Collagen, Fish Oil and More: All About Supplements and Superfoods For Glowing Skin
Our beauty regimes may have changed since Covid-19 hit the world. Some of us may have gotten used to a longer skincare routine to try and pamper ourselves a little more, while the rest of us may have resorted to quicker patterns that still do the trick. Amidst the usual topical skincare steps, there is also the option of adding beauty supplements to our daily routine. However, there is a wide variety of products available, and who is to say that you are consuming what is right for you? Sure, reading the ingredients is the most crucial part of all so that you are aware of potential allergens but other than that, there is the question of whether these supplements are even necessary in the first place?
Personally, I have tried a number of beauty supplements such as cult US-based wellness brand Vital Protein's collagen coffee creamer (no thanks to Kylie Jenner for mentioning this on her social media), Laneige's Youth Collagen drink, Swisse's Ultiboost Bella Collagen Jelly and vitamins for stronger hair, skin and nails, apple cider vinegar gummies and more. These products worked well for me but at the same time, I was also maintaining a regular skincare routine that includes topical treatments. However, I have also been aware that our overall skin health has a lot to do with our diet and the amount of nutrition we are getting.
As someone who is keen on finding out more about whether beauty supplements are necessary, I spoke to a dermatologist in Singapore to get an expert's take on key ingredients and products that have gained prominence in the beauty realm.
Many of us in Singapore may have memories (fond or not) of having to consume cod liver oil during our childhood due to its health benefits. Fish oil remains one of the most recommended superfoods available out there. And it’s not just well-loved by us in Asia; American Youtube beauty guru Jaclyn Hill once recommended to her fans a lemon-infused cod liver fish oil by Carlson Labs that she claimed did wonders for her skin. Some have tried using fish oil topically as it is said to improve the skin barrier, but it is best to consult a dermatologist before applying anything that you're unsure of.
Fish oil is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are extremely hydrating.
“As the outermost layer of our skin is actually held together by ceramide molecules derived from fatty lipids, it is important if you wish to have healthy skin that you maintain your overall health with a diet that is filled with antioxidants which are mainly from plants ... The consumption of fatty fish rich in omega-3 or plant sources from plant seed oils or even evening primrose oil has been shown in studies to have a positive benefit in terms of repairing the skin barrier,” according to Dr Teo Wan Lin, dermatologist and founder of TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre.
Therefore, taking fish oil supplements should not mean that you are replacing foods that are rich in omega-3s. Some good sources of these are flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and canola oil.
Apple Cider Vinegar
It’s no secret the apple cider vinegar (ACV) is not exactly the easiest to drink, thanks to its high acidity. The taste is enough to put us off and not want to include it in our diet at all. However, this fermented liquid is highly beneficial when applied to the skin as it can help with balancing the skin’s PH, exfoliation, improving hyperpigmentation, and more.
Most importantly, the liquid needs to be thoroughly diluted before using on the skin. But an easier method is to just use products that are infused with apple cider vinegar, such as toners, cleansers and peel pads that contain the ingredient. In terms of health benefits, ACV is widely regarded as a natural remedy that can also help lower blood sugar level, indigestion, and more. Some ways of consuming it are by mixing a teaspoon or tablespoon with a cup of water (and drink it with a straw to prevent wearing the enamel of the teeth), taking it in tablet form or even apple cider vinegar gummies, which have gained popularity over the past year.
“ACV is regarded as a prebiotic which benefits your gut. I think in terms of how it directly affects your skin, there needs to be more research. But we do have early data, on the gut skin microbiome which is how the health of the gut relates to the gut of your skin,” Dr Teo said.
While it offers a myriad of health benefits, it is highly recommended that you consult a doctor or dermatologist before using apple cider vinegar directly on the skin.
Oh, collagen. We see this everywhere, from beauty products to food and beverage options targeted at women who want to maintain a youthful glow. Collagen supplements are hugely popular among celebrities from Jennifer Aniston to Kylie Jenner, who are just a few among these A-list stars who have publicly declared their love for such supplements (which can come in the form of powder, capsules and even coffee creamer) for their anti-ageing benefits and more. But it is important to understand how it works.
“How collagen supplements work essentially is that they consist of peptides that are further ingested. These peptides can work on a cellular level to stimulate collagen production by your skin cells. However, theoretically, we don’t think that it is possible whatever you digest, to really localise it to a certain part of your body.” Dr Teo said.
“The animal studies are also interesting because the few that have been done suggest that there are certain genetic changes that occur in mice who are given collagen powder supplementation that led to an increase in collagen production. However, what has been best borne out of scientific research is really the topicals that you apply. Whether it is in the form of medication that treats pigmentation or non-prescription cosmeceuticals, these act directly on the surface of the skin. It definitely will not be replacing your skincare regime.”
I don’t think there is a danger in most of these supplements so If it is something that you’re interested in and personally find that you have positive benefits from, then why not? In the dermatology community, I think it is worthwhile for us to do a bit more research for more data to really investigate further.
—Dr Teo Wan Lin
Hair, skin and nail supplements
Another form of beauty supplements that are popular among women vitamins for the hair, skin and nails. In Singapore, these vitamins are easily found in pharmacies and department stores. Research has shown that hair, skin, and nail supplements commonly contain antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E, or Coenzyme Q10, as well as biotin, a B-complex vitamin. Individuals who are deficient in these nutrients may stand to benefit from these supplements but experts have said there is not enough evidence that these supplements can help those with no clear deficiencies. However, two studies done in the 1990s did find that biotin supplements may help strengthen soft, easily breakable nails, according to Pieter Cohen, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an expert on dietary supplements in a 2017 Consumer Report on Health.
(Related: 5 Foods To Eat For Healthy Hair And Nails)
“I don’t think there is a danger in most of these supplements so If it is something that you’re interested in and personally find that you have positive benefits from, then why not? And in the dermatology community, I think it is worthwhile for us to do a bit more research for more data to really investigate further. If you have dry and sensitive skin, and you think collagen powder can make your skin better, I don’t think there is strictly evidence-based practice. So dermatologists at this moment will not be recommending these things to replace topical moisturisers,” Dr Teo added.
“However, because there are a few studies that do show a positive benefit in terms of the hydration of the skin and the reduction in skin wrinkles in a group that took supplements compared to the placebo arm, I think it is worthwhile for further research to continue. But as of now, it is very difficult for dermatologists to endorse these as a value-added treatment on top of your regular skin treatment. The science behind this is that we are supposed to obtain all our nutrients from our diet.”