To stay healthy, we need a variety of foods, including adequate macros (protein, fats, carbs) and micro nutrients as well (vitamins and minerals).
Our hair, skin, and nails all grow and turn over quickly, making them good indications of our overall health.
When we are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, it is often reflected in our hair, skin, and nails.
When your hair is dry and brittle or falling out, when your nails don’t grow well or your skin isn’t soft and bright, it might be an indication of a nutrition deficiency.
Read on to learn about how hair, skin, and nails vitamins work and exactly which nutrients they can provide to boost your overall health.
How do hair, skin and nails vitamins work?
Hair, skin, and nail vitamins work by providing the key nutrients to support healthy cell and tissue growth, structure, and longevity.
Nutritional deficiencies often manifest in these areas first, and can be good indications of overall health.
What do they normally contain?
Their overall ingredients may vary but most vitamins targeted at hair, skin, and nail health contain some combination of these nutrients.
Which vitamins should I use for my hair, skin and nails?
Vitamins for hair
Biotin is likely the most well known and popular vitamin for hair health. Also known as Vitamin B7, biotin deficiency and hair loss go hand and hand.
It is often included in pre-natal vitamins because pregnant women are often deficient in biotin.
Research shows the greatest impact of biotin for hair growth in individuals who were previously deficient.1
2. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is typically stored in the liver. Fat soluble vitamins depend on healthy sources of fat in our diets to be properly absorbed. It is known for its role in cell growth, making it a logical ingredient to support hair and nail growth.
However, too much Vitamin A has been shown to have negative effects and even cause hair loss.
When choosing a supplement that contains Vitamin A, stay under the suggested upper limit of 1300mcg/day.
3. Vitamin C
In addition to supporting a healthy immune system, Vitamin C plays many other roles in the body, like the creation of collagen fibers, which are building blocks of hair, skin, and nails.1
People who have iron deficiency anemia often struggle with hair loss, and Vitamin C is a key factor to supporting iron absorption.
The antioxidant properties of Vitamin C boost many areas of health, including hair, skin, and nails.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin both made by our bodies (specifically our skin) and absorbed from our food/supplements.
Vitamin D deficiency is directly linked with alopecia, the clinical term for hair loss.
Healthy skin cells and hair follicles (where hair grows) depend on adequate Vitamin D for optimal hair health and growth, but Vitamin D is a common deficiency in even healthy individuals.1
5. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is another fat-soluble vitamin (like Vitamins A and D) and also a powerful antioxidant (like Vitamin C).
It can help protect against cell damage from many sources and has been found to be deficient in those suffering from alopecia.1
Research studies have supported the supplementation of Vitamin E to assist in hair growth.2
Vitamins for skin
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is created from carotenoids in our diet, which are plant compounds that provide orange and yellow pigments to some foods.
Another source of Vitamin A is retinoids, which come from animal based products. Both carotenoids and retinoids play antioxidant roles in our bodies and are crucial for skin health.
Carotenoids help protect our skin from damage like UV rays from the sun, while retinoids improve the production of new skin cells and support the elasticity, firmness, and hydration of our skin.3
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C supports the immune system of the skin itself – preventing cancer cells and other oxidative damage.3
It plays a crucial role in collagen production and is necessary for healthy skin.
It is essential for wound healing and the turnover of healthy skin cells.
3. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is another strong antioxidant and one of the first lines of defense against skin damage, along with Vitamins C and D.
There are at least three known ways in which Vitamin E protects healthy skin cells from damage.3
Being a fat soluble vitamin, it is crucial to have healthy fats in your diet to support Vitamin E absorption and action.
4. Fatty acids
You may notice omega-3 fatty acids sources like fish oil added to hair vitamins.
This is due to their role in absorption of the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), but also their anti-inflammatory properties that support healthy cells.
Fatty acids like omega-3s also support the immune system, specifically blocking bacterial and fungal infections of the skin.3
Vitamins for nails
Just like its use for hair, those who have a biotin deficiency benefit from stronger nails when supplementing.4
It makes the nails stronger but supporting structural proteins and promotes healthy nail shapes.4
2. Vitamin C
Similarly to hair and skin, the role that Vitamin C plays in collagen production makes it crucial for healthy nail development.
Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties help keep nails healthy and growing properly, preventing a condition in which the nails grow downward.4
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D supports healthy nail growth and nail color, as well as preventing brittle nails that break easily.4
4. Vitamin B6
Also known as pyridoxine, Vitamin B6 keeps nails strong (as well as prevents anemia).
It prevents both brittle nails and soft nails, keeping a strong barrier intact between your skin and the environment.4
As you can see, there are common themes in the Vitamins that support hair, nail, and skin health – and it makes sense to take them all together.
In general, when choosing an all-in-one vitamin, check for the following:
- Fat soluble vitamins: Vitamins, A, D, and E are all linked with benefits to healthy hair, skin and nails
- Antioxidants: Vitamins C & E are two major sources of antioxidants that keep your cells healthy and producing healthier hair, skin, and nail cells
- Biotin: although this is often sold on its own, make sure it is a part of your all-in-one regimen – this B Vitamin is the most well documented to support healthy hair, skin, and nails
Are there any potential side effects?
Some vitamins have recommended “tolerable upper limits” (like the one mentioned for Vitamin A) at which level they might be more harmful than beneficial.
However, most supplements won’t contain unsafe levels of any specific Vitamin.
You can check the labels to make sure you aren’t getting more than 100% of the daily value – remember, you also get these vitamins naturally in a healthy diet.
Take Home Message
While there is clear evidence to support the roles of vitamins in skin, hair, and nail health, a healthy diet is also important to make sure the vitamins can be properly absorbed and used by the body.
Those who have deficiencies in any certain vitamin will see the greatest benefit from adding a supplement, but most of us can benefit from healthier hair, skin, and nails.