Luxurious hair, glowing skin and strong nails ... what's not to love? That's one reason beauty supplements that make these promises are so popular. But before you try these products, it's helpful to be aware of hair, skin and nails vitamins' side effects.
For starters, what's in hair, skin and nail supplements? While the ingredients vary from brand to brand, biotin is one common component because of its purported ability to stop a receding hairline.
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That's because deficiencies in biotin (also referred to as vitamin B7) can lead to hair loss and skin rashes, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. As a result, using biotin medicine to treat a deficiency can help restore hair and skin health.
However, it's important to note that an August 2017 study in Skin Appendage Disorders found that while supplements can help treat symptoms of biotin deficiency, there's little research to support the use of the supplement in healthy people.
And biotin isn't the only ingredient you'll find in hair, skin and nails vitamins. According to July 2020 research in Cureus, these supplements may also contain:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Fish oil
And while it's possible that other supplements like iron pills stimulate hair growth and can improve skin and nail issues associated with nutrient deficiencies, there's likely more risk than reward, as many of these supplements aren't regulated or quality tested and can contain harmfully high doses of different nutrients, per the Cureus research.
So before you shop for a supplement, consider the following ways that hair, skin and nails vitamins' side effects can influence your health.
Talk to your doctor before trying any supplement, as the FDA doesn't require these products to be proven safe or effective before they're sold, so there’s no guarantee that any supplement you take is safe, contains the ingredients it says it does or produces the effects it claims.
1. You Can Overdose on Nutrients
As it turns out, you can have too much of a good thing — just because these supplements contain essential vitamins and minerals doesn't mean that it's a safe dose.
In fact, many supplements contain mega-doses of the following nutrients (in this case, that means doses higher than 200 percent of the recommended daily value), per the Cureus research:
- Vitamin A
- B vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
What's more, the dosing of different nutrients ranges greatly from product to product. Per the Cureus research, the doses of biotin in 176 different supplements ranged from 100 to 33,333 percent of your daily value.
For instance, the popular Nature's Bounty hair, skin and nails gummies contain 8,333 percent of the recommended daily value for biotin, and Olly vitamins for hair contain 10,000 percent, per the nutrition labels.
Overdosing on nutrients can lead to the following side effects:
- Nerve damage
- Gastrointestinal distress (more on that later)
- Vasodilation, which can lead to drop in blood pressure
- Milk-alkali syndrome, which causes kidney injury from high levels of calcium in the body
Talk to your doctor before trying a supplement to make sure the nutrients and doses included in the product are safe for you.
2. They Can Cause Digestive Distress
HNS tablets side effects may include gastrointestinal issues.
For instance, supplements that contain high doses of iron — like Nature's Bounty hair, skin and nail pills — can lead to constipation and upset stomach, according to October 202o research in Dermatology Practical & Conceptual.
3. They Can Cause an Allergic Reaction
Another potential hair, skin and nails vitamin side effect is an allergic reaction. Per the Dermatology Practical & Conceptual research, a number of ingredients in these supplements have been shown to cause allergic responses in some, including:
- Fish collagen
- Dyes and preservatives
Allergic symptoms can include:
- Skin inflammation
Anaphylaxis is an extreme allergic response where your throat closes up and makes it difficult to breathe, per the Mayo Clinic. Seek medical care immediately if this happens to you.
4. They Can Mess With Lab Tests
Be aware that the high doses of biotin present in beauty supplements can cause incorrect lab test results.
For instance, it can lead to inaccurate results for tests that check your thyroid and heart function, according to the Cureus research. This may lead to misdiagnoses and inappropriate treatment, which can be harmful to your health.
5. They Can Lead to Hair Loss
Yes, you read that right — some supplements intended for hair, skin and nail health may actually lead to hair loss.
According to the Dermatology Practical & Conceptual research, taking supplements with high doses of selenium, vitamin A and vitamin E and result in hair loss for some.
Try Food Instead
Beauty supplements can have their downsides. That's why your diet is the best way to get the nutrients you need to support hair, skin and nail health — in fact, it's recommended that you get your nutrients through natural whole foods rather than a supplement (unless your doctor recommends otherwise), according to the Mayo Clinic.
Seeing as biotin is a key component of many of these tablets, here are some biotin-rich foods to include in your diet instead of taking pills:
- Meat like beef liver, ground beef and pork chops
- Fish like canned salmon and tuna
- Sunflower seeds
- Sweet potato
According to Harvard Health Publishing, adults should aim to eat 30 micrograms of the nutrient per day.
Beyond biotin, eating a balanced diet can contribute to your overall wellbeing, including the health of your hair, skin and nails. Per Harvard Health Publishing, include the following foods in your diet to get the nutrients you need:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables
- Legumes like lentils, beans and peas
- Whole grains like whole-wheat bread
- Dairy products like milk and yogurt
- Nuts and seeds
- Lean meat and poultry
- Dermatology Practical & Conceptual: "Risks of Skin, Hair, and Nail Supplements"
- Skin Appendage Disorders: "A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Biotin"
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “FDA 101: Dietary Supplements”
- Cureus: "Safety Concerns of Skin, Hair and Nail Supplements in Retail Stores"
- Mayo Clinic: "Allergies"
- Mayo Clinic: "Supplements: Nutrition in a pill?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Listing of vitamins"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The best foods for vitamins and minerals"