The Best 10 Foods For Healthy Hair And Nails

Photo of Daisy Whitbread Written by Daisy Whitbread
BSc (Hons) MSc DipION
Photo of Dr. Nicolette Natale Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Nicolette Natale
Evidence Based. References sourced from PubMed.
The Best 10 Foods For Healthy Hair And Nails

Our hair and nails are dependent on a supply of nutrients from the food we eat to stay strong and healthy. This is not simply a matter of appearance though, as the health of our hair and nails is in fact, a barometer of our internal health.

A poor diet can quickly lead to weak, splitting nails and dull, brittle hair. Shiny hair and strong nails, on the other hand, can be an indicator of good health and nutritional status (1,2).

Hair is a fast-growing tissue and has high nutrient requirements (2).

Important nutrients for healthy hair and nails include protein, zinc, iron, and B vitamins. Omega-3 fats and vitamin A act as natural conditioners.

The fingernails are usually the first place to show visible signs of mineral deficiencies. For example, white spots can be a sign of zinc deficiency and vertical ridges can indicate that you need more iron.

Eating the foods recommended here will not only benefit your nails and hair, but your overall health as well, and are healthy additions to any diet.

Tips for Healthy Hair and Nails

  • Exercise - Exercise increases circulation to the scalp and extremities, including the fingers and scalp, which helps deliver nutrients and oxygen to the hair and nails.
  • Stress Relief - Stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands and reduces circulation, both of which can lead to hair and nail problems over time (24). Try an Indian head massage for stress relief and increased circulation to the scalp.
  • Notes on Washing Hair - Washing hair too often can strip it of natural oils leaving it dry, as can harsh products containing chemicals. Wash your hair every 2-3 days and avoid products containing too many synthetic ingredients that may cause allergies or dandruff. Blow-drying too much can also be damaging, so allow hair to dry naturally whenever possible and avoid hair straighteners and curling tongs.
  • Notes on Nail Treatments - Avoid harsh nail treatments such as acrylic nails. Instead wear a nail-strengthening product, as bare nails tend to break more easily. Further, use acetone-free nail polish remover.
  • Avoid Smoking - Smoking is linked with negative effects on hair health and an increased risk of hair loss (25). Overweight smokers have a six times higher risk of suffering with alopecia (hair loss) than non-smokers of a healthy weight (26).

Data Sources and References

  1. Honma M, Shimamura T, Komatsu S, Minami-Hori M, Hinooka R, Iizuka H. Nutrition and hair J Dermatol. 2013 Sep;40(9):759-60. doi: 10.1111/1346-8138.12223. Epub 2013 Jul 9. 23834658
  2. Gherardini J, Wegner J, Chéret J, Ghatak S, Lehmann J, Alam M, Jimenez F, Funk W, Böhm M, Botchkareva NV, Ward C, Paus R, Bertolini M. Effect of ultraviolet radiation, smoking and nutrition on hair Int J Cosmet Sci. 2019 Apr;41(2):164-182. doi: 10.1111/ics.12521. 30746733
  3. Muddasani S, Lin G, Hooper J, Sloan SB. Nutrition and nail disease Clin Dermatol. 2021 Sep-Oct;39(5):819-828. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2021.05.009. Epub 2021 May 15. 34785009
  4. Hochman LG, Scher RK, Meyerson MS. Biotin for the treatment of nail disease: what is the evidence? Cutis. 1993 Apr;51(4):303-5. 8477615
  5. Hochman LG, Scher RK, Meyerson MS. [Treatment of brittle fingernails with biotin] Cutis. 1993 Apr;51(4):303-5. 8477615
  6. Floersheim GL. Brittle nails: response to daily biotin supplementation Z Hautkr. 1989 Jan 15;64(1):41-8. 2648686
  7. Martin KR. Silicon: the health benefits of a metalloid J Nutr Health Aging. 2007 Mar-Apr;11(2):94-7. 17435951
  8. Tedesco E, Benetti F, Pezzani R. Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical forms available and efficacy FASEB J. 2020 Sep;34(9):12229-12238. doi: 10.1096/fj.202000060RR. Epub 2020 Jul 18. 32681588
  9. Sinclair R. Nutritional factors and hair loss Br J Dermatol. 2002 Nov;147(5):982-4. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.2002.04997.x. 12410711
  10. Thompson JM, Mirza MA, Park MK, Qureshi AA, Cho E. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review Am J Clin Dermatol. 2017 Oct;18(5):663-679. doi: 10.1007/s40257-017-0285-x. 28508256
  11. Rasheed H, Mahgoub D, Hegazy R, El-Komy M, Abdel Hay R, Hamid MA, Hamdy E. Iron plays a certain role in patterned hair loss Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2013;26(2):101-7. doi: 10.1159/000346698. Epub 2013 Feb 20. 23428658
  12. Fawcett RS, Linford S, Stulberg DL. Evaluation of nail abnormalities Am Fam Physician. 2004 Mar 15;69(6):1417-24. 15053406
  13. Pathak P, Kapil U, Kapoor SK, Saxena R, Kumar A, Gupta N, Dwivedi SN, Singh R, Singh P. Zinc: an essential micronutrient Indian J Pediatr. 2004 Nov;71(11):1007-14. doi: 10.1007/BF02828117. 15572822
  14. Lux-Battistelli C. The therapeutic effect and the changed serum zinc level after zinc supplementation in alopecia areata patients who had a low serum zinc level Dermatol Ther. 2015 Jul-Aug;28(4):235-8. doi: 10.1111/dth.12215. Epub 2015 Mar 5. 25754430
  15. Almohanna HM, Ahmed AA, Tsatalis JP, Tosti A. The Role of Micronutrients in Alopecia Areata: A Review Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2019 Mar;9(1):51-70. doi: 10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6. Epub 2018 Dec 13. 30547302
  16. Ablon G, Kogan S. Effect of a nutritional supplement on hair loss in women J Drugs Dermatol. 2018 May 1;17(5):558-565. 29742189
  17. Ablon G. A 3-month, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the ability of an extra-strength marine protein supplement to promote hair growth and decrease shedding in women with self-perceived thinning hair J Cosmet Dermatol. 2016 Dec;15(4):358-366. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12265. Epub 2016 Aug 9. 27506633
  18. Everts HB, Silva KA, Schmidt AN, Opalenik S, Duncan FJ, King LE Jr, Sundberg JP, Ong DE. Endogenous retinoids in the hair follicle and sebaceous gland Nutr Res. 2021 Oct;94:10-24. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2021.08.002. Epub 2021 Aug 24. 34571215
  19. Pham CT, Romero K, Almohanna HM, Griggs J, Ahmed A, Tosti A. Mediterranean diet: fresh herbs and fresh vegetables decrease the risk of Androgenetic Alopecia in males Skin Appendage Disord. 2020 Mar;6(2):88-96. doi: 10.1159/000504786. Epub 2020 Jan 7. 32258051
  20. De Souza B, Tovar-Garza A, Uwakwe LN, McMichael A. The Role of Diet as an Adjuvant Treatment in Scarring and Nonscarring Alopecia J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2021 Feb;14(2):26-33. Epub 2021 Feb 1. 34221224
  21. Gerkowicz A, Chyl-Surdacka K, Krasowska D, Chodorowska G. Role of vitamin D in hair loss: A short review Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Dec 7;18(12):2653. doi: 10.3390/ijms18122653. 29215595
  22. Daud ZA, Tubie B, Sheyman M, Osia R, Adams J, Tubie S, Khosla P. Effects of tocotrienol supplementation on hair growth in human volunteers Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2013;9:747-61. doi: 10.2147/VHRM.S51710. Epub 2013 Nov 28. 24348043
  23. Trüeb RM. Oxidative stress in ageing of hair Int J Cosmet Sci. 2015 Dec;37 Suppl 2:25-30. doi: 10.1111/ics.12286. 26574302
  24. Thom E. Stress and the Hair Growth Cycle: Cortisol-Induced Hair Growth Disruption J Cosmet Dermatol. 2017 Sep;16(3):421-427. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12286. Epub 2016 Sep 23. 27659896
  25. Zayed AA, Shahait AD, Ayoub MN, Yousef AM. The Effects of Smoking on Hair Health: A Systematic Review Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013 Apr;4(2):90-2. doi: 10.4103/2229-5178.110586. 23741662
  26. Su LH, Chen TH. The combination of overweight and smoking increases the severity of androgenetic alopecia Arch Dermatol. 2007 Nov;143(11):1401-6. doi: 10.1001/archderm.143.11.1401. 18025364
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