Over 170 million Americans consume vitamin supplements regularly, with 17 percent focused on beauty and the skin. But, how effective are supplements, who can recommend them to the public, and to what extent?
Bioavailabilty is the complex transportation system of delivering nutrients throughout the body and is dependent on availability, retention, absorption, and utilization of those nutrients. Faulty absorption can impact the way nutrients are absorbed into the body and ultimately the skin – including supplements. It is important to consider that the skin does not have preferential treatment when it comes to nutrient absorption, as critical organs and key systems are the first to absorb nutrients and utilize them for life’s processes. Vitamins designed for the skin must first be absorbed systemically in order for them to be beneficial to the skin.
As supplements alone cannot supply all the crucial nutrients, co-factor enzymes, proteins, antioxidants, and so forth, proper nutrition should be considered the primary line of defense for the health and vitality of the skin. Supplements are designed to fine tune nutrient depletion or imbalances and are an adjunct to balanced nutrition. Bio-individual health status is also a critical factor in the recommendation of supplements, as certain vitamins can interact with various health conditions and may be contraindicated with specific medications.
The quality of the supplement should always be of great consideration. The brand name, type of processing, and form of the supplement influences the efficacy of the nutrient status and absorption. Another factor to consider is the extraneous material that may be used to fill the supplement – many inexpensive brands of supplements contain undesirable fillers such as mineral oil and even talc. Any lipid-based supplement should be high quality and refrigerated to prevent rancidity and oxidation. It is also important to consider the form of the supplement and which type is best absorbed: liquid, capsule, ascorbate, emulsion, or tablet.
When it comes to purity and bioavailability, the product should be free of specific contaminants and undesirable fillers, dissolve easily in the body, absorb well, and have the desired key potency. As for consistency, the tablet or capsules should have the identity, potency, and purity listed on the label and the dosage should be clearly identified.
Generally, aesthetic licensing supports providing education to clients as far as consuming healthy foods and generalizations as to consuming water and avoiding sugar and alcohol. This may be carried out within the scope of practice by providing the client with a fact information sheet or research paper which is non-specific to the individual’s health.
However, when prescriptive or directive language is used (“you need to take probiotics all the time” or “take 500 mg”), the context of the conversation changes into a directive and what is referred to as diagnostic language. The downside of this scenario is aestheticians are not licensed as health or nutritional professionals and are practicing out of scope of practice, in most states. as the standard aesthetician’s license has no nomenclature as to prescribing nutrition or acting as a nutritional consultant.
So, professionals should educate clients simply on the skin benefits of certain vitamins, generally, as well as key facts about bioavailability, quality, and form of supplements, but should be careful not to diagnose or prescribe.