People spend thousands of dollars on special cleansers, serums, and other products to improve their skin and hair, but, in many cases, the biggest things impacting their appearance come from places that topical ingredients can’t reach. Hair is made of non-living protein strands, and skin is supported by fat and collagen. While topical products can definitely help, really great skin and hair start from within.
Here are some of the best foods for promoting healthy, beautiful skin and hair:
1. Bone broth or collagen powder
Collagen is a protein that keeps skin from sagging. While the collagen you eat doesn’t automatically go to your skin, it does provide amino acids that are difficult to obtain from other sources. Collagen production slows as you age, so it can be especially helpful to take in more of it as you get older. Preliminary research suggests that consuming collagen for several months can improve skin elasticity and reduce signs of aging, as well as promote healthier joints and bone density. Collagen is mostly found in skin and connective tissue of animals, which many people don’t eat. Consuming bone broth and taking collagen peptide supplements are easy ways to boost your intake.
2. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are tiny nutrient powerhouses. They’re high in fat and protein, as well as vitamins A, K, and C, the mineral zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients help your body produce strong hair shafts, as well as produce sebum, your skin’s natural moisturizer.
If you’ve ever taken an oatmeal bath for eczema or itchy skin, you probably know just how awesome these grains can be for your skin. Eating them is just as important as bathing in them — they’re high in zinc, biotin, magnesium, and potassium, all nutrients that are important for healthy skin and hair. Raw oats are also particularly high in silica, which helps skin produce rebuild connective tissue to heal damage and stay plump, strong, and youthful-looking.
Avocados are high in fat, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants, all of which contribute to healthy-looking skin and hair. Antioxidants are especially important — the body produces substances called free radicals that can damage cells and contribute to signs of aging. Antioxidants help combat free radicals and prevent oxidative damage, leading to younger-looking skin. Avocados’ high fat content also helps the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other sources, so be sure to include them in your next vitamin-packed salad.
When it comes to antioxidant activity, you can’t beat blueberries. They have the highest antioxidant levels out of 40 other common fruits and vegetables, and are chock-full of vitamin C. Vitamin C is important for collagen production, and, just like the ones in avocados, the antioxidants in blueberries help prevent free radical damage and keep skin looking young and vibrant.
Salmon is a great source of protein and fatty acids, which are important for healthy skin and hair. It’s one of the best dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids out there, which helps the body produce the natural oils that keep skin dewy and hair shiny. Salmon also has plenty of selenium, a mineral that helps protect skin against damage from ultraviolet light. While it isn’t a substitute for a high SPF, it can help handle some of the stress from sun exposure. For best results, go for wild caught salmon instead of farm-raised, since the animal’s diet impacts its ratio of fatty acids.
Spinach is high in beta carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A that keeps skin moist and dewy. It’s also a good source of vitamins B, C, and E, as well as potassium, iron, and magnesium. To get the most benefit out of spinach, pair it with something fatty and high in vitamin C — like a spinach salad with avocado and a squeeze of lime juice.
Your skin and hair are outward reflections of what’s going on inside your body. If your diet is lacking, they are one of the first places where deficiencies show up. By adding these healthful, versatile foods to your diet, you can ensure that you’re filling in the nutrient gaps that lead to unhealthy skin and dry, brittle hair, improving both your overall health and appearance at the same time.