Skincare So Good You Could Eat It—Really

The best skincare supplements

Photo Source: Cosmopolitan 

I thought we’d already reached peak wellness, but it still seems like every week there’s a new super supplement, fitness fad, or meditation mantra to explore. The latest launch to hit my inbox: The Nue Co.’s Skin Filter skincare supplement. WHOA, two wellness essentials in one? The purported “ingestible retinol” hits so many boxes that just reading an email about it makes me feel self-cared for.

Now, retinoids are vitamin A derivatives and vitamin A is a vitamin after all, so this seems to make sense. Skin Filter also has vitamin C and zinc, two more ingredients that show up in both the pills we pop and the serums we rub on our faces. So can something like this work to clear up acne, boost brightness, or soothe redness? What’s happening inside our bodies absolutely affects how our skin appears on the outside, though ingredients working the same ways both topically and orally seems...well, not quite possible.

Plenty of naturally derived skincare ingredients come from food sources. Glycolic acid is derived from sugarcane and lactic acid from sour milk. Some vitamin C serums highlight the fruit source of their star ingredient, like Glow Recipe’s Pineapple-C Brightening Serum and Farmacy’s Very Cherry Bright Vitamin C Serum. As a brand, Caudalie highlights grapes, and Juice Beauty emphasizes “farm to beauty ingredients.” Certainly, these ingredients provide benefits both internally and externally. So when should you eat something over rubbing it on your face (besides when you’re hungry)? 

Let’s break down the possible ingestible benefits of some popular topical skincare ingredients.


The extremely studied benefits of retinol are undeniable. Yet, it’s difficult for some people’s skin to tolerate without the side effects of peeling, redness, and stinging or burning sensations—not exactly a good trade-off. The idea of ingestible retinol is interesting because it presumes you could potentially lessen those pitfalls because you skin itself isn’t what’s metabolizing the ingredient. 

Both Nue Co. and makers of a drinkable retinol, Dirty Lemon, cite the fact that vitamin A stimulates fibroblasts, the cells that produce collagen and other elastic fibers. Retinol is so effective because it helps with cell turnover. 

And here, isotretinoin, the powerful acne-fighting drug known commonly as Accutane, stands as evidence that administering it orally can very much affect the skin. However, the amounts of vitamin A, as either retinoids or carotenoids, in these over-the-counter products is nowhere near the level of isotretinoin. The number of studies, going back to 1943, that have shown oral vitamin A as an effective treatment for acne utilized upwards of 100,000 IUs daily over the course of several months. Dosages for daily OTC vitamin A supplements tend to be around 10,000 IUs—a big difference!

Generally, most people in the U.S. get enough vitamin A from the foods they eat, but your body has to convert it to retinoic acid before it can be used. For example, it takes six units of beta-carotene to yield one unit of retinol. The notable benefit of the drinkable retinol is that it’s already in a more usable form, but the Nue Co. supplement features beta-carotene your body will need to process into retinol. Yet, a daily pill makes more sense in terms of upkeep because drinking a $7.50+ bottle of retinol every day isn’t exactly sustainable for anyone besides maybe Gwyneth Paltrow, especially considering any effects likely won’t be seen for several weeks. 

Accounting for cost and lifestyle, there could be simpler ways to incorporate efficacious retinol into your routine. Talk to your dermatologist about what could work for you!

Hyaluronic acid

The all star hydrator hyaluronic acid (sometimes known as sodium hyaluronate) is a substance that naturally occurs in the body. It attracts and can hold up to 1000x its weight in water, keeping tissues moist. When it’s applied topically, usually in a serum or moisturizer, this water-holding quality helps hydrate skin. The amount of hyaluronic acid in the body decreases with age—and 50% of it is in the skin—so keeping up stores is beneficial.

For the most part, oral supplements have focused on benefits for the joints because hyaluronic acid keeps them lubricated, and a handful of studies have shown it effective in relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis. One study showed oral hyaluronan diminished the appearance of wrinkles after eight weeks. And another study that supplemented hyaluronan alongside biotin, copper, vitamin C, and zinc, saw a 24.43% increase in skin hydration after 40 days.

The Hyaluronic Acid + Ceramide Dietary Supplement from Paula’s Choice pairs the juicy substance with antioxidant berries and glucosylceramides to soften skin and improve moisture retention. As with all things ingested, your body will break down a supplement into its useful parts to be allocated as it sees fit, completely outside of your control. Hyaluronic acid is present in all connective tissues and organs, including the brain, blood vessels, and cartilage. So while it’s a useful substance proven to improve skin moisture, you can’t direct the supplements to your skin. A review of studies found no side effects, so it shouldn’t hurt you to take it. If you want to more directly improve the hydration of your skin though, don’t let your topical hyaluronic acid products go.


Zinc is an essential nutrient that’s undoubtedly important to have, regularly a component a daily multivitamins. Six percent of the body’s zinc is in the skin, with a continuous supply needed for important growth and tissue repair functions. Plus, it’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. 

A review of zinc therapy in dermatology rounded up many studies that found zinc, oral or topical, effective in the treatment of myriad skin conditions. In one double-blind controlled clinical study, zinc supplements were compared to a tetracycline antibiotic for the treatment of acne and was shown to be effective in reducing lesions, though not as effective as the antibiotic. Another placebo-controlled study found orally administered zinc effective for the treatment of rosacea. 

But oral zinc is not the first treatment you would turn to for acne, rosacea, or many other common skin concerns—there are simply more effective, more studied options and even topical zinc may be a better bet. Make sure your body’s getting enough zinc for sure, but don’t stop other treatments in favor of it.












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