Halo Beauty Supplements: Week 3 Check-in

Week 3: not quite more of the same.  There were some good things this week.  Technology has not been one of those things: my blog did not like the physical dimensions of the images (I will have to change layout for Week 4); my cat broke my camera tripod, and my smart water bottle was not-so-smart for a while.

Those challenges aside, there were good things, too.  Spoiler alert for my readers: I got a compliment on my skin (on Day 23)!


Halo Beauty Supplements: Week 2 Check-in

I’m now two weeks into taking the Halo Beauty supplements.  I’ve got some good and some not-so-good, but it’s largely up to you to decide whether you think there has been improvement.  Honestly, I’m only partly objective-of course I’d like to see improvement!  Do I really think so, though?  That’s harder to tell.

Halo Beauty Supplements: Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol)

Vitamin D3 is normally made by the body when sunlight, particularly UVB, triggers the conversion of cholesterol into the more active form of the vitamin.  There are actually several forms, but it is generally agreed on that D3 (cholecaliferol) is the most biologically relevant.   Most of the research that is done on this vitamin focuses on increasing levels of D3 circulating in the bloodstream and on increasing levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH).  Both of these are involved in bone density and calcium use by the body, but vitamin D3 plays important roles in immunity and other biological processes, too.

Its role in the appearance, texture, and general condition of the skin, however, is much less clear.  I found two particularly good studies that looked at what is observed with vitamin D supplementation, but it should be noted that these studies used very large doses of 50,000 IU per week as “loading doses” to correct pre-existing deficiencies (blood levels < 35 ng/mL).  In the first, they looked at whether there was a biological difference between the vitamin D that your skin makes versus oral supplements of vitamin D.  This study demonstrated that vitamin D levels in the blood increased faster with the supplement, but stabilized at about the same concentration. They found no significant differences between the skin-made vs oral groups with regard to PTH, total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, or CRP levels.  Interestingly, the triglycerides (free fat in the bloodstream) decreased in the supplement group, but not in the skin-made group.  That part of the study has nothing to do with the skin, but it’s good to know what’s going on under-the-hood a little bit.  The biggest differences were in two immune-related signaling molecules (called cytokines), IFN-α and IFN-γ.  Both of these are involved in immune system responses.  IFN-α is mostly considered an antiviral cytokine and is usually made by fibroblasts (skin cells) and some types of white blood cells when a virus is detected.  IFN-γ is made in response to a wider variety of immune triggers and helps direct your T cell responses. Both cytokines were decreased in the supplement group, but not in the skin-made group.  It’s unclear what this might do to the immune system responses, but it suggests that there may be lower levels of inflammation (that’s my personal speculation based on my experience with both cytokines).  Perhaps most important, they found this consistently in the supplement group’s blood and skin samples [1].  This study used n=58 people, so it was small, and the doses of vitamin D were not given in the same manner as in the Halo Beauty supplement.

The second study was much smaller and was a pilot study [2].  This means it’s small (only n=25 people), with preliminary results.  They actually looked at the possible bioactivity of vitamin D in the skin after either oral supplement or UVB exposure.  As with the previous study, though, they used 50,000 IU weekly, so the dose isn’t directly comparable to the Halo Beauty product.  During this pilot, they looked at areas of skin that were sun-damaged already (forearm) and protected areas of skin (probably butt cheek).  They found that after supplementation, levels of the vitamin D receptor increased in undamaged skin, which means that the skin would be more responsive to any vitamin D available.  They also looked at expression of CYP24, which a gene for an enzyme that degrades vitamin D.  They found that supplementation increased expression of CYP24 in protected skin, unprotected skin, and even in normal moles (it’s cool that they looked at those).  This study is one of few that showed pictures of skin biopsies with and without vitamin supplementation.  Their biopsies were stained specifically to look for two things: loricrin and caspase 14.  There wasn’t an observable difference in loricrin (which is important for the skin’s absolutely outermost layer, the stratum corneum).  Caspase 14 is involved in cell death via apoptosis, which helps the body get rid of damaged cells.  This study showed some increase in caspase 14 production in the damaged skin areas only, which overall should help get rid of very sun-damaged cells.

The next study that I found particularly interesting and maybe relevant used a mouse model.  Again, mice aren’t tiny humans, but they were using this to test whether giving vitamin D before treating skin cancer might help get rid of the skin cancer faster/better [3].  They gave the vitamin D to mice either orally or via injection before using photodynamic therapy (PDT) as a treatment for squamous cell skin cancer.  They had very clear evidence that pre-treatment helped kill more cancer cells via apoptosis with this treatment, which is interesting.  I wonder if that’s related to some of the changes that the other articles saw, like increased vitamin D receptors and increased caspase 14.

One study I looked at with definite interest didn’t actually have anything to do with skin at all, but did look at whether we receive enough vitamin D.  Since we seem to be finding more people who are vitamin D deficient (myself included), this might be interesting or relevant to some.  They actually looked at Arabic women who were veiled, and compared blood levels of vitamin D with Danish women (Moslem-assumed veiled and non-Moslem).  Before anyone jumps me for my terms, those are the terms used in the article [4].  They essentially found that there was seasonal variation, but that Danish Moslem women got more vitamin D than Arabic women (either veiled or non), but Danish women who were not Moslem got most of their vitamin D from supplements.  Regardless of source or origin, veiled women (Arabic veiled or Danish Moslem) had very low levels of vitamin D3 in the bloodstream.  Essentially, the recommended daily intake for vitamin D based on current guidelines was not sufficient if there was reduced sun exposure (due to veiling or time of year based on this study, but it may be more broadly applicable).

I did look at one other source—a conference abstract [5].  I can’t speak to the results because I haven’t seen the data, but they were looking for genetic differences that might have to do with melanoma and how that might relate to vitamin D supplementation.  The study design described is good, and their reported results appear reasonable based on what they have done so far and the other research that I’ve seen.  If you’re curious, ask me questions in the comments (or go check out the abstract).

In summary for Vitamin D, I think it’s even less clear what effect this has on skin, but the most consistent things that stand out to me from these studies is that having acceptable levels of vitamin D is important for immune system function—including in the skin.  A very rough description of that might be that low levels of vitamin D may be associated with increased inflammation in the skin, and decreased sensitivity and response to sun damage.  Thus, supplementation with vitamin D may be beneficial to the skin’s overall health and potentially its appearance as well.

Next up: Vitamin B1!


  1. Ponda, M.P., et al., A randomized clinical trial in vitamin D-deficient adults comparing replenishment with oral vitamin D3 with narrow-band UV type B light: effects on cholesterol and the transcriptional profiles of skin and blood. Am J Clin Nutr, 2017. 105(5): p. 1230-1238.
  2. Curiel-Lewandrowski, C., et al., Pilot study on the bioactivity of vitamin d in the skin after oral supplementation. Cancer Prev Res (Phila), 2015. 8(6): p. 563-9.
  3. Anand, S., et al., Combination of oral vitamin D3 with photodynamic therapy enhances tumor cell death in a murine model of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. Photochem Photobiol, 2014. 90(5): p. 1126-35.
  4. Glerup, H., et al., Commonly recommended daily intake of vitamin D is not sufficient if sunlight exposure is limited. Journal of Internal Medicine, 2000. 247(2): p. 260-268.
  5. Anderson, E., et al., 265 Pilot trial to evaluate the effect of vitamin D on melanocyte biomarkers. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 136(5): p. S47.


Halo Beauty Supplements: Week 1 Check-in

I’ve been taking the Halo Beauty supplements for a week.  My thoughts and opinions on how things have gone so far are basically in the video above, and before-and-after photos are provided down below!

Halo Beauty Supplements: Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C is well known by this point in time as an antioxidant. It has been incorporated into daily multivitamins, single vitamin supplements, cold/flu prevention supplements, and topical skincare.  For this research, I’m not focusing on the health effects of vitamin C.  Many others on the internet and YouTube are doing so; I do not need to be redundant.  Similarly, I’m not going to address topical delivery, because that’s not what the supplements do.  So, what is the evidence that taking supplements of vitamin C can help your skin?  Is there any good data on that?

Honestly, this has an obvious answer of yes.  We discovered long ago that vitamin C is critical for the formation of collagen, which is found in skin, bones, and many other tissues in the body.  In fact, it is the single most common protein in the human (or mammalian) body [1].  Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy—and that’s just plain unattractive.

I searched for the phrase oral supplementation vitamin c skin and found 138 results from JID, 37 from PubMed, and 117,000 from Google Scholar.  This was a very surprisingly small number of results.  I actually looked at all the titles for the JID and PubMed searches, but I only went through the first three pages of Google Scholar results.  I very quickly understood that very little active research has been done on taking oral supplements of vitamin C and their impact on skin health.  If you need you, you can find out more about how I do the literature search and review.

The best study I saw looked at antioxidant capacity of skin after vitamin C supplementation [2]: that is, how well can the skin break down free radicals.  In this study, participants aged 22-57 took either a 100 mg dose or a 180 mg dose of vitamin C daily. Compared to baseline, both doses of vitamin C improved the antioxidant capacity significantly, but there wasn’t any real difference between the two doses.  These effects became apparent in as little as two weeks.  The placebo group showed no change.  The only limiting factor on this study is that it was a small number of people (n=33).  What impressed me most about this study was the study design: the study participants were about half and half on gender, and this study did not rely on expert grading by people.  It used a non-invasive technique where (short version) the skin was treated with a free radical and then evaluated by spectroscopy.

Honestly, this made me question how long it takes for the vitamin C levels in the body to reach peak levels (pharmacokinetics) and I wanted more information than just the government recommendations.  I only looked at one study.  This one showed that you reach peak levels of vitamin C in the blood and skin after 20-80 days depending on dose [3].  The higher doses of 100 and 200 mg daily took longer, but gave more stable blood levels over time; the current recommended daily value of 60 mg. They tested higher doses, too, but found that above 200 mg didn’t offer any benefit.  That was actually consistent with another study looking at oral vitamin C and UV stress on skin.  This study was very small (n=12 participants), but they measured blood and skin levels of vitamin C using a 500 mg dose.  Both levels increased but then tapered off and stabilized.  However, they found no significant difference in skin reddening with UV exposure in the vitamin C group, but there was some reduction in lipid damage [4].  I guess that makes sense; vitamin C doesn’t prevent you from getting a sunburn, but it is supposed to help reduce the effects.


The remaining articles that were pertinent used an antioxidant mixture where vitamin C was one of the components.  This is not ideal, because we cannot determine what effects are due to which components.  However, this is also true of the Halo Beauty supplement, and they help to demonstrate that taking oral antioxidants helps improve skin, so I think they’re still relevant.  The first one that was particularly well done tested n=35 women aged 40-75 over an 8-week period. Before and after photos were taken in a climate-controlled room with the same temperature and humidity, and subjects had to sit in the room 15 minutes prior to photos.  They were not allowed to use skincare products beginning the night before photos were taken.  These photos were then rated by expert graders for coloring, luminosity, brightness, and transparency, all of which were considered significantly improved [5].  Another study looking at a different combination antioxidant treatment prohibited study participants from using anything except facial soap for the 90 days of the study (can you imagine?).  However, again, it was a blend-and in this particular study, it wasn’t even the was being used as a control for the main focus (fermented papaya, yum).  This study also used before-and-after photos with expert skin graders, but they were blinded to which participants received which treatment.  The antioxidant blend group saw a reduction in lipid damage (consistent with the study [4]), but not in terms of skin elasticity or even-ness [6]. They also didn’t see any major changes in gene expression relating to inflammation.  However, they did see an increase in moisturization from about 38% to about 50%, which may be more interesting given that no moisturizers were permitted [6]!

This next study was done in mice and looked at skin wrinkling and thickness.  Again, it used an antioxidant blend containing vitamin C.  Mice are not humans… but the study did show that their oral blend reduced both wrinkles and skin thickening caused by UV damage [7], so maybe there’s hope!

Lest you think that I focused only on the positive studies, there was one in 2007 that looked at the long-term risk of skin cancer in 7,876 men and women who took either an antioxidant blend containing vitamin C or a placebo [8].  They found an increased risk of skin cancer in women who took the antioxidants, but not in the men, and not in the placebo group.  The incidence of melanoma was also slightly higher.  This doesn’t tell us why this happened-it may have had something to do with the supplement, or maybe there were other risk factors.

So there’s my update on vitamin C and what we know about what oral supplementation does (and doesn’t do) for skin.  Alone or in combination with other antioxidants, there seems to be some evidence that it’s beneficial for normal, healthy people.  The levels of vitamin C found in Halo Beauty (60 mg) are at the recommended daily intake, but you also get some from food sources (and other vitamins you may take).  This research also tells us that more is okay up to a point, but there’s no benefit to anything above 200 mg or so; that’s well below the toxicity dose, so this is pretty safe.

Next up: Vitamin D3!


  1. Collagen, in Wikipedia. 2018.
  2. Lauer, A.-C., et al., Dose-Dependent Vitamin C Uptake and Radical Scavenging Activity in Human Skin Measured with in vivo Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2013. 26(3): p. 147-154.
  3. Levine, M., et al., Vitamin C pharmacokinetics in healthy volunteers: evidence for a recommended dietary allowance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 1996. 93(8): p. 3704-3709.
  4. McArdle, F., et al., UVR-induced oxidative stress in human skin in vivo: effects of oral vitamin C supplementation. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 2002. 33(10): p. 1355-1362.
  5. Dumoulin, M., D. Gaudout, and B. Lemaire, Clinical effects of an oral supplement rich in antioxidants on skin radiance in women. Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, 2016: p. 315-324.
  6. Bertuccelli, G., et al., Effect of a quality-controlled fermented nutraceutical on skin aging markers: An antioxidant-control, double-blind study. Exp Ther Med, 2016. 11(3): p. 909-916.
  7. Ho-Song, C., et al., Anti-wrinkling effects of the mixture of vitamin C, vitamin E, pycnogenol and evening primrose oil, and molecular mechanisms on hairless mouse skin caused by chronic ultraviolet B irradiation. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 2007. 23(5): p. 155-162.
  8. Hercberg, S., et al., Antioxidant supplementation increases the risk of skin cancers in women but not in men. J Nutr, 2007. 137(9): p. 2098-105.



Background Research: Halo Beauty Supplements

It seems odd to have to define how I’m doing my research on the ingredients in Halo Beauty, but I prefer to be thorough.  These are the basic rules and procedures that I am using for EVERY active ingredient listed in the product.

I chose to search in three places.  The first is a specific journal-the Journal of Investigative Dermatology (JID).  This journal is published by the Nature Publishing Group and is generally considered to be a very high-quality journal, probably the top journal in the field for dermatology research.  I also searched the PubMed database created and maintained by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health.  This database generally indexes research of a medical nature and is usually my first stop.  Finally, I searched with Google Scholar, which is the most broadly-based search engine but still focused on journals and patents.  I kept the search terms the same for each component of the Halo Beauty supplement.  Although numbers of results from each search are provided as a guide, they include the results that are not specific (for example, when searching for Vitamin C, many articles were for vitamin D or other unrelated terms).  These articles were not evaluated.  Search results often included research on varying skin conditions, which were also excluded: I wanted to focus on relatively normal, healthy skin and issues that affect everyone: aging and sunburn for example.

I have access to University libraries, including journal subscriptions and databases. If I was not able to obtain the full text of a particular article in a timely manner, I will not discuss that article because I have not been able to actually look at the data and results, so it is not fair for me to draw conclusions based on work I cannot see. I will not provide or discuss results based on reading an abstract alone.

In doing this research, I set a timer for one hour for each ingredient to give each equal time.  This did not include time to write the summaries or record videos.

If I refer to significance, I am specifically referring to statistical significance. I did not take the required time to judge whether the statistical tests were appropriate for the study design.

Product Review: Halo Beauty Supplements Day 1

Yesterday (Day 0), I established the plan for evaluating the Halo Beauty supplements.  Today, I provide the BEFORE video and photos that will be used for evaluation.  I will try to keep lighting conditions, time of day, etc. as consistent as I can with my equipment.

Initial thoughts: the supplements did not upset an empty stomach for me, so one concern has been alleviated!

All photos and videos are unretouched.  The only editing performed on the photos is cropping to a 4×6 ratio for facial images.

Product Review: Halo Beauty Supplements Day 0 (Unboxing)

Initial thoughts

I purchased the Halo Beauty supplements on March 2, 2018 (the day they launched).  They arrived by mail on March 15, and I will begin taking them on March 25.

The intent of this project is to look at the science of skincare behind the ingredients and to evaluate the efficacy of the product (within limits; I’m one person).  I will endeavor to keep many things as consistent as possible throughout this project, including nutrition, hydration, activity, and skincare routine.

There are a few things I cannot evaluate.  For example, I have premature greying so I color my hair at this point.  I will not be able to tell if this has any hormonal impact, as I also have premature ovarian failure and I’m not getting bloodwork done for this.

I will, however, post weekly updates and photos!

What am I worried about?

Two things immediately spring to mind.

  1. I know that I cannot take my daily multivitamin on an empty stomach (i.e. in the morning) so I am concerned that the B vitamins in this supplement might cause some nausea.  Updates on Day 1 after taking the supplement..
  2. I have a known sensitivity to Vitamin D.  Too much, and my skin erupts into pustules.  It’s an actual allergy and it’s uncommon.  This supplement, combined with my daily multivitamin, will double my vitamin D intake.  I guess we’ll wait and see!

The Routine

Nutrition: 1700 kcal/day; no more than 1 alcoholic beverage/day.  Will continue taking magnesium supplement and daily multivitamin as well as 2 prescriptions.

Hydration: monitoring using my Spark 2.0 water bottle (gift from a friend!); this typically seems to vary from 48-72 fl. oz. per day (6-9 glasses).

Activity: 30 min walk + daily Yoga with Adriene (these are generally around 20-40 minutes).

AM Skincare: wash in shower (Philosophy body wash), Shiseido Ultimune serum, Liz Earle Eye Bright, 100% Pure coffee bean caffeine eye cream, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer liquid SPF 70.

PM Skincare: Neutrogena eye makeup remover (as needed), Liz Earle cleanse & polish hot cloth cleanser, Liz Earle Instant Boost skin tonic, Liz Earle Skin Repair Moisturizer.

Weekly: exfoliation with Tatcha Polished gentle rice enzyme powder, face mask (user’s choice), Sunday Riley Tidal brightening enzyme water cream.

Influenster Product Review: Weight Watcher’s Ice Cream

Weight Watchers GIANT Chocolate Cookies & Cream Bars
Weight Watchers GIANT Chocolate Cookies & Cream Bars

Summer and ice cream go together, it’s as simple as that.  Earlier this summer, I received an Influenster VoxBox with two coupons worth $4 each to try Weight Watcher’s Ice Cream.  Honestly, I was slightly surprised: I knew about their frozen meals and other food products, but I didn’t know they did ice cream.  I am calorie-conscious, so this seemed like it might work well.  I had tried other brands of reduced-calorie ice creams and usually found them to have an odd flavor or poor texture, but I was willing to give these a try.  Hey, free ice cream!

I went to the grocery store and purchased two different flavors: the English Toffee Crunch bars and the Snack Size Vanilla Fudge Swirl Ice Cream Cones (neither pictured).  The snack-sized cones were rather small and didn’t last very long!  I found that they were actually pretty good–better than I expected.  The consistency was creamy and soft, probably a little closer to soft-serve than some ice creams.  The flavor was fine and the chocolate syrup actually tasted like chocolate, not fake chocolate.  There’s a difference.   The English Toffee bars were also a bit surprising: I really only expected the toffee bits in the crunchy chocolate shell, but the ice cream itself was toffee-flavored as well.

These were so good I went back to the store and bought two more packages out of my own pocket: another box of the English Toffee bars, and the Chocolate Cookies & Cream bars (pictured above).  I don’t usually go for chocolate ice cream.  Remember those ice cream bars when you were a kid that had the brown-and-white cookie crumb speckles on them?  Or strawberry pink-and-white?  I loved those, and these made me think back to those and hope that they’d be similar.  I was a little disappointed since the cookie crust was finer and less crunchy than the old-fashioned bars, but they’re still very tasty and a great summer treat.  They’re just large enough to satisfy a craving and make you feel not-deprived.

Honestly, I’m seriously considering buying round 3 of these: they have a cherry-chocolate variety that I still want to try.

They’re not going to get me to give up my Häagen-Dazs (ever), but I’d really like to see scoopable ice cream, too.  It’s great with fresh fruit.

Full disclosure: I received these products complimentary for testing purposes.