Lori Alton via NaturalHealth365 – While radiant skin, thick, shiny hair and perfect fingernails are inherently attractive, paying attention to their condition isn’t just a matter of personal vanity. The appearance of complexion, hair, and nails can often provide important clues as to the overall state of health – and even indicate issues such as thyroid problems, anemia, hormonal imbalances, or nutrient deficiencies.
If you suddenly develop dry, scaly skin, thinning hair, and brittle nails, you should promptly consult your integrative doctor or dermatologist to rule out illness. But – in the absence of a medical condition – you can often address minor beauty “glitches” such as fragile nails, thinning hair, and dry, dull skin with proper nutrition (including adequate amounts of B complex vitamins). In fact, in a recent systematic review, vitamin B7 (also known as biotin) impressed researchers by causing improved growth of hair and nails in virtually all study participants. So let’s see what else the B complex vitamins can do for your well-being and appearance.
B Complex Vitamins, Such as Biotin, Promote Skin and Nail Health
Biotin, or vitamin B7, is a water-soluble vitamin essential for keratin production, an important component of fingernails and hair. Biotin has long been a popular beauty supplement – and now scientists are finding evidence of its clinical effectiveness. In a review of studies published in Skin Appendage Disorders, investigators evaluated 18 controlled trials and case studies to assess the effectiveness of biotin for participants with alopecia (thinning or missing hair), “brittle nail” syndrome, and poor hair or nail growth. The review authors reported that patients with brittle nail syndrome displayed improvement in nail growth. And participants with alopecia saw their symptoms resolve. (In all cases, however, the patients had an underlying biotin deficiency).
The Institutes of Medicine lists the adequate intake of biotin for adults as 30 micrograms a day. Clearly, it can’t hurt to ensure adequate dietary intake – which you can do by nibbling on nuts, legumes, and whole grains. Grass-fed beef liver, organic egg yolks, and wild-caught salmon are also great sources. Biotin is available in supplementary form as well. However, check with your integrative physician before trying this nutrient to promote hair and nail health.
Vitamin B5 Precursor Protects and Moisturizes Skin and Hair
Panthenol is a provitamin or precursor, meaning that the body converts it to a specific vitamin (in this case: vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid). And the conversion occurs even when panthenol is applied topically to the skin or hair. Experts say that panthenol is both a humectant – a substance that helps draw water to the skin – and an emollient that helps seal moisture into the skin. This means that panthenol protects and promotes the healthy skin barrier function that keeps out toxins, pollutants, and pathogens that can cause infections.
It is also anti-inflammatory – allowing it to reduce redness, itching, and swelling – and helps to support speedy wound healing. In addition, according to board-certified dermatologist Suneel Chilukiri, MD, panthenol’s various properties help the skin maintain elasticity, suppleness, and softness. (Panthenol also extends its “favors” to hair, promoting healthy condition, shine, and gloss). All in all, panthenol sounds like a “win” for supporting healthy hair and skin.
You can find panthenol in skin care creams, moisturizers, conditioners, and shampoos – sometimes in combination with other skin-pampering ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides. (Pro tip: Panthenol has many “aliases.” If you want to make sure a product contains panthenol, check labels for its alternate names: provitamin B5, butanamide, and d-pantothenyl alcohol).
Don’t Forget the Other B-Complex Vitamins
Experts say that getting adequate amounts of the B complex vitamins is key for hair and nail health. Deficiencies in vitamins B1(thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and B5 (pantothenic acid) can all cause undernourished follicles, which can slow hair growth, while shortfalls in vitamin B9, or folate, can cause nails to be brittle, thin and discolored.
Finally, vitamin B12 is needed for iron absorption. Low iron levels, in fact, can directly impact nail health and appearance, with white, thin, fragile nails serving as a symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency. As this important micronutrient is found primarily in animal foods such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs, vegans and vegetarians often need to seek out B12-fortified foods or take supplements. Consult your integrative doctor or dietitian for guidance.
Promote Healthy Nails, Skin, and Hair With Proper Nutrition
It’s not only deficiencies of B complex vitamins that can contribute to brittle nails and dry skin. Shortfalls in vitamin C – which facilitates the production of collagen – can contribute as well, while deficiencies in vitamin D are linked with skin problems such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and eczema. Also, getting adequate amounts of protein and omega-3 fatty acids is essential.
In addition to getting proper nutrition, many experts advise wearing gloves to protect nails from excess moisture and harsh chemicals. Also, avoid processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats, which nutrition experts say can worsen skin inflammation, irritation, and breakouts.
Good sources of B complex vitamins include grass-fed beef, cage-free poultry, pastured eggs, dairy products, legumes, leafy greens, cereals, and nutritional yeast. If you want to supplement, many natural health experts advise taking a high-quality B complex formulation. Check with your trusted integrative doctor to find a formulation that’s right for you.
There’s really nothing “complex” about it. Avoiding B vitamin deficiencies can help you keep your skin glowing, your hair shining, and your nails growing.
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