Nutrition for Healthy Skin, Hair, and Nails

by | Mar 28, 2020 | HOLISTIC BEAUTY, Holistic Nutrition

Amidst all the blog posts out there right now about how to strengthen your immune system or stay healthy during quarantine, I thought I’d switch things up and talk about something a little more fun and light-hearted: nutrition for healthy skin, hair, and nails!

Since we’re all socially distancing these days, this is the PERFECT time to cultivate some new healthy habits to help your hair, skin, and nails look as beautiful as possible for when we all emerge from our caves into the summer sun in a few months time!

I’ve personally been taking advantage of all this time at home to reset my skin pH and oil production by not using ANY products on my face. That’s right. I’m not even cleansing *gasp!* But, don’t worry, if you’re not ready to give up your products for a little skin detox (or if it’s just not your thing), there are some other easy changes you can make to give your body the nutrients it needs to make shiny, strong hair, smooth and supple skin, and nice, hard nails!

Let’s talk about all the factors that play a role in the health of your skin, hair, and nails (and note- this blog will mostly be focused on skin health, but all the recommendations will have beneficial effects on your hair and nails too!)

Stress

Diet

Weather and Sun Exposure

Toxins

Hormone Imbalances

Dysbiosis

Heredity

Sleep Quality and Quantity

Medications

Food Allergies and Sensitivities

As you can see, there are many factors that affect the health of your skin. To keep this blog post on the shorter side, today I’ll mostly be focusing on diet, with a few other recommendations sprinkled in.

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First off, as always, eating a diet full of natural, alive, good-quality whole foods is key. But if you’re already eating your veggies, getting a good amount of fiber, and mostly staying away from processed foods, and still feeling like your skin, hair, and nail game could be better, here are a few suggestions.

Antioxidants are Ace (literally)

Antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, and Selenium are incredibly important for keeping skin supple and youthful-looking, and hair and nails strong and healthy. In general, antioxidants work wonders for us by neutralizing the damage done by free-radicals caused by exposure to things like pollution, pesticides, eating fried and highly-processed foods, smoking, and consuming alcohol.

In addition to being our skin superheroes, these antioxidants all earn their spot on the A Team by being incredibly important for skin, hair, and nail health in their own right. Vitamin A, for example, keeps skin cells healthy and plump. Got chronically dry and chapped skin? You may be deficient in Vitamin A!

Vitamin C is special for skin health because not only is it a powerful antioxidant that mops up free-radicals, like those from too much exposure to the sun (helping to prevent premature aging to the skin), it’s also required for optimal collagen production and utilization!

Vitamin E is like Vitamin C’s side-kick; it helps the body regenerate Vitamin C and is therefore important for collagen production as well. Finally, we have Selenium, arguably the most important mineral for hair, skin, and nail health! Selenium plays a key role in maintaining skin elasticity and in the right dosages, increases hair growth rate! But a word of caution: you can have too much of a good thing with Selenium, so I recommend sticking to dietary sources like Brazil nuts, instead of supplementing.

Quell Inflammation with Omega-3s!

If improving your skin or hair game isn’t new to you, you’ve most likely heard of (or experienced) the wonders of fish oil. Omega-3 fish oil isn’t just for heart and brain health, it’s also been shown to have amazing effect on the skin- specifically with clearing up cystic acne. Omega-3s help decrease the occurrence of clogged pores, decrease skin dryness, and overall production of inflammatory agents in all body systems.

The two special essential fatty acids in fish oil, EPA, and DHA, cannot be manufactured by our bodies, so supplementing or eating foods like oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) that are high in these beneficial oils is crucial! If you’re plant-based, don’t worry- there are now algae-based Omega-3 oils you can purchase that are just as beneficial.

Cheat Aging with Collagen!

Consider collagen your new secret weapon when it comes to beautiful hair, skin, and nails. Collagen is a type of protein that is used for many different functions in our bodies. We can of course produce our own collagen, but collagen-rich foods and collagen peptides (a dietary protein-powder-like supplement) can be taken to boost our natural collagen and amino acid production.

There are several types of collagen and they all work wonders in our bodies. From improving gut health to building strong joints and cartilage, collagen is also well known for it’s added benefit of keeping hair strong and thick, improving nail strength, and keeping our skin looking youthful. As mentioned above, vitamin C is essential for the absorption and assimilation of collagen and the two of them together are a dynamic duo to keep your complexion bright, even, and supple.

Fermented Foods: Your New Beauty Best Friend

I can’t go a day without eating something fermented- I’ve done experiments with myself of eating fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi everyday for several weeks and then stopping, and did it ever make a difference in my skin! Fermented foods, i.e., foods that are alive with gut microbiome-supporting probiotic cultures, are essential for improving the health of the gut.

Did you know that skin is a detox organ? Similarly to our digestive and elimination system that gets rid of unwanted toxins and wastes, our skin fulfills a similar function by allowing us to sweat out toxins (and sometimes, remove toxins or react to other unwanted agents in less-satisfying ways like breakouts or hives and rashes). So by keeping our main detoxification system, the gut, working as smoothly as possible, our skin no longer has to play backup. Aside from collagen-rich foods, eating fermented foods daily is pretty much the best way to do this!

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Colourful Foods

I love the saying “eat the rainbow” as colourful foods are so essential for our mental health and wellbeing, but colourful foods are important for beauty as well. Many deep red, purple, blue, and orange foods contain antioxidants that play a major role in fighting free radical damage and keeping us from looking haggard and aged.

There are other amazing benefits to other colourful foods though! Many green foods, like the cruciferous veggies, are rich-sources of sulforaphane, a compound that is essential for detoxification. Anthocyanins, a compound that is responsible for some red and blue hues in fruits and veggies, are important because they strengthen the walls of tiny blood vessels that supply nutrients to the face. Of course, there are many other added benefits to eating lots of colourful fruits and veggies (these high fibre foods are key for healthy elimination), so keep track and do your best to eat a whole food that is each colour of the rainbow everyday!

Final considerations

If you’re feeling like you want to take a multi-level approach to improving the health of your skin, hair, and nails, here are a few other recommendations I have:

        Ensure you’re getting a good quality sleep every night. Go to bed and wake up at about the same time everyday, aiming for at least eight hours per night. Try to reduce social jet lag (staying up later on weekends and having your shortest sleep of the week on Sunday night).

        Practise safe sun exposure. Sure, too much sun exposure can be detrimental, but the sun is also our best natural source of the essential Vitamin D, which most people in North America are deficient in. By safely exposing your bare skin to the sun for no longer than 30 minutes per day (note: this obviously depends on where you’re located in the world, but up here in the north, 30 minutes is safe for most people), you’ll increase vitamin D levels which impacts everything from skin health to mental health.

        Practise lymphatic drainage regularly. Unsure of what this is? Your lymphatic system is essentially the clean up crew of your body, it’s main task is to clean up unwanted toxins, wastes, and other unwanted materials. How does one promote lymphatic drainage, you ask? By movement like yoga, rebounding, dancing, massage, and an ayurvedic pre-bath-time tradition called dry brushing.

      Use clean beauty products! As you’re well aware of now, toxins can wreak major havoc on the health of your skin. So why do basically all conventional skin-care and makeup products contain dozens of toxic chemicals?! These are no longer causing free-radical damage, but can also be incredibly disruptive to the health of the gut and the hormonal system, which both inadvertently play a role in skin health. If you want beautiful skin, it’s important to make the switch to natural beauty products. Raynie wrote an awesome article about it if you want to check it out here.

That was a lot! But I hope you learned something new and will emerge from your self-isolation looking even more beautiful than before!

If you’re struggling with a specific skin issue like acne, rosacea, psoriasis, or eczema, or any other health concerns, and can’t seem to find relief, I’d love to help out! Contact me for a free 15 minute consultation by clicking this link!

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