You’ve likely heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” In other words, how you treat your body—and in this case specifically from a nutrition standpoint—plays a role in how your body presents itself to the public. If you overeat, if you skip veggies and fruit in favor of French fries and cake, you’re not giving your body the best shot at a healthy life.
And that’s likely going to show in how you feel, and for the purpose of this blog, how you look to yourself and to others.
When it comes to the beauty market, we’re talking skin, hair, nails, even aging gracefully. And, yes, what you eat impacts how you look.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the beauty business has expanded beyond topical cosmetics, dermatology procedures and plastic surgery to include focus on healthy eating and nutritional supplements marketed for beauty benefits.
According to Verified Market Research, the global beauty supplements market was valued at $2.3 billion in 2018, with a projected estimate of $3.3 billion by 2026, and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.61% from 2019 to 2026. More recent figures from InsightAce Analytic predict a CAGR from 2022 to 2030 of 11.4%, with market estimates of $8.3 billion by 2030.
Based on the philosophy of “beauty from the inside out” or more recently referred to as “beauty from within,” nutricosmetics is the term being used to describe the category of nutritional supplements—including vitamins, minerals, collagen, co-enzymes, carotenoids and others—that may confer beauty benefits.
And yes, some of the B vitamins are good for beauty.
Which B vitamins are Good for Beauty?
First a little background: did you know that there are actually eight B vitamins? Your body doesn’t make its own vitamin B, so you need to get your B’s from external sources. Fortunately, B vitamins are readily available in food and nutritional supplements. There are also B vitamins found in cosmeceuticals defined as a (topical) cosmetic claiming medicinal properties.
The B vitamins are known by numbers (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) and by names, respectively thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folate and cobalamin. They’re all water-soluble, meaning you don’t need to take them with food, although you can.
When it comes to supplements, some people choose a B complex vitamin, rather than the single numbered B vitamins. A B complex vitamin can include several of the B’s or all eight. (And multivitamins also contain B vitamins.) Check the product label to learn which B vitamins you’re taking and in what dose.
Here are four of the B vitamins that may be worthy of your consideration when it comes to exploring beauty from within.
When it comes to potential beauty benefits of the B vitamins, biotin (B7) is perhaps the best known and most established. Some research has demonstrated the potential of biotin in strengthening brittle nails and helping them grow; hydrating skin and improving its smoothness and appearance; and making a difference in hair health, such as adding sheen and volume. In addition, a deficiency in biotin can result in thinning hair, skin rash and dried out nails. (Read about biotin’s other benefits here.)
It’s not just biotin that has beauty benefit potential.
For example, thiamine (B1) can also be considered a beauty vitamin because it factors into the body’s manufacture and restoration of collagen, a protein found in our body that decreases with age. In short, collagen helps keep our skin young and springy to the touch. More about collagen in a little bit.
Thiamine also keeps your scalp in tip top shape, a necessity for healthy hair. Think of your scalp as the foundational land that houses the hair follicles which are the vessels that allow your hair to grow, kind of like grass. The vitamin keeps oxygen and blood flowing through your vessels, reducing constriction and carrying key nutrients to your hair follicles.
Your body needs cobalamin (B12) as a means to healthy hair, skin and nails, because of its involvement with cell production. In fact, some research has demonstrated that inadequate levels of this B vitamin can lead to hair and nail problems, skin hyperpigmentation and the skin condition known as vitiligo, which results in patchy loss of pigmentation. And those are just the dermatological symptoms of low levels of B12.
If you’re eating properly and your vitamin B12 levels test in the sufficient (or optimal) range, adding a B12 supplement likely won’t make a difference in your hair, nails and skin; however, if your vitamin B12 is lacking, taking a B12 supplement may well help. For links to some scientific research on B12, and to read about its benefits beyond beauty, read this. To learn more about testing for B12, click here.
Niacin and Niacinamide
Another potential beauty booster is niacin (B3) but this one’s a little more complicated. Niacin is thought to protect against skin cell damage caused by the sun. In general, B3 fights against the acne and redness resulting from rosacea and also can improve your skin’s tone and texture. If you’re niacin-deficient, you might see some symptoms. For instance, your tongue may look bright red or your skin might show some discoloration; there’s also loss of appetite, fatigue and vomiting.
But it’s niacin’s cousin, niacinamide, that you’re probably hearing more about these days, thanks to this form of B3 (also known as nicotinamide) getting its moment in the TikTok sun, at least as a topical cosmetic beauty solution.
Niacinamide is being touted for all sorts of beauty benefits such as fighting environmental factors that damage your skin, reducing inflammation that leads to eczema and acne, and minimizing fine lines and wrinkles. (Try it if you like, but don’t be oversold by the hype.)
According to this article, at least one high quality study of those at high risk for skin cancer has shown that that taking 500 mg of nicotinamide twice daily reduced rates of nonmelanoma skin cancer compared to a control.
Yes, both niacin and niacinamide are also sold as supplements. As it turns out, your body can turn niacin into niacinamide.
And you can also get your B vitamins from food. Starting with meats and salmon, read about some of the foods that are rich in the B’s.
Beyond the Bs for Beauty
It’s not just the B vitamins that are good for beauty-related functions. There are several other vitamins that can make your skin sing or your hair lustrous. And while this article suggests that those benefits are most beneficial in topical form, getting these vitamins from whole food and supplements at the very least can add to your health overall, and potentially bring some beauty benefits too.
Here are five more to consider:
Collagen makes up 75 percent of your skin’s support structure, says this article. Your body produces collagen, your most abundant protein. There are several factors—including smoking, drinking too much coffee or alcohol, and overexposure to the sun without protection—which lead to an undesirable decrease in collagen. In addition, as we get older, our body’s collagen production also decreases. Taking collagen supplements may move your body to make more collagen.
When it comes to skin health, collagen can make your skin look juicier or hydrated, and improve elasticity. Without those benefits, your skin may lack luster, appear dry and full of wrinkles.
Some food sources for collagen include beef bone broth, chicken with the skin still on, organ meats and sardines.
Anyone following the beauty industry is familiar with hyaluronic acid as it features prominently in marketing materials for many topical cosmeceutical creams and serums. It’s a polysaccharide molecule, or as the Cleveland Clinic best describes it for the non-science geeks among us, it’s a “gooey, slippery substance that your body produces naturally.” In your body, it’s most often found in your eyes, joints and skin. It’s available as a dietary supplement.
Think of hyaluronic acid as the skin’s lubricant. From a beauty perspective, it’s thought to do a number of things for your skin, including moisturizing, improving elasticity and reducing wrinkles. It also may treat eczema and redness and help heal wounds.
Some foods that either contain hyaluronic acid or help boost your body’s production of hyaluronic acid are found in the connective tissue (and, we’re sorry to say, in the eyes) of beef, chicken and fish, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, and dark leafy greens.
This antioxidant, anti-inflammatory vitamin may seem old school when it comes to beauty, but sometimes you just want to go basic. First thing you need to know: vitamin C is vital for your body’s collagen production. Other vitamin C skin benefits relate to reducing the ravages of oxidative stress (which are hard on your skin), brightening your skin’s complexion, evening out skin tone, and perhaps making dark spots less visible.
While you may see some of these benefits from dietary supplements and food, this article suggests topical vitamin C is probably an add-on you’ll want in order to reach the topmost layers of the skin. This piece advises that an added beauty benefit of vitamin C supplementation is that it can enhance the effectiveness of topical sunscreens, providing protection against sun damage.
Best foods for getting your vitamin C? Fruits (especially oranges, kiwis, strawberries and blueberries!) and veggies (red pepper, brussels sprouts and cauliflower—who knew?).
You’re likely already taking vitamin D supplements as it’s a popular one with a host of science supporting it. As for beauty, it is vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory properties that suggest it may also be a beauty booster.
According to this beauty blog, the possible vitamin D benefits start with increasing cell turnover, which slows down as we age. Healthy skin requires new cells to replace existing cells, a process which helps keep your skin smooth and radiant, and healthy overall. When your skin is inflamed, it’s dry, prone to redness and itching. Vitamin D calms inflammation.
Some studies have shown that low blood levels of vitamin D can be responsible for hair loss. We’ve blogged about that.
Whole foods that are good sources of vitamin include salmon, tuna, cod and egg yolks and vitamin D fortified foods include milk, breakfast cereals and orange juice.
As with vitamin D, the overall body of scientific research for omega-3s is extremely robust, and these fatty acids are among the most-researched nutrients. The science is strong for helping prevent cardiovascular disease, and omega-3s also play a role in brain, mood, joint and eye health and may even protect against certain cancers. Once again, the nutrient’s anti-inflammatory properties are key.
This post talks about 17 benefits of omega-3s—and skin health is one of them.
When it comes to beauty, this article shines a light on six areas where omega-3s EPA and DHA fatty acids may come into play, including blocking harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun, improving the skin barrier function to seal in moisture and block irritants, and reducing acne.
Foods for omega-3 EPA and DHA include salmon, herring, sardines and other fatty fish. Learn more here.
Beauty Supplement Tips
Some wisdom: nutricosmetics is a relatively new field. Some science supports, and in some cases, strongly supports, the benefits of nutritional supplements, including the B vitamins, for beauty from within. However, and not surprisingly, not all the science has reached the same results.
Further, as nutricosmetics is an emerging field, in large part due to growing consumer interest in these supplement products for their potential beauty benefits, much of the science may be considered emerging too.
Here are some tips:
- Practice good nutrition, including taking nutritional supplements as needed, as nutrition is foundational to good health. And good health is the first building block to healthy skin, hair and nails. Manage your expectations; do not expect to pop a pill and miraculously have skin like Jennifer Lopez or Rihanna or hair like Jennifer Aniston or Patrick Dempsey.
- Remember: too much of a good thing may not be a great thing. Take your dietary supplements, whether for beauty benefits or otherwise, according to label directions. Talk with your doctor or other trusted healthcare professional(s) about what supplements might work for your personal circumstances.
- Know your numbers. Not all nutrient levels can be tested, but for the ones that can, consider doing just that to help ensure you’re in the sufficient or optimal range for a specific nutrient and for your health. If you’re not, supplements may help.
Bottom line for beauty: Stay hydrated, get restful sleep (and plenty of it!), exercise regularly and engage in a good nutrition regimen, including dietary supplements as appropriate.