Hair, skin and nails – how are they intricately connected?

Hair, skin and nails – how are they intricately connected?

Have you ever looked at multivitamins promising to improve the health of your hair, skin and nails and wondered how they’re connected? They’ve all got one thing in common and that’s keratinocytes. These are the cells that produce keratin, the protein that gives our hair, skin and nails it’s flexibility and strength. This is why you’ll often find keratin in the ingredients list of shampoos and “strengthening” nail polishes that promise to repair damage.

The big misunderstanding

One of the biggest beauty myths around is that, once you’ve damaged your hair or nails, you can somehow repair them. Thing is, the visible part of your nails and hair, where the keratin exists, aren’t made up of living cells. The only living keratin is within your body. Once it grows out in the form of hair and nails, it’s completely dead. Thus, once you damage your hair and nails, they can’t regenerate. Your only option is to grow them out. (The part that grows happens within your skin in your nail beds and scalp. Once you can actually see it, it’s dead. So in essence you can only fix them by fixing your body and what’s causing the visible symptoms.

As far as your skin is concerned, fortunately, that’s a different story. Being a magnificently complex organ, skin does have the ability to regenerate. The keratin it contains mostly exists on the surface and is shed every time you exfoliate.

Wear and tear

So, are all reparative products not worth your time? Not necessarily. They can help strengthen your nails by coating them in a way that can fill in gaps and fortify them. As an example, think of a single paper plate. It’s thin and easy to bend and tear, right? Well, if you had to stack several together, you’d have a tougher time flexing them. This is how nail repair products work. They add more layers to your nails and give them more strength. Hair repair products work in a similar way. They can penetrate into your hair’s shaft and strengthen it from the inside out but the effect is always temporary. Once they wash out, your hair will return to its damaged state. This is why it’s important to keep on using reparative products while you grow and cut. Ultimately, reaching for the scissors is the only true way to get rid of damaged hair.

A real fix

Clearly, the best way to enjoy healthy hair and nails to is grow them yourself and then take care of them. This is where hair, skin and nail supplements come in. They promise to contain the vitamins and minerals you need for healthy keratinocytes. Thing is, focusing on such a small group of nutrients and expecting such big or “targeted” results is nonsensical. It’s like living on a diet of junk food but taking vitamins that are good for your heart and expecting to enjoy good health. As a result, the best vitamins and minerals for healthy skin, hair and nails is all of them.

Happily, if you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet and supplementing with a high-quality multivitamin you’ll be fully covered. A good one will contain all the essentials including those known for helping hair, skin and nails specifically. These including vitamin C, zinc, selenium, magnesium and biotin. You can then add an omega-3 fatty acid supplement into the mix as it’ll help reduce inflammation in your nail bed and moisturise from the inside out. They’ve also been proven to hydrate your skin while reducing inflammation and some studies suggest they could speed up hair growth.

A bit about biotin

Biotin often hogs the spotlight when it comes to being the be all and end all for healthy hair, skin and nails. Thing is, there’s only weak evidence to suggest it has any benefit unless you’re deficient. You also don’t have to take a megadose to reap the rewards. An iron deficiency, however, is very common and can be a major cause of hair loss and brittle nails. So much so that if many of those taking a hair and nail-focused supplement switched to an iron supplement, they’d see better results. Still, if you’re not deficient, taking excessive amounts of iron can be toxic so it’s always a good idea to chat about hair fall and weak nails with your doctor. They’ll be able to run blood tests that can diagnose a deficiency and get you on track to enjoying a lustrous head of hair; glowing skin and strong, healthy-looking nails.

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