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Grooming from within

10 July 2023 | | By Glynis Horning

Beauty supplements and vitamins to enhance hair, skin and nails are all the rage. Here’s what you need to know.


Thanks to celebrity endorsements, influencers and social media, the market for beauty supplements is booming. According to a Goldstein Research report, the industry was worth R43.5 billion in 2016 and is tipped to hit $6.8bn (about R124bn) by the end of next year. But what exactly are these products?

Hair, skin and nail supplements now come in tablets, capsules, liquid, powder, oils and gels. They generally contain vitamins and minerals, sometimes in very high doses, and may also contain herbs, hormones, microbes or animal derivatives such as fish oils and collagen, according to a 2020 study in the journal Dermatology Practical & Conceptual.

Here are some of the main ingredients to enhance hair, skin and nails from within:

Biotin (vitamin B7): This helps your body metabolise proteins and is needed for healthy hair, skin and nail cells. A biotin deficiency can result in hair loss, eczema and brittle nails. “The recommended daily dose is 30 micrograms (mcg) a day for adults,” says dietitian Aziwe Booi. “Food sources of biotin include salmon, beef liver, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, almonds, whole eggs, bananas and milk.” Getting more than 30 mcg of biotin won’t provide a beauty boost unless you have a deficiency, which is rare if you have a balanced diet, according to a review of 18 studies in the journal Skin Appendage Disorders.

Keratin: This is a protein produced naturally by your body, that makes up the outer layer of your hair, skin and nails. Shampoos and conditioners containing it may help strengthen hair and improve its appearance, and several studies suggest supplements may help hair, skin and nail health, but keratin is highly resistant to stomach acids and more studies are needed. You can support your body’s production of keratin with foods such as eggs, salmon, beef liver, onions, kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, sunflower seeds and garlic, says Booi. 

Collagen: This is another structural protein that occurs naturally, and helps give skin a plump, smooth appearance. When production decreases with age, wrinkles start to form. One study found taking a collagen supplement improved skin hydration. Taking collagen may also improve hair and scalp condition.

 “Fish, chicken, or meat products containing bones are a dietary source of collagen. Foods containing the amino acids glycine, hydroxyproline, proline and valine are important as they support collagen production. Examples of these foods include legumes, eggs, meat, chicken, soy and dairy products. Vitamin C and collagen are a critical combo to support collagen synthesis, so ensure you get enough through your diet.” says Booi.

Vitamin C: This is often included in supplements for skin and hair. The recommended daily intake (75 mg for women, 90 mg for men) is easily obtained from a balanced diet. “Great plant-based sources of vitamin C are bell peppers, oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, Brussel’s sprouts and kiwi fruit,” says Booi.

“Before trying a supplement, discuss it with your health provider like a registered dietitian, who can interpret blood results and advise whether you have a deficiency and may benefit from it, and can also recommend a reputable brand,” Booi adds.

IMAGE: 123rf.com

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