In all the chaos one day can bring, it’s hard to remember to stick to daily routines – like taking your vitamins. But vitamins can make a huge difference not only in general health, but in the strength of your hair, nails and skin too. Which ones should you take, and why?
You’ve probably heard that biotin (otherwise known as Vitamin H, or B complex vitamins) can do wondrous things like increase hair and nail growth rates and improve their strength. Board-certified dermatologists told HuffPo that B complex vitamins are important in metabolism, helping your body to process energy and transporting carbon dioxide from your cells, and that they can improve the keratin infrastructure (and we’ve all heard how important keratin is in hair and nails).
Biotin deficiency is common in pregnant women, which is one of the reasons prenatal vitamins are packed with B vitamins and are often touted for use in beautifying hair, skin and nails. Side effects of biotin deficiency include brittle nails and hair loss, which could explain why ingesting the supplement could result in the opposite effect. However, be warned that the increase in hair growth from taking biotin is only about 6% over the course of several months, and that overdosing could be related to high blood sugar levels and lower vitamin C and B6 levels. Everything in moderation, beauties!
My own testimonial: my multivitamin doesn’t contain biotin, so I began supplementing. After about 2 weeks, I noticed my hair becoming shinier, my nails stronger, and my skin looking much clearer. You can find Spring Valley Biotin 5000 mcg Softgels on Amazon for under $5.
Most have heard that Vitamin E is beneficial to skin, but who really knows why? The Dove is here to set you straight. See, Vitamin E is one of the most powerful antioxidants out there that protects and repairs your skin. Antioxidants are great because they neutralize the oxidant (see? Anti-oxidant? Ahhhh) effect of free radicals, which damage collagen and ultimately cause skin dryness, fine lines and wrinkles. Don’t believe me? This isn’t mumbo-jumbo meant to sell more skin cream – really. Here’s how it works.
Remember learning in chemistry that atoms try to maintain an even number of electrons? If you slept in that class like I did, you may not, but it’s true – that even number is what makes them stable. If an atom has an uneven number of electrons, it’ll go swipe an electron from another atom to become stable. When your skin gets hit with outside factors such as UV rays or smoke damage, your body can react by producing free radicals, which are simply atoms with an uneven number of electrons.
When free radicals form inside your body, they steal electrons from healthy cells like the ones that make up your prettiest skin, and no amount of “Swiper no swiping!” cries can make them stop. Now those cells have an uneven number of electrons, and they turn to a life of crime – you can see the damaging chain reaction. That’s where antioxidants like vitamin E come in.
Now you can understand how Vitamin E and like antioxidants neutralize the oxidant effect of free radicals and prevent cellular damage. Vitamin E is one of the most powerful antioxidants, but your body doesn’t produce it on its own – so you gotta make sure you’re getting enough of the valuable nutrient through your diet or supplements. Believe it or not, Vitamin E can help prevent premature aging of your skin and even damage to your DNA. Vitamin E is heavily available in oils and nuts, but if you want to fast-track it, try a supplement like Nature Made Vitamin E Softgels.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, plays a key role in your body’s production of collagen, a protein that aids in the growth of cells and blood vessels and gives skin its firmness, elasticity and tensile strength. Think of bouncy, youthful skin, and you’re thinking of skin full of collagen. Vitamin C also helps in the creation of scar tissue and ligaments, effectively helping your skin repair itself. And remember how awesome antioxidants are? Vitamin C is one of those too, just like E. It may also reduce sunburn caused by exposure to UVB rays and prevent the consequences of long-term sun exposure, ultimately reducing your chances of getting skin cancer.
C is for citrus, so eat lots of citrus fruits to make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin C – or take a supplement shortcut like Nature Made Vitamin C 500mg. Topical Vitamin C can help produce collagen and fight free radicals too, but not all skincare products with Vitamin C are made equal; make sure yours contains it in the form of L-ascorbic acid so it’s sure to penetrate the skin’s layers (remember, skin is meant to protect you from outside damage and it can’t tell if you’re applying something beneficial or harmful). JJ Labs Skin Solutions Vitamin C 25% with Pure Hyaluronic Acid Anti Aging Serum is a good one.
Heard of Retin-A or retinoids? Then you’ve heard of the benefits of Vitamin A for skin. Originally conceived as an acne treatment, researchers found a multitude of other skin benefits from the use of tretinoin, a Vitamin A derivative. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for healthy eyes and skin that occurs naturally in liver, butter and eggs. The body can also turn beta-carotene, found in veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach, into Vitamin A. Then the body converts Vitamin A into retinoic acid, and that’s when skin benefits happen.
Retinoids work by binding to corresponding receptors in the skin and peeling off the top layer of dermis. This evens skin tone and thickens lower dermal layers, which ultimately smooths out wrinkles. Retinoids also boost collagen (yay, more collagen!) by blocking the genes that cause collagen breakdown and increasing other gene activity responsible for collagen production.
Retinoids are photosensitive, meaning they degrade in light, so they’re probably way less effective if you use a Vitamin A packed day cream. Try a nighttime application instead, or supplement non-topically with Nature’s Way Vitamin A.
That’s a lot to remember, right? Luckily, there’s one easy supplement called Nature’s Bounty Hair, Skin & Nails that combines all the vitamins above so you only have to remember to take one pill. Hooray! I still think it’s important to know the whys behind this stuff, though – that’ll help you make better decisions when buying skin products that claim to contain these ingredients.