Skin, Hair, & Nails

Last Updated: August 16, 2022

Skin, hair, and nails are all part of our integumentary system (i.e., the body’s outer layer), which includes all of the organs (and their appendages) that form the outermost layer of the body. Alongside its protective role, this system is also important for aesthetic purposes. A number of treatments (dietary, supplementary, and topical) have been studied for hair and skin health.

What problems do skin, hair, and nails have?

The most noteworthy skin-related issues that individuals experience are aging, acne, eczema (e.g., atopic dermatitis), and skin cancer. Hair-related issues include hair loss, breaking, and graying. Nail-related issues include brittleness, discoloration, and fungal infections. Age, damage (e.g., physical trauma, exposure to certain chemicals or radiation), oxidative stress, and inflammation can all lead to problems with skin, hair, and nails.[1]

How could diet affect skin, hair, and nails?

The integumentary system is complex and requires many nutrients to function correctly. As such, a diet that provides adequate levels of nutrients — notably, protein, certain micronutrients (e.g, cysteine, lysine, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, zinc, selenium), and essential fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids — is important.[2] Not only are these nutrients necessary for ordinary function, but they also play a role in protection and repair (e.g., in response to UV radiation). Deficiencies in these nutrients may manifest as abnormalities in skin, hair, and nails.[3][1]

Which supplements are of most interest for skin, hair, and nails?

If it’s difficult to obtain adequate levels of the nutrients listed above from the diet, supplementing with them may be advisable.[3][1]

Additionally, cocoa extract, coconut oil, nicotinamide, and Polypodium leucotomos all show some promise as treatments to support skin health.

Cysteine, lysine, marine proteins (i.e., extracellular matrix components from sharks and mollusks), procyanidins, pumpkin seed oil, B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin E derivatives, and zinc have all been studied for hair loss.[4]

There isn’t much research on supplementation for nails, although it’s possible that hair supplements may benefit them because they’re made of similar materials.

Don't miss out on the latest research

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  3. ^O'Connor K, Goldberg LJNutrition and hair.Clin Dermatol.(2021)
  4. ^Anna-Marie Hosking, Margit Juhasz, Natasha Atanaskova MesinkovskaComplementary and Alternative Treatments for Alopecia: A Comprehensive ReviewSkin Appendage Disord.(2019 Feb)
  5. ^Li H, Colantonio S, Dawson A, Lin X, Beecker JSunscreen Application, Safety, and Sun Protection: The Evidence.J Cutan Med Surg.(2019)
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  11. ^Bibi Petersen, Hans Christian WulfApplication of sunscreen--theory and realityPhotodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed.(Apr-Jun 2014)
  12. ^R E Neale, S R Khan, R M Lucas, M Waterhouse, D C Whiteman, C M OlsenThe effect of sunscreen on vitamin D: a reviewBr J Dermatol.(2019 Nov)
  13. ^T Passeron, R Bouillon, V Callender, T Cestari, T L Diepgen, A C Green, J C van der Pols, B A Bernard, F Ly, F Bernerd, L Marrot, M Nielsen, M Verschoore, N G Jablonski, A R YoungSunscreen photoprotection and vitamin D statusBr J Dermatol.(2019 Nov)
  14. ^Barbara B Shih, Mark D Farrar, Marcus S Cooke, Joanne Osman, Abigail K Langton, Richard Kift, Ann R Webb, Jacqueline L Berry, Rachel E B Watson, Andy Vail, Frank R de Gruijl, Lesley E RhodesFractional Sunburn Threshold UVR Doses Generate Equivalent Vitamin D and DNA Damage in Skin Types I-VI but with Epidermal DNA Damage Gradient Correlated to Skin DarknessJ Invest Dermatol.(2018 Oct)
  15. ^Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium, A Catharine Ross, Christine L Taylor, Ann L Yaktine, Heather B Del ValleDietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D
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  17. ^Ann R Webb, Andreas Kazantzidis, Richard C Kift, Mark D Farrar, Jack Wilkinson, Lesley E RhodesMeeting Vitamin D Requirements in White Caucasians at UK Latitudes: Providing a ChoiceNutrients.(2018 Apr 17)
  18. ^A R Webb, B R DeCosta, M F HolickSunlight regulates the cutaneous production of vitamin D3 by causing its photodegradationJ Clin Endocrinol Metab.(1989 May)
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