Millions of people follow beauty blogger Tati Westbrook for her reviews and tips.
But when her eagerly-anticipated beauty line turned out to be a vitamin supplement, Westbrook was unprepared for the controversy that erupted.halobeauty/Instagram
As Allure reports, Westbrook recently launched Halo Beauty, her new product line. But rather than the cosmetics that some fans expected, Halo Beauty has (as of now) only one product, a dietary supplement advertised as “Halo Beauty Hair, Skin, Nails Booster.”
Y’all lucky. Your favorite make up guru released lipsticks, highlighters, and eyeshadow palettes. Mine released $40 biotin and called it a day. #HaloBeauty
— small fry (@missvanessadiaz) March 3, 2018
The Halo Beauty website promises the vitamin supplement “promotes thick and luxurious hair growth,” fights grays, reduces fine lines, “firm[s], hydrate[s], rejuvenate[s], and moisturize[s] skin,” and “promotes strong and healthy nails.” The site claims the formula is “clinically proven” and cites figures like, “85 percent reported stronger and thicker hair.”
However, the fine print at the bottom of the website includes a disclaimer that the claims have not been verified by the Food and Drug Administration. It goes on to recommend that pregnant women and those with a medical condition should consult doctor, and ends by stating: “Individual results may vary.”
Among Westbrook’s fans, there was an immediate clamor for the beauty supplement that promises to help promote the user’s natural beauty.
So excited that my @HaloBeauty order arrived today! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on these beauties! I will always support the angel that is @GlamLifeGuru Can’t wait to glow from the inside out!! #HaloBeauty pic.twitter.com/671oVc21Cf
— Shelby (@shelby_snook) March 13, 2018
However, some of Westbrook’s fans were dubious about the extravagant promises being made about a vitamin supplement that retails for $40.
@GlamLifeGuru #HaloBeauty Where is the evidence of results? Before and after quantitative data for the clinical trials? Anyone with a background/interest in science can see that in essence this is just a way to make money and take advantage of your trusting viewers. Disappointing
— Adele (@adeleryzek_) March 1, 2018
“take everything you see on the internet with a grain of salt” but I should trust you blindly and buy your vitamins because your feet are smoother since you started taking them? WHAT #halobeauty #tati
— hellogoodbyesnl (@hellogoodbyesnl) March 6, 2018
If you think your body needs additional supplements,talk to your doctor, not a blogger. #HaloBeauty
— Rutu Desai (@demurebeautyin) March 7, 2018
What’s more, there’s one ingredient in particular that has them especially concerned. The supplement contains saw palmetto, which some say could interfere with birth control. WebMD cautions anyone taking saw palmetto as a supplement that it can affect estrogen and thereby interact with some contraceptive pills:
Some birth control pills contain estrogen. Saw palmetto might decrease the effects of estrogen in the body. Taking saw palmetto along with birth control pills might decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills. If you take birth control pills along with saw palmetto, use an additional form of birth control such as a condom.
WebMD adds that saw palmetto can also interact with medications that slow blood clotting and that it’s unsafe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The same advice is echoed by Drugs.com, two doctors on Healthtap.com, and RXList.com.
Joshua Zeichner, Mt. Sinai Hospital’s director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology, told Allure that there is no scientific evidence that saw palmetto interferes with birth control:
“There is currently no data showing that saw palmetto supplements have any interaction with prescription medications.”
However, Leah Millheiser, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University, says the lack of research on saw palmetto and birth control doesn’t mean there’s no effect. She told Allure there is reason to believe an interaction exists, which may be enough to be cautious about saw palmetto supplements:
“I don’t agree with the blanket statement that saw palmetto does not interfere with hormonal contraception. Saw palmetto does have estrogenic activity and may affect endogenous hormone levels.”
The negative reaction was so strong that Westbrook released a lengthy YouTube response to the controversy. In the video, Westbrook assures fans her product is safe and that she would not release a supplement that could harm anyone. She also criticized those who turned to Google and WebMd for their research, while still urging potential customers to consult a doctor before using the supplement.
Westbrook reportedly responded on Snapchat as well. According to Allure, she told her fans:
“I feel very misunderstood. I hate that my character is being thrashed. Saw Palmetto is not going to get you pregnant. It’s not going to make your birth control not work. I am working with the best physicians, the best scientists, the best nutritionists. I have a team. I have advisors. We have talked about this formula through and through to get to this point.”
For those who are concerned about an interaction between saw palmetto and birth control, Millheiser recommends using backup contraception, while Zeichner stresses the need to discuss the matter with your doctor.
What’s more, it is a good idea to take any claims about beauty supplements with a grain of salt. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and any non-medical claims they make (like reducing wrinkles or leading to stronger nails) are not subject to verification.
Finally, supplements that are deemed safe on their own can interact with medications, making it important to discuss any vitamins or natural supplements with your doctor and pharmacist.