Gorgeous From Within

Supplements for nail, skin and hair health are taking the nation by storm. From pills to powders and potions, learn all about the best wellness options for your customers.

In 2015, the American Academy of Dermatology noted that “nutricosmetics–the use of nutrition or nutritional supplements for skin health and beauty–is popular abroad and may be the next frontier for improving skin health and beauty in the U.S.” The prediction turned out to be prescient. The Business of Fashion reported last October that the beauty supplement category has doubled within the last two years. A 2016 survey from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) found that 26 percent of those who use supplements for a beauty boost are ages 18 to 34 (compared to 17 percent ages 35 to 54, and 14 percent over 55 years old), meaning the future of the category looks bright.

Last June, Global Industry Analysts reported that the global nutricosmetics market was projected to reach $7.5 billion by 2024, and points to myriad factors at work behind the surge: a consumer emphasis on less invasive beauty treatments; a growing interest in preventative care due to skyrocketing healthcare costs; and the health and wellness megatrend, fueled by manufacturers who are offering consumers new pathways to beauty from within. The report even suggested that male consumers would be increasingly susceptible to appearance-enhancing supplements.

The category is projected to continue growing. “The beauty supplement business is still relatively small. In the $18 billion prestige beauty market in the U.S., beauty supplements represented just $13.1 million–but most industry insiders are betting on growth,” says Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, a Los Angeles-based nutritionist, speaker, consultant and author of 15 books, including The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. “The CRN’s 2016 consumer survey on dietary supplements found that nearly one-fifth of supplement users in the U.S. already take supplements for skin, hair and nail benefits.”

Beauty stores are accustomed to meeting customers’ every beauty need–but are they satiating their growing hunger for ingestibles? Topical products for hair, skin and nails are stalwarts of the industry, but it’s becoming an increas- ingly good idea to also stock up on products that promote beauty from within. Sephora, for example, recently added Moon Juice powders to its already robust lineup of supplements designed to fix issues from acne and sagging skin to thinning hair and dark undereye circles.

After all, with more consumers aware of the link between their inner health and outer appearance, they’re beginning to seek solutions outside of the latest topical treatments. “I’m a big believer in the idea that beauty starts from the inside out, just as aging does,” Bowden says. “Superficial fixes like skin creams and wrinkle-hiders may temporarily improve the look of the skin–or, more correctly, may help camouflage the signs of aging and wear–but the regeneration of healthy skin, and the moisturizing of skin in general, really has to start from within.”

Esther Blum, MS, RD, CDN, CNS, an integrative dietician, holistic health expert and author of Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat, based in Weston, Connecticut, agrees that more and more consumers are making the correlation between wellness and beauty. “Topical products are great at treating the symptoms,” Blum says. “But if you want to reverse or cure what’s creating those problems, you have to start from within.”

Don’t fret; no one’s going to toss those high-end, age-defying creams just yet. Bowden emphasizes that supplements aren’t necessarily more or less effective than topical products–they simply work in different ways. “We do know that substances can be delivered to the body transdermally (through the skin), but how much active ingredients can be put into skincare products vs. how much can be ingested through supplements is an open question,” he says. “I’m a big believer in building the infrastructure first, and in skin and beauty, the infrastructure starts at the cellular level. That’s where nutritional supplements can really shine.”

Looking for certain key ingredients in beauty supplements can help you select the optimal options for customers. According to Bowden, supplements that help build collagen–the most abundant protein in the body, important for connective tissue like skin and joints–are good bets for promoting beauty from within. In years past, people were taught that collagen supplements couldn’t be absorbed when taken orally, “but that’s old information,” he says. “High-quality collagen supplements can very definitely be absorbed, and a fair amount of research shows improvement in skin and joint health with the proper use of the right kind of collagen supplements. I think daily collagen supplements can go a long way toward helping to stem the destruction that comes from having smaller and smaller collagen stores.”

Bowden notes that there are more than a dozen different forms of collagen, but only three are important for the human body. Collagen types 1 and 3 are more targeted to the skin, while type 2 is helpful for joints. And Blum adds that many protein powders now often contain collagen as well–an ideal way for those who already use these formulas to receive an extra beauty boost.

Omega-3s, Bowden believes, can do more to improve the skin, hair and nails than any superficial “fix” thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties. After all, inflammation “is a promoter, an accompaniment or cause within virtually every degenerative disease on the planet, from heart disease to diabetes to arthritis,” Bowden explains.

Acne outbreaks, too, are related to inflammation, so anti-inflammatory ingredients can help the skin. His top ingredient picks? Fish oil, which boasts two omega-3s (EPA and DHA), or alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in flaxseed and chia seeds.

Blum also advocates omega-3 fatty acids, which hydrate and plump skin cells, and keep blood vessels flexible and fluid (ideal for those prone to capillary damage). Because of their anti-inflammatory properties, they can be helpful for customers with rosacea; she recommends at least 2 grams, or 2,000 milligrams, per day.

As environmental stressors, styling tools and aggressive products take their toll, keratin has become a popular supplement for creating healthier-looking locks. “Keratin is the main structural protein in the hair,” Bowden explains. “There’s an awful lot of anecdotal evidence showing that keratin supplements can make a big difference in its appearance, thickness and luster.” Nails are also made of keratin, so these supplements may make dry, brittle nails longer and stronger.

Meanwhile, biotin is a B vitamin often used to improve the look of hair, skin and nails. Biotin strengthens the bonds in this trio of beauty indicators since keratin creation requires biotin. “For those who are low in this vitamin, it’s really hard to have lustrous hair and strong nails,” Bowden explains. “And, even if there’s no deficiency, extra biotin through a supplement can
help with those areas.”

Finally, experts agree that probiotics help with overall health, which translates to healthier skin. Blum thinks of skin as “your gut walls turned inside out–a direct reflection of what’s happening inside, either digestively or hormonally,” and probiotics are especially helpful for people with eczema, psoriasis and acne. “Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that live in your gut, and I recommend anywhere from 25 to 50 billion a day. Most people are taking 1 billion, which is what would be found in a kombucha tea,” Blum notes. “If someone says, ‘I don’t know where to start,’ always start with a probiotic.”

Bowden agrees that probiotics are essential for a healthy gut and, therefore, healthy skin. “We now know that the gut is central to just about every health condition we can imagine,” Bowden says. “A lot of this is connect the dots, but because we have studies linking the health of the flora that lives in your gut with a host of issues, from obesity to depression, and we have studies that show the gut and mind connection, it’s not a big leap to believe it also affects your appearance.”

With so many varieties available, how do you select the right supplement providers? Outside of seeking specific ingredients, look for companies that can be true partners when it comes to the oft-complicated world of supplements. Seek continuing education or perform your own research (using trustworthy sources) on the basics of supplement ingredients and what they do.

Blum also advises working with companies that have solid, scientific research, such as peer reviews or literature, behind their claims. Or work with a local registered dietician or nutritionist to select the right formulas for your store. Finally, check ingredient lists. “I think when the fillers on the ingredient label are longer than the active ingredients, when there’s chemical dyes or ingredients you don’t recognize, that’s a warning,” Blum says. “Supplements shouldn’t have a lot of binders, colors or fillers.”

Ultimately, with the right partnerships, products and customer education, beauty stores can successfully tap into the beauty-wellness market–and potentially change customers’ health in positive ways. “If, as industry insiders project, this is a growing market, it makes sense for beauty stores to carry all the things marketed for the same purpose under one roof,” Bowden concludes. “After all, beauty supplements certainly target the same demographic as those looking to buy antiaging skin creams!”

Looking for additional ingredients that can help to boost beauty? Esther Blum, author of Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat, recommends the following.

  • Borage or Primrose Oil: Contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which helps control sebum production for those with acne. It hydrates and moisturizes from within
  • and regulates the hormonal balance.
  • Astaxanthin: A specific type of red algae that pink flamingos and red salmon eat to give them their signature pink color. In humans, the ingredient provides a natural SPF of about 5 when taken orally, but it’s also a great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
  • Diethylaminoethanol (DEAE): For tightening and toning the facial contours, (DEAE) helps boost neurotransmitter production, so it aids both brain and beauty. Think improved cognitive function and anti-sagging capabilities.
  • Hawaiian Spirulina: A great detoxifier to counteract the effects of mercury or mold exposure, which makes people sick and causes everything from undereye circles to liver issues.
  • Zinc: Use for inflammation, especially rosacea and acne–and most people are deficient due to a high-sugar diet, high stress and poor gut function. Try ionic zinc in 25- to 50-milligram doses.

Educate your in-store and online shoppers by sharing these nutritionist-approved tips. Esther Blum, an integrative dietician and holistic health expert based in Weston, Connecticut, points out that supplements are just that–a supplement to a healthy diet and lifestyle. While you’re not expected to staff a nutritionist at the beauty store, you can share this expert’s tips with your customers for glowing skin and stronger hair and nails. (Please note: Recommend that customers consult with their physician before making any dietary changes.)

  1. Sugar accelerates aging. It’s super inflammatory and causes collagen molecules to stick together, which can accelerate the wrinkling process from within. Avoid it as much as possible!
  2. Wild Alaskan salmon is loaded with DEAE and astaxanthin.
  3. Green leafy vegetables, or any veggies, are high in antioxidants.
  4. Wild blueberries and other berries are loaded with antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.
  5. Get high-quality protein. Ditch the factory-farmed meats in favor of pasture-raised meats, such as chicken (and eggs) raised on grass. They naturally contain omega-3s.
  6. Incorporate nuts and seeds, which are loaded with healthy fats.
  7. Choose oils carefully. Oils can be temperature sensitive, so for high-heat cooking, try avocado or coconut oil. Olive oil is great for low- to medium- heat cooking. For baking, use real butter (stay away from margarine and other fake foods), coconut oil or avocado oil. Never use canola, sunflower or safflower oil, which are highly inflammatory–even if they say organic.
  8. Sweet potatoes and winter squash reduce inflammation. They’re slow-release carbs, and very low in sugar.
  9. Bone broth, slow-cooked at a low temperature for 18 to 24 hours (or purchased from a local butcher or retailer), supplies collagen and heals the gut wall.
  10. Fresh herbs, from basil to parsley, help detoxify the liver.
  11. Struggling with acne, rosacea or any other skin condition? Avoid gluten, most grains and dairy; these changes often clear up 90 percent of the problem.

[Photo by Maciej Frolow/Getty Images]