Fish oil, turmeric, collagen, probiotics … in the battle for bathroom shelf space, supplements are giving serums a run for their money. But what are they actually doing to make your complexion clearer? We asked four health experts to give it to us straight.
Why the sudden interest in supplements?
Unless you’ve been hibernating, you’ve heard of the wellness movement. It’s everywhere from fashion (hello, athleisure) to food (cold-pressed green juice, anyone?), and now, beauty. It’s an evolution Carla Oates has witnessed firsthand: when she launched The Beauty Chef in 2009, her first-to-market inner beauty products were considered too left of field for most stores, but “there has been a shift in the industry with more women taking a holistic view of their health and beauty routine,” she explains. Chef and nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin agrees that “we’re more interested in preventative medicine, nourishing from within, and using natural products to support health.”
OK, how does it all work?
“Minerals and nutrients play a huge role in skin health and appearance,” explains clinical nutritionist and health blogger Jessica Sepel. If things are off-kilter inside, it can lead to issues on the outside. Take your belly. “Seventy percent of our immune system lies in the gut, making nutrients and antioxidants that help synthesise collagen, metabolise hormones and neutralise pathogens,” explains Oates. “Studies show that gut inflammation often corresponds with skin inflammation, rosacea and acne are linked to a lack of hydrochloric acid in the gut, and those with a healthy gut microbiota have a better fatty acid profile in their skin, which makes it more hydrated.”
So what am I looking for?
To enhance collagen production, skin barrier function and the natural healing process, and decrease inflammation and free radical formation, “fish oil, zinc, the B vitamins, vitamin E, and collagen are all great,” says nutritionist Lola Berry. Bingley-Pullin adds antioxidant-powerhouse vitamins A and C to that list, while Oates pinpoints prebiotics and probiotics to boost the immune system, improve gut health, and aid the body’s detoxification, and spirulina and chlorella to help reduce tissue acidity.
The thought of popping a pill makes me want to gag – is my skin doomed?
No, you big drama queen. It depends on which supplement you’re taking. “Fish oil is best in capsule or liquid form, probiotics are often capsules to get past the hydrochloric acid in the small intestine, while collagen and vitamin C are usually in powder form,” explains Berry. Bingley-Pullin notes that if the supplement contains fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, a capsule means that oil can be added to increase the absorption rate, while liquids and powders are more readily absorbed and don’t require the stomach to break them down, says Sepel, making them ideal for those with digestion issues.
A final note …
It’s the cause of your complexion concerns that will determine whether a supplement will make things better. So if you’re vitamin or mineral deficient, a supplement may improve your skin, but remember that “diet, exercise, stress, genetics, hormones and lifestyle, all play a role in skin health, so don’t neglect any of these areas and put all your hope solely on a supplement,” cautions Bingley-Pullin.
The Beauty Chef Antioxidant Inner Beauty Boost, $39.95 (500ml), boasts bio-fermented papaya to neutralize free radical damage
JS Health Hair & Energy Formula, $29.99 (30 capsules), contains zinc for healthy skin and hair.
Vida Glow Blueberry Marine Collagen, $54.95 (30 sachets), helps replenish the body’s collagen levels.
Beauty Boosters Complexion Perfection, $59.95 (120 capsules), delivers fish oil, plus skin-nourishing evening primrose oil.
With 45 ingredients, WelleCo Super Elixir Greens, $145 (300g), ticks off lots of boxes: turmeric, omega 3, pro and prebiotics …