For centuries, women have turned to creams, superfoods, and potions for the sake of beauty. But today, an increasing number of people are instead popping a pill—taking so called beauty vitamins, ingestible capsules, or gummies that all promise to improve their hair, skin, and nails. But the science behind this method is not so clearcut. Like far too many attempted beauty cures before it, most of these vitamin regimens come with tall claims, lowly research to back them up, and occasionally, the potential to cause harm.
There’s no question that this beauty trend is taking hold. Walk into any cosmetic store and the shelves are stocked full of a variety of pills all with similar hair, skin, and nail improving claims. Recent research reflects this. According to a Business of Fashion article last year, about 20 percent of supplement users in the United States take them for skin, hair, and nail benefits. As a whole, dietary supplements—the term used to describe all ingestibles meant to improve or boost your health—were a $133 billion market worldwide in 2016 and expected to grow to $220 billion in 2022.
Why are people turning to a vitamin to fulfill their skin goals? Dermatologist Patricia Farris, a clinical associate professor at Tulane University School of Medicine, says Americans are starting to value a “beauty from within” approach.
“We’ve always done the inside out approach in the United States, but in places like Asia... they’ve long valued nutrition and the role of nutrition in anti-aging and growing hair,” she says. “We’re just starting to see it now in Western culture."
You’ve probably seen these little magical vitamins all over Instagram, and in beauty and skin product-specific stores like Sephora and Ulta touting often vague, yet highly appealing, claims. One vitamin by Hum Nutrition, a popular maker of supplements sold by Sephora, claims to have the “key nutrients critical for good looks and health.” Another by well-known skin care brand Murad promises to “provide the nutrients needed to support the body's natural defense against blemish-producing toxins.”