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Beauty Supplements: What Nutrients Are Essential for Hair, Skin, and Nails?

Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN+

Many people are conscientious about what they put on their skin, nails, or hair. They moisturize, use sunscreen, and spend money on special polishes, shampoos, and conditioners. But the truth is that beauty starts on the inside.

 

Certain nutrients can help support healthy hair, skin, and nails by acting as cofactors and antioxidants. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cells and tissue and are linked to accelerated aging.1

 

Cofactors are nutrients that help enzymes do their specialized job in the body. They can support healthy skin, hair, and nails by helping form protein structures, especially collagen and keratin, the structural proteins responsible for elasticity and strength.2 3

 

As a result, supplementing with these nutrients could support the appearance of hair, skin, and nails, especially since free radical production goes up and collagen production goes down with age.4 5 Here are some of the most essential vitamins and minerals to keep in mind.

 

Vitamin C

 

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin found in foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and broccoli but can also be taken as a dietary supplement. You can't make vitamin C, so it has to come from your diet.

 

Among its many functions, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help to protect your cells from damage from things like cigarette smoke or exposure to UV radiation from the sun.6 7 Your skin also contains high concentrations of vitamin C.8

 

Vitamin C is also needed to make collagen. Since wrinkle formation is linked to the loss and breakdown of collagen, vitamin C could help minimize the appearance of wrinkles and maintain healthy skin.8 9

 

Studies also show that skin health is associated with fruit and veggies intake. While the reasons are multi-factorial, and there are so many vital nutrients found in fresh produce, vitamin C is closely aligned with fruit and veggie intake because it's found in high amounts in these foods.8

 

A study examining National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data found that higher vitamin C intake was associated with a lower likelihood of wrinkled appearance and dry skin in more than 4000 women.10

 

Vitamin C could also support healthy hair by acting as an antioxidant and because it's needed for iron absorption. Lower iron levels can lead to thin or dull hair, so vitamin C could play a role in maintaining healthy hair by aiding in iron absorption.11

 

Zinc

 

Zinc is a mineral found in foods like oysters, beef, and pumpkin seeds. Zinc is needed for many functions in your body, including the protection of cells from oxidative stress, immune function, and support of skin elasticity and firmness.12 Like vitamin C, you need to get it from your diet because your body can't produce it on its own. Because of these positive health benefits, Zinc is especially helpful for beauty-related products.13 Six percent of the total body zinc is found in the skin, and research suggests that lower zinc levels are linked to skin issues.14

 

Zinc is also needed for the health of hair follicles and may help with hair structure, such as volume or luminity. One study showed that taking a supplement could help reduce the thinning of hair, specifically for those with lower zinc levels.15

 

CoQ10

 

CoQ10 is found in every cell in your body, but levels decline with age. One study found that after twelve weeks of CoQ10 supplementation, participants had reduced signs of aging, including fewer wrinkles.16

 

Similarly, another randomized control trial that combined CoQ10 with collagen supplementation showed improved skin density, fewer wrinkles in the eye area, lower total wrinkle score, and improved skin smoothness.17

 

A women smiling and holding her palms on her face.

 

Copper

 

Copper is a mineral found in food like oysters, liver, and dark leafy greens. It's a cofactor for enzymes involved in many functions, including the maintenance of connective tissues, maintenance of skin and hair pigmentation. Copper is also involved in defense against oxidative damage, which means it can help to protect cells from damage.18

 

Copper is important for hair, skin, and nails because it supports the connective tissues that keep these structures strong. Low levels of copper in the body are also linked to hair graying early, possibly due to the role of copper in melanin production.19

 

Folate

 

Folate is probably most well-known for its role in healthy fetal development during pregnancy, but healthy folate levels are essential for everyone at any age. Folate is a B vitamin needed for the positive appearance of hair volume, skin firmness, and nail strength. It's found in foods like leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

 

Its role in cellular health means that folate is important for the growth and maintenance of hair, skin, and nails. One study suggested that healthy folate levels could stimulate hair growth and support healthy volume in specific types of hair loss.20 And similar to copper, low levels are linked to premature gray hair.21

 

Biotin

 

Biotin has been used in beauty formulations for many years, but its efficacy has been mixed. Biotin is a B vitamin essential for cellular growth, biotin is found in foods like eggs, salmon, avocado, and nuts. It's often touted as a hair and nail health supplement because it plays a role in keratin production, a critical structural component of hair and nails.

 

Some evidence suggests that biotin supplementation supports healthy hair and nail growth, especially for people with low levels.22 Biotin could be especially beneficial for firmer and harder nails, especially for those who already have brittle nails.23

 

Cosmetic products on a counter with Pure Encapsulations supplement bottle.

 

Optimal Nutrients for Healthy Hair, Skin, and Nails

 

It's clear that many nutrients work together to support your hair, skin, and nails. Making sure you have optimal levels through your diet or supplements can help you feel good in your skin.

 

If you're looking for ways to keep the health of your hair, skin, and nails, consider adding some of these essential nutrients into your beauty routine.

 

 

Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian and freelance health writer. She has a master's degree in nutrition and over ten years of experience as a registered dietitian.

 

+The views expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Pure Encapsulations®.

 

 

[1] Gu Y, Han J, Jiang C, Zhang Y. Biomarkers, oxidative stress and autophagy in skin aging. Ageing Res Rev. 2020;59:101036. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2020.101036

 

[2] Moll R, Divo M, Langbein L. The human keratins: biology and pathology. Histochem Cell Biol. 2008;129(6):705-733. doi:10.1007/s00418-008-0435-6

 

[3] Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55. doi:10.1159/000351376

 

[4] Varani J, Dame MK, Rittie L, et al. Decreased collagen production in chronologically aged skin: roles of age-dependent alteration in fibroblast function and defective mechanical stimulation. Am J Pathol. 2006;168(6):1861-1868. doi:10.2353/ajpath.2006.051302

 

[5] Binic I, Lazarevic V, Ljubenovic M, Mojsa J, Sokolovic D. Skin ageing: natural weapons and strategies. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:827248. doi:10.1155/2013/827248

 

[6] Murray JC, Burch JA, Streilein RD, Iannacchione MA, Hall RP, Pinnell SR. A topical antioxidant solution containing vitamins C and E stabilized by ferulic acid provides protection for human skin against damage caused by ultraviolet irradiation. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;59(3):418-425. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2008.05.004

 

[7] Mikirova NA, Ichim TE, Riordan NH. Anti-angiogenic effect of high doses of ascorbic acid. J Transl Med. 2008;6:50. Published 2008 Sep 12. doi:10.1186/1479-5876-6-50

 

[8] Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):866. Published 2017 Aug 12. doi:10.3390/nu9080866

 

[9] Telang PS. Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013;4(2):143-146. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.110593

 

[10] Cosgrove MC, Franco OH, Granger SP, Murray PG, Mayes AE. Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women [published correction appears in Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Aug;88(2):480]. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(4):1225-1231. doi:10.1093/ajcn/86.4.1225

 

[11] Almohanna HM, Ahmed AA, Tsatalis JP, Tosti A. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2019;9(1):51-70. doi:10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6

 

[12] “Office of Dietary Supplements - Zinc.” Accessed April 21, 2022. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/.

 

[13] Bae YS, Hill ND, Bibi Y, Dreiher J, Cohen AD. Innovative uses for zinc in dermatology. Dermatol Clin. 2010;28(3):587-597. doi:10.1016/j.det.2010.03.006

 

[14] Gupta M, Mahajan VK, Mehta KS, Chauhan PS. Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Dermatol Res Pract. 2014;2014:709152. doi:10.1155/2014/709152

 

[15] Park H, Kim CW, Kim SS, Park CW. The therapeutic effect and the changed serum zinc level after zinc supplementation in alopecia areata patients who had a low serum zinc level. Ann Dermatol. 2009;21(2):142-146. doi:10.5021/ad.2009.21.2.142

 

[16] Žmitek K, Pogačnik T, Mervic L, Žmitek J, Pravst I. The effect of dietary intake of coenzyme Q10 on skin parameters and condition: Results of a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Biofactors. 2017;43(1):132-140. doi:10.1002/biof.1316

 

[17] Žmitek K, Žmitek J, Rogl Butina M, Pogačnik T. Effects of a Combination of Water-Soluble CoenzymeQ10 and Collagen on Skin Parameters and Condition:Results of a Randomised, Placebo-Controlled,Double-Blind Study. Nutrients. 2020;12(3):618. Published 2020 Feb 27. doi:10.3390/nu12030618

 

[18] Allen KG, Klevay LM. Copper: an antioxidant nutrient for cardiovascular health. Curr Opin Lipidol. 1994;5(1):22-28. doi:10.1097/00041433-199402000-00005

 

[19] El-Sheikh AM, Elfar NN, Mourad HA, Hewedy ES. Relationship between Trace Elements and Premature Hair Graying. Int J Trichology. 2018;10(6):278-283. doi:10.4103/ijt.ijt_8_18

 

[20] Yousefi M, Namazi MR, Rahimi H, Younespour S, Ehsani AH, Shakoei S. Evaluation of Serum Homocysteine, High-Sensitivity CRP, and RBC Folate in Patients with Alopecia Areata. Indian J Dermatol. 2014;59(6):630. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.143567

 

[21] Daulatabad D, Singal A, Grover C, Chhillar N. Prospective Analytical Controlled Study Evaluating Serum Biotin, Vitamin B12, and Folic Acid in Patients with Premature Canities. Int J Trichology. 2017;9(1):19-24. doi:10.4103/ijt.ijt_79_16

 

[22] Patel DP, Swink SM, Castelo-Soccio L. A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss. Skin Appendage Disord. 2017;3(3):166-169. doi:10.1159/000462981

 

[23] Floersheim GL. Behandlung brüchiger Fingernägel mit Biotin [Treatment of brittle fingernails with biotin]. Z Hautkr. 1989;64(1):41-48.