What to know about hair, skin & nails supplements before you buy

Want shinier, healthier hair? How about fewer wrinkles and stronger fingernails? What if you could get it from a pill? Well, that’s what some supplements promise. But do they work? Before you spend your money, Consumer Reports has the facts you need to know.

Drugstore shelves are full of supplements that promise to improve hair, nails, and skin. A month’s supply can cost you anywhere from a few dollars to over $100! Most of them contain ingredients like vitamins A, C, and E; coenzyme Q10; and also biotin, which is a B vitamin.

Hair supplements often contain manganese and selenium, as well as fatty acids like fish oil and flaxseed oil. And all of it might sound good, but where’s the science that says it works?

Well, if your body has a nutrient deficiency, it can cause changes to the hair and sometimes to the skin and nails. For example, not getting enough vitamins A and E can lead to rough, scaly patches on the skin. Or a biotin deficiency can cause eczema and hair loss.

But deficiencies are relatively uncommon. Most people can get the necessary nutrients through a healthy diet. And experts say there’s no good evidence that taking a supplement will help with normal, aging-related hair loss or nail damage, or give you healthier skin.

And what’s worse, getting too much of a nutrient can be bad, too — like taking too much vitamin A can actually trigger hair loss.

But millions of people do take supplements. If that’s you, shop carefully because dietary supplements are not tightly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and might contain substances not listed on the label or have much less or more of an ingredient than promised.

If you choose to take supplements, CR suggests you choose one whose contents have been verified or certified by U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, NSF International or UL.

Consumer Reports says simple things like drinking plenty of water, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding too much time in the sun can make a difference in keeping your hair, skin, and nails healthy.