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What's the Deal with Gummy Supplements? Are They Safe?

Updated

Kim Kardashian/Instagram

In a perfect world, achieving Princess Kate-worthy tresses would require next to no effort. So what if we told you that by taking one sweet bite every day, you could achieve royally fabulous strands? Sounds delicious … but possibly too good to be true, right?

In the past year, many companies have emerged promising to deliver the best hair, skin and nails of your life in just one chewable bite. These gummy supplements are loaded with good-for-your-tresses ingredients, such as biotin and vitamin C, and promise to plump skin and smooth strands. But how accurate are these claims? And, most importantly, are these sweet treats safe for consumption? We reached out to the experts to find out if a gummy a day will keep the doctor away and rapidly promote Rapunzel-like locks.

Supplements are meant to do just what it sounds like — add a boost of needed nutrients when your diet isn’t complete. “A healthy diet full of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, healthy protein and good fat can provide all the essential nutrients you need, but studies show that only one in 10 Americans actually follow this diet,” says Taryn Forrelli, vice president of innovation and resident nutritionist for Olly supplements. “Consequently, most people don’t get all of the vitamins and minerals their bodies need to function properly. Taking a multivitamin helps ensure your basic needs are met.”

Brands like Olly, VitaFusion and HUM Nutrition all offer nutrient-rich, bite-size gelatin gummies, which promise to give users glowy skin from within and the silky smooth strands of their dreams. But are the ingredients inside kosher for consumption?

“As with any nutritional product, it all comes down to the quality of the ingredients involved,” says author and dietitian Shelly Malone. “Are they made from whole foods? Do they contain GMOs? Are there harmful, synthetic preservatives, known as excipients, added? And yes, how much sugar is added (likely a good amount in a gummy vitamin)?”

Currently, most gummies on the market do contain plenty of extra sugar to make them fun to eat, which “increases the inflammatory and fat-storing hormone, insulin,” says Malone. Add in the artificial coloring and additives for taste, and you’ve already got more ingredients than you bargained for.

It’s not that gummy vitamins aren’t safe, says N.Y.C.-based dermatologist Michele Green, MD, but she cautions users to be aware of each brand’s serving size — and to follow it closely.

“There is a risk of overconsumption because of their candy-like taste,” Green tells PeopleStyle. “People tend to take more than the recommended dose.”

Adds Malone: “This similarity to candy could lead to taking excess doses, and in this case, more is not better,” she explains. “In addition to the concern over toxic doses of the fat-soluble vitamins A and D, taking too high of doses of certain nutrients can actually lead to deficiencies of others.”

But the question remains: Do these sweet treats promote hair growth? Yes, says Green, a contributor to RealSelf. “They will make your hair grow stronger and thicker, while new hair growth may appear to have more luster, shine and ‘health.'” And that hair growth usually takes about three to four weeks to surface, she says.

As far as results go, Malone says growth and health takes time — and varies depending on the person, as well as a number of different variables.

“It is hard to say [how long] because individual [results] will be different. If taken consistently and appropriately, I would give it a few weeks to a couple of months to see improvements,” she tells PeopleStyle. “It’s also important to always consult a physician or nutritionist before beginning a supplement program as individual needs vary greatly and some nutrients can have adverse interactions — with other nutrients, or medications.”

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You could even blame the Kardashians for the recent surge of beauty-centric supplements. The famous family often shares #sponsored photos on their Instagram feeds (Kim, Kylie and Khloé are the most vocal), showing off their love for SugarBearHair‘s shine- and volume-inducing chewables. (Though, be warned: They’re currently in trouble with the FCC for not branding their sponsored content appropriately, and that includes said chewables.)

Which is why, according to Forrelli, young people, specifically millennials, are the brand’s largest target audience. “Millennials care about their health and are willing to invest in it, but they aren’t necessarily as concerned about prevention over the long term as they are with finding products that are tailored to their needs and lifestyle,” she tells PeopleStyle.

Laura Harkness, MD, vice president of health and wellness research and development at Church & Dwight, which is the manufacturer of VitaFusion, agrees. “Consumers, especially millennials, are more interested than ever in pursuing a ‘healthy’ lifestyle, but don’t want that pursuit to mean deprivation or sacrifice,” she says. “Our research shows that there has been high consumer interest in maintaining good health in order to feel beautiful from the inside out.”

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If you’re skeptical of chowing down on chewables, Malone says you can always get your nutrients in the old-fashioned way — with a diet chock full of fruits and vegetables.

“It is always best to get your nutrients from real food,” says Malone. “There is a food synergy and significantly better absorption that comes from consuming nutrients in their whole form that isn’t received from isolated, synthetic supplements.”

But, she adds, you don’t have to completely weigh out gummies as a supplement option: “If someone is consistently not getting adequate nutrient intake, a high-quality, whole food supplement — gummy form or otherwise — could be helpful.”

Have you ever taken gummy supplements? If so, is there a brand you swear by? Share below!