Courtesy Hum Nutrition

I’ve taken a general multi-vitamin on and off for years now, but I never had any interest in testing supplements or vitamins that were supposed to target certain issues.

Fish oil is good for you but makes your breath smell bad, right? And biotin might make the hair on your head grow fast, but it’ll amp up hair growth everywhere else (like your armpits)? I don’t need to take Vitamin D if I already get it from the sun, correct?

The world of supplements was too much for me, and honestly, I didn’t want to do the research necessary to decide what, if any, products I should be taking.

But a few years ago, vitamins and supplements stepped out of the drugstore and into luxury beauty stores, and the game changed. A bottle of Vitamin C wasn’t a clunky eyesore that began gathering dust in the cabinet after the first week of use. Supplements got a makeover, and they were ready for their Instagram close-up. Instead of dietary supplements, they were now beauty supplements—an aspect of your beauty routine as vital as dabbing on eye cream or slathering on sunscreen.

I’d seen beauty supplements before—in Sephora, on a friend’s vanity, in reviews online—but I hadn’t tried them myself. I’ll admit it: I was not optimistic about a supplement’s ability to improve my hair, skin, nails, digestion, sleep, or any other aspects of my life.

At the forefront of the beauty supplement wave is HUM Nutrition. Scroll through the company’s website or Instagram page, and you’ll want to buy the products. With an inspiring mantra (“Beauty Starts From Within”), vibrant colors, and smart design, the HUM marketing team knows what it’s doing. The products are brightly colored and beautifully designed—nothing like the vitamins that have been under your sink since 1999. But move past the pretty packaging and look inside HUM Nutrition: Do cutesy supplements work? I tried them for a month, and in short, I think so.

Will your skin miraculously clear after years of battling acne? Will your nails grow so long you need weekly manicures? Probably not, but that’s one thing I like about HUM and its philosophy: Their products are supplements, not cure-alls, and their dieticians and nutritionists don’t pretend they are.

For starters, when you visit HUM’s website, you’ll take a quick quiz to answer questions about your current beauty routine, health, and the problem areas you’d like to work on. You’re paired with a registered dietician or nutritionist who recommends a few supplements that tailor to your needs. After receiving a product lineup from your dietician, they don’t disappear. You can always email your nutritionist with questions regarding the products you’re taking, your regimen, or if your needs change. When you’re looking at a wall of products that all sound attractive, it’s helpful to have a guide to show you what supplements will benefit you most.

I talked to Alex Caspero, MA, RD, about HUM to learn more. Alex runs her own practice as a dietician in St. Louis, Missouri, and started out as a HUM consumer herself. She liked the products so much that she started recommending them to clients, and now she’s a HUM dietician. 

I asked Caspero why we should take beauty supplements when we can get nutrients from the foods we eat and benefits from the skin care we use (and spend a pretty penny on). She said it’s true that you should be eating a diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants and all the good-for-you stuff, but since we don’t do that 100 percent of the time, she likes to think of “supplements as complements.”

“It can be hard to get every single nutrient that we need from our diets,” which are often “severely lacking in micronutrients and antioxidants,” Caspero said. “Supplements are a nice add on—they kind of help fill the gaps.” Because even if you’re eating an extremely healthy diet, you could (and probably do) have deficiencies in certain vitamins and nutrients.

You might get on HUM’s website and see a pill for glowing skin, and one for strong nails, and one for gut health, and one for dry skin, and think, “I need all of those! Let’s pile up!” But that’s not the way to go about it.

To make the most of taking HUM supplements, Alex said an important aspect is “understanding that supplements are great, but they’re not miracle-workers.” In order for HUM products to work best for your needs, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and taking care of yourself are all necessary.

“You can’t expect to eat fast food and processed food and not drink any water and you’re going to have this beautiful glow. We definitely have products that can fill in those gaps, but they’re not meant to be cure-alls for an unhealthy lifestyle,” Caspero said.

Taking beauty supplements is like that gym membership you pay for every month—in order to see results, you need to hold up your end of the bargain and actually work out. For HUM, that’s taking your supplements regularly and according to the instructions, and generally trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

As far as how many supplements you should be taking, it might sound fabulous to have glowing skin, strong nails, great gut health, and supple skin, but don’t get too click happy on your order. The purpose of taking supplements is for them to improve your health, and in order for them to do that, you need to take them on a regular schedule. Attempting to take 20 pills every day is, frankly, ridiculous. Plus, the products might not work together well, especially when paired with any daily medication you already take, which is why HUM’s nutritionists are there in the first place. Alex did recommend talking to your doctor about what supplements you can safely take if you’re prescribed any chronic medication. She said there’s technically not a limit on how many you can take, but you no one really needs more than a few per day, which is why the nutritionists recommend about three or four products that will work well together.

I tried four separate products, which of course arrived in an adorable box complete with an inspirational quote ("We are 60% water and 100% positive #startwithin"). Daily Cleanse, one of the brand’s most popular supplements, is a blend of herbs and amino acids that “help clear your skin and body of toxins.” Flatter Me is an enzyme-based blend that “supports a flatter stomach and healthy digestion.” Gut Instinct is a probiotic that “benefits your skin, health and beauty.” And Runway Ready is a regimen that contains 30 daily packs with three pills that promote “glowing skin, shiny fuller hair and perfect nails,” with familiar ingredients like biotin and sunflower seed oil.

So after 30 days, was I cleansed, flat, gut-checked, and glowing? Yes and no. I definitely saw improvement in my digestion, which needed help. I’ve tried probiotics before without results, but the combination of supplements must’ve worked together, because my digestion was much more regular during the month. My hair is generally really healthy, as I don’t use a ton of heat tools or any hair color chemicals, so I didn’t notice any radical changes there. When my pre-scheduled haircut creeped up on my schedule, though, I didn’t think my ends looked quite so dead as they had the last time, but that’s not necessarily owed to the supplements. My skin is also pretty normal overall. I’ll get the occasional rogue bump, and my under-eye circles are a problem (especially on Mondays or during long weeks), but I didn’t have any pressing skin concerns I was dying to fix. I only had two random bumps during the whole month that each went away quickly, so it was smooth sailing there. My nails, however, were a different story. As a former nail biter and picker, I was interested to see if I would actually see a difference in my poor stubby nails, and I was shocked that I actually did. When I got a manicure two days ago, my nails were the longest they’ve been since I kicked the biting habit. All of that was over a four-week period, and technically, you should allow four to eight weeks of regular use to see a change. Don’t expect to pop a supplement and wake up with Rapunzel hair or Beyoncé skin. Just like diet, exercise, and a regimented skin care routine, supplements take time and dedication to yield results. Bummer, I know.

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So is HUM Nutrition a miracle-worker? No, and it’s not supposed to be. But the products are well researched and tested, and the help of a registered dietician or nutritionist is essential in setting HUM apart from other brands.