may be in the eye of the beholder but glossy hair and strong nails are more than skin-deep: Like your skin, both are markers of your health, revealing where stress may have gotten the best of you and when your chronic late nights might be wreaking havoc. And let’s be real: Hair that shines and nails that don’t break make us feel downright good about ourselves.
And yet, even the most hair and nails-fixated among us may be spending too much time and money in salons rather than glancing at what we put on our plate. With this in mind, we’ve rounded up the five best nutrients for healthy hair and nails—and where you can find them in both foods and products.
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that functions as a potent antioxidant, helping you combat free radical damage—and the premature aging that comes with it—and playing a vital role in everything from your eye health to your longevity to the strength of your nails. It’s also a boon when it comes to your hair. Why? Because your body needs vitamin A
to produce sebum—an oily substance, created by your hair’s sebaceous glands, that works to naturally condition your locks and keeps you from suffering from a dry, itchy scalp.
Eat it in…
fruits and vegetables that are high in beta-carotene—that deep red/orange pigment found in plants such as carrots and sweet potatoes. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body, potentially leaving you with nails that don’t split—and hair that does the same.
Find it in…Vitacost Synergy's Hair, Skin, & Nails Formula
.Packed with 1,000 IU of vitamin A, as well as riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and more, this nutritional supplement nourishes your hair and nails from the inside out.
Yes, the vitamin most closely associated with fabulous hair and nails really is worth its salt: Also known as Vitamin B7, the hair and nails hero functions as a coenzyme in the body, meaning it’s necessary to convert and utilize macronutrients such as fatty acids and amino acids. And when they’re used, they help promote a more youthful appearance—especially in terms of your hair and nails.
Indeed, even though a biotin deficiency is rare, symptoms of a shortage include thin, brittle hair and nails. On the flipside, a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology
found that taking supplements with biotin for three to six months can help decrease hair loss and shedding and increase
growth. As for your nails: Biotin
also organically encourages cell growth, which is essential for longer “hooks.”
Eat it in…
organ meats, such as beef liver, as well as whole eggs, sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, and cheddar cheese.
Find it in…Reserveage Nutrition's Tres Beauty 3
. This dietary supplement was designed specifically with your nails and mane in mind: Formulated to nutritionally support the building blocks for healthy hair and nails, it contains 300 mcg of biotin, as well as zinc, copper, and super-lubricating hyaluronic acid.
3. Vitamin C
Your mother’s go-to vitamin isn’t just for cultivating immunity: Vitamin C helps manufacture collagen—a key protein that delivers integrity, shape, and strength to your hair and nails. A powerful antioxidant
, vitamin C may also aid in safeguarding you against oxidative stress and its effects on your hair and nails. What’s more, the popular vitamin plays a crucial role in your body’s ability to absorb iron—another nutrient that helps keep your tips and tresses strong and healthy.
Eat it in…
the most alluring fruits at your farmer’s market. Blueberries, guavas, kiwis, oranges, papayas and strawberries all brim with this important nutrient.
Find it in…Nature's Bounty Hair Skin & Nails
. Not your child’s gummy vitamin, these strawberry-flavored gems contain 15 mg of hair and nail-strengthening vitamin C.
4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
You may be well-aware that omega-3s
are a windfall for heart and brain health…but also suppler hair and nails? Absolutely. Omega-3s help protect your hair from sun damage, which can lead to fragile strands, while also keeping your scalp from flaking. Additionally, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology
showed that taking omega-3 supplements, in conjunction with antioxidants, assists with the reduction of hair loss (and the improvement of hair elasticity). Further, the essential oils found in Omega-3s nourish the cells in the nail bed, thereby prompting growth and health.
Eat it in…
all the “good” fats: nuts and seeds (particularly flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts), plant oils like soybean oil, fatty fish, and seafood that you often find in a can, such as sardines and anchovies.
Find it in…Naturewise's Organic Flaxseed Oil
. Made with cold-pressed organic flaxseed oil—a top choice for those who’d like to get their Omega-3s from a plant source—these capsules urge healthier hair and nails through the inclusion of the fatty acids your body needs.
L…what? You’re not alone—and yet you’re about to get in on one of dermatology’s biggest secrets. Earning a stellar reputation in the field of hair loss, L-cysteine is considered a “semi-essential” amino acid, meaning you make small amounts of it in your body. Receiving larger amounts, whether it be through food or supplements, can make a difference to the quality of your hair and nails. First, it’s one of the building blocks of the peptide glutathione—dubbed the “mother of all antioxidants”—which helps to prevent damage from free radicals (and helps you
from seeing the side effects of this on your hair and nails).
Secondly, the National Institutes of Health
reports that L-cysteine works towards strengthening hair (and may slow down hair loss due to diseases such as alopecia). Lastly? It’s a central ingredient to the synthesis of collagen—again, a protein required for supporting lustrous hair and nails.†
Eat it in…
high protein foods, including turkey, chicken, pork, yogurt, cheese, beef, tuna and eggs. Happen to be a vegetarian? Lentils and oatmeal contain admirable amounts of L-cysteine too.
Find it in…Solgar's L-Cysteine
. Containing 500 mg of the amino acid, this gluten, wheat, and dairy-free supplement provides “free form” L-cysteine for maximum absorption and assimilation. Who needs a salon when you’ve got such nutrients at your (healthy) fingertips?
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.