The skincare market alone is full of creams, serums, spritzes, and a dozen other formulas that promise glowing, healthy skin–-from the outside in. Undoubtedly, many of these products are great for cleansing and protecting the skin from the many pollutants in our environment. But if you’re not also supporting your health from the inside out, a topical serum isn’t going to make a huge difference in your skin.
The true foundation of skin, hair, and nail health is cellular health, and cellular health starts with phospholipids and essential fatty acids. Our cell membranes need phospholipids to maintain their flexibility and function, protect the cell from UV light damage and environmental toxins, and absorb hydration and nutrients. Essential fatty acids (EFAs), omega-3s and omega-6s, (Yes, you need both!) are also critical cellular fuel.
When you have an abundance of phospholipids and EFAs nourishing your cells, skin, hair, and nail health come naturally, even in the face of aging and environmental pollutants.
In this article, we’ll discuss why skin, hair, and nail health starts from inside the body, how to support it primarily through your diet and healthy fats, and a few additional supplements you can add for extra support if necessary.
Skin, Hair, and Nail Health Starts From Within
The nutrients you put in your body are the foundation of all other aspects of your health–-brain health, heart health, gut health–-so why wouldn’t it be the same for skin, hair, and nail health? True, you can absorb nutrients transdermally, so cleaning and moisturizing your skin with healthy and clean products is important.
But dry, brittle, lifeless skin, hair, and nails are a sign that something internally is off–-your cells need support and nourishment. Let’s take a closer look at what those key nutrients are.
When you consider that phospholipids are key to the structural barrier of our cells, it really makes sense that they are also essential for skin, hair, and nails–-the outer barriers protecting the body. What is essential on the cellular level translates to the system level and then the whole organism.
Phospholipid levels decrease with aging, chronic disease, environmental and chemical burdens, and stress. Supplementing a phospholipid complex like BodyBio PC can help your cells retain their structure, supporting skin, hair, and nail integrity.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
We have two main types of essential fatty acids: omega-6s or linoleic acid, and omega-3s or alpha linolenic acid.
Linoleic acid (LA) is critical for healthy looking skin and maintaining the skin barrier.
Linoleic acid has been demonized by many health professionals, and as you would find it in a grocery store–-in canola, cottonseed, soy, safflower, sunflower, and peanut oil–-you absolutely should avoid it! These oils are highly processed, heated, oxidized, and are extremely damaging to our cells. They produce free radicals in the body that cause inflammation and wreak havoc on our systems.
But in its purest, non-oxidized form, such as in organic, cold-pressed safflower and flax seed oils, linoleic acid is essential to structural integrity and barrier function of the skin .
Alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, is just as critical to skin health as linoleic acid. ALA is also critical for photoprotection from direct sunlight on skin, and it modulates the inflammatory and immune responses. It also helps protect against wrinkles and the destruction of collagen, another structural component of skin, hair, and nails .
Both EFAs support reduced skin sensitivity and faster wound healing due to their roles in managing inflammation and structural integrity in the skin .
Essential fatty acids are called “essential” for a reason–-you have to get them from your diet. The body can not synthesize them like it can do for some other vitamins and key nutrients. So it’s worth paying close attention to how you’re getting essential fatty acids in your diet.
What About Fish Oil?
With all of our expounding on the importance of essential fatty acids, you would think that fish oil would be the holy grail of skin, hair, and nail supplements. But that’s not really the case [5, 6]. A 2019 meta-analysis review actually concluded that fish oil supplements are not recommended for treating psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin condition .
In contrast to the popularity and glowing reports on fish oil–-for everything from managing inflammation to promoting brain health–-there are a few problems with many fish oils on the market today.
- Many commercial fish oils are oxidized and toxic. The way they are processed heats the oil and creates lipid peroxides, which are extremely damaging to your cells.
- Despite popular belief, you can get too many omega-3s. The other problem, even with a cleanly processed, non-oxidized fish oil, is that it is a super concentrated form of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are wonderful, but they need to be balanced by the omega-6 fatty acids in a 4:1 ratio (omega-6 to omega-3). This is the ideal ratio of essential fatty acids for human health.
The body is all about balance. When this balance is skewed, even a health supportive nutrient like omega-3s can become dangerous.
That said, a high-quality fish oil supplement can be beneficial when combined with the right testing and dosing for your personal needs. If you want to use fish oil to support your health, please work with a knowledgeable healthcare provider. Otherwise, a healthy diet that includes SMASH fish (see list below) provides abundant omega-3 fatty acids.
How to Support Skin, Hair, and Nail Health
There are several ways we can support skin, hair, and nail health through our diet and strategic supplementation. Ideally, we want to focus on consuming the healthy fats that support and strengthen our cells, and then supplement if needed once the right diet is in place.
Prioritize essential fatty acids in your diet by regularly consuming foods like:
- SMASH fish: Wild-caught salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and hering
- Organic raw pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, etc.
- Grass-fed meat, including organ meats.
This is also where a clean, cold-pressed oil such as BodyBio Balance Oil, made from organic safflower and flax seed oils, can be very useful in adding essential fatty acids to your diet. Just add the oil to anything you would consume cold–-never heat the oil to prevent oxidation and free radical formation.
This could look like:
- Using the oil to make salad dressings and vinaigrettes
- Adding it to smoothies
- Mixing it into cold dishes like potato salad or even overnight oats
- Or simply have a spoonful every morning for an essential fatty acid boost!
Now that we’ve taken a look at some dietary choices to increase your essential fatty acid intake for skin, hair, and nail health, let’s cover a few additional support supplements you may want to consider.
Vitamins C is also a key nutrient for skin, hair, and nail health. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger, protecting the skin from UV and toxin damage. It also stimulates collagen synthesis and supports wound healing.
Normal skin contains high levels of vitamin C, and we can’t store this water-soluble vitamin in the body. So replenishing it regularly is essential to maintain healthy skin. Though many serums and facial oils contain vitamin C, research suggests that maintaining internal vitamin C levels is more critical for skin health .
Vitamin E, on the other hand, is a lipid-soluble essential vitamin. Like vitamin C, its use in skincare products is ubiquitous, and it is another powerful antioxidant, photoprotector, and skin barrier support [9, 10]. Vitamin E may also be supportive for regulating hormonal fluctuations, which often contribute to skin conditions like acne.
Collagen is a skin, hair, and nail health superstar. Since collagen peptides have become a popular health product, dozens of studies on its effect on skin, hair, and nails have emerged [11, 12, 13, 14]. It seems to have potential benefits for skin elasticity and skin aging, especially.
Collagen is a key structural component of skin, hair, and nails, but it’s also essentially a protein source. Collagen can be broken down into amino acids to create new proteins, like keratin, for strong healthy hair. Many people, especially women, are not getting enough protein in their diets, so this may explain why collagen peptides are so beneficial for many. And again, collagen acts as an antioxidant, combating free radicals and preventing oxidative damage. (This is becoming a theme!)
There are many other supplements and nutrients that support skin, hair, and nail health, but these are some of the major players you may want to consider. Remember, having a healthy diet and getting enough phospholipids and EFAs comes first, not just for your skin, hair, and nails, but for your health overall.
Build a Strong Foundation for Skin, Hair, and Nail Health
To review, the foundation of healthy skin, hair, and nails starts with:
- A healthy, whole foods, anti-inflammatory diet that prioritizes key macro and micronutrients like phospholipids, essential fatty acids, and vitamins.
- Additional supplementation of phospholipids, EFAs, and select nutrients where appropriate. Work with your doctor to create the right plan for you!