Building healthy habits and using the right products to look after your skin, hair and hands is important… but there’s a limit to how much they can help. True health starts from the inside, with a healthy, balanced diet that’s rich in the right nutrients to feed your body.
So the best place to start creating healthy hair, skin and nails is the food in your fridge.
What you eat can have a massive effect on how you look and feel. Poor nutrition can show up as dull hair, dry skin and brittle nails. Giving your body the nourishing foods it needs not only makes you feel better, but also helps with healthy, glowing skin and strong nails.
We asked Consultant Dermatologist Dr Shreya Andric and Accredited Practising Dietitian Shivaun Conn to give us the lowdown on which nutrients are the most important. And with their help, we created a list of the top 10 foods that are good for your skin, hair and nails.
What are the best nutrients to nourish from the inside?
Dr Shreya says it’s important to recognise that one of the main building blocks for healthy hair, skin and nails is the protein keratin. Your body produces this protein and uses it to give your hair and nails structure, while also providing a flexible barrier that protects the upper layers of your skin.
She adds that while you can buy keratin supplements for your nails and skin, with the right nutrients in your diet, your body will easily produce enough.
The top 5 of these nutrients to help your body create keratin are:
- Biotin: Part of the vitamin B group, which helps to maintain healthy hair and nails, as well as assists with converting food into energy.
- L-cysteine: a semi-essential amino acid that’s vital for forming keratin.
- Zinc: a well-known skin-supporting nutrient that can be especially beneficial for teenagers with acne. It also helps to produce the cells that create keratin.
- Vitamin C: a water-based antioxidant vitamin that plays an important part in producing collagen, which provides elasticity to skin, and is important as your skin ages. Like zinc, vitamin C also supports the production of keratin-creating cells.
- Vitamin A: a fat-based antioxidant vitamin that your body uses to repair and replace skin cells.
Top 10 foods to eat for healthy skin
Focusing on a healthy and balanced diet will ensure you get a good supply of these nutrients and is the best thing you can do for your skin. But if you’re unable to maintain a healthy diet consistently, supplements can provide extra support.
Accredited Practising Dietitian Shivaun Conn says her top 10 food recommendations for those five essential nutrients are:
- Eggs: chock-full of goodness, eggs are rich in protein, biotin and vitamin A.
- Onions: amongst their many layers, onions contain N-acetylcysteine, an antioxidant that your body uses to form L-cysteine. They also contain vitamin C and zinc.
- Salmon: this delicacy is a great source of protein and biotin. It also provides omega-3 fatty acids, which are important if you have pimples at any age.
- Sweet potato: covering your ABCs, these are high in vitamin A, biotin and vitamin C.
- Sunflower seeds: sunflowers look amazing in your garden and the seeds are great to include in your diet because they’re rich in biotin and zinc.
- Mango: this sweet treat is high in vitamins A and C.
- Garlic: like its onion-y cousin, garlic contains the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine.
- Kale: this leafy ‘superfood’ has high levels of vitamins A and C in one veggie.
- Beef liver: one of the highest food sources of biotin, plus high levels of protein and vitamin A.
- Carrots: whether they’re purple, orange or any other colour, these root veggies are high in beta carotene (which your body uses to create vitamin A) and vitamin C.
This might look like an overwhelming list of food to include in your diet. But don’t worry: you don’t have to eat all of them every day.
Planning for healthy eating
One habit that will help you to eat more foods for healthy skin, hair and nails is meal planning. Whether you plan by the week or by month, pre-planning your meals will give you the opportunity to regularly incorporate the best foods for your skin into your diet.
The internet is full of recipe ideas so you can try out new meals, as well as including household favourites.
There are also several apps that can help you with your planning, but a simple notepad or planner is really all you need to get started.
When is it time for professional help?
Improving your diet and eating more of the right foods can help with better skin and hair but sometimes, the issue is more than skin deep. If you don't see any improvements in your health after incorporating the foods above for a few months, you may need to seek professional help.
Consulting with your GP is a good place to start, as they can refer you to the correct specialist to support you.
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Dr Shreya Andric is a Fellow of the Australian College of Dermatologists with a wide breadth of general dermatology knowledge as well as specialist interest in areas of cosmetic dermatology, paediatric dermatology and genital dermatology, among others.
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board June 2021