The shine of your hair, glow of your skin, and strength of your nails are all major indicators of overall health. Even if you have a clean bill of health and just want to look your very best, there are several supplements that can help. In many cases, supplements that help one aspect of your beauty will also provide carry-on benefits for the others as well.
First and foremost, to maintain healthy hair, skin, and nails, you also need to make sure you're getting adequate macronutrients across the board (think carbs, fats, and proteins), especially protein. Around half of all American adults don’t get enough nutrients from their diet. Of course the specific nutrients vary from person to person but the National Health and Nutrition Examination completed a survey that reported most people do not meet the micronutrient recommendations for vitamin D, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, zinc, iron, potassium, and vitamin B6. The best way to get all the vitamins and nutrients you need is through a sensible and varied diet. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the time to prepare nutritious meals or access to the quality food that we need in order to get all of our nutrients. Temporary thinning hair, dry or thin skin, and soft or brittle nails from time to time may all be potential symptoms of various nutritional insufficiencies. If you are concerned, check with a medical professional to have your nutrient levels tested before deciding on a course of action.
When you eat protein the body turns the amino acids into various structures in the body. Protein serves as the foundation of promoting healthy hair, skin, and nails because the body turns amino acids into a structural protein called keratin.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and a great supplement for skin health. This powerful vitamin is necessary for the production of collagen, and has also been shown to help the body maintain its natural collagen deposits at optimal levels.
In addition, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can protect the body from free radicals. We get exposed to free radicals from numerous sources including sun exposure, living in cities, pollution, and just from normal everyday aging. Excessive amounts may contribute to normal signs of aging, such as wrinkles. In addition to citrus fruits, dark leafy greens and berries are also good sources of vitamin C. If you are concerned that you do not consume enough plant-based vitamin C, you may want to consider a supplement.
Astaxanthin (pronounced “as-ta-zan-thin”) is a very unique carotenoid that is known for giving many fish and shellfish a bright pink color like shrimp and salmon. The purest form of this powerful antioxidant property is derived from a very small algae.
Astaxanthin has performed well in clinical trials, where it was shown to support healthy skin hydration and even tone for those who were supplemented with 6mg orally over a period of 6-8 weeks. According to a 2009 study published in the medical journal Experimental Dermatology, astaxanthin may be effective in maintaining healthy skin from the everyday oxidative stressors that may contribute to wrinkles. Beyond supporting the skin’s healthy appearance, clinical studies suggest that astaxanthin supports general heart and brain health. Due to these key benefits, supplementing with astaxanthin is worth considering if you rarely consume seafood.
Fat gets a bad rep but we all know not all fats are created equally. Omegas are better known as healthy fats and they are important for several things including building healthy skin layers. The skin is made of 3 layers and the outermost layer known as the epidermis uses fats to maintain healthy skin moisture and hydration. This preliminary study found that omega 3s containing EPA and DHA may even have photoprotective properties when supplementing orally. Initial results demonstrate lower sensitivity to UV rays from the sun. Additional research is needed. To support healthy skin appearance and function from within, you may want to look into your diet and consider adding in 2 servings of fish in your diet or supplement with 250-500mg of omegas daily.
Collagen is the primary structural protein that makes up all of our connective tissue. It is often credited for providing skin’s strength. Paired with soft keratin, collagen is a fibrous tissue that is crucial for healthy, vibrant skin. This is one reason collagen is so popular. Simply getting sufficient amounts in your diet through food can be challenging so supplements can also support.
Though collagen is not found in the typical diet, bone broth is gaining popularity for its collagen content. Otherwise, the body must produce collagen through the consumption of two key amino acids: lysine and proline. Lysine and proline are found in meat, eggs, dairy, soy, and seafood. Beans, lentils and nuts are excellent vegetarian sources of lysine and proline. In order for the body to convert lysine and proline into collagen, vitamin C is also required.
Ceramides are a family of lipid molecules that are popular in skincare supplements and topical lotions due to their moisturizing ability. The effects of aging and exposure to harsh elements, like wind and sun, can deplete the skin’s natural lipids. These lipids play an important role in retaining the skin’s moisture and protecting the top layer of the skin’s cells from damage.
Taken orally, ceramides can boost collagen production from within. If using plant-based supplements is important to you, be sure to double-check the source of your ceramides supplement, as they can be derived from wheat or rice-extract preparations or produced synthetically. For those who are gluten sensitive, rice extract preparations may be ideal.
The most important substance required for healthy hair is keratin. Keratins are amino acids that protect hair, skin, and nails from damage. Your hair is made almost exclusively of protein, most notably keratin, so if you aren’t supplementing, make sure you get adequate amino acids in your diet. Lean meat, fish, eggs and dairy are all excellent sources of protein. For vegetarians, quinoa and soy provide all nine of the body’s essential amino acids. While beans and nuts do not provide all of the essential amino acids, they do feature significant levels of protein. If you do decide to supplement, a certain type of bioavailable keratin--known as Cynatine HNS--has been shown to benefit the strength and appearance of both hair and nails.
Traditionally, nail health has been seen as a predictor of overall health. Nail color, nail hardness and nail shape are all common symptoms analyzed in Eastern medicine, where reading one’s hands has been elevated to something of an art form. If your nails are lacking in strength or appearance, consider the following supplements.
Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is a popular supplement for its ability to support both hair and nail quality. Biotin is necessary for cell growth and for the proper metabolism of fats and proteins in the body. It is also known as vitamin H, because of its relationship with “Haar und Haut,” German for “Hair and Skin.”
Myth bust: Although biotin is biologically required for hair, skin, and nails, high doses of biotin isn’t always the best. Here’s why. There isn’t significant research that supports the use of biotin to support hair, nail, and skin health. A small study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that biotin supplementation increased nail thickness and reduced nail splitting in people with brittle nails from time to time. In fact most studies are mediocre. Some show some benefit with supplementation and some don’t.
Although no upper limit for biotin has been defined, a recent safety alert was released about high doses of biotin being problematic for certain labs. Troponin (a test used to help diagnose heart attacks), thyroid hormones (TSH, T4, T3), steroid and sex hormones (FSH, LH, estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol), nutrient levels (B12, folic acid, and Vitamin D), and even some infectious labs (syphilis, toxoplasmosis, rubella, and hepatits) can be impacted by supplementing with high doses of biotin. A comprehensive list can be found here.
Biotin is often included in many beauty products or vitamin B-complex supplements. However, it is important to review the dosages on those products. If they are too low, it is unlikely that you would see improvements to the quality of your hair, skin or nails. The suggested intake for biotin is 30 mcg/day for most adults, and 35 mcg/day for breastfeeding women, but therapeutic dosages can be as high as 100 mcg/day. Since biotin is not stored in the body, it must be a regular part of the diet. Foods that are high in biotin include nuts, sweet potatoes, meat and eggs.
Keep in mind that supplementing with biotin may impact your lab results. Be sure to discuss your supplements with your team. They may recommend taking a break from Biotin supplementation 1-2 weeks before scheduled lab work.
Another supplement that particularly aids in nail refurbishment is choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid, or ch-OSA. It is a bioavailable form of silicon, which has long been recognized as an important building block of skin, hair, and nails. It has been found to be an effective therapy for deteriorating strength in all three of those areas, especially when attempting to repair the effects of prolonged sun exposure. Because of the helpful effects it produces for all three of these problem beauty areas, it is a good way to address concerns across the spectrum with a single therapeutic regimen.
It is easy to lose track of the fact that our outward appearance is the result of our overall health. If you feel like the quality of your hair, nails or skin could be improved, then first make sure your diet is providing you with adequate nutrients. Drinking plenty of water and exercising regularly can also have a noticeable impact on beauty. Quality supplements can provide an added boost or help bring about results faster, but remember that they are no replacements for a healthy lifestyle. Speak with a physician, or take a lifestyle assessment questionnaire to determine which supplements are right for you.