Getting healthy skin, hair and nails involves more than your daily beauty regime. In this blog post, we're discussing the key nutrients you need to include in your diet — and how supplementation can help take your skincare to the next level.
The key dietary considerations for skin, hair and nail health.
Are you ready to make some dietary changes to support better skin, hair or nails? Here are the key nutrients you need:
The link between hydration and skin health is well established. Drinking adequate amounts of water improves skin hydration, both on the surface and deeper within the skin (1). This helps prevent dehydrated skin, which reduces elasticity.
Not only that, but science also demonstrates the importance of hydration for digestion. If you don't consume adequate amounts of water, it could impair your ability to absorb other nutrients required for skin, hair and nail health from your diet.
Protein is one of the key building blocks of your skin, hair and nails. For this reason, it makes sense to ensure your diet contains enough of this important macronutrient. For example, scientists have linked insufficient protein intake to hair loss (2).
Specific components of protein — amino acids — also play a role. There are nine essential amino acids (which you need to get from your diet) — and they all help keep skin healthy.
Historically, the scientific community demonised fat. But times are changing, and we now know it plays an important role in maintaining the health of your hair, skin and nails. In particular, we need fat in our diet to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been linked to thicker hair (3). These are abundant in oily fish, as well as chia seeds and a variety of nuts.
Vitamins and Minerals
It's important to consider micronutrients too. The research links a number of vitamins and minerals to skin, hair and nail health.
This includes fat-soluble vitamins we mentioned above — vitamins A, D, and E — as well as B vitamins and vitamin C (4).
Two key minerals known to improve skin health are zinc and selenium. But another important mineral to consider is iron. Iron deficiency is common, especially in women. One of the key symptoms is brittle, weak and dull hair and nails.
Do you get enough sleep? Are you feeling stressed? Do you exercise regularly — but not too much?
Modern lifestyles, as well as pollution and our bodies' natural processes, all contribute to oxidative stress. This happens when we have excess free radicals in the body — and not enough antioxidants to neutralise them.
Over time, this oxidative damage affects skin health — and can cause premature ageing(5). Ensuring your diet contains a large number of antioxidants — or their building blocks — can help you avoid this.
Glutathione is one of the most powerful antioxidants produced by your body. It helps combat oxidative stress and supports your liver's detoxification processes. Both contribute to healthy skin, hair and nails.
We can't talk about skin health without mentioning collagen. This nutrient gets a lot of press. It's often included in both topical skincare products and dietary supplements designed to support skin health.
But what is it?
In simple terms, collagen is a type of protein that helps hold our tissues together. In fact, it accounts for up to 80% of the proteins found in our skin — and low levels have been linked to a variety of skin conditions.
Research is mixed about the nutritional benefits of collagen for skin health, but it does have some support. For example, one randomised control trial found skin elasticity improved in participants who consumed collagen, compared with the control group (6).
The Role of Supplementation for Healthy Skin, Hair and Nails
A healthy, balanced diet — with adequate hydration — is key for maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails. But if you want to take it to the next level, adding a skin-promoting supplement can help. But which one should you go for?
Collagen vs Undenatured Whey Protein
As we've already mentioned, collagen is one of the most popular supplements for skin health. It makes sense. If a reduction in collagen is responsible for many skin conditions (as well as ageing), logic tells us supplementation will help.
There is some evidence to support this theory but – when we look at the science — it isn't so clear cut.
When you take a collagen supplement, it gets broken down by the digestive system into amino acids and peptides. This means the collagen doesn't necessarily do what you want it to.
Your body may use these amino acids to create more collagen — or it might use them for something else. This makes it difficult to tell whether the beneficial effects of collagen supplementation are down to the collagen itself, or the peptides and amino acids it gets broken down into.
But there's another option — undenatured whey protein.
Unlike collagen, whey is a "complete protein", in that it contains all of the essential amino acids required by your body. There are additional benefits to supplementing with whey protein too.
Remember we spoke about the importance of antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress? Undenatured whey protein contains the building blocks for glutathione — and has been found to increase glutathione levels within the body (7).
This means — as well as providing the essential amino acids your body needs to produce collagen — undenatured whey may also help combat the effects of oxidative stress and support your body's natural detoxification processes.
If you want healthier skin, hair or nails — you need to think about what you put into your body, not just your external skincare routine.
Diet is important, but supplements can help amplify the effects of good nutrition. To provide your body with sufficient amino acids and powerful antioxidants, consider introducing an undenatured whey protein supplement.
- Palma, L., Marques, L. T., Bujan, J., & Rodrigues, L. M. (2015). Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 8, 413.
- Guo, E. L., & Katta, R. (2017). Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology practical & conceptual, 7(1), 1.
- Le Floc'h, C., Cheniti, A., Connétable, S., Piccardi, N., Vincenzi, C. and Tosti, A., 2015. Effect of a nutritional supplement on hair loss in women. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 14(1), pp.76-82.
- Araújo, L.A.D., Addor, F. and Campos, P.M.B.G.M., 2016. Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical forms available and efficacy. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia, 91(3), pp.331-335.
- Rinnerthaler, M., Bischof, J., Streubel, M., Trost, A., & Richter, K. (2015). Oxidative stress in aging human skin. Biomolecules, 5(2), 545-589.
- Proksch, E., Segger, D., Degwert, J., Schunck, M., Zague, V., & Oesser, S. (2014). Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin pharmacology and physiology, 27(1), 47-55.
- Bounous, G. and Gold, P., 1991. The biological activity of undenatured dietary whey proteins: role of glutathione. Clin Invest Med, 14(4), pp.296-309.