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What Are The Essential Vitamins Women Should Take For Healthy Hair, Skin And Nails?

Written by: Anna Misztela, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Before listing the essential vitamins women should take for healthy hair, skin and nails, it is important to reiterate that the first step towards your beauty goals is to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet. For example, aim to consume healthier, unsaturated fats such as olive oil, or alternatively plant-based fats such as those from avocados, or fats from seeds and nuts. These healthy fats can help maintain moisture in your hair, skin and nails.

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Also, recall that your hair and nails are mostly protein (keratin), so eating the daily recommended amount of protein will benefit your hair. Poultry, lean red meat, seafood, and fish such as salmon and tuna are all excellent sources of protein. Carbohydrates are also important, as they produce the energy that keeps our body going, so be very wary of low-carbohydrate or low-calorie diets. If you subscribe to a low-carbohydrate diet, you may be at risk of interfering with your body’s energy capacity to support healthy hair growth and find yourself with brittle and thinning hair. On the other hand, if you are on a low-calorie diet, you may be missing out on important vitamins and minerals, most likely those healthy fats and proteins we just mentioned.


A balanced diet will provide you with a wealth of essential vitamins and minerals, but which of these are the most important for your hair, skin and nails? Let’s begin with the vitamins, and no better place to start than vitamin A. The first important thing you need to know about vitamin A is that your body cannot produce it – it must come from your diet or through supplementation. It can benefit the appearance of skin by aiding the growth of skin cells (which decreases with age) and collagen (which thins with age), and thus help slow the appearance of wrinkles. Vitamin A also regulates cellular activity around the hair follicle, hair shaft and their neighboring sebaceous, oil-producing glands. These oils (sebum) are the natural moisturizers of your skin and can reduce the brittleness of your hair and provide a lovely, shiny appearance. However, if insufficient vitamin A is present and this cellular regulation breaks down, too much sebum will be produced, your hair and skin will appear more oily, and your skin will be more prone to acne breakouts. Meats, carrots, and sweet potatoes are all excellent dietary sources of vitamin A.


Next up are the group of B vitamins that help create the red blood cells that bring nutrients and oxygen to all areas of your body, including your hair, skin and nails. There are 12 in all, but of particular importance are vitamins B5, B6, B7 and B9. Like vitamin A, your body cannot produce vitamins B6 and B9, while vitamins B5 and B7 are produced in small, insufficient amounts by the bacteria in your gut.


Vitamin B5 (also known as pantothenic acid) is an important contributor to your immune system and to the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fatty acids. Furthermore, it also heavily factors in the synthesis of lipids, cholesterol, hemoglobin, hormones, and neurotransmitters. Its role in the synthesis of lipids has been suggested to help preserve the integrity of our skin, thus preventing moisture loss and maintaining skin hydration. As an additional benefit, several studies indicate that vitamin B5 can be effective in the treatment of acne, both by a lowering of the frequency of new outbreaks and through a regression of existing lesions. Finally, there are reports of its effectiveness in treating hair loss resulting from androgenetic alopecia and telogen effluvium, in the latter case, with a notably large effect on the diameter of the newly regrown hair, adding body and fullness. Excellent dietary sources of vitamin B5 include mushrooms, peanuts, avocados, chicken, tuna, and eggs.


Vitamin B6 is important for protein metabolism, including keratin and melanin, the main proteins in hair. By doing so, it ensures that hair follicles are supplied with sufficient keratin and melanin to promote hair growth. It also regulates the release of certain hormones, such as testosterone which can negatively impact hair growth by reducing the length of time hair spends in the growth or anagen phase, and via a reduction in the size of the hair follicle. To reap these benefits of vitamin B6, chickpeas, bananas, tuna, salmon and poultry should frequently appear in your diet.


This brings us to vitamin B7, or biotin, which is surrounded by a certain degree of controversy. There is no disputing, however, its importance in metabolizing carbohydrates, amino acids and fats, all essential processes for general health, growth and development. Though most of us will maintain adequate levels of biotin through diet, some women could be in danger of falling below these levels during pregnancy and lactation. Despite all the excitement about the benefits of biotin for hair growth, there is not much evidence to support this notion with the exception of those that are deficient (for the reasons just mentioned, inherited genetic deficiencies or other underlying conditions). There appears to be more data supporting the beneficial effects of biotin on your nails, by helping decrease their brittleness and increasing their thickness. To ensure your biotin levels are in good shape, roasted almonds and sunflower seeds are not only good sources, but also make an excellent snack choice.


And finally, vitamin B9 (also known as folate), which contributes to amino acid and DNA synthesis. A deficiency in folate, as it relates to hair, skin and nails, has been linked to a condition where patches of the skin become depigmented (vitiligo). However, supplementation with folate has been found to not only lead to a re-pigmentation of these patches, but also to a reduction in the spreading of said patches.


This now brings us to vitamin C, which we must acquire through diet or supplementation. Though you may be more familiar with the role of vitamin C in disease prevention, it plays two very important roles for our hair, skin and nails. First, it acts independently as a strong antioxidant, but also in concert with vitamin E as an antioxidant team. We know the harmful UV rays of the sun can produce reactive oxide species (ROS) that can be very damaging to our skins cells and skin appearance. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C can help neutralize these ROS to help maintain clear, smooth and healthy-looking skin. And when it works in tandem with vitamin E, it does so by helping vitamin E rejuvenate it’s antioxidant weaponry after their deployment to neutralize ROS. The second important role of vitamin C is in its known ability to increase the production rates of collagen, the body’s most abundant protein and chief building block. As we grow older, our body does not sustain the same rate of collagen production we enjoyed in our youth. Getting a bit of a boost in collagen production can help reduce the inevitable effects of skin aging, improve wound healing, while increasing skin elasticity and hydration. You probably already know great dietary sources of vitamin C, but as a reminder you cannot go wrong with citrus fruits, tomatoes, mango, kiwi and peppers to start.


As mentioned above, vitamin E is another important vitamin, especially for your skin. As a result of its strong antioxidant properties, it can help prevent or reduce the effects of sunburn, and even prevent cellular DNA damage, which left unchecked could eventually spawn cancerous growths. Nuts, seeds and fruits and vegetables are all excellent sources of vitamin E.


Those are the essential vitamins that women should take for healthy hair, skin and nails. But there are a couple of minerals we should mention as well. The first is iron, which is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide. It is used to make the protein haemoglobin, which is critical for transporting oxygen around the body, similar to the B group of vitamins. Thus, a deficiency of iron can lead to hair loss as follicles will be lacking their necessary supply of nutrients. Lack of iron can also affect your nails, with brittle nails or spoon nails typically being the main manifestation. Red meats are high in iron, but if you are vegan or vegetarian, chickpeas, red kidney beans, and edamame beans are good alternatives. You could also consider snacking on nuts.


Zinc is another mineral that is important for your hair, skin, and nails. It is critical for our health, aiding in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, contributes to cell division and DNA synthesis, helps with our immune system, has antioxidant properties, and can assist with wound healing. Of particular note for hair, skin, and nails is its contribution to cell division and DNA synthesis, particularly to the keratinocyte cells that make up 90% of all cells in the outermost layer of your skin. This can help maintain the integrity of your skin and regulate its moisture content. And just like iron, deficiencies can affect the health and appearance of your nails, such as ridge formation or increased brittleness.


So that is it, the essential vitamins that women should take for their hair, skin, and nails. It is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are other compounds such as amino acids that can also contribute to achieving overall beauty, which we will discuss in future articles.


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Anna Misztela, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Anna Misztela’s interest in nutrition analysis and beauty began after she won the Mrs Polonia 2017 and Mrs Polonia World 2018 beauty contests. She then completed a Nutrition Science certification and became a Board-Licensed Esthetician. Her goal was to unlock the mystery of naturally beautiful hair, skin and nails. She was astonished by her discoveries of how sulfur and different types of vitamins work in our body. Since Roman times sulfur baths and sulfur waters have had known health and beauty benefits. Anna has included these compounds in her unique product, which helped many women to transform their hair, improve skin conditions, and get stronger nails. That’s how Beauty&Cutie was born.

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