Naturally Beautify Your Skin, Hair and Nails from the Inside-Out
by Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RD
Thanks to NOW® for inviting me to contribute this post. While I was not compensated directly for this article, I do consulting for NOW and am very favorable overall to their brand philosophy and integrity and purity of products. My professional opinions, choice of products to share, and taste buds are my own.
Our skin, hair and nails are outward manifestations of our health, and each helps tell a story about our overall health.
With summer around the corner and as we start to unpeel the layers of clothing and come out of our winter shells, we have renewed opportunities to promote and achieve wellness from the inside and out, specifically by doing a bit of personal spring cleaning to pursue a more natural lifestyle. Not only does that mean eating quality nutrients through wholesome and real ingredients, but supplementing where we feel it’s helpful to support an active, vital body and physical appearance. Now is a great time to focus on the ingredients and nutrients we put onto our body to give us that healthy glow.
This is what I call those nutrients that play a role in the health of our skin, hair and nails. And while some benefits come mostly from consuming them in whole foods, ingredients and from selective supplementation, there are many that you can ‘eat’ and that you can also ‘wear’ by using them topically, like certain nut oils, and products that contain vitamin C and vitamin E. Ultimately a high quality, plant-rich, nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet provides the most benefit to our body’s largest organ (skin) and its counterparts (hair and nails), but some nutrients and foods play special roles!
Certain skiNutrient-rich foods stand out when it comes to skin as sources of phytonutrients like antioxidants, which help to reduce free radical damage of collagen, elastin, and skin cells. Still other foods provide key nutrients, like protein, biotin, and lutein, which are essential for good skin health—as well as hair and nails.
Here are some major players when it comes to great skin, hair and nails:
Fruits and veggies. With this whole category straight from Mother Nature and your farmers, your skin benefits from the wide variety of vitamins, minerals and plant compounds that they offer. And according to research published from the University of Nottingham, getting more carotenoid-rich fruits and veggies into your diet can actually give your skin a brighter, sun-kissed healthy glow without the harmful UV exposure! The ‘magic’ (ahem, science) is in the carotenoids, naturally occurring plant nutrients and pigments found in high levels in many fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, apricots, mangos and pumpkins.
Protein. Getting quality protein in the diet helps produce keratin, the proteins that are responsible for helping make hair strong. If protein intake is low for a period of time, hair suffers as the protein that is consumed in your diet is used for other ‘priority’ body functions, and ultimately the hair, skin and nails won’t reap the rewards. Protein is critical to all tissue formation and production of hormones and enzymes too. Fish, chicken, beans, edamame (soybeans), nuts and seeds provide protein. And NOW® Sports whey, sprouted brown rice or pea protein are all non-GMO, clean ingredient options in protein powders that are easy to add into smoothies, baked goods and casseroles.
Water and green tea. Hydration is key and it must be said that water is arguably the most important ‘nutrient’ for all body functions and notably helps with all aspects of skin health, including moisture, elasticity, flexibility, and tone. Aim for 6-8 cups of REAL water daily and add to it with other food faves for your skin. Plain or bubbly water, green tea, low-sodium vegetable juices and broths, soups, and low-fat or fat-free milk are strong players in hydration along with quality nutrition for an anti-inflammatory, skin-boosting diet. And you can get up to 20% of your water needs met through foods, too, particularly in those fruits and vegetables, salads, and soups you can incorporate into your diet every day.
High nutrient, low sugar beverages can aid in reducing inflammation and your body—in particular your healthy, thirsty skin—needs plenty of water. One of my current favorites is NOW Real Tea® PomeGreenate Tea, a delicious blend of green tea and pomegranate. We’re really into teas in our home, so quality is essential even as our favorite tea-of-the-week variety may change.
Biotin is critical to healthy hair and nails, and arguably the most important B vitamin for skin. And lower biotin status can lead to weaker hair. Eggs contain biotin, which is a great addition to the diet, but if your hair or nails are weak, you may consider a supplement for a period of time to see if it helps and get the boost to your levels and your health back in balance.
NOW offers a Biotin supplement as well as one fittingly named Hair, Skin, & Nails. When taking a supplement, it’s very important to get to know the brand, the ingredients and that Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) are followed. It’s also reassuring and important to know that NOW conducts sophisticated internal as well as third party testing for purity and to ensure there are no additives or other adulterants like heavy metals in each of their ingredients and products. Also, when considering what supplement is right for you, it’s always helpful to consider seeking advice from someone you trust like your healthcare provider or registered dietitian who knows about your personal health picture as well as the product you’re considering.
And when you think about the foods and nutrients here, you can start to see the makings of some delicious skin-healthy meals, too! And the ultimate proof is in the mirror as you start to see the vibrant effect of these food and nutrients along with selective supplementation as needed to help protect, maintain and enhance both the health and look of your skin, hairs and nails.
One more thing: As with whole body wellness, what you consume is one important part of the picture, but it’s not the whole picture. Of course getting regular exercise and adequate rest, along with a healthy and natural skin routine (and being mindful of the sun’s rays and taking precautions there) can help promote a healthy glow and preserve your youthful self—outside and in.
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Reference: Stephen et al, Evolution and Human Behavior, 2010.
Wendy Bazilian is a doctor of public health, registered dietitian and freelance writer in San Diego. She is an advisor to the spa industry and co-owns Bazilian’s Health Clinic with her husband and business partner, Dr. Jason Bazilian. Dr. Wendy is author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet (Rodale). Wendy is an expert consultant to NOW Foods, and believes in the importance of high quality, natural and wholesome real foods and ingredients, and using the latest science along with continual practices to help ensure the purity and safety of our foods, supplements, and skincare/self-care products.
Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bazilians.