How To Grow Healthy Hair, Skin and Nails?
Humans are hardwired to focus intensely on their external appearance and the external appearance of others. While this trait may seem shallow, our outward appearance reflects our health and reproductive fitness. Before the age of makeup and Instagram filters, our external appearance was a faithful depiction of our organ function, nutrient status, and immune capacity (1). It also signaled to others our usefulness as a part of the tribe as the development of specific body parts signaled our physical capabilities. From that natural mentality stemmed the need to impress with hair, skin and nail quality(2).
Nutrients Needed to Build
Reflects Internal Health
Collagen, The Common Denominator
Collagen is the glue that holds all connective tissue together. Without collagen, the muscles will come apart when hyperextended; the skin will stretch beyond its strength, and the bones will shatter like brittle glass (5).
Collagen supplementation is only effective if the body is provided with sufficiently small molecules. If the collagen molecules are too big, they may not penetrate deep enough to where they are needed. Note that even with the bioavailability and particle size kept In mind, it is always great to boost endogenous collagen synthesis (6). Endogenous collagen does not come with the question of bioavailability and naturally finds its way to where the body needs it.
How To Make Collagen In 3 Easy Steps
Step # 1: Vitamin C
Constituents of collagen synthesis rely on an enzyme known as hydroxylase. Hydroxylase is a crucial enzyme that requires Vitamin C as a cofactor to boost the speed of collagen synthesis to a rate that supports life (7).
Step # 2: Silica
Silica is a metalloid known as the second most abundant element in nature. The body absorbs orthosilicic acid, known as the soluble form of silica. It is known to stimulate the formation of Type I collagen and is readily absorbable through the small intestines. When orthosilicic acid is supplied to the body, it usually comes with many other dietary constituents in relatively small amounts (8). Thus, it is always advised to look for natural sources when supplementing silica. Botanical source silica is closest in constituents as silica from a dietary form. Gentle, plant-based silica is especially important for the ageing population and those with kidney disease.
The Limitations of Dietary Silica
Most of our silica comes from unrefined gluten-containing grains. Considering that a good portion of people prefer grains in a refined state and another good part avoids gluten-containing grains in general, very few have access to adequate amounts of silica.
The Best Sources Of Silica
Better sources of silica that are less frequently consumed in the North American Diet Include green beans, asparagus, and bamboo shoots.
Supplementing silica from natural sources like the plant Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is one of the best ways to ensure adequate silica status (9).
Another plant that contains a much higher ratio of silica and shines as the symbol of sustainability is Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris). High-quality bamboo stem extract can contain up to 70% silica and has evidence pointing to its effectiveness as a promoter of connective tissue health. Due to the long ethnobotanical use and the studies on animal models for safety, bamboo is considered one of the safest botanicals available (10).
Step # 3: Collagen Boosting Topicals
Many natural plant oils play a significant role in boosting collagen synthesis both internally and externally. For example, supplementing with Sea Buckthorn Oil has been shown to significantly improve aged skin texture and reduce the visible signs of aging (11).
The Importance of Biotin
Biotin is a vitamin from the B-vitamin family and is known as the vitamin for hair because it plays a critical role in synthesizing keratin. Studies show that adequate biotin intake can significantly enhance the rate of hair growth. As a water-soluble vitamin, biotin is not stored in the body and must be taken with our diet daily (12).
Though true biotin deficiency is quite rare as biotin is available in many foods, biotin requirements may increase in different stages of our lives. Higher biotin demand is required for pregnant women, for example. The pregnancy studies found that a low biotin status is linked to a weak placenta (13). Other conditions that increase biotin requirement include lactation and the use of some therapeutic agents like anticonvulsants.
Biotin deficiency is linked to skin rashes, brittle nails, thinning hair and an overall decrease in keratin production (14).
Clinical trials have demonstrated an improvement in the fitness, hardness and thickness of brittle nails with biotin supplementation.
On the other hand, hair loss and hair support studies improve hair thickness and production, though they have not separated individuals based on baseline biotin status (15).
It is important to note that biotin, though required for a healthy body when taken in mega doses, may significantly alter the results of hormone tests. Therefore, it is best to stick to supplements that supply no more than 100 mcg of biotin (16).
Avoiding Collagen Loss
Protecting the skin is vital for maintaining its health. The same standard holds for hair and nails. It is equally essential to ensure that you are not breaking down the collagen you are working hard to synthesize. Remember that boosting overall health is the best way to maintain healthy hair, skin and nails!