Else where


Like children wishing for magical results in a fairy tale, we can now also take pills to make us pretty. Along with food and drink that promote external beauty, these are part of what is known as the beauty-from-within industry, and it’s growing fast. Beauty from within, achieved with a pill, sounds so easy, so bold, like those T-shirts that say ‘Spiritual Gangster’ on the front.  
I had seen one of the relatively new beauty supplements at the place where I do halfhearted yoga, and I wasn’t getting beautiful from within through yoga, that’s for sure.

This beauty supplement features a free-radical-fighting ingredient, superoxide dismutase. Combined with other ingredients — krill oil, sea buckthorn — the product is supposed to detoxify the skin, lubricate, tone and offer sun protection. Plus, I’m told by the company that manufactures the supplement, Lady Gaga takes it.
I met with the executive director of the firm at a coffee shop. We both drank water, caffeine being one of the allegedly more nefarious enemies of perfect skin. Her skin was poreless and pale. She wordlessly handed me a bag of green boxes; it felt covert. These were the keys to Lady Gaga’s kingdom. First I was to detox with the powder supplements for two weeks, and then move on to the advanced daily formula.
At home that night, my husband picked up a blister pack of the supplements. “What are you doing with these giant black suppositories?” he asked. I explained. “You mean, you swallow these?” he asked, incredulous.

Many people do.
Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, is the queen of scepticism on the purported beauty benefits of supplements. “If you eat any kind of reasonable diet you will not have deficiencies that can be addressed by vitamins. All you are going to do is pee them out.”
The irony, she said, is that people who have little need for supplementary vitamins and minerals are the ones most predisposed to take them. “People with disposable income to spend on vitamins, who are interested in their health and wellbeing, these are the people who need them the least,” she said. And people who care about their skin enough to take beauty vitamins are also probably wearing sunscreen. “It is very hard to demonstrate health in people who are already healthy,” she said.
I read the list of ingredients to Dr Amy Wechsler, a dermatologist, who reacted similarly. The chief problem with beauty supplements, she said, is that no matter how effective the delivery system, very little nutrients can reach the skin from a pill. In other words, my skin wasn’t going to look like Lady Gaga’s just from popping a pill. “It is very American to put hope in a bottle,” Wechsler said. “And it is also very American to try to sell that hope.”
Lex Kuczynski/NYT

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