Dear Beauty Editor,
Do those “beauty electrolyte” drinks work? I’ve seen ads for the one from Pique, and I’m trying to figure out if it’s B.S.
Kristin, you had me at “I’m trying to figure out if it’s B.S,” a sentiment that warms my heart and fires up plenty of the Cut’s readers, who write in asking about the legitimacy of new trends such as makeup with skin-care benefits, Barbie Botox, and face icing. Beauty supplements and drinks are, of course, not new. But the implication that electrolytes can improve your appearance? That is new — and misleading (as you’ll see below). However, there are some other ingredients in this beverage that might benefit your skin. Let’s take a closer look.
The drink you mentioned, Pique B•T Fountain, is a berry-flavored beverage that claims to visibly improve skin elasticity and reduce fine lines as it “deeply” hydrates you and “supports a youthful, dewy glow.” It didn’t occur to me until I typed that sentence that the fountain referenced in the product’s name is probably the fountain of youth. Cute. But the first thing I do when evaluating any new product that’s promising (or implying) skin-care benefits is ignore the catchy name. Then I disregard the superlative-laced description and see if there are specific claims the company is making about the product’s benefits that are backed by strong scientific evidence. Strong being the keyword, as you’ll see.
If you look closely at the product’s description page, the company doesn’t make any claims that the electrolytes it contains (calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium) will improve your skin. It simply states they will hydrate you. And board-certified dermatologist Elizabeth Houshmand, M.D., says electrolytes are indeed important for hydration. “Electrolytes help our bodies maintain fluid balance and are helpful for healthy skin,” she says. “This can be potentially more helpful than water alone, especially if someone is severely dehydrated.” But most don’t need to supplement with electrolytes unless they’re sweating a ton or are sick. If you’re consuming enough water in your foods and drinks to remain hydrated (you’ll know because your urine will be pale yellow), then supplementing with electrolytes won’t make you or your skin more hydrated — nor would you want that. Your body wants to be in balance; too much water or too many electrolytes can cause health issues like nausea, fatigue, or an irregular heartbeat (all of which are worse than finely lined skin).
Most of the beauty benefits implied by this product’s description are attributed to its hyaluronic acid (to “support a healthy glow”) and a patented ceramide complex. The company even cites a clinical trial showing that the beverage’s ceramide complex is proven to deliver a 26 percent improvement in skin elasticity, a 21 percent increase in skin hydration, and an 18 percent reduction in wrinkles. I asked a company representative if I could see the clinical trial data they referenced, and they emailed me a PDF summarizing the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted on “more than 30” (so, 31?) women aged 50 to 60 who took the ceramide complex for 56 days. This summary made it clear that the measurable benefits the company cites are not averages, but the best possible outcomes (i.e., not all participants taking the ceramide complex saw a 26 percent improvement in skin elasticity compared to a placebo — but at least one did!). The summary also offered some additional info on how the different claims were measured (for example, the 18 percent reduction in wrinkles was a decrease in the depth of a participant’s wrinkles).
I sent the clinical trial summary to Rajani Katta, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist who studies the link between diet and skin, and she says her first question when she sees data like this is, “If you see microscopic improvements, does that translate to anything meaningful?” It’s a very good question. If I were to tell you that drinking this beverage every day for 56 days would plump up your skin enough that the lines at the outer corners of your eyes would go from .2 mm deep to .164 mm (an 18 percent reduction), what would that look like? Would anyone notice? Would you notice? I don’t think I would.
Katta also pointed out that this study is not independent; it appears to have been conducted by the raw-material supplier that makes the ceramide complex the company included in the beverage. “I like to tell my patients to think of these things like a brand new restaurant: There are not a lot of reviews out there yet, and the ones that have been done are from friends and family,” she says. “What you’d really like is a review from somebody who has not been paid by the restaurant — slash company — a completely independent third party to give you their unbiased opinion.” And as of today, there just isn’t much independent research showing the skin benefits of ingestible ceramides or ingestible hyaluronic acid.
“With both of these ingredients, when you ingest them, they go through the digestive process. Once it’s digested, is it really being released and being taken up by the skin cells to be used? Or is it sending a signal to the skin cells to produce more ceramides and more hyaluronic acid?” Katta says there have been a few small animal and laboratory studies that have suggested the ingredients could act in that way when ingested, but it’s not a substantial body of research.
So, does that mean this drink or other beauty supplements or beverages with electrolytes, ceramide complexes, and hyaluronic acid are complete B.S.? Not exactly. Maybe time and more research will prove these ingredients can fix up a dry, wrinkly face as fast as vitamin C cures scurvy. But for now, all I can tell you for sure is that they may improve your skin. And that leaves you to decide if the best possible results (skin that’s slightly more hydrated and slightly more elastic with wrinkles that are slightly less deep) are worth the cost of the product ($68 for 28 doses).
If that sounds like a good value to you, go ahead and add to cart. But if I were you, I would add a hyaluronic acid serum or moisturizer with ceramides to that cart as well. “Topical ceramides improve the function of the skin barrier and the hydration of the skin, and hyaluronic acid applied topically does help to absorb moisture and sort of plump up the skin,” Katta says. “We definitely have lots of research on that.”
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