year in review

These Skin Gummies Were the Best Thing I Bought This Year

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Writers

If you’ve read any of our Strategist editor hauls, you’ll know that our writers and editors buy a lot of stuff, and even though we think carefully about each thing that goes into our carts, there are still standouts. To close out the year, we’ve asked our staffers to write about the best thing they bought in the past 12 months. Today, Chelsea Peng on the skin gummies that taste like candy and work like a triple-digit serum. 

In the hierarchy of appearance-based compliments, those given by people who interact with you regularly always outweigh those from acquaintances. That’s because proximity makes it harder to gauge change — which is why when both my barista and my partner recently asked what I’ve been doing to my skin, I knew these Paya gummies were really working.

Four months ago, I’d seen reports of “Benjamin Buttoning” and “being mistaken for a UCLA student” on my Instagram Explore page attributed to these cherry-flavored gumdrops. I, too, wanted to reverse-age into oblivion like Brad Pitt, so I reached out to the brand, which kindly sent me some samples. (I’ve since bought more.) About half a bottle in, with no modifications to my normal skin-care routine or chaotic lifestyle, I started to notice … something. The difference was barely perceptible, but as someone who’s never met a reflective surface they didn’t like, I could see that my complexion looked brighter and my features more open.

That could be because of Paya’s blend of ingestible retinol, biotin, and several other vitamins and minerals that the brand says help reduce the appearance of blemishes, hyperpigmentation, and wrinkles. While most of the aforementioned ingredients are known to be pretty-making, the non-topical retinol (a form of vitamin A) was met with some skepticism when I first mentioned Paya to my colleagues, so I talked to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.

“I do not recommend unsupervised over-the-counter ingestible forms of vitamin A under any circumstances to treat acne,” he says. “While vitamin A supplements can treat acne, because of potential side effects, it must be closely monitored by your dermatologist,” he says, citing skin dryness, muscle aches, headaches, visual disturbances, liver toxicity, increases in cholesterol, and birth defects. My skin goals don’t include treating acne, so I can’t speak to the gummies’ effectiveness there — I just wanted to look shinier. And when I asked him to clarify the risks further, he said that at low levels there “likely is little harm besides to your pocketbook” so long as you’re not pregnant or planning to become pregnant. I’m decidedly neither, so I felt comfortable taking these, which contain 1,200 mcg RAE (micrograms of retinol activity equivalents); according to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary allowance for women is 700 mcg RAE, while the maximum daily intake unlikely to cause harmful effects is 3,000.

A #nomakeupselfie à la 2014. Photo: Chelsea Peng

What I do know is that I’ve gradually detected more elasticity and plumpness, like I’ve had a long stay at one of those Swiss institutes where all you do is rest and eat biodynamic carrot soup. (Three aestheticians have also commented favorably on my skin’s bounciness.) Overall, my face does look markedly less drawn than it did earlier in the pandemic (I checked my camera roll), and though I can’t pin it on any particular ingredient, the visuals do suggest that, in conjunction, they’re doing what they’re meant to do: filling in nutritional gaps to counteract the effects of more frequent flying, mezcal margaritas, and being a night owl who lives next door to a construction site where the clanging begins at 7 a.m.

The brand recommends taking two gummies post-meal as a little treat, but because I’m extra and want maximum absorption of both the water- and fat-soluble vitamins, I take one first thing in the morning with a glass of water and another 30 minutes after breakfast. (From a purely gustatory standpoint, they are as delicious as advertised with a toothsome sugar-crystal grit.)

And though these benefits aren’t printed on the label, my eyebrows have gotten fluffier and my lashes have lengthened and somehow lifted. But the most telling reaction of all was when I was having my roots done last month and my colorist, who is Eastern European and unwaveringly direct, remarked that my mistreated, Rosé-level-damaged lengths felt healthier. So it seems like these gummies are doing some good — and for $25 a month, you could certainly do a lot worse.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

These Skin Gummies Were the Best Thing I Bought This Year