While skin-care enthusiasts almost always earn an automatic “A” for applying retinol on the regular, new-to-the-scene Embody has hopes of mixing it up with its introduction of what they claim is “the first-ever over-the-counter (OTC) retinol gummy vitamin ($28).”
According to founder and CEO of Embody and former president at Forever Beaumore Cosmetics Jenn Chung, the product claims to improve pigmentation, eliminate rough texture and provides a dewy glow—all while hoping to edit down some of our topical skin-care products. “Our philosophy with the Embody retinol gummy is that it can replace four to five different products on your vanity,” Chung says, adding that the supplement also includes vitamins C, D3 and E. “Having a ten-step skin-care routine is a lot of work, and this gummy takes the time and stress out of achieving clear skin.” We asked dermatologists for their professional take.
The Efficacy Question
“The main concern users have with these gummies is whether or not they’re safe to ingest, as retinol can be a bit intimidating,” Chung admits. “What they should know is that the active ingredient in the gummy—vitamin A in the form of retinol acetate—disperses all throughout the body when ingested to help boost the skin’s cell turnover rate which, unlike topical retinol, prevents any harsh side effects like redness or peeling.”
In reference to other vitamin A supplements, Saddle Brook, NJ dermatologist Fredric Haberman, MD agrees with Chung that vitamin A is effective when ingested. “It produces new skin cells and collagen formation from within, it can reduce sebum—the oily, waxy substance on the surface of the skin—production, and it has many antioxidant properties,” he says.
While Chung says the gummy eliminates the need for an overload of products in your daily skin-care lineup, New York dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD says the one thing it won’t do is completely replace your topical retinol. “The way these gummies work in the body are similar to how a topical retinol would work on the skin,” she says.
“Retinols must be converted into retinoic acid to exert their beneficial effects both in the body and on the skin. Whether applied or ingested, the conversion to retinoic acid is the key step to efficacy, but both the retinol gummies and a topical retinol cream are beneficial. Applying a retinol on your skin and ingesting it helps to prevent free-radical damage from pollution and other environmental aggressors both on the inside and the outside,” says Dr. Peredo.
Likewise, Chung recommends using the gummy alongside a topical retinol. “I’m a huge fan of topical retinol, too,” she says. “If you enjoy using a topical retinol, you should continue use because there are certain bonuses that you can’t get with the ingestible form of vitamin A,” adding that the topical form is great for targeting wrinkles or pigmentation and the ingestible form claims to prevent those concerns in the future.
“What I like about the gummy is that it tastes like strawberries, and the great taste makes it easy to remember to take every day,” says Chung, “The standard dose is two of the vegetarian gummies per day with or without food—I like to take the gummies after dinner because it makes me feel like I’m having dessert.”
Chung admits there’s “not much research on the anti-aging effects of using an ingestible retinol like there is with the topical form, but there is a lot of research on the effect it has on acne,” and Dr. Haberman agrees. “It’s used topically to treat mild acne and orally (think Accutane) to treat more severe and cystic acne,” he says.
To back the acne claim, Embody issued an independent study based on the feedback of their customers, and it had an interesting finding: “At a 2.5 percent concentration of retinol, the gummy produces a diluted version of the results of oral isotretinoin (brand name Accutane). Studies have shown that low dose oral isotretinoin was effective at reducing the symptoms of cystic acne. Retinyl acetate, being structurally similar to isotretinoin, would logically produce a similar result. Therefore, the gummy may be an effective and safer alternative to prescription strength oral retinoids in the treatment of cystic acne.”
What Not to Do
Although the retinol gummies may be a gentler substitute for isotretinoin, Rochester, NY dermatologist Lesley Loss, MD says that they can dangerously interact with isotretinoin if used simultaneously. (Accutane was voluntarily taken off the U.S. market by its Swiss-based manufacturer Hoffman La-Roche in 2009, partially due to safety issues. While other forms of oral isotretinoin are still on the market, the American Academy of Dermatology says your dermatologist can only prescribe this medicine if the patient enrolls in a program from the FDA, schedules follow-up visits, and signs a consent form that lists the risks associated with the medicine.)
“If you have any kidney or liver disease, we recommend against taking this gummy,” says Chen. “Also, if you’re already taking a multivitamin, compare the ingredients with Embody before continuing use, as our gummy covers a lot of the same ingredients that are typically in multivitamins.” Dr. Peredo concurs, adding that “overconsumption of retinol can lead to vitamin A toxicity and liver failure.”
“Too much retinol can cause hair loss, double vision, vomiting, headaches and other abnormalities,” adds Dr. Haberman.