THE CLAIM: Beta-carotene, carotenoids, and tomato lycopene help protect the skin from UV damage while stimulating and prolonging a perfect tan. Plus, popping a pill before a beach day is easier than eating loads of carrots (a Brazilian old wives' tale).
COST: $38 for a 60-day supply
GLASSMAN SAYS: "Beta-carotene and carotenoids convert to vitamin A in the body, and A makes you look orange. That's not tanning. If you ate a huge bag of carrots each day, in a week or two, you'd see orange palms. And too much vitamin A can cause liver damage and birth defects."
MC EDITORS' VERDICT: Our tester's skin began to deepen in tone a week before her island getaway; once she hit the beach, she didn't burn (of course, she did wear sunscreen and reapplied religiously). Typically, her tan fades as soon as she reaches the Tarmac at JFK, but this golden glow lasted a whole week, even in subzero weather.
BOTTOM LINE: **(out of five)
THE PILL: Murad Pure Skin Clarifying Supplement
THE CLAIM: A combination of nutrients, including zinc, vitamin A, and antioxidants, is scientifically proven to reduce blemishes by 55 percent in six weeks and help keep skin clear and healthy.
COST: $42 for a 30-day supply
GLASSMAN SAYS: "Retin-A is vitamin A that you apply topically to treat acne, but taking vitamin A orally makes me nervous because of the risk of overdose. Zinc is anti-inflammatory and can help reduce redness, but it's not an acne cure. This supplement also contains strong antioxidants like turmeric and pomegranate — they're great for repairing skin and healing breakouts."
MC EDITORS' VERDICT: The pills smelled sour and tasted salty, but our tester's combination complexion was balanced after just three weeks, and she noticed fewer breakouts in her problem area: her chin. Her friends also kept commenting that her skin really glowed.
BOTTOM LINE: *** 1/2
THE PILL: Santica CelluScience Anti-Cellulite Beauté Intensive
THE CLAIM: Bladderwrack and polyunsaturated fatty acids increase metabolism and burn fat to reduce the appearance of cellulite and the circumference of the hips, abdomen, thighs, and ankles.
COST: $67.99 for a 30-day supply
GLASSMAN SAYS: "This one sounds crazy, like a wacky diet pill. It's supposed to draw out toxins and flush you out, but what does that mean? Bladderwrack is high in iodine, so it can stimulate the thyroid gland and your metabolism. But the thyroid is very sensitive, and once you start messing with it, you can cause damage."
MC EDITORS' VERDICT: Fewer dimples were seen after just two weeks, but our tester experienced a day of "severe cramping that felt like a colon cleansing." Since she didn't change her diet or lifestyle (besides cutting back on anti-cellulite creams), she attributes the cramping to the pills.
BOTTOM LINE: **
THE PILL: Pierre Michel RepHair
THE CLAIM: AC-11, a proprietary extract of Uncaria tomentosa (the cat's-claw plant from the rain forest), repairs damaged DNA in hair cells to reduce dryness, thinning, and breakage while increasing shine and thickness.
COST: $24 for a 30-day supply
GLASSMAN SAYS: "Oral supplements can only affect the new hair growing in. Hair ends are old and dead, so applying a treatment would be better for dry, split ends. And while cat's claw is anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic, there's not enough research to show any benefits for hair."
MC EDITORS' VERDICT: Our tester's mane felt thicker and fuller after one week and held up to multiple blowdrying and flat-ironing sessions without drying out. After three weeks, she started noticing new growth along her hairline and received at least one compliment a day about how healthy her hair looked.
BOTTOM LINE: ****1/2
THE PILL: Sally Hansen Nail Essentials
THE CLAIM: For longer, stronger, healthier-looking nails, biotin stimulates nail growth, smooths ridges, and prevents peeling and breakage. Nail strength is increased by 25 percent in as little as one month.
COST: $12.95 for a 30-day supply
GLASSMAN SAYS: "Biotin makes nails harder, shinier, and stronger. Unlike hair, nails turn over faster, so you'll reap more benefits. And the section attached to the nail bed gets nourished by what you take in. Drinking water can also help. When you keep your nails moist, it's the same as having healthy skin — they'll be less dry and brittle."
MC EDITORS' VERDICT: After three weeks, our tester was surprised at how smooth her nails were — they were hiding the whole time underneath the crimson polish of her pedicure. Her fingernails didn't seem to grow faster, but they felt stronger and were noticeably brighter. Her nails looked so pretty that she opted to go without polish.
BOTTOM LINE: ****
THE PILL: Nivea Body Beauty Program from the Good-Bye Cellulite Kit
THE CLAIM: Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and L-carnitine help the body burn fat and build lean muscle mass for a slimmer, smoother, and firmer physique in just one month.
COST: $18.99 for a 30-day supply that also includes a topical anticellulite cream-gel
GLASSMAN SAYS: "I remember when CLA was popular with bodybuilders because it helps you lose fat — especially in the abdominal area — but not muscle. The problem is that CLA may lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. L-carnitine is an amino acid that helps you burn fat, but it's a far stretch to say that would help with cellulite."
MC EDITORS' VERDICT: Skinny-day jeans fit more loosely, even though our tester avoided the gym while she was taking the pills. She also had less of an appetite the whole time and felt like she ate less than usual. But she didn't see any change in her cellulite.
BOTTOM LINE: ***