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 Skincare

Supplements

Written by: Becki Murray

Last Updated: 13 February 2024

To help maintain your health and keep your skin looking its best, you may want to add supplements to your diet to provide extra nutritional support for your skin. But, do skincare supplements work? Yes, absolutely – as long as you pick the right ones. Read on to discover the different types of supplements, giving examples of supplements intended for specific purposes. Plus, some of my favourite supplements which I know are effective – from clinical studies as well as from my own experience.

supplements

What is a supplement?

In general, a supplement is a product intended to boost your nutritional intake above that you can get from what you eat and drink. Supplements provide nutrients — such as vitamins, minerals, or amino acids — that you may not getting enough of in your food.

Supplements fall into two broad categories:

  • Dietary supplements. These supplements aim to make sure your body gets enough essential nutrients for its health. You might take dietary supplements to increase your intake of vitamins or minerals; to correct a known dietary deficiency, such as a vitamin B12 deficiency; or to support your heart, your bones, or your immune system.
  • Beauty supplements. These are supplements formulated to support or improve your physical appearance rather than your health in general. For example, many supplements are designed improve the health and appearance of your skin, your hair, and your nails.

The key difference between dietary supplements and beauty supplements is the reason for which you take them: dietary supplements for general health, and beauty supplements for physical appearance. But there is considerable overlap between the two categories, as you could take various supplements for either purpose.

Both dietary supplements and beauty supplements can be beneficial for your health, but you should – first and foremost – aim to consume a nutritionally balanced diet rather than relying on supplements for nutrition.

What do supplements contain?

Both dietary supplements and beauty supplements can contain a wide range of ingredients, such as the following:

  • Vitamins. All vitamins are generally considered essential for human health, with the technical exception of vitamin D (which is arguably a hormone rather than a vitamin). Many vitamins are important for beauty as well.
  • Minerals. Your body needs a wide range of minerals, such as iron for transporting oxygen in your blood, calcium for healthy bones and teeth, potassium for keeping your heart and muscles working well, magnesium for regulating your enzymes, and zinc to support your immune system and help wounds heal.
  • Amino acids. These acids are the building blocks of protein, which your body needs for repairing cells and building muscle.
  • Enzymes. These substances, which are mostly proteins built of long chains of amino acids, work as catalysts to accelerate chemical reactions in your body. For example, when you chew food, an enzyme called amylase in your saliva starts breaking down carbohydrates so that your body can digest them more quickly.
  • Fatty acids. Fatty acids are essential to your diet: your body needs these acids, but it cannot synthesise them, so you must get them from your food (or from supplements). For example, omega-3 fatty acids are vital for keeping your brain healthy.

What vitamins are essential for maintaining healthy skin?

The following vitamins are essential for keeping your skin healthy:

  • Vitamin A. Vitamin A is needed for repairing and maintaining your skin. It can also reduce your risk of sunburn.
  • Vitamin B3. Vitamin B3, also called niacinamide, helps your skin to work as a barrier against the outside world and enables your skin to retain moisture.
  • Vitamin B5. Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid, helps your skin to heal and to regenerate itself.
  • Vitamin B7. Vitamin B7, also called biotin, is vital for keeping your skin, hair, and nails healthy.
  • Vitamin B9. Vitamin B9, better known as folic acid, is needed for keeping your skin healthy and for growth.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body produce collagen, the protein that gives structure to your skin and provides its scaffolding.
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for skin tone. Your body produces vitamin D when sunlight hits your skin.
  • Vitamin E. Vitamin E helps protect your skin from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays and free radicals.

What role do nutritional supplements play in skincare routines?

Nutritional supplements can help your skincare routine in ways such as these:

  • Boosting collagen production. Supplements containing substances such as vitamin C, zinc, and copper can enhance collagen production, helping to keep your skin firm and elastic.
  • Providing nutrients for skin health. Supplements can deliver many of the most important minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients needed for skin health.
  • Assisting in skin repair. Supplements containing vitamin B complex and zinc help your body regenerate skin and heal wounds.
  • Helping your skin retain moisture. Fatty acids (such as omega-3 acids) can help lock moisture into your skin, preventing it from getting dry.
  • Protecting against environmental damage. Supplements can provide vitamin C, vitamin E, and the mineral selenium, which all help your body fight oxidation from ultraviolet radiation and pollution.
  • Reducing inflammation. Supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids and the compound curcumin can be good for skin problems such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

If you have hormone-related skin problems such as acne, supplements may also help balance your hormone levels and reduce the problems. However, you should speak to your doctor before diving in.

Are there any clinical studies supporting the use of skincare supplements?

Yes — various studies have been performed to gauge the clinical benefits of skincare supplements. Some studies seem to show positive effects. Supplements studied include these four groups:

  • Collagen supplements
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Antioxidants
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

 

How do supplements improve skin hydration?

Skin hydration supplements can improve your skin’s hydration in three main ways:

  • Retaining moisture. Collagen supplements and hyaluronic acid supplements can help your skin retain moisture, as can glycerine and other humectants.
  • Staying elastic. Collagen supplements and hyaluronic acid supplements help with this too.
  • Maintaining an effective barrier. Omega-3 fatty acids can help keep your skin an effective barrier against environmental factors and prevent water loss. That’s because vitamin C and vitamin E have antioxidant properties that protect your skin against oxidative stress, which can weaken your skin’s barrier. Ceramides can help too.

 

How do collagen supplements enhance skin texture and health?

As we age, our bodies gradually produce less collagen naturally, leading to a decline in the elasticity, firmness, and thickness of our skin. One way to combat this natural decline is to take collagen supplements. These supplements are intended both to provide extra collagen that your body can use and to stimulate your body to create more collagen of its own. The extra collagen from these two sources should help your body to make its skin thicker, firmer, and more elastic.

What are the proven benefits of hydrolysed collagen supplements for skin?

If you are considering boosting collagen with supplements, hydrolysed collagen may be the place to start. Hydrolysed collagen is collagen broken down into smaller pieces — individual amino acids and peptides, which are short chains of amino acids — that your body can absorb more easily than whole collagen, which consists of large, complex modules.

Some studies show that taking hydrolysed collagen supplements can improve the elasticity of your skin and reduce wrinkles somewhat. The studies indicate that you need to consume somewhere between 3,000mg and 10,000mg a day of hydrolysed collagen supplements to get an effect.

Don’t go over the top and take more than the recommended dose of hydrolysed collagen supplements though. The studies also seem to indicate that higher doses than 10,000mg a day might have a negative effect on collagen building, although this is not certain. It’s also true that further studies are needed to confirm the effect and the necessary dose of hydrolysed collagen supplements.

Can dietary supplements help in reducing skin wrinkles and fine lines?

Yes, dietary supplements can help to reduce wrinkles and fine lines in your skin. A meta-analysis (aka detailed summary) of clinical trials showed that 90 days of taking hydrolysed collagen supplements can make skin better hydrated, more elastic, and less wrinkled. High-strength vitamin C, discussed in the next section, can also help.

How does high-strength vitamin C contribute to skin health?

High-strength vitamin C can boost collagen levels in the skin, improve hydration, and increase elasticity. These are great reasons to take high-strength vitamin C for your skin, but there’s a catch: the vitamin C needs to get into your blood stream, but if you take vitamin C as regular tablets or capsules, the acids in your stomach break it up, and you end up excreting 85–90% of it. One way to solve this problem is to take higher doses, but most people find they upset the stomach and irritate the gut.

Injecting vitamin C is one workaround for this problem, but it’s not something you’d want to do every day. A better solution is taking liposomal vitamin C, which has the vitamin C encapsulated in tiny fatty particles called liposomes. The liposomes enable the vitamin C to get through the stomach, without being broken up by the stomach acids, into the gut, where it is absorbed into the blood stream. The advantage of this is that your body gets the benefit of around 98% of each dose of vitamin C — a huge improvement over non-liposomal vitamin C.

Can dietary supplements really slow down skin ageing?

You may be able to slow down the visible effects of ageing on your skin by using anti-ageing skin supplements. As mentioned before, supplements that contain ingredients such as hydrolysed collagen, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid can improve your skin’s hydration and elasticity and can reduce the appearance of wrinkles. For the best effects however, you should also follow a healthy diet and a skincare regimen suited to your skin type.

What are the top supplements for improving skin hydration and elasticity?

Here are two of the best supplements for improving the hydration and elasticity of your skin:

  • Totally Derma Tub. This collagen-boosting drink contains a patented bovine collagen which is biochemically closer to human collagen than the marine collagen that most other supplements use.
  • Altrient-C Liposomal Vitamin C. These liposomal vitamin C sachets enable you to take a powerful 1,000mg dose of vitamin C without losing nine-tenths of it to stomach acid or irritating your gut.

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Alice answers your question. Want to ask Alice a question? Pop it in here and check back in a few days for the answer.


Best supplements for thickening hair please?

I hate to say it, but I don't know that there are any supplements that really stand up to medical scrutiny, but the ones that are most popular among hairdressers and friends with hair issues include Viviscal Pro and Philip Kingsley's Density supplements. Lots of people (me included) think collagen supplements help with hair strength as well as with skin/ nails/ joints. Hormone supplementation may help too if this is something that's appropriate for you. You also want to think about massaging the scalp to enhance blood circulation, and using a scalp scrub occasionally so the follicles don't become blocked, and healthy lifestyle – a good...

Totally Derma is too expensive for my budget – what other brands would you recommend?

Absolute Collagen, Revive Collagen, Ingenious Collagen and Gold Collagen are all more affordable than Totally Derma, use decent types/ sources of collagen and have reasonable data to support their efficacy, so have a look at those.

I’m 38 and still get acne on my cheeks but skin also dry and sensitive skin, and I can see the ageing… I use ZO end to end but not sure it’s the answer, plus it’s very £££. I looked at your Acne Fixers Bundle but how do I also tackle...

Dry and sensitive skin suggests that your skin barrier isn't in great shape. Work on this by focussing on gentle, hydrating products – a hyaluronic acid serum, sealed in with a moisturiser and, in the morning, topped with sunscreen. Once your skin is feeling stronger and more comfortable, start using a product with retinol or another retinoid (start slowly, with tiny amounts and twice a week at first) to help with acne management. Taking lots of omega-3 supplements can really help with skin hydration and skin quality, too. These are my current favourites....

Dear Alice, I’d very much appreciate your views on the Happy Mammoth Prebiotic Collagen Protein versus your recommended Totally Derma Collagen. I’m probably not the only one of your followers being targeted by their ads and know you’ll give a...

Hi, I don't know the product so I'm afraid I can't comment, but I do know that Totally Derma and other hydrolysed collagen supplements support collagen production in the skin in a very direct way – by supplying collagen fragments in a form the body can use. There are several articles and videos on the TTG website explaining why I think Totally Derma is the Rolls-Royce of collagen supplements.

Hi Alice, I wanted to ask you about marine collagen VS bovine collagen. I take Skinade and I think it helps me, however I saw your post and you mentioned something about bovine collagen being closer to human collagen? Will it help things like very...

Hello, yes, bovine collagen is derived from cows. I like the brand that I've brought into the TTG shop, Totally Derma and yes, that is bovine collagen. Either marine or bovine collagen should help your skin and hair and nails, as well as your joints. Will it help your smile lines? Hard to say, because smile lines show up more as a result of your particular facial physiology and the kinds of expressions you make (nothing wrong with smiling, we could all do with more smiling in our lives). Smile lines often become more noticeable as we age because our faces lose volume, so the skin sags forwards and down, hence the smile lines....

Can you test the Lyma supplement and at-home laser please?

I have tried the Lyma 'laser' but I'm not a fan – I used it every night for months on end in spring 2021 (on one side of one wrinkle on my neck, and on the knuckles of my left hand, as advised by the brand founder), without getting any results. My laser-manufacturer acquaintances laugh at it when I ask them what they think of its supposed powers of rejuvenation. Why? 'Look, this isn't competition to us,' said one. 'Laser?' laughed another. 'That's more of a laser pointer.' It is not a medical-grade phototherapy device. The Lyma makes enormous claims, claiming the sort of results that it normally takes several rounds of in-clinic...

Have you stopped selling the omega A-3? I can't see it on your website.

Hiya, Yes – OG ØMEGA-3 PLUS is no longer available in the UK. Instead, we now stock BioCare Mega EPA Forte. It's a high-potency, high-quality fish oil supplement that's sustainably sourced. Find out more here.

Does Ingenious Beauty Collagen work?

Yes, it's a decent brand of collagen and it has some clinical studies to show that it does what it claims. Like any collagen supplement, you need to take it for three months to start seeing the difference that it can make to your skin.

Hope you can answer me, I have very dehydrated skin so am thinking of Profhilo injections. Some websites say that it is only suitable for the lower face and the forehead area won't be affected. Others say it will work for the entire face?

Hi, Profhilo and all the other injectable moisturisers are great for dry skin, and they work wherever they're injected – though if your skin is really dry, you may need more treatment than average in order to see results. The injection protocol that is taught for Profhilo only involves injections in the mid and lower face, but most expert practitioners now take a more creative approach and place the product where they feel it is most needed, which can include the forehead and the area beside the eyes. If your skin is really dry, it's also worth packing in the hydration in your skincare, with a gentle cleanser, a hydrating serum and a...

Hi Alice, Do you know anything about the Facial-Flex facial exerciser that Rosemary Conley uses? I have one and cannot find any recent reviews but want to firm up the area around my mouth and cheeks! I also take collagen supplements plus retinol.

Not much, sorry. I was interested in trying it but my doctor friends said forgodsake no, because it would only make already over-tight muscles in my jaw and neck tighter still. Collagen supplements and retinol are both a really good idea, so keep up with those.

What no one has been able to explain to me is why collagen isn’t treated like any other ingested protein and proteolysis doesn’t take place. I.e. protease breaks the collagen into basis’ amino acids?

Hi, you're basically asking how collagen supplements do what they claim to do. As I understand it, protein in the diet is broken down by the stomach acids into long-chain amino acids, whereas the hydrolysed collagen in collagen supplements is broken down into short-chain amino acids that the body recognises and knows what to do with. Plus, the presence of more of collagen in the body prompts our bodies to create more of its own. Totally Derma has tested this to show that the product not only makes it through the stomach but shows up in the skin,...

What would be your recommendation for a 38-year-old starting to show signs of ageing? Dark circles, fine lines and general lacklustre, dull skin.

I'm very keen on a supporting skin from within with appropriate supplements. My favourite three are a liposomal vitamin C called Altrient C, Totally Derma collagen drink, and OG omega-3 supplements which all benefit the skin in different ways. Tweakments-wise, a round or two of an injectable moisturiser treatment might help boost your skin condition and skin strength and amplify the effects you get from skincare and supplements....

Can I stop taking my Rejuvenated Collagen Shot now I have started taking Altrient vitamin C? Do they both do the same thing collagen-wise or am I best to carry on taking both daily?

Hi, you could and see how it goes, though it will take a few months before you can tell the difference. I take both Totally Derma collagen drink and Altrient C every day because they stimulate collagen production in the skin in different ways, and after discussing this with researchers who look in to the detail of supplements and still take both, I haven't dared to stop!

I am taking collagen powder and Altrient C along with probiotic tablets. I am unsure whether it is ok to take all together or should I take them separately throughout the day? What gives the best results or does it not matter?

For the collagen and vitamin C it really doesn't matter too much. Sticklers for precision would prefer that you took the Altrient C on an empty stomach (for faster absorption) and the collagen in the evening, but the key thing is just to take them, your body will work out what to do with them. Re the probiotics, I don't know which brand you're taking, but see whether there is any specific advice about when to take them (e.g. with food/ before meals) on the packet.

Zooki have a collagen supplement - is this liposomal delivery better than Totally Derma? Would it be an overload to take the two? Or shall I just stick with Totally Derma? Thanks. Cath x

Hi Cath, I don't know if Zooki's collagen supplement contains liposomes – the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that Zooki's Vitamin C didn't contain liposomes in November 2021, so they have been changing their claims since then, and the same may apply to their collagen. Totally Derma is fab and it's all you need for collagen supplementation, though I back it up with Altrient C which has a proven liposomal delivery system and which boosts collagen production by a different mechanism....

Buying from your website post-Brexit – I live in France... will I be charged import taxes?

There's always a chance you'll be charged import taxes but we can't say for certain either way. Please email us at [email protected] with details of what you'd like to order and your address, and we will give you a shipping quote which will include any extra costs/ taxes we are informed about.

I am 57, have regular Caci & RF treatments. I also use my Nuface Mini. Been reading up about Coolsculpting and considering it for jowl area. My skin is in pretty good shape overall and would love your advice. Also, I live in Brighton area, so...

Hi, it sounds like you are taking great care of your skin. I'd always suggest a consistent skincare regime with active ingredients like vitamin C serum in the morning to brighten and strengthen the skin, plus a hydrating sunscreen, and retinol or another kind of retinoid at night to stimulate collagen boosting and improve skin texture. CoolSculpting aka fat freezing or crylipolysis can be really helpful for shrinking fat below the jaw - you need an expert practitioner to assess your face and jawline and see if you would be a good candidate for this. They also need to explain the potential complications of the procedure, which is something...

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