June 22, 2020

Foods for Healthy Hair, Skin, and Nails

Between spending too much time in the sun, hitting our workout routines at the gym extra hard, and coloring, straightening, and curling our tresses, our hair, skin, and nails take a beating nearly every day. Whether you’re the kind of person who spends hours on their skin care routine or you’ve never gotten a manicure, people of all ages want healthy hair, skin, and nails. Not only is having healthy hair, skin, and nails a confidence booster, it’s also a sign of your overall health. As the body’s largest organ, the health of your skin in particular is connected to the health of your entire body. While supplements promise to deliver the shiny hair you’ve always dreamed of and nails that refuse to break, it’s also possible to get the vitamins and minerals you need by eating foods that promote healthy nails, hair, and skin. 


What factors influence the health of our hair, skin, and nails?


The health of our hair, skin, and nails is influenced by both intrinsic factors and extrinsic factors (1). Intrinsic factors include biological variables, such as aging, that cannot be changed and are based on an individual’s unique body. Extrinsic factors, such as environmental damage, can also influence our health. As we age, the structures of our hair, skin, and nail tissue begin to change, causing visible signs of aging like wrinkles, thinning hair follicles, or brittle nails. Hair, skin, and nails are all primarily composed of keratin, collagen, and elastin. Keratin is the main structural component of hair, nails, and the outer layer of the skin, while collagen is primarily responsible for strength. Elastin helps promote elasticity and resilience. As we age or expose our bodies to environmental stressors, the production of keratin, collagen, and elastin begins to slow and change. While this happens naturally as part of the aging process, it can also occur prematurely with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, smoking, or pollution. It is possible to improve the health of hair, skin, and nails by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that provides the vitamins and minerals considered essential for hair, skin and nail health, strength, and growth.


What vitamins and minerals promote healthy hair, skin and nails?


Before examining which foods to eat to promote healthy hair, skin, and nails, it’s important to understand which vitamins influence their health. 

Antioxidants (Astaxanthin)

Antioxidants are such a popular topic because they have been found to help slow or prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals in the body. This cellular damage can lead to a whole host of problems, including premature aging, increased inflammation, and more.  Astaxanthin is an antioxidant that specifically supports skin health by concentrating in the dermis, or the layer of tissue underneath the outer layer of the skin, where it helps shield your body from harmful UV rays. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can cause signs of aging like sun spots, dryness and wrinkles, so you’ll definitely want to make sure to get your daily dose of astaxanthin if you want healthy, glowing skin. Astaxanthin has also been shown to support muscle function and cardiovascular health.

Niacin (Vitamin B3)

Speaking of healthy, glowing skin, niacin, or vitamin B3, is another vitamin that plays an important role in maintaining that youthful, glowing complexion.  As we’ve established, our skin health is influenced by intrinsic and extrinsic factors like aging and sun damage, and vitamin B3 helps protect us against these factors.  Vitamin B3 helps to prevent changes to our skin caused by the environment and our age and protect against the occurrence of pre-malignant and malignant skin conditions (2). All of that protection means that getting your daily dose of vitamin B3 will help prevent visible signs of aging, and as an added bonus, it also plays a significant part in helping our bodies convert protein, carbs, and fats into usable energy for total body health.

Biotin (Vitamin B7)

If you know nothing else about the vitamins that influence the health of your hair, skin, and nails, you’ve probably heard of biotin, or vitamin B7. Biotin is one of the most important vitamins for supporting skin health, strengthening nails, and supports skin health, including strengthening nails, preventing hair loss, and supporting hair regrowth by improving the body’s keratin infrastructure (3). One study from Switzerland showed that biotin supplementation can increase nail thickness by 25 percent in people who take the vitamin daily (4). Pregnant and nursing women need higher amounts of biotin than women who are not pregnant or nursing, so they may need to add an additional biotin supplement to meet their daily needs. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are renowned for their ability to promote brain and heart health, but they also have some serious benefits when it comes to supporting healthy hair, skin, and nails as well. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help protect the body against harmful UV rays; one study found that participants who took omega-3s daily for three months increased their resistance to sunburns by 136% (5). They can also help reduce the appearance of acne and may help reduce redness, dryness, and other signs of skin irritation. Animal studies have shown that omega-3s can also boost hair growth in patients who have suffered from hair loss (6).

Vitamin K2

If you love your daily salad or regularly consume leafy greens like kale, algae, and broccoli, you’re probably getting your daily allotment of vitamin K2 each day. If not, you could be missing out on this important vitamin, which helps to prevent bruising and improve skin health in addition to strengthening our bones. Vitamin K2 strengthens the weak capillaries that break and pool blood at the surface of the skin, causing bruising, so getting an adequate amount of the vitamin helps to improve healing and reduce the likelihood of bruising. 


What are the best foods to eat for healthy hair, skin, and nails?


Step away from the gummy vitamins - it’s possible to get all of the vitamins and minerals mentioned above from real food. Our bodies are better able to absorb vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients when they come from food, which means you’re more likely to get what you actually need. Real food supplements like GEM offer the best of both worlds by filling in the gaps that may result from an incomplete diet with a whole food supplement that the body digests and absorbs as real food. It just so happens that some of the best foods to eat for healthy hair, skin, and nails can be found inside every GEM bite.


To get your daily dose of antioxidants, add a little spirulina to your salad. If there was ever a superfood, spirulina might be it. This blue-green algae is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet and has been consumed by people around the world for millennia. The antioxidants in spirulina can help repair damaged skin and promote hair growth by supporting collagen, preserving the connective tissues of hair follicles, and protecting scalp cells (8).  


Niacin can help you get the healthy, glowing skin you’ve always wanted, and you’ll be sure to get your daily dose of vitamin B3 when you add chlorella to your diet. Chlorella is another algae superfood that is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals including vitamin B3. In addition to helping you reclaim your youthful glow, chlorella can also help control blood pressure, increase your aerobic endurance, and help manage blood sugar levels.


Biotin helps keep your hair, skin, and nails healthy and strong, and as it turns out, it does the same for mushrooms (9). Biotin helps protect mushrooms from parasites and predators, and it also helps protect your skin. Mushrooms are best consumed raw in order to maximize the amount of biotin you receive from each bite.

Additionally, mushrooms are high in vitamin D which is proven to support the health of hair, skin, and nails. Because vitamin D aids in the production of new hair follicles, a deficiency can cause hair loss while getting adequate amounts can promote thickness of hair (10).  Another symptom of vitamin D deficiency is peeling and brittle nails (11). This is because a vitamin D deficiency also causes irregular levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body (11). With 100% DV of plant based vitamin D from GEM, you can promote nail and hair strengthening by taking your bite every day! 

Chia Seeds

Fatty fish like salmon is most often recommended as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, but you can also find them in chia seeds. In fact, chia seeds contain more omega-3s than salmon when compared gram for gram (12). They also contain a healthy dose of niacin, which further improves the health of your skin. Plus, they’re a great alternative for people who don’t eat fish. 


Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are packed with important nutrients. Yes, that means what you think it means - you can improve the health and appearance of your hair, skin, and nails by eating hummus! The manganese found in chickpeas is known to help strengthen hair, skin and nails. For skin, manganese fights free radicals to reduce wrinkles, and for hair manganese is thought to help strengthen and aid in growth (13). The protein in chickpeas promotes hair and nail growth as well. 

Other foods that are healthy for your hair skin and nails include, but aren't limited to the following:

  • sweet potatoes
  • whole grains
  • avocados 
  • walnuts
  • ​flaxseeds

And even healthy fats are known as the building blocks to healthy hair, skin, and nails. 


By the Numbers:


28: Number of days it takes the skin to renew itself (14). 

50-150: Number of hair strands shed per day (15). 

4: Average number of months in the lifespan of an adult nail (16).


Myth Buster:

  • Contrary to what you may have heard growing up, brushing your hair 100 strokes a day is not good for it. Excessive brushing can damage hair, especially if you have thin, weak, or fragile strands. A few strokes on dry hair with a natural bristle brush is enough to get the circulation going in your scalp and distribute your natural oils.
  • Sure, you need to moisturize your skin, but great skincare starts from the inside out. No matter what the advertisements tell you, there aren’t enough products in the world to make up for eating an unbalanced diet that’s lacking in the vitamins and minerals you need for healthy skin or counteract the effects of dehydration such as vitamin A, vitamin D, B vitamins and more. Make sure you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water.


1. https://www.lifeextension.com/protocols/skin-nails-hair/skin-hair-and-nail-health#SectionFactorsThatCompromiseSkinHairAndNailHealth

 2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20354654/

3. https://www.healthline.com/health/biotin-hair-growth#research

4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8477615/

5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12771037/

6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6164340/

7. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-you-get-your-nutrients-from-food-or-from-supplements

8. https://akclinics.org/blog/benefits-of-anti-oxidants-for-hair/#:~:text=Antioxidant%20helps%20to%20improve%20the,promote%20the%20healthy%20hair%20growth.

9. https://www.healthline.com/health/biotin-rich-foods#mushrooms

10. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321673#symptoms

11. https://www.ibtimes.com/vitamin-d-deficiency-your-nails-can-tell-if-you-lack-vitamin-2914698

12. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds

13. https://www.stylecraze.com/articles/benefits-of-chick-peas-for-skin-hair-and-health/#WhatIsTheNutritionalProfileOfChickpeas?

14. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/cosmetic-procedures-overview-skin#:~:text=Throughout%20your%20life%2C%20your%20skin,vitality%20of%20this%20protective%20organ.

15. https://www.allthingshair.com/en-us/hair-care/hair-loss/how-many-hairs-do-you-lose-a-day/#:~:text=You're%20probably%20even%20wondering,natural%20cycle%20of%20hair%20growth.

16. https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-long-and-short-of-aging-nails-2223467

This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and contains trusted sources.

Our goal at GEM is to give readers up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics. GEM content is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and articles undergo an extensive review process.

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