My affinity for vitamins has been well-documented on this very site. Show me a pill I can pop or a strange goo that I can drink like a tequila shot while grimacing, and I'm game to try it out, assuming it promises to bolster my health, improve my brain function, grow my hair, help my skin or do my taxes for me. On the one hand, you could say I'm a snake oil salesman's dream come true. But despite all that, I'm also a skeptic to the core. I'm the first to roll my eyes at sketchy pseudoscience, note that vitamins are insanely under-regulated and call BS on literally anything that's described as "nourishing." What can I say? I'm a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, sprinkled with paradoxes, doused with millennial anxiety and covered in a thick layer of sunscreen.
When a pack of shiny blue capsules promising to give me "vibrant, youthful-looking skin" — namely, the A Complete Beauty Concentrate Supplement For Skin Care — came across my desk, I was both incredibly tempted and prepared to be thoroughly underwhelmed. And then a weird thing happened: I became obsessed with those shiny blue capsules.
The pearlescent pills contain an antioxidant-heavy mix of ingredients that supposedly calm inflammation and strengthen skin's ability to protect itself: marine collagen, vitamin E, marigold extract, pomegranate extract, tomato extract and evening primrose extract. All fairly standard; no major red flags. But also nothing particularly groundbreaking.
I went through one pack, and as I neared the end of it, I can't say I noticed much of a change in my youth or vibrance (can someone please advise on how to measure those?). But I did notice that I'd gone a solid two weeks without developing a single pimple. For me, that's virtually unheard of — even with Spironolactone and my favorite salicylic acid exfoliator, I usually get a pimple or two every few weeks. So of course I had to keep taking it religiously. And now, here I am, three months and three pill packs later, and my breakouts have hit an all-time low in terms of frequency. These had to be tiny, collagen-infused miracles, right?
Not necessarily. Collagen is simply not considered a treatment for acne. So I can pretty much disregard it as the reason for my skin transformation. And the rest of those ingredients? The science (or lack thereof) surrounding their impact on acne is also somewhat iffy. "Acne is a skin condition characterized by inflammation within the hair follicle," explains Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Mount Sinai in New York City, who I turned to in order to find out whether or not I am delusional. "Much of our current treatments work by reducing this inflammation. While we have little data to support it, the use of antioxidants may be beneficial in treating skin in acne patients." That's his very diplomatic way of saying I may be a little delusional. Simply put, there's not enough hard evidence out there in Science Land to say that ingesting antioxidants in pill form is going to do anything to keep breakouts from happening.
But you know what? I'm happy with what's going on with my complexion at the moment. So until further research comes to light I'll be over here, healing my acne with these strange blue pills and whatever effect (real or placebo) I can get out of them. And whenever the skeptic in me rears her head to be like "Uhh, you know these are probably doing nothing except giving you a daily dose of blue, right?" I'll respond with a simple: ¯_(ツ)_/¯
A Complete Beauty Concentrate Supplement for Skin Care, $34, available here.