Natural Beauty: Top 7 Nutrients for Glowing Skin, Hair and Nails
Natural beauty is achieved from the inside out.
What if we told you that the dewy, supple glow you’re after could come from your plate, rather than an $80 bottle of foundation or serum at a cosmetic store? And that getting your hair and nails to grow faster and healthier could be as simple as eating more of a specific nutrient, rather than turning to beauty products? In fact, you can even get rid of cellulite with the power of having certain foods in your diet.
We believe natural beauty is an inside job. And the foods you eat are more important to achieving natural beauty than any lotion, shampoo, or those skin cream best sellers (yes– even if they’re made from natural ingredients, like shea butter and coconut oil). Since natural skin care and healthy hair and nails all begin at the cellular level, outer radiance is simply the result of putting the right nutrients into your body.
But eating the right foods is only one part of achieving natural beauty from the inside out. You can only be as healthy as the nutrients you absorb.
The Secret to Achieving Natural Beauty From Within
“Your digestive tract is like the soil, and your hair and skin are like the plants: if the soil isn’t healthy, the plants won’t bloom properly.” — Dr. Robynne Chutkan, author of Gut Bliss.
These wise words sum up the link between how well your digestive system is functioning and how you achieve natural beauty from the inside out.
Your digestive tract is where you absorb the essential nutrients needed to produce healthy skin cells, and to synthesize the proteins (such as collagen) that keep your skin smooth, hair shiny, and nails healthy.
This is why the very first place to begin improving the health of your skin, hair, and nails is to improve your digestion. And if you want brighter, clearer, smoother, and younger looking skin, it’s crucial that you understand the gut-skin axis.
Your Skin is a Reflection of Your Digestion
Only a few short years ago, many health professionals believed there was no link between the skin and your diet. While the whole chocolate and acne thing may be a myth, there is solid evidence that the health and appearance of your skin is a direct reflection of how well your gut is functioning. This connection is called the gut-skin axis (1).
In short, the gut-skin axis is the link between imbalances in the gut microbiome (including a lack of healthy gut bacteria, systemic inflammation, an overburdened liver, and intestinal permeability, which is also known as leaky gut) and skin problems, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, hives, rashes, rosacea, and even premature aging and oily, dull, or dry skin (2).
Studies have also looked to the role of healthy gut bacteria in skin health.
In an Italian study, one group of patients undergoing acne and rosacea treatment were given a probiotic supplement, while the other half of the patients were not. By the end of the study, the group given probiotics had clearer skin and a greater improvement in their symptoms. The same was also true for a group of 56 patients in a Korean study who were given a daily probiotic drink over the course of 12 weeks (3).
Now, the gut-skin axis is a big (and fascinating) enough topic to become an entire article on its own. But by simply understanding that your gut and skin are interconnected, you now hold the “key” to enhancing your natural beauty from within.
So, when you have a stubborn breakout, or notice your hair getting dry and brittle, save the trip to the beauty counter and head to your local grocery store instead. Here are the top nutrients to stock up on for glowing skin, shiny hair, and strong, healthy nails.
Top 7 Beautifying Nutrients (and How to Get More into Your Diet)
Collagen is a beauty buzzword, best known as the ultimate “anti-aging” nutrient, which is why it’s commonly added to expensive skin care products. But a lesser known fact is that when applied topically, most collagen molecules are actually too large to penetrate the skin, which means these products do very little to improve your skin’s texture and appearance. (Read: your hard earned dollars = wasted).
Now, since collagen is the protein that helps maintain skin elasticity, it is one of the most important nutrients for skin health. The amino acids in collagen also help with hair and nail growth, and keep tooth enamel healthy. Our bodies naturally produce collagen, but it’s said that once we hit age 25, our production of type 2 collagen slows down — and that’s the form of collagen that preserves our skin elasticity (4). This is when physical signs of aging can set in.
But rather than applying it to your skin, you can eat it to experience the full beauty benefits.
Collagen is also an important nutrient for gut health. Not only does it provide anti-inflammatory amino acids that help reduce intestinal inflammation, such as proline and glycine, but it also helps prevent, heal, and seal holes in the intestinal lining that can cause leaky gut. It’s just one more reason to load up on collagen in your diet.
As an added bonus, collagen contains an amino acid called glycine, which has been shown to improve sleep quality (5). This means collagen may also help get rid of those puffy eyes, or under eye dark circles.
How to Get More Collagen in Your Diet
There’s only one known source of dietary collagen, and that’s bones and connective tissue. Since we don’t eat bones and tissue, simmering them into a bone broth is one of the best ways to get collagen in your diet. You can cook with bone broth, and there are endless creative ways to sip on bone broth, which make it easy to include as a daily part of your beauty routine.
You can also take collagen in powdered form. Collagen peptides (hydrolyzed collagen) are easy to digest and dissolve easily with any liquid. Since collagen powder has no taste or texture once it’s dissolved, it can easily be added to any recipe, from quinoa buddha breakfast bowls and protein bars to homemade gummy bear vitamins.
2. Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids
One of the first signs that you’re efficiently absorbing healthy fats in your diet are tough, strong nails. Healthy fats, such as omega 3 essential fatty acids, are needed for shiny hair and a healthy scalp. They also provide the building blocks for healthy skin cells and hormones (7).
The health of your hormones play a significant role in healthy skin. For example, elevated levels of insulin (which is the hormone that regulates your blood sugar) have been linked to excess sebum oil production, which causes acne when overproduced (8). This is one of the reasons why refined carbohydrates and sugar — the foods that cause the most rapid spikes in blood sugar levels — are known as the top acne-promoting foods (9).
In addition to hormonal balance, omega 3 essential fatty acids are also powerful natural anti-inflammatories, and can help reduce the swelling, redness, and itchiness associated with skin conditions, such as rosacea and eczema (10). Fats are also oily and help moisturize dry skin and dull hair from the inside out.
Omega 3 essential fatty acids are considered an essential nutrient because your body can’t produce them on it’s own, so you must get them from your diet. Since they’re only found in unprocessed foods such as wild fish, chia seeds, flaxseed, and fish oil, you can see how the standard American diet doesn’t contain nearly enough omega 3’s. It could be why inflammatory skin conditions are more common now than ever before.
Omega 6 essential fatty acids also are an essential fat, but we tend to get far more of them than we need, as they’re found abundantly in corn, vegetable oils, and processed foods. These, however, cause inflammation when consumed in excess (11).
How to Get More Omega 3’s in Your Diet:
Wild fish, nuts, seeds, and algae are some of the best sources of omega 3’s. Eating these foods doesn’t have to be boring.You could experiment with making crusted fish, like this wild crusted cod, or blending chlorella powder (a green algae) into your green smoothie recipes.
If we had to pick only one beauty nutrient, it would have to be fiber. There are two reasons for this.
1) Fiber is like a live-in housekeeper for your gut. It acts as an “intestinal broom” by helping to move food through your digestive tract and bulk up your stool to eliminate toxins, bacteria, and other substances that can contribute to damaging your gut health. When you don’t have enough fiber in your diet, these toxins can accumulate in your GI tract and create a build-up of waste or “sludge” (as we like to call it) in your GI tract, which is a breeding ground for attracting unhealthy gut bacteria.
Toxins and an overgrowth of unhealthy gut bacteria can lead to leaky gut, candida, gut dysbiosis, and a whole host of other gut issues. By preventing this “anti-beauty” bacteria from accumulating, fiber helps your internal environment stay squeaky clean, which promotes healthy gut function — the “framework” for enhancing natural beauty from within (12).
2) Second, indigestible fiber contains prebiotics, which feed your beneficial gut bacteria. In this sense, you can think of prebiotics as “gut fertilizer.”
As mentioned in the gut-skin axis studies above, increasing your healthy gut bacteria is shown to have significant improvements in skin health. And while you can take a probiotic supplement, it’s also important to support the recolonization of good bacteria in your system by eating plenty of fiber.
How to Get More Fiber in Your Diet:
Fiber is found in all plant foods, so the easiest way to begin increasing the fiber in your diet is by eating more fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains (if you eat grains). Smoothie it up, make homemade trail mix, snack on chia seed pudding, and try having a small raw veggie salads before each meal.
Not only do raw vegetables add fiber to your diet, but they also provide enzymes which aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. You can also take fiber supplements made from psyllium husk, chicory root, and pectin.
One word of caution when it comes to fiber: increasing your fiber intake initially may produce GI symptoms, such as gas, constipation, and bloating — especially if you’re used to eating a diet high in refined foods.
But don’t let this discourage you from increasing the fiber in your diet. Instead, bump up your fiber gradually, eat the majority of your veggies steamed (which help break down the fiber, making it easier to digest), and drink plenty of water to keep the fiber moving through your digestive tract.
How Much Fiber Do You Need?
It’s said that the average American adult gets 15 grams or less of fiber per day. No wonder so many of us are experiencing gut, skin, and chronic digestive problems. It’s recommended to get at least 25-30 grams of fiber per day from your diet (13).
Throughout this article, we’ve drilled it home that probiotics, the beneficial bacteria in your GI tract, are essential for a healthy digestive system. Studies have even shown how probiotics can clear up skin when you get more in your diet.
Aside from keeping your GI tract healthy, probiotics are a natural beauty nutrient because they help synthesize certain B vitamins, which promote healthy skin, hair and nail growth (14).
How to Get More Probiotics in Your Diet:
Eating cultured or fermented foods a few times per week can help replenish your body’s natural stores of probiotics, which are depleted by refined sugar and carbohydrates, antibiotics, and chronic stress (15). Fermented foods include:
- Beet kvass
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Unsweetened coconut milk yogurt (cow’s milk yogurt can trigger breakouts and other skin problems if you’re intolerant or sensitive to dairy)
- Coconut milk kefir
If you’re currently suffering from skin problems such as acne, you may want to take a probiotic supplement, which can give your body a more therapeutic, concentrated dose of beneficial bacteria. This also is helpful if you’ve recently taken a round of antibiotics, or you’re under intense periods of stress (two factors that deplete healthy gut bacteria).
Which Probiotic Supplement Should You Take?
There are many different types of probiotic strains and supplements, including capsules and suppositories. The best way to determine which probiotic supplement is right for you is to speak with a qualified healthcare practitioner who’s familiar with your health history and symptoms. This way, you can eliminate the guesswork of knowing which strains of bacteria are best for your body at this time and how often to take them.
Probiotic supplements can be found at your local health food store in the refrigerated section.
5. B Vitamins
B vitamin deficiencies are linked to skin rashes, sores or cracks in the corner of your lips, as well as hair thinning and skin depigmentation (16). B7 (Biotin) and B12 deficiencies are also linked to pale, dull skin and thin nails (17)(18). Who knew that one group of vitamins could have such a powerful impact on your natural radiance?
How to Get More B Vitamins in Your Diet
Nearly every plant-based food contains at least one of the 8 B vitamins, including whole, unprocessed grains, seafood, chicken, turkey, beef, avocado, leafy greens, fruit, and vegetables.
However, B12 is mostly found in animal products, which is why those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet may need to supplement with additional B12. Another option to get B12 from plant sources is to take chlorella, a single-celled green algae, which is one of the only plant foods known to contain active B12 (the form that’s best absorbed by the body).
Split ends, breakage, and dry hair? Your body may just need to produce a little more keratin — and sulfur is a nutrient that’s needed for keratin production. Similar to collagen, keratin is the protein that helps strengthen your hair and nails. It also forms a protective layer on the outside of your skin, which provides strength and elasticity.
Now, you can’t eat keratin itself because it’s a protein your body produces from other amino acids. However, you can eat the amino acids and compounds that help your body produce keratin, including sulfur (19). Protein-rich foods are the best sources of sulfur, including eggs and chicken. Pungent plant foods, such as onions, leeks, and garlic, also are rich in sulfur.
How to Get More Sulfur in Your Diet:
This list wouldn’t be complete without water — the ultimate natural beauty elixir. Not only does water help flush toxins from your system (which contribute to premature aging and poor digestive health), but it also hydrates your skin from the inside out. The more hydrated you are, the more smooth, supple, and youthful your skin looks.
If you’re ever having a “blah” skin day, check your water consumption — you may be dehydrated. Here’s a formula for the approximate amount of water you should be drinking each day:
Your Body Weight in Pounds, Divided by Two = Ounces of Water You Need
For example, if you’re 150 pounds, you’d divide that by two, which equals 75 ounces of water.
That’s the rough water consumption you’ll want to hit each day, adding in extra when you’re active or have had alcohol and coffee, which act as natural diuretics.
In addition to these 7 foods, all vitamins and minerals contribute to natural beauty, healthy skin, hair, and nails— so you can never go wrong by eating as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible.
Antioxidant vitamins (vitamins A,C, and E) are especially important for natural beauty because they help enhance beauty at the cellular level. Antioxidants prevent your cells (including skin cells) from being damaged by oxidative stress, which is caused by the toxins in our environment (20).
Vitamins and minerals, especially iron, are also needed to transport oxygen throughout your body, which helps your skin look refreshed and rejuvenated (21). And this increased oxygen flow helps produce more energy. Wouldn’t you agree that when you feel vibrant and energized, it’s impossible not to have a healthy glow?
PS: As you add nutrients to your diet to enhance your natural beauty, you may also want to try improving the outer appearance of your skin with 100% natural DIY facial masks, that include ingredients like turmeric, Manuka honey and aloe vera.