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Are All These New Vitamins Effective, or just Perfect for Instagram?

Lately I’ve been noticing new and trendy products popping up on my Instagram feed that promise to make me sleep better, feel better, and even look better. I’m talking about beauty vitamins and supplements. With the help of brand ambassadors on social media, these products are slowly but surely amassing a cult following and turning into a million-dollar industry. I’ve tried a few types of trendy vitamins, you know…for my research, but I really am interested to see if they’re the real deal or just another brand making money off their cute packaging.

 

In college I took a class on Snake Oil, which is the term for pills and concoctions that promise to cure all sorts of ailments. In reality, they’re bogus and sometimes even harmful. We discussed modern day snake oil products, like diet pills and hair growth treatments that usually don’t work and end up being a waste of money.

 

We also discussed other vitamins and supplements, more specifically the beauty-related kind because I went to a small liberal arts college with 75% women so that’s what we cared about. I have no shame.

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Since I am a card-carrying cynic I’ve been pretty skeptical about the validity of these trendier vitamins, and I wanted to see if they were effective, or just a modern-day example of Snake Oil. I get that vitamins probably work, but I do have my doubts because they’re just not regulated the way our food and drinks are.   The biggest difference between this new wave of vitamins vs. the traditional kind is their packaging. Marketing geniuses have transformed the mundane task of taking pills into a lavish self-care experience. Just take a look at the Ritual vitamins, with their clear capsule encasing little beads suspended in a golden oil. It just looks cool. Brands have also flourished with the help of celebrities and influencers, who advertise their products in countless #sponcon posts. Anyway, I’m not mad about making life more beautiful and fun, and I’ve seen many customer reviews raving about how their days are a little brighter now that their vitamins are aesthetically pleasing.

 

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I’ve tried vitamins on both ends of the spectrum; some being super trendy and others being boring and medicinal. My verdict is that I did look forward to taking the fun and trendy vitamins because they tasted good, but the promised results were sort of hard to identify, leaving room for an optimistic repurchase.

 

I’ll start with the infamous Sugar Bear Hair gummies, the brand that really perfected the art of sponsored content. Since 2016, countless celebrities and the celebrity-adjacent have posted photos with the tiny turquoise bears. Each gummy contains multiple vitamins like Vitamin E, B-6, B-12, and Biotin, which are supposed to make hair shinier and grow faster. I purchased a $30 bottle that contained 30 gummies, and I do agree with everyone else that they are delicious. They’re as good as gummies that aren’t supposed to be good for you. In all, I enjoyed the experience of eating gummies every day, but I don’t think my hair got any glossier or grew any faster. Maybe if I had seriously brittle hair I’d try them, but at a dollar a gummy I don’t need to continue my #sugarbearhair journey.

 

For my next study, I tried vitamins from Olly, another new and stylish brand with a wide variety of options, but I went with a basic multivitamin per my doctor’s suggestion. Each $14 bottle contains 90 gummies, which do taste pretty good, though the packaging isn’t as Instagram-friendly as Sugar Bear Hair.

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This multivitamin promises to do all the usual stuff, and it contains Biotin for an extra boost to my hair and nails. I don’t necessarily feel any different, but I will continue to give them a chance. By the way, I’ve read many reports saying Biotin can lead to acne, so I added that to my list of cons because I don’t need any more blemishes in my life. I’d repurchase this vitamin because it’s more cost-effective than the Sugar Bear Hair and if it does work, it’s doing more for me than the blue bears.

 

Turn off your Bunsen burners because we’re finally at the last chapter of my scientific study. I don’t remember what Bunsen burners are, but I do know that I tried Murad’s Pure Skin Clarifying Dietary Supplement in yet another attempt to rid my face of blemishes. A $55 bottle contains 120 tablets, and the directions say to take two tablets twice a day-which is a month’s worth, my fellow math-haters. This is definitely the least glamorous of the beauty vitamins I’ve tried, but it was also the one with the most noticeable results. After about a week my skin looked better, and I made sure not to introduce any other cleansers or serums so I knew it was the vitamins making my skin appear clearer. The problem: they’re pricey, the pills are quite large, and they have that gross vitamin smell.

My overall verdict is that with a lot of these products, you’re paying for the experience, not the results. I noticed that I reached for the pretty vitamins over the traditional ones, despite them being the most effective. Is this because I’m a shallow millennial who values an aesthetically pleasing experience over an effective but lackluster option? Well, yes…that’s exactly why. Snake Oil or not, consult with your doctor before trying new vitamins and remember: they may just be an expensive way to make your daily routine a little more fun.

by Clare Saxton
Photographed by Irving Penn, Vogue, January 1993