Avoid excess alcohol, stimulating drinks such as coffee or tea, sugary soft drinks and carbonated drinks, all of which are dehydrating and leach the body of essential minerals such as zinc, calcium and iron which are essential for hair, nail and skin health. It is essential to ensure that you drink at least 1.5 litres of filtered water a day.
Important nutrients for hair, skin and nails
Vitamin C. Low intakes of vitamin C have been found to be significantly associated with a wrinkled appearance and senile dryness.2 Vitamin C has various biological roles in the skin, including participation in collagen synthesis, the regeneration process and wound repair.
Vitamin A and beta-carotene. Vitamin A strengthens the protective tissue of the skin and reduces the production of sebum, over-production of which is implicated in acne. Beta-carotene is a potent antioxidant and is also a source of vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is found in liver, butter, cheese and eggs. Beta-carotene is high in sweet potato, carrots, dried apricots, buckwheat and dark green vegetables.
B-complex. The B vitamins are essential for nervous system support (especially in times of stress), as well as immune function and digestion. Deficiency is often related to conditions such as acne or poor nail and hair health. Eggs, game, poultry, pumpkin seeds, blackstrap molasses, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, avocados, bananas, carrots, lentils, brown rice, tuna, shrimp and salmon are high in B-vitamins.
Vitamin E. Vitamin E protects the skin from ultraviolet light and can prevent cell damage from free radicals. Foods high in vitamin E include wheat germ oil, nuts and seeds, fish, eggs, avocados and green vegetables.
Selenium. Selenium protects cells from free radical damage. Low levels are associated with discolouration of the hair and skin as well as whitening of the fingernail beds. Organic meat, fish, muscle meat, whole grains, dairy, fruit, onions, garlic, nuts and seeds are all good sources.
Zinc. Zinc is essential for immune function, aids in tissue healing and can help prevent scarring. Deficiency is often associated with poor nail health manifesting as deformed nails, hangnails, inflamed cuticles and white spots in the nail plate. Oysters, liver, brewer’s yeast, eggs, whole grains, pumpkin seeds and mushrooms are good sources.
Green tea polyphenols. Green tea, which is high in polyphenols, has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic potential, which can be exploited against a variety of skin disorders. Green tea polyphenols have been shown to modulate biochemical pathways important in inflammatory responses, cell proliferation and responses of tumour promoters.3
Maintaining a healthful diet, hydration, exercise and a balance of nutrients is essential in ensuring well-nourished, beautiful hair, skin and nails. For chronic problems related to the integumentary system a targeted approach is required, and you should consult with a qualified health professional in this regard.
Editor’s Note: For more content on nutrition, visit our section on Natural Nutrition.
- Boelsma E, et al. Nutritional skin care: health effects of micronutrients and fatty acids. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001; 73: 853-864.
- Cosgrove MC, et al. Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007; 86: 1225-1231.
- Katiyar SK, et al. Green tea and skin. Arch Dermatol. 2000; 136: 989-994