Supplements for Better Skin, Hair, and Nails
By: Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
August 23, 2017
What does nutrition have to do with your skin?
Eating antioxidant-rich vegetables will help battle free radicals and support your mitochondrial function. Fat from healthy sources like grass-fed butter, olive oil, and Brain Octane Oil help shuttle nutrients into your cells and keep cell membranes working at top speed. Protein and collagen from grass-fed and pastured animals provide the amino acid building blocks that keep your skin plump and your hair and nails strong.
Supporting the health of your insides keeps you looking vibrant on the outside.
On the flip side, skimping on nutrients can result in dry skin, redness, puffy eyes, acne, and wrinkles. Eating nutrient-dense food is key, but there are times you may want to supplement.
Why you may need supplements
Food simply isn’t as nutritious as it was hundreds of years ago. Monocropping (growing just one crop as opposed to growing a variety of crops that provide the soil with an array of nutrients) depletes the topsoil of vitamins and minerals, meaning your vegetables come up short of nutrients as well. Genetically modified plants hold a ton of water, so they balloon in size in low-quality soil instead of producing smaller vegetables that contain crucial nutrients.
So even if you’re eating piles of vegetables, pastured eggs, and fats that go straight to your brain and cellular batteries, you still may need supplements to keep your cells happy.
Supplements for better skin, hair, and nails
Collagen is the main component of your connective tissue. You can find it everywhere – in membranes, bones, ligaments, and more. Most importantly (for this article anyway), collagen is an integral part of your skin and hair, making skin more elastic and giving hair its strength and shine.
As you age, your body has a harder time producing collagen. And stressors like smoking, alcohol, sugar, processed foods, and well … stress, can interrupt collagen production and leave you feeling (and looking) a lot older than you are.
Collagen for skin and hair
There are plenty of products that tout the benefits of topical collagen, but the real benefits come when you take it internally. Usually made from the bones and connective tissue of animals or sea creatures, supplemental collagen contains amino acids that are difficult to get into your diet unless you’re super into organ meats like bone marrow and connective tissue.
Collagen powder is a great way to get the amino acids you need to build and maintain your own collagen, and research shows it works. Organ meat and bone broth are also options, but it’s more difficult to dose, so you never know exactly how much collagen protein you’re getting.
The science behind collagen
Supplementing collagen increased the density of collagen fibrils in pig skin, and researchers produced similar results in rats. After just eight weeks of supplementing collagen, skin collagen and elastin increased significantly in human study participants.
Collagen for leaky gut
Professionals who advise on leaky gut almost universally recommend collagen supplements. Strong gut membranes show in the skin, and the opposite is also true – the toxins that pass through a leaky gut have to exit somewhere, and the skin is a big elimination system.
When collagen peptides are available to help with repair, they’re preferentially deposited in inflamed and damaged areas of the intestine. Knowing the structural role collagen has in the skin, people are starting to seek it out: simmering bone broth, making gut-friendly gelatin desserts, blending collagen powder into their morning Bulletproof Coffee.
Topical and internal vitamin C is essential for vibrant, younger looking skin and strong joints.
Taking a vitamin C supplement or eating foods high in C like leafy greens, citrus, red pepper, and cruciferous vegetables will also protect your skin from too much UVA and UVB exposure and will help to improve a laundry list of inflammatory skin diseases. It’s antioxidant properties also protect your skin from normal oxidative stress and free radicals from pollution and mental stress.
How to get vitamin C into your skin cells?
The smartest way to use vitamin C for collagen synthesis and its antioxidant properties is to attack from the inside-out and the outside-in.
Internal vitamin C
- Get your hands on a high-quality vitamin C supplement. They’re easy to find. The recommended dose on the label might be on the low side. Start low, and experiment with increasing incrementally from 500-3,000mg with meals. If you get disaster pants (vitamin C can be taken up to “bowel tolerance”), you’ve had too much.
- Combine it with collagen. Vitamin C, along with daily doses of dietary collagen through a powder supplement, bone broth, or gelatin gives you everything you need to build collagen for more elastic skin, stronger hair, and more resilient joints.
Topical vitamin C
- Get a vitamin C serum. Vitamin C degrades quickly, so make sure to research the freshness and ingredients of a brand before you buy. Popular brands will not sit on the shelf for long, so demand is a good thing when buying vitamin C serum. To extend shelf life, make sure it’s in a dark bottle and keep it in the fridge.
- Combine it with antioxidants. Look for serums containing vitamin C, ferulic acid (a strong antioxidant), and vitamin E – this specific combination works eight times as well as vitamin C alone.
A vitamin C serum is best used at night. After cleansing, spread serum evenly on your face. Avoid your eye area – it will burn if it gets in your eyes. Leave it on undisturbed for at least 20 minutes – it takes at least that long to penetrate your skin and work its collagen-building magic. After the 20-minute mark, use your normal moisturizers and cosmetics.
Speaking of antioxidants, your body makes some on its own, including glutathione. Glutathione is a major detoxifier in your body.
Your skin eliminates waste, and unfortunately, sometimes it shows. To avoid acne, rashes, and redness, it’s best to encourage your body to neutralize and eliminate as much as it can before it gets to the skin’s surface. That’s where glutathione comes in.
Researchers measured lower levels of glutathione in acne sufferers than in people without acne. Your glutathione production drops substantially in your twenties, so if you’re over 20 with acne, you might want to encourage glutathione production.
You can encourage your body’s production of glutathione with undenatured, grass-fed whey protein, plus the three specific glutathione precursors: alpha-lipoic acid, L-glutamine, and N-acetyl cysteine. Or, you can supplement glutathione in capsule form.
Polyphenols are chemicals from certain brightly colored fruits and veggies (they’re also present in massive quantities in wine, chocolate, and coffee) that may protect against the side effects of aging.
Resveratrol is the most famous of the polyphenols, mostly for its reputation as the compound that makes red wine good for you. There’s a little truth there, but red wine doesn’t offer the huge polyphenol punch many people claim (plus, alcohol is dehydrating and inflammatory – not amazing for your skin). Find a high-quality polyphenol supplement instead.
Resveratrol is pretty powerful, though, and supports so much more than your circulatory system. Its potent antioxidant properties enhance several organ systems, skin included. It can both prevent and reverse clinical signs of aging and it snaps up free radicals in your skin to prevent sun damage.
Your favorite polyphenol source, coffee, contains many of the benefits you’ll find in resveratrol, plus caffeine. Caffeine reduces inflammation and redness, increases circulation, repairs DNA, and repairs sun damage. If you’re drinking your Bulletproof Coffee in the morning, you’re getting a dose of caffeine and polyphenols as soon as you wake up.
Bonus tip: Combine your used coffee grounds with a little coconut oil or XCT oil to make a topical face and body scrub that tightens and brightens your skin.
Start your beauty treatment on the inside
Expensive spas and medical treatments have their place, but the basics go a long way. Every one of these supplements is easy to find, affordable, and take minimal effort to incorporate into your day. Just for fun, take some before pictures, use your supplements consistently for 1-3 months, and compare your skin’s appearance. See what you notice!
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