Do luxury beauty supplements really work? A top Singaporean aesthetic doctor weighs in

Magic pills

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Enter any health supplement shop, and you’ll likely see shelves upon shelves of multicoloured capsule bottles. They promise everything from better hair quality, stronger hair, and even acne-free skin. Yup, according to the beauty sphere, swallowing these nutrient cocktails serves as a newfangled way of fuelling your body with the stuff it needs. Heck, even big-name celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Jennifer Aniston are recommending supplement brands on social media. This, however, begs the question: Amongst the vast array of offerings in the “beauty pharmacy”, what works and what doesn’t? Are luxury beauty supplements really a messiah for your skin, or are they just overpriced, pretty-looking ingestibles that are nothing but a fad? To learn more about them, we speak to aesthetic doctor, Dr Rachel Ho, who runs her own skincare blog. All the deets, below.

What are luxury beauty supplements, really?

Luxury beauty supplements are essentially premium oral nutritional supplements that purportedly treat skin, hair and nail disorders or impart a slew of benefits to the skin. These unassuming pills include highly concentrated vitamins (A, C, D, E, omega-3s) such as zinc, biotin, keratin, probiotics and bio-marine collagen, to name a few.

Are they effective?

According to Dr Ho, evidence for the efficacy of these nutritional supplements is limited. Few large, randomised controlled trials for these beauty supplements exist. “Most micronutrients can be obtained from a balanced diet. So, unless there is a nutritional deficit of vitamins and nutrients, these luxury beauty supplements are very unlikely to improve the skin of healthy people,” she states. Diet and lifestyle choices are still what you should focus on. Supplements, as the name suggests, merely provide extra nutrients that the body may need for certain functions. This means that beauty supplements may be more helpful for those who are unable to get all the vitamins they require from their meals — like vegans or vegetarians — and not for other individuals.

Is it necessary to integrate beauty supplements into one’s skincare routine? Or are skincare products enough?

Dr Ho shared that unless there are nutritional deficits of these micronutrients that are causing skin or hair disorders, these luxury beauty supplements are wholly unnecessary. Topically applied skincare products offer more directed delivery of active ingredients to the skin.

Is there a limit to how many of these supplements one can consume?

There is no limit to these nutritional supplements that one can consume. However, it is important to beware of drug interactions if you’re consuming other medications at the same time.

Are there any potential side effects?

Side effects are mostly related to allergic symptoms or gastrointestinal symptoms, which include abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting. Avoid certain supplements if you know that you have drug allergies.

Are there any things to note before consuming them?

Don’t just start poppin’ those pills once you think you have low vitamin levels. “If you suspect that a micronutrient deficiency is the cause of your symptoms, it’s best to get that checked out first with your doctor and investigate. This would give a more direct approach to replacing specific micronutrient deficiencies.  If you have are also taking any medications, check in with your doctor for any possible drug interactions,” Dr Ho explains.

“Secondly, check that your supplements are bought from reputable sources or brands. It may be hard to ascertain the safety of luxury beauty supplements, especially of those bought online or from social media sites. Poisoning from contaminated supplements or beauty supplements that contain toxic ingredients like mercury or steroids have been reported. To lower your risk of these dangers, choose a product from reputable brand or store.”

When will the results show, if any?

Beauty supplements work as a long-term commitment. You’ll start to see the effects after 4 — 6 months of daily intake — that is, of course, if you see any results at all. Results vary among different individuals as there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to bettering your skin and health.

The TL;DR?

Luxury beauty supplements may be a viable alternative for those who lack certain nutrients in their diets. Otherwise, it’s not really effective in helping generally healthy people to improve their skin appearance and health. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to test them out! They’re pretty harmless, so even if they don’t work in the end, they won’t cause adverse effects (except maybe to your wallet). But take note though: Every body is different. Thus, our ability to absorb, use and see results from a supplement will differ from person to person. It may help others and not you, or vice versa.