The realm of ingestible beauty isn’t anything new in Singapore. We’ve seen Brand’s tonics and Japanese labels hawking collagen beauty potions long before Gwyneth Paltrow became Goopy. But of course when the Hannah Bronfmans of the social media world started putting collagen powders in their matchas and drinking potions called Beauty Dust that promises to “expand beauty, lustre, and glow from within”, the rest of us can’t help but want to follow suit.

But is there actually merit in the supplements that are sold for better skin — or are they just all good marketing and a load of hype?

Beauty in a Pill

Pooja Vig, Clinic Director and Co-Founder of The Nutrition Clinic, who is a Functional Medicine Nutritionist says, “The space where skincare and nutrients meet — nutricosmetics — is a growing trend and an area that has are some interesting products — and a lot of empty promises. Many products we see have fillers and binders with nutrients that are not at effective dosages.” 

“We understand the lure of “beauty in a pill” and we often have clients asking us “Should I try this?” When we look closely at the product ingredients they often have undesirable ingredients or ineffective amounts of nutrients. We are very conscious of clients wasting money on products that don’t work. There is very little regulation in this space, so it is really important to look for products that are third party tested for efficacy and safety,” she continues.

In the US today, you’ll see everybody from Sephora to Whole Foods, all the way down to Walmart, with some sort of beauty ingestible on the shelves. While there is an increasing mistrust towards big pharma companies, there is a shift to alternative approaches to health, and the realm of microcosmetics meet in the middle of these. Over the years, you see bigwig skincare and cosmetics brands like Oskia, Dr. Barbara Sturm, and RMS Beauty diversifying what they have to offer to include supplements. On the other side of the spectrum, supplement brands like Moon Juice, The Nue Co., and The Beauty Chef are now selling their own topical skincare products, proving that consumers are looking for a holistic approach when it comes to achieving the elusive glow from within. 

More Than Just Skin

Dr Rachel Ho of La Clinic says, “The interesting thing about some of these supplements is that the benefits to the skin can be seen in the rest of the body, rather than just the skin of the face itself. However, the data is very preliminary and limited to small studies so the beauty ingestibles are promising at best. Until there are more robust studies and data for these ingestibles, doctors are not going to be making recommendations for these beauty supplements.”

Should you reach for a collagen drink when you see signs of aging? Dr Melvin Tan of Epion Clinic explains, “Collagen is a protein which our digestive track will break down into amino acids so unfortunately it wouldn’t make it up to the skin in that form. As such it wouldn’t be too different from consuming any other protein.” 

“That being said, amino acids are what the body uses to synthesise proteins including collagen so it may still be beneficial for someone who might not be consuming enough in their diet. It doesn’t preferentially collect in the skin, but should spread out evenly to the skin, hair, nails, joints and other connective tissue,” he continues.

There is definitely merit to claims that the beauty ingestibles can be beneficial to your hair, skin and nails, of course. Probiotic supplements, for example, have long had a cult following amongst skincare junkies way before they were emblazoned with millennial pink packaging. Dr Tan says you should be a little wary: “Be a little skeptical of the over the counter products. A lot of what you read is probably just marketing. There is usually no regulatory body like the FDA or HSA overseeing its safety and efficacy.”

Can you get flawless skin from food?

Pooja says, “You can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet. For [our] clients, we usually start by cutting out foods that damage skin — junk, processed food loaded with sugar is definitely out. Overdoing caffeine and alcohol dehydrates the skin. At the clinic, we see a lot of people with food sensitivities, once they start avoiding these foods and healing their gut their skin improves

So, can you actually eat your way to beautiful skin? Apparently, you can. She says, “A beauty diet is built on whole foods — “a rainbow” of fresh produce coupled with high quality protein such salmon, bone broth, beans and lentils combined with healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil nuts and seeds.”