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Essential Nutrients for Glowing Skin & Healthy Hair

When it comes to the health of your skin, hair and nails, we know that having a good morning and evening skincare routine, using good quality (sulfate free) hair products and keeping your nail beds well moisturised does wonders. But topical products are only one piece of the puzzle! Nourishing your skin, hair and nails from the inside will amplify the results of your expensive topical products tenfold!

How visibly healthy looking your skin, hair and nails are, is often a reflection of how nutrient dense our diet is. If you’re on point with your nutrition and giving your body all of the raw material is need to thrive, natural beauty usually follows suit.

There isn’t one particular diet that has been shown to give us glowing skin and lucious locks, but there is research to support the importance of some key nutrients in the process of healthy skin, hair and nails. These nutrients include; essential fatty acids, collagen, vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc, vitamin C and B vitamins. 

This is where the Mediterranean style diet comes into play. The Mediterranean style diet promotes the inclusion of an abundance of fruits and vegetables, a variety of healthy fats from foods such as; avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds, wholegrain carbohydrates and plenty of fish. It provides all of  the nutrients that are essential for skin, nail and hair health. Sometimes it can be challenging to get adequate amounts of these nutrients in the diet due to a variety of reasons such as; taste preferences, digestive issue, ethical food choices, plant based eating patterns, religious reasons etc. and this is where supplementing your diet with high quality forms of these nutrients can have an amazing impact on the health of your hair, skin and nails.

7 Key Nutrients for Skin, Hair & Nail Health

  1. Omega-3s

Omega-3s are essential fatty acids which means that our body cannot make them so we need to get  them from our diet. Omega-3 fatty acids act as an internal moisturiser for the skin, giving it that plumpness that we are all longing after. They can serve to regulate the skin's oil production, improve balanced hydration, subdue breakouts and minimize signs of aging. Omega-3s can also help soften rough, dry skin and have a soothing effect on irritation and dermatitis.

The omega-3s that are most bioavailable (most easily used) in our body are those that come from marine sources like salmon and mackerel. If you don’t like fish or tend not to eat it very often, consider supplementing with a good quality Omega-3 fish oil supplement.

If you’re vegan or plant-based you'll be able to get some omega-3 fatty acids from chia seeds, walnuts and flaxseeds, however, our body needs these sources in greater amounts to have the same effect as fish (EPA) sources. There are vegan omega-3 supplements available that are derived from algae sources (like this one), this is the only marine source of omega-3 that is suitable for vegans.

  1. Collagen Peptides

Collagen peptides have become very popular in skincare and haircare for their perceived ability to rejuvenate skin, reduce wrinkles, restore volume and elasticity to the skin and the positive impact they are believed to have on hair health by impacting the health of the hair follicle. Our hair is primarily made up of the protein keratin, it is understood that we need amino acids, like those found in collagen, to build the keratin for strong, healthy hair.

There is also some research to support the ability of collagen peptide to accelerate wound healing alongside its potential to aid good digestion.

Collagen Peptides are the hydrolyzed form of collagen, which is a structural protein found in the matrix of the skin and all of the connective tissues, including the tissue surrounding our hair follicles. The smaller the molecules of collagen peptides the easier it is for our body to absorb it into the bloodstream. 

As we age, our bodies change both physically and chemically. Hair and skin, in particular, are susceptible to early signs of aging, such as follicle or elasticity loss. Many of the anti-aging treatments on the market focus on trying to slow down the aging process by supplementing certain proteins or amino acids that give hair and skin a youthful glow. This is where collagen peptides come into play.

While further research is definitely warranted to show the extent of the benefit consuming collagen peptides can have on skin and hair health, the data we are currently working off is promising, as well as there being a lot of anecdotal evidence from people who have claimed to notice an improvement in their skin and hair health after supplementing for a number of months!

  1. Vitamin A

Vitamin A plays a vital role in cell regeneration. All cells need vitamin A for growth. This includes hair, the fastest growing tissue in the human body. It’s an ingredient that you may be familiar with from your topical skincare products, where it’s often included in various forms such as; retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate and retinoic acid. It has been dubbed the holy grail of skincare for its ability to promote skin cell renewal which gives the skin that supple healthy glow by replacing older, duller cells with new ones. Toxicological research also indicates that retinol is effective at stimulating collagen production and reducing wrinkles when used topically. 

Vitamin A helps to speed up healing, prevent breakouts, support the skin's immune system and promote natural moisturising - which means it helps to hydrate the skin effectively, giving it a radiant glow. It assists in promoting and maintaining a healthy dermis and epidermis; the top two layers of your skin.

Vitamin A plays this same, regenerative role within the body by promoting cell rejuvenation. You can amplify the effects of your vitamin A skincare by including quality sources such as dairy, egg yolks, oily fish and plant based sources such as; green vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes or a supplement with vitamin A in it in your diet. Topical vitamin A or supplements with a high dose of vitamin A should not be used if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

  1. Vitamin E

Like vitamin A, vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that provides moisture to your skin, hair & nails alongside helping to minimize oxidative stress in the body. It's an antioxidant, making it effective at combating the effects of free radicals produced by the metabolism of food and toxins in the environment. Vitamin E may be beneficial at reducing ultraviolet (UV) damage to skin through its ability to absorb the energy from UV light. Thus, it plays important roles in photoprotection, preventing UV-induced free radical damage to skin. 

Vitamin E may also have related anti-inflammatory roles in the skin and is normally provided to the skin through the sebum. Topical application can also supply the skin, hair and nails with vitamin E and may provide specific vitamin E forms that are not available from the diet.

Vitamin E is actually a nutrient that a lot of people are actually low in, some great dietary sources include; oily fish like mackerel and salmon, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and avocados. This multinutrient supplement contains 100% of your RDA of vitamin E.

  1. B Vitamins - Biotin

One of the best known vitamins for hair growth is a B vitamin called biotin. Studies link biotin deficiency with hair loss in humans. Biotin has been shown to improve nail strength and health. Some studies have found that taking a 2.5-milligram supplement daily for 6 months increased nail thickness by 25%. For people with brittle fingernails, a daily dose of biotin can help to reduce splitting and breaking. Biotin occurs naturally in a wide range of foods. More data is needed for us to understand whether biotin is effective for hair growth in healthy individuals but ensuring you are getting enough is important for hair health.

The other B vitamins are used in a huge range of functions in the body, including energy production and the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to the scalp and hair follicles. These processes are important for hair growth. 

B vitamins are found in a wide range of food, including: whole grains, almonds, meat, fish, seafood and dark green leafy veg. Animal foods are the only good sources of vitamin B12. So, if you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you should be taking a B12 supplement. 

It is also important to note that B vitamins are depleted by some medications, alcohol and stress so even if you are getting enough from food, you may still see the benefit from supplementing.

  1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is a potent, water-soluble antioxidant meaning it helps to prevent damage caused by oxidative stress and free radicals in the body. It also plays a role in collagen formation which is one of the primary structural proteins of skin, hair and nails - it gives skin its elasticity and that youthful suppleness that we are all looking for! Free radical damage can block growth and cause your hair to age. Dietary and topical ascorbic acid have beneficial effects on skin cells, and some studies have shown that vitamin C may help prevent and treat ultraviolet (UV)-induced photodamage.

Vitamin C is a normal skin constituent that is found at high levels in both the dermis and epidermis. Aging causes a decline in vitamin C content in both the epidermis and dermis and excessive exposures to UV light or pollutants such as cigarette smoke and pollution may also lower vitamin C content, primarily in the epidermis. Vitamin C is needed for the creation of collagen in the body, while it also helps the body absorb iron, a mineral necessary for hair growth.

Ensuring your diet is rich in quality sources of vitamin C will help to counteract this decline in vitamin C levels. Despite what you may think, vitamin C is not only found in oranges and there are in fact much better sources, like green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, tomatoes, kiwis, red and yellow peppers and potatoes. 

  1. Zinc

Zinc plays an important role in hair, skin and nail tissue growth and repair. It also helps keep the oil glands around the hair follicles working properly. Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, zinc is especially beneficial for inflammatory acne.

Hair loss is a common symptom of zinc deficiency. Studies show resolving zinc deficiency with supplementation may reduce deficiency-related hair loss. However, there are some anecdotal reports that supplementing with too high of a dose can also contribute to hair loss, so your health care provider should be consulted prior to high dose supplementation.

You can also look to get your zinc from whole foods. Foods high in zinc include oysters, beef, spinach, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, and lentils.

Recommended Supplements:

This is by no means a definitive list of the nutrients needed to have glowing skin and luscious locks but it’s some of the key ones! 

Nutrition and supplements might not be the quick fix you were looking for but it’s what will make all the difference in the long-term, not only to your skin, hair and nails, but your overall health! It comes down to having a diet that is consistently rich in all of these nutrients on a daily and weekly basis - incorporating them the odd time unfortunately won’t have the same effect. But, now that you know the fundamentals .. you’ll be radiant in no time!