For the longest time of my existence as a skincare addict, I thought topically applied products would be enough to solve my skin problems — clearing up the acne and the PIH that would undoubtedly come afterwards, that is. However, as my isotretinoin treatment progressed, I realised that there was great potential in supplementing my diet and skincare habits to keep my skin (and my whole body actually) as healthy as possible. I did some research, double-checked with my GP, researched some more, and what’s left is a supplement routine that doesn’t cost me my entire monthly budget, and, what’s more, works for me.
As I’ve realised that there is little sense in compiling an Ultimate Beginner’s Guide on this topic, I’ve decided to install a special series, The Pillbox, which will take you through my seasonal supplement wardrobe. As I’m currently in the process of getting prescribed a birth control pill (my gynaecologist really doesn’t take any risks with it — she’s had blood tests done on me to determine clotting factor, vitamin D and iron levels, which is quite an uncommon practice for gynaecologists, I hear), I will probably leave out this year’s summer edition, and do a more extensive post in autumn; the reason for this is that I will probably need to tweak my current setup in order to prevent any interaction with the birth control.
Anyways, you probably didn’t come here to hear me rambling about how difficult it is to get your hands on a pill. (Yeah, I do realise how illegal that sounds.) You came here because you’re interested in skin supplements — and skin supplements is what you will get. So, without any further ado:
3 Things to Know Before You Start Supplementing
- Although legally classified as OTC products, supplements have the potential to seriously fuck with your health. Consult a doctor before you start taking anything. Preferably get a blood test done, too.
- Don’t ever buy supplements from a seller that doesn’t seem trustworthy to you — just don’t. I know the prices may be tempting, but have you thought about how much a stay at the hospital could cost you? Please stay on the safe side.
- Check for any contraindications and interactions. Some supplements can cancel each other out when taken together, and some work best when paired with others. Be especially careful if you’re taking any other regular drugs. WebMD’s Vitamin & Supplements Center is a good place to start, but don’t rely on just one single source. (It’s like with the Beautipedia — they have quite good INCI breakdowns, but they lack in almost every other department.)
4 Supplements to Consider If You’re Only Just Starting Out
- vitamin D
There’s a statistic (that I obviously can’t find just when I need it — duh… ) estimating that 75% of the US population is deficient in vitamin D. I’ve heard of other (international) statistics that estimated numbers of up to 95%, which seems rather exaggerated at first, but if you think about it this way: The US is one of the most tan-positive places in the world; there are few countries where people intentionally get so much unprotected UV exposure. So if their population is so extremely deficient… — you get my thoughts, right? Of course, as with everything supplement-related, you’re better off getting a blood test done before starting to take vitamin D, but as a general rule of thumb, I’d say if you’re regularly affected by SAD (seasonal affective disorder), at least 1.000IU per day are a good idea (and maybe 2.000IU during the winter months). I’ve been recently put on prescription-strength drops (12.000IU once a week), so I’m not sure if we can still talk about supplementing here; however, in the past six years I’ve taken 1.000IU every day from September to February to fight the winter blues, and I honestly believe that it has kept me from smashing my head against the wall every year during Christmas break.
- omega 3
One of the most popular supplements, especially in industrial countries; it’s a big favourite with Caroline Hirons, although I feel that her doses are a tad too high (but it obviously works for her, so who am I to criticise her lifestyle). You can get it from fish or crill oil (flax seed oil for the veggies), and it’s one of those few supplements that I think is hard to go wrong with. Get 2.000mg of this and 1.000IU of vitamin D and take them before breakfast with a glass of milk — you’ll thank me in a few weeks when you start noticing the difference.
It’s a good idea to have your iron and ferritin levels tested beforehand — an iron overdose is really no fun —, but this is a hot tip for the ladies, especially during Shark Week. My levels are usually quite normal, but I tend to get quite strong bleeding (hello, vertigo!), so I take around 20-30ml daily when I’m on my period (which is 14-21mg of iron), and then 10ml (7mg) on the following three days — it comes as a juice in huge 500ml bottles, so it lasts me for about one and a half cycles (my mum and sister drink it too, so we go quite quickly through the bottle).
- vitamin C
This is kind of a bonus item, but if you don’t eat a lot of citrus fruits or drink orange juice, you literally can’t go wrong with it — it’s not possible to overdose on vitamin C, as the body gets rid of any surplus via urin. What’s more, you can get it in a variety of forms — pills, chewing gums, fizzy tablets, etc. —, so it’s easy to incorporate into your diet. I personally take this only occasionally with the iron liquid to help it absorb better, it’s not a staple item in my pillbox.
Some General Tips On the Supplements Listed Above
- If not stated otherwise, take your supplements with your meals — especially vitamins A, D, E and K, which are oil-soluble.
- Take vitamin D and omega 3 together, they complement each other — but preferably not in the evening, as both are known to cause sleeping issues.
- Preferably take them with a glass of milk; it contains lipids and calcium that help with the absorption of vitamin D.
- Speaking of which: Never take iron with calcium, as they cancel each other out. It’s better to take iron with orange juice (especially if you take the iron in tablet form). Also, don’t take it in the evening before bed, it can cause issues with falling asleep.
I have solved the problem of not taking iron + vitamin C and vitamin D + omega 3 together by taking the former in the morning (I usually don’t eat much breakfast anyway) and the latter in the early afternoon with my snack (a glass of milk or plain yoghurt). Obviously, you can tweak your intake according to your meals and preferences, I just found this to work best for me.
I hope you liked this little praeludium! The first installment of the actual series will be published in October or November, depending on how well the routine alteration goes. Either way, my next post is due next week, so keep your peepers peeled!
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