Like any other part of the body, nutrients from the food we eat give us healthy hair and nails. A healthy diet, based on whole-foods and rich in nutrients is an excellent basis for strong nails and shiny, lustrous hair but a poor diet can quickly lead to weak, splitting nails and dull, brittle hair. This is not just about vanity though! The appearance of our hair and nails is an excellent barometer of our internal health. Following the advice below will therefore not only give you healthy nails and hair, but will benefit your overall health as well!
Key Nutrients for Healthy Hair and Nails
Hair is a fast-growing tissue and so are its nutrient demands from the body; key nutrients for building healthy hair include protein, iron, and b vitamins, while omega-3 fats and vitamin A are nature’s conditioners. Your nails also need a good supply of nutrients including protein, vitamins and minerals to stay strong and healthy. The fingernails can often be the first place to show visible signs of mineral deficiencies, for example white spots can be a sign of zinc deficiency and vertical ridges can be a sign you need more iron.
Hair and nails are actually made of protein (a protein called keratin), so getting adequate, good quality protein is crucial for providing the building blocks for healthy, strong hair and nails. Top protein sources for hair and nails are eggs, fish, chicken, turkey and plenty of plant proteins such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, nuts, seeds and tofu. Aim to include some protein with all your meals, but limit animal protein and be sure to include plenty of the plant sources.
Vitamin A is needed by the body to make a substance called sebum, which is an oil secreted by the sebaceous glands of the hair and acts as a natural moisturiser for the scalp and conditioner for your hair. Without it hair becomes dry and the scalp dry, itchy and flaky. Orange and yellow vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, dark leafy greens and tropical fruit like mango and papaya are good sources. Beauty & Go SKIN BRILLIANCE also contains vitamin A.
Blood flow to your hair and extremities is dependent upon adequate iron in the body, and iron deficiency anaemia is a common cause of hair loss. The hair follicles and roots receive their nutrients via the blood, and inadequate iron levels mean this vital supply is reduced, which can disrupt the hair growth cycle. Iron deficiency can also cause nails to split, become brittle and flattened and is associated with the condition koilonychias, which is a nail disease characterised by spoon-shaped nails. Include plenty of dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, beans, seeds, fish, chicken and small amounts of grass-fed red meat no more than once or twice per week.
Biotin or vitamin B7 is one of the less well-known B-vitamins, but is a real beauty hero. It has long been known to strengthen the hooves of animals like horses and the same applies to our nails. Studies have shown that biotin supplements strengthen brittle fingernails, improve firmness and hardness of the nail, nail thickness and reduce splitting (1,2). Biotin is also present in the hair follicles and a lack can lead to brittle hair. There are not many food sources, but peanuts and eggs contain good amounts, Swiss chard, other leafy greens and wholegrains contain some and Beauty & Go SKIN BRILLIANCE drink contains biotin.
Zinc is needed for protein synthesis and cell growth in the body so is essential to healthy hair and nails, both helping with repair and boosting growth. A deficiency can lead to hair loss and a dry flaky scalp along with white spots on fingernails. The best sources are seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, mushrooms, cocoa and lean meat in small amounts. Alcohol and caffeine both block absorption, so cutting back on these will also help keep your levels up.
Omega-3 fats are found in the cells lining the scalp and secrete oils to keep the hair and scalp hydrated. They also have anti-inflammatory effects, so help to soothe scalp problems. The number one best source is oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, herrings and sardines. Good plant sources are flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
- Wholegrains like brown rice and oats provide zinc, iron and B vitamins
- Nuts – like walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts contain zinc and healthy fats
- Water – hair is 25% water and gets dry if dehydrated just like the rest of the body, so drinking 1.5-2 litres everyday will help you achieve lustrous hair.
- Flaxseeds – the best veggie source of omega-3, just 1 tsp a day will help improve the health of your hair and nails
- Dark Green Vegetables – spinach, broccoli and other green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin A, which acts as a powerful natural conditioner for our hair. They also provide iron.
- Salmon – It’s hard to beat salmon for its omega-3 fatty acids, high quality protein, vitamin B12 and iron.
- Beans – provide protein to promote hair growth and zinc and biotin.
Your Beauty Menu
Overnight Chia Oats with banana and dates
Put 2 tbsp chia seeds, 2 tbsp oats and 250ml almond milk in a jar. Add 1 tsp ground flaxseed and either a finely chopped or mashed date or 1 tsp date syrup. Leave in the fridge overnight. The next morning add ½ banana mashed and top with berries and flaked almonds.
Beauty & Go SKIN BRILLIANCE, 10 almonds
Salmon & quinoa salad with baby spinach, herbs and pumpkin seeds
Other Tips for Healthy Hair and Nails
- Eliminate nutrient-depleting foods and drinks. Saturated and trans-fats inhibit the action of omega-3 fatty acids. Sugar can deplete the body of minerals as well as promoting ageing processes in the body, so avoid refined sugars.
- Exercise increases circulation to the scalp and extremities, including the fingers, which helps deliver nutrients and oxygen.
- Stress causes release of the hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands and reduced circulation, both of which can lead to hair and nail problems over time. Try an Indian head massage for stress relief and increasing circulation to the scalp.
- Avoid blow-drying too much, allow hair to dry naturally a couple of times per week if possible and avoid hair straighteners.
- Washing hair too often can strip it of natural oils leaving it dry, as can harsh products containing chemicals. Try to wash your hair every other day and avoid products containing SLS.
- Avoid harsh nails treatments such as acrylic nails. Always use a nail-strengthening product as bare nails break more easily and use acetone free nail polish remover.
- Watch out for shoulder bags snagging long hair every time you put it on your shoulder! Simply tying hair back or switching to a hand-held tote will help avoid bag-snag!
- Include a daily Beauty & Go SKIN BRILLIANCE drink as part of your beauty regime, which contains biotin and vitamin A for strong healthy hair and nails, along with collagen and a host of other skin-feeding nutrients.
1. Floersheim GL. Treatment of brittle fingernails with biotin. Z Hautkr 1989;64:41-8 [in German].
2. Hochman LG, Scher RK, Meyerson MS. Brittle nails: response to daily biotin supplementation. Cutis 1993;51:303-5.