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Get your healthiest glow: nutrients to help your hair, skin, and nails

The shine of your hair, glow of your skin, and strength of your nails are all major indicators of overall health. If any of these areas is a problem for you, it may be a sign of nutrient deficiency or illness. 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.

Understand common nutrient deficiencies

First and foremost, to improve your hair, skin, and nails, you need to address any potential vitamin or macronutrient deficiencies, especially protein. Dr. Daniel J. Aires, a researcher and dermatologist at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City weighed in on this in a 2016 New York Times article, simply stating that “what you put in your mouth may be as important as what you put on your skin.” He even focuses on nutrition in his own practice, helping many of his patients address issues like problematic acne through diet alone.

The best way to get all the vitamins and nutrients you need is through a sensible and varied diet. Unfortunately, we don’t all have the time to prepare nutritious meals or access to the quality food that we need in order to get all of our nutrients. Thinning hair, dry or thin skin, and soft or brittle nails are all potential symptoms of various deficiencies. If you are concerned, check with a medical professional to have your nutrient levels tested before deciding on a reparative course of action.

The most common deficiencies seen in the US are vitamin D, vitamin E, magnesium, vitamin A, calcium, and vitamin C deficiency. Around half of all American adults don’t get enough of these important nutrients from their diet. Missing out on these nutrients, as well as the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA, can lead to common issues with hair, skin, and nails. Studies have shown that a supplement blend of Omega 3 & 6 oils with antioxidants can benefit women with thinning hair, as well as improve many skin conditions.

Supplements for youthful skin

Vitamin C

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 that cause 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

Astaxanthin (pronounced “as-ta-zan-thin”) has performed well in clinical trials conducted at Jichi Medical University in Japan, where it was shown to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. According to a 2009 study published in the medical journal Experimental Dermatology, astaxanthin is also effective in preventing the oxidative stress that contribute to wrinkles.

Astaxanthin is a very unique antioxidant that is known for giving many fish and shellfish a bright pink color. The purest form of this powerful antioxidant is derived from a very small algae. However, astaxanthin is also abundant in shrimp and salmon. Beyond improving the skin’s 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.

Evening Primrose Oil

If you suffer from eczema or other forms of atopic dermatitis, it may be caused by a deficiency of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is a form of omega-6 fatty acid. This plant features a distinct yellow flower, and has a long history of medicinal use among Native Americans. More recently, the oil derived from the seeds of evening primrose were found to contain high levels of GLA, which may explain why it can relieve the symptoms of skin conditions like eczema.

Evening primrose oil supplements are a natural alternative to the long-term use of corticosteroid creams or pills, which can have undesirable side effects. It is worth noting that the benefits of evening primrose oil may not appear for six to eight weeks.

Collagen

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 treatments are popular in the field of cosmetic surgery. However, those therapies usually involve injecting collagen directly under the skin, which is far more invasive than simply getting sufficient amounts in your diet through food and supplements.

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

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 in capsule form, 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-extract preparations or produced synthetically.

The top supplement to care for your hair

Keratin

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.

Understand nail health

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

Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is a popular supplement for it’s ability to improve 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.”

There is significant research that supports the use of biotin for hair, nail, and skin health. A 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. Additionally, biotin may also support cognitive, cardiovascular and metabolic health, as well.

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.

Biotin appears to be safe at much higher doses, and no upper limit for biotin intake has been defined. 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.

ch-OSA offers general support of hair, skin and nails

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.

Get a beauty boost from better nutrition

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 replacement for a healthy lifestyle. Speak with a physician, or take a lifestyle assessment questionnaire to determine which supplements are right for you.