Smiling woman pulling back beautiful and healthy hair through foods

The 15 Best Foods for Hair, Skin and Nails

By: Mia Syn, MS, RDN

The demand for beauty products like makeup and skincare has always been high. In fact, the global beauty industry is worth an estimated 511 billion dollars. But the truth is, beauty starts with what’s on your plate. Certain foods and nutrients can specifically help support hair, nail and skin health from the inside out. Here are the 15 best foods for healthy hair, nails and skin that I recommend as a registered dietitian.

What foods help support healthy hair, skin and nails?

Woman cracking egg for a breakfast meal with high amounts of biotin

1. Eggs

Scrambled, hardboiled or fried, eggs are undoubtedly a superfood when it comes to nail, hair and skin health. In addition to being a source of high-quality complete protein, they also provide biotin (also known as vitamin B7 or coenzyme R), both of which are essential for hair growth and strength, as well as maintaining healthy nails.

Animal proteins like eggs, unlike the majority of plant proteins, are considered complete, meaning they contain all essential amino acids. The U.S. dietary guidelines recommend consuming 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight on average which is slightly higher if you are active. Because hair follicles are made up almost entirely of protein, consuming enough protein is essential to maintain healthy hair.

2. Pumpkin seeds

For a plant-based biotin-rich food, try pumpkin seeds. Biotin is often marketed for hair health because of its role in producing keratin, a protein in hair. Most healthy individuals easily meet their biotin needs. However, if you are deficient, then supplementing with biotin may help support hair growth. Additionally, biotin may help keep your nails thick.

Woman with salmon and pasta meal rich with omega-3 for enhanced skin function

3. Salmon

Fatty fish like salmon are a good source of high-quality protein and essential omega-3 fats. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming seafood at least twice a week.

While omega-3 fats are mostly touted for their brain and heart health benefits, these essential fats may also play a role in skin health. Essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 play a critical role in normal skin function and appearance, keeping your complexion smooth and soft.

Looking for more ways to enjoy salmon? Try these grilled salmon salads that offer up protein and omega-3 fat benefits as well as a slew of skin-loving phytonutrients from veggies.

4. Tuna

Another fatty fish to incorporate into your 2x per week seafood rotation is tuna. Tuna is a good source of vitamin B12 (cobalamin), an essential nutrient for hair growth. Vitamin B12 is naturally present in foods of animal origin, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products, so it can be harder to get on a plant-based diet.

5. Walnuts

Looking for a plant-based way to get your omega-3s? Walnuts are a good choice. While all nuts are a source of good-for-you fats, walnuts are unique in that they are one of the only ones that provide essential omega-3 fats.

6. Berries

Small but mighty, berries like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are antioxidant powerhouses. Antioxidants help protect skin from free radicals brought on from UV exposure and pollution. Add a handful of berries to smoothies, yogurt and oatmeal bowls or snack on them by the handful.

7. Pomegranate

Just like berries, pomegranate arils are packed with free-radical fighting antioxidants. One study found that the antioxidant potential of pomegranate juice is even greater than that of red wine and green tea. Tip – if you have a fresh pomegranate on your counter, open it up in a bowl of water to prevent staining and easily remove the arils from the membrane.

8. Bell peppers

Fun fact: bell peppers contain more vitamin C by weight than oranges. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects skin from free radicals and plays an essential role in collagen production, one of the main structural proteins in skin.

9. Tomatoes

Tomatoes get their red color from a carotenoid antioxidant called lycopene which research suggests may help protect skin from free radicals from UV exposure. While raw tomatoes provide only a small amount of bioavailable lycopene, cooked tomato products like tomato sauce are better sources.

Help protect your skin by incorporating cooked tomatoes into your meals and snacks - just be sure to also use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher daily, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.

10. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are also rich in carotenoid antioxidants, particularly beta-carotene. One study found that individuals with higher carotenoid concentrations in skin looked young for their age, while those with low carotenoid concentrations appeared older.

11. Avocados

Instead of butter on toast, opt for avocado. This nutrient-dense fruit provides a hefty dose of healthy fats and is an excellent source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects the skin, including the scalp, from potential oxidative stress, which can affect your scalp health.

12. Olive oil

Olive oil is another source of healthy fats as well as vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin and powerful antioxidant. Dietary fat is essential for helping the body absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Besides using olive oil in salad dressings and pasta dishes, try using it in baked goods in lieu of butter.

13. Bone broth

Bone broth is made by simmering the bones of animals like chicken, beef and fish in water over time. The result is a flavorful, nutrient-dense broth rich in the skin-loving compound hyaluronic acid.

Hyaluronic acid is found naturally throughout the body with a large concentration in skin. Because of its unique ability to retain water, it plays a role in skin hydration and may help minimize the appearance of wrinkles and promote skin texture and elasticity.

14. Leafy green vegetables

Leafy green veggies are some of the most nutrient-dense foods, meaning they contain a high level of vitamins and minerals relative to their calories. They also contain a compound called methylsulfonylmethane which some research suggests may inhibit signs of skin aging.

15. Whole grains

Whole grains like oats, quinoa and brown rice contain B vitamins essential for maintaining healthy skin, including biotin, which is important for nail health.

Other ways to support skin, hair and nails

Smiling woman with healthy hair, skin, and nails

While makeup and topical skin and nail products can be a quick, temporary fix, there are other ways to support your skin, hair and nail health from the inside out. Follow these tips to look and feel your best.

DO: Address nutrient deficiencies

Experts believe that the health of your hair, skin and nails is associated with nutritional status—so keep an eye out for deficiencies. Using the Life Extension Nutrient Panel Blood Test, you can determine what nutrients you may be falling short on and fill in the gaps where needed.

DO: Eat a balanced diet

Incorporating a wide variety of whole food ingredients is one sure way to help ensure you get a range of nutrients in your diet to meet your needs. One way to do this is to eat with the seasons, switch up your proteins and rotate your whole grains.

DON’T: Skimp on hydration

One of the easiest ways to support healthy skin is hydration. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends 3.7 liters (15.5 cups) of fluids per day for men and 2.7 liters (11.5 cups) for women which can be met through the food you eat and fluids you drink. Besides drinking enough water, load up on water-rich foods like cucumbers, celery and watermelon, which are made up of over 90% water.

DO: Supplement

Supplements can help fill in nutrient gaps when needed and ultimately help maintain skin, hair and nail health.

Which vitamin is best for hair and nail growth?

The Life Extension® Hair, Skin & Nails Collagen Plus nutritional supplement formula is a one stop shop for comprehensive hair, skin and nail support. It features bioactive collagen peptides and clinically-validated nutrients to promote collagen and keratin health and formation, as well as skin suppleness and elasticity.

Conclusion: Beauty begins within

Before heading to the makeup counter, start by curating what’s on your plate! Certain foods and nutrients have the power to support skin, nail and hair health from the inside out. By incorporating these whole food ingredients, staying hydrated and filling in nutrient gaps when needed, you can help achieve your healthiest hair, skin and nails at any age.

About the Author: Mia Syn, MS, RD is a national on-air nutrition expert, host of Good Food Friday on ABC Charleston and one of the most recognized and trusted young dietitians in the media. With a master's degree in human nutrition from Columbia University and over 500 TV appearances, she has helped millions of viewers, readers and clients learn and implement healthier, sustainable eating habits. NutritionbyMia.com

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Scientifically Reviewed By: Holli Ryan, RD, LD/N

By: Mia Syn, MS, RDN