Do hair, skin, and nail supplements really make a difference?

Clara V.
Clara V.Published on 10 Aug 2021

Like the rest of your body, your skin, hair, and nails need the right nutrients in order to look and feel healthy. That’s why pharmacy shelves - and maybe your Instagram feed too - are packed with supplements that claim to do anything from strengthening hair to reducing wrinkles and hardening nails.

With more people staying in and working from home, many of us have started paying more attention to skincare and health products. After all, we still want to look good for the odd makeup-free Zoom call - and for ourselves.

Being more health-conscious is a step in the right direction, but do supplements that promote hair, skin, and nail health actually make a difference? Let’s find out.

A woman holding clear vitamins in her hand. There's a glass of water in the background.

What are hair, skin, and nail supplements?

Supplements for hair, skin, and nails aim to promote the health of these parts of your body, using a range of active ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, herbs, and proteins.

You can find vitamins that target a certain area of the body or concern, such as vitamins for hair growth, however it’s common to find supplements that promote hair, skin, and nail growth all in one handy little capsule.

You shouldn’t rely on supplements

The best way to get the nutrients your body needs is by eating a balanced diet. While it may seem like a quick and easy way to get the right vitamins into your body, as the name suggests, taking supplements should only be used to supplement a healthy diet.

If you’re suffering from a nutritional deficiency, then often your skin, hair, and nails are among the first parts of your body to look a bit lacklustre. In these cases, taking supplements will likely result in visible improvements in the appearance of these body parts.

So, do hair, skin, and nail vitamins really work? Supplements do make a difference to the health of your hair, skin, and nails, however this difference may be marginal if you’re already getting all the nutrients your body needs through your diet.

With that being said, there are plenty of people who eat well and still claim that certain supplements have worked wonders on them. Our advice is to read hair, skin, and nails supplement reviews to get a better idea of what a certain product can do for you.

What are the side effects of taking hair, skin, and nails vitamins?

Aside from (hopefully) giving you more glowing skin, softer hair, and stronger nails, vitamins should generally only cause side effects if you take too many of them. There is such a thing as overdosing on vitamins, and doing so can be as damaging to the body as a vitamin deficiency.

For example, over-supplementation of certain vitamins, such as vitamin A and vitamin E, has been linked to hair loss. Because so many vitamin blends have vitamin A, it can be easier than you’d think to take too much of it, particularly if you’re taking multiple supplements at the same time.

Consult your doctor if you have a specific concern about your hair, skin, or nails, or if you’re unsure whether the supplements you want to take will be beneficial for you. Getting health advice tailored to you is always a good idea.

Nutrients that promote hair, skin, and nail health

Here are some popular active ingredients found in vitamins for the skin, hair, and nails.

  • Biotin. Biotin (vitamin B7) helps maintain healthy hair, skin, and nails. It’s effective in treating brittle fingernails in the case of illness or deficiency, and biotin for hair can reduce breakage and splitting. It’s found in plenty of popular supplements, such as Blackmores Nails Hair and Skin.
  • Collagen. Included in supplements like the Happy Mammoth Prebiotic Collagen Protein, collagen is a protein found in your muscles, teeth, gut, and skin. Taking it can help improve the appearance and elasticity of skin, as well as relieve joint pain, fatigue, and gut issues. You can read more about the usefulness of collagen supplements here.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that promotes the formation of collagen, supporting skin health, elasticity, and regeneration. Swisse Ultiboost Hair Skin Nails contains this antioxidant to help protect the body against free radicals.
  • Vitamin E. This plays an important role in wound healing and protecting skin from dehydration and damage. It’s also used in hair vitamins like Bondi Boost Hair Growth Support to improve circulation, which can help give you thicker, shinier, and stronger strands.
  • Zinc. Zinc helps build and strengthen the connective tissue in your hair, skin, and nails.
  • Iodine. An iodine deficiency can cause hair to fall out, which is why it’s a popular active ingredient in vitamins for hair loss. Found in supplements like JSHealth Hair + Energy, iodine helps keep hair strong, thick, and voluminous.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of active ingredients found in skin, hair, and nail vitamins - people have found success in other active ingredients. The Fusion Health Hair Tonic, for example, uses ingredients found in traditional Chinese medicine that are thought to improve hair health, such as dong quai.

Product images of the Happy Mammoth Prebiotic Collagen Protein, the JSHealth Vitamins for Hair + Energy, and the Blackmores Nails, Hair, and Skin.

Left to right: Happy Mammoth Prebiotic Collagen Protein, JSHealth Hair + Energy, Blackmores Nails, Hair & Skin.

Tips for keeping your hair, skin, and nails healthy

  • Eat a balanced diet. Eating a balanced, nutritious diet is vital to get most or all of the nutrients your body needs to look and feel good.
  • Protect your skin from the sun. UV exposure can cause skin sagging, sun spots, and premature wrinkling, so the best way to keep your skin looking soft and supple is to limit the amount of time you spend in the sun and use at least an SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen daily.
  • Use hair dye and heat styling tools with caution. Overuse of hair dye, bleach, and heat tools like flat irons and blow dryers can damage hair and leave it dry and with split ends. Try to avoid or limit using them.
  • Keep skin moisturised. Using a moisturiser, particularly in cold, dry weather, can help keep skin hydrated. You can also try to take short, tepid showers to avoid overdrying your skin.
  • Try to limit certain lifestyle habits. It’s easier said than done, but activities like smoking and biting nails can damage your hair, skin, and nails. If you bite your nails, consider keeping them trimmed short or using a bitter-tasting varnish to make it easier to stop.

The bottom line

Vitamins play an important role in maintaining great hair, skin, and nails, and supplements can help you get the right ones you need. However, you should still aim to get most or ideally all of these nutrients through a balanced diet rather than relying on supplements as a cure-all for weak-looking hair, skin, and nails.

Maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, and if you choose to, taking the right supplements can get you on the way to achieving glowing skin, silky hair, and strong nails.