplement that combines some or all of the key ingredients mentioned above. Keep in mind, however, that there is no one-size-fits-all beauty supplement. A doctor, pharmacist, nutritionist or naturopath can help you to pick the products that best meet your individual needs. Torkos also recommends choosing a capsule or powder supplement rather than a tablet because tablets are harder for your body to absorb.

4. The bottom line
Beauty supplements are not miracle workers. If you want to slow the aging process and enhance your appearance from the inside out, you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep and sunscreen when you head outdoors. Also try to reduce stress as it can wreak havoc on your appearance, says Torkos.

By adding the right beauty supplements to your healthy living plan, you will have a no-fail formula for smoother, younger-looking skin and stronger hair and nails. Keep in mind, though, that you won't see results overnight. Beauty supplements rarely produce instant results and changes may take up to two months to become visible.

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Should you take a beauty and skin supplement?