Let’s face it, we all want to look good, particularly as we hit middle age and beyond. I should know, I’ll be 45 this year.
As we age, looking good doesn’t happen quite as easily as it did when we were young. I remember when I was in my 20’s and could just roll out of bed after staying up too late and eating too much junk food, etc. When you’re young you can still wake up in the morning looking pretty good, even after abusing your body with bad habits. Maybe you still can do that, but eventually, as with most things in life and health, we reap what we sow. Perpetuating bad practices for too long will come back and haunt you.
Apart from normal aging, unhealthy skin, hair and nails can be a clear sign that your internal health is subpar.
If you consistently find yourself dealing with dry skin, brittle hair and nails, maybe it’s time to do more than slather on the conditioners, toners and lotions. If you want to resolve the issue, you’ve got to address the problem head on – Focus on proper nutrition!
In the pursuit of helping people with health and wellness, I’ve discovered that there are key elements that you must address to keep your skin, hair and nails healthy and vibrant, as well as to look your best on the outside. These things will also do wonders for your internal health and longevity.
The Secret to Having Healthy Skin, Hair and Nails
Now I realize that not everyone is going to do all of the following. But, I can promise that if you start following these suggestions with regularity, you’ll see a marked improvement in your appearance, not to mention your health.
For healthy skin, hair and nails, AVOID the following:
- Processed Fake foods – Besides making you fat and sick, chemically processed foods will dry up your skin and accelerate aging. Good examples are potato chips, vegetable oils (corn, soy, Wesson, canola, peanut, cottonseed, etc.), soft drinks (regular and diet), boxed cookies, crackers, cereals and the like. Also stay away from prepackaged meats and canned vegetables. These “foods” can be inflammatory to the body due to their high content of polyunsaturated omega-6 fats and chemical additives.
- Sugar – I bet I love sugar as much as you do, but the fact is that it is highly inflammatory to the body and is known to accelerate aging. Eating too much sugar will do a number on your skin. If you eat sugar, eat it sparingly and make sure it’s the real deal, i.e. maple syrup, honey, pure cane, organic succanat, etc. These will be easily utilized in the body and will do less damage than high fructose sources. Remember, the more processed it is, the more fructose (high fructose corn syrup) and the worse it will be for you. This goes for artificial sweeteners too. Splenda, sweet-n-low, Equal and the like are all chemicals and are not good for your skin. If you want to know more about artificial sweeteners, check out my article here.
- Stress – Let’s face it, stress kills. We all know it. But, it will also age you and make you look tired, old and haggard along the way. Avoid it as much as you can. Too much stress can really mess up your hormones and will worsen skin issues such as rosacea, acne, psoriasis and the like. Prolonged stress will also cause hair loss and premature graying. If you have trouble dealing with stress, check out my article on tips for coping with it. Learning to deal with stress effectively will definitely keep you looking younger and healthy.
- Too much Caffeine – I love coffee as much as the next person, but too much of it will dehydrate your body, dry out your skin, and dry out your hair. Be careful how much of it you drink on a daily basis. If you’re concerned with dry skin and hair, the amount of caffeine that you’re ingesting could be playing a role.
- Parabens and other chemicals – Believe it or not, you’ll find some form of parabens in just about every commercial hair and skin care product, as well as some foods. Parabens are used as a preservative in products, even though they have been linked to breast cancer. They’re also known to be estrogenic (increase levels of bad estrogen in the body). Furthermore, studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin may react with UVB rays leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage. There’s even evidence that applying these chemicals to the skin can cause or increase your risk for melanoma. The next time you buy lotion, conditioner, soap, shampoo or deodorant, check the label. If you see any form of the word “paraben,” my suggestion is to avoid that product!
- Too much Sun – It doesn’t really need to be said, but overexposure to the sun will certainly make you look dry and wrinkly. We all know it. Like anything, too much of a good thing can cause premature aging. If you don’t want your skin to look like old luggage, don’t overdo the tanning.
- Too much Alcohol – A cocktail now and then probably isn’t a problem, particularly if it’s red wine, but too much alcohol will not do your skin any good. Alcohol wreaks havoc on your liver, the body’s filter. An overloaded liver means an unhealthy you – including your skin.
- Eating low fat – If you’re not getting enough good fat in your diet, particularly saturated fats from good animal sources, coconuts, avocados, fish and the like, you’re most likely going to be flaky, crusty, flabby and crabby. Not a pretty picture, huh? Don’t deny your body what it needs (REAL FAT), even if you’ve been taught to eat low fat all of your life. Forget that bull and start nourishing your body with healthy fats. Your skin and hair will thank you.
- Smoking – This should go without saying, but cigarettes are clearly unhealthy and will definitely set your body at a disadvantage. It’s a known fact that smoking will age you. If you smoke, don’t count on having healthy skin.
- Chlorinated pools, hot tubs and steam rooms – Chlorine is extremely damaging to your skin and hair. If you’re a swimmer or love the water, great! So, do I. But just know that if you’re regularly swimming, bathing or soaking in chlorinated water, your skin and hair are going to be dry and flaky. Much better alternatives are to swim in a salt water pool, a lake, pond or stream. An even better choice is the ocean. Salt water can be very therapeutic for the skin and hair.
For healthy skin, hair and nails, PRACTICE the following:
- Eat Real Food – I know it should be obvious, but eating real foods, including organic fruits and vegetables, grass fed meats, eggs and dairy will do amazing things for your skin, hair and nails NOT TO MENTION supercharge your health. Once you start looking dried up, old and haggard, the damage may already be done, so start EATING BETTER now.
- Add Fermented Foods and Probiotics to Your Diet – No, I don’t mean alcohol. What I’m talking about here are foods like homemade fermented sauerkraut, cultured vegetables, kefir, and grassfed organic yogurts. These types of foods were commonly used in traditional cultures known for their health and longevity. Ferments and cultured foods are full of healthy bacteria, which enhance and support the digestive process, while boosting the immune system. They are known for making your skin radiant and hair glow with health and vitality. They will also help clear up skin issues, if used with regularity. If you want to make your own ferments, check out CulturedFoodLife.com.
- Use Bone Stocks and Broths – Did you know that gelatin comes from bones? Your grandmother knew that gelatin was good for your skin, hair and nails. Apart from the amazing health benefits and flavor that homemade bone stocks and broths will add to your cuisine, the collagen alone from good stock will do wonders to supercharge your skin, hair and nails. Adding this amazing ingredient (internally) to your diet is much more beneficial than any conditioner, lotion or medication. If you want to know how to make your own, check out my Bone Stock Recipe.
- Supplement with Omega-3 Fats – You can do this by eating good wild catch fish, adding flaxseeds to your diet or by taking a healthy omega-3 fatty acid supplement. I like Green Pasture’s Cod Liver/Fermented Butter caps. I personally think they’re the best! They’re not cheap, but one bottle should last you two months. Are you worth it?
- Eat a Raw Carrot or Two Daily – A couple of carrots blended in the Vitamix with a little coconut oil is supposed to help decrease endotoxin in the gut. Per Danny Roddy (in his “Hair Like a Fox” program), bacterial endotoxin plays a strong role in hair loss, as well as other health related issues. And even if you disagree, you can’t deny the fact that both carrots and coconut oil are good for you!
- Add Virgin Coconut Oil to Your Regimen – I should probably do a whole article on the benefits of coconut oil for the body, but for the purposes here, just know that Virgin Coconut Oil has been used for centuries for skin and hair health. In India (and in the U.S.), it’s a primary ingredient used in hair products. The oil is superior to other oils for reducing protein loss in hair (damaged or not) when used as a pre-wash or post-wash grooming product. Coconut oil is a saturated fat that consists of medium chain fatty acids, which do not oxidize (easy oxidation causes harmful free radical damage). This is highly beneficial to the skin when used externally and internally. There is also a lot of evidence that virgin coconut oil (applied directly to areas of acne, rosacea, psoriasis and yeast on the skin) helps clear up skin issues and heal like no other. If you want to read more about the benefits of coconut oil, I recommend the book “Virgin Coconut Oil – How it has changed people’s lives, and how it can change yours!“
- Drink Plenty of Filtered Water – This sounds like such a basic, no brains suggestion, but you’d be surprised at the number of people I meet who complain about dry skin and hair who don’t even drink a glass of water a day! They’ll drink everything else, from soda to alcohol, but not water. Regular hydration alone, will do more for your skin than anything else. I’m not going to tell you how much water to drink, but make a conscious effort to increase the amount that you’re drinking every day. Oh, and make sure it’s clean, filtered and from a good source too!
- Break a Sweat Every Day – Health benefits aside, breaking a sweat every day will make your skin healthier. Moderate exercise is extremely detoxifying to the body. Without getting all sciency here, raising your heart rate long enough to make yourself sweat will increase blood flow to the skin while expelling toxins through the pores via sweat. This means your skin will be clearer and more radiant. Another way to sweat (if you’re too lazy to exercise every day) is to sit in a dry heat sauna for 15 to 30 minutes. If you do this, make sure you drink water throughout the time in the sauna and rinse off every 5 minutes or so to wash the toxins off your skin and to prevent you from overheating.
- Use Healthy Skin Care Products – When buying shampoos, conditioners, skin lotions, face creams, deodorants, sunblock, etc. do your research. You’ll find that most of what’s out there contains a lot of chemicals, including parabens, aluminum and other toxic substances. As with foods, if you also read the labels on your skin and hair products, you can do a lot to avoid these toxins. “Organic” is a good word to look for. It’s been said that your skin is the largest organ. Realize that what you slather all over it will be absorbed into your body. Do you really want to be putting all of those chemicals on your skin? If something is too toxic to eat, then you probably shouldn’t be using it on your skin and hair. See my list below for some suggestions.
- Eat Sweet Potatoes – The sweet potato is a superfood that packs a real punch when it comes to healthy skin. Full of beta-carotene, a precursor to essential Vitamin A, sweet potatoes assist in protecting the skin from sun exposure. They’re actually known for helping the skin tolerate sun exposure and help minimize sunburn. Eat them with some good organic butter, plain yogurt or sour cream to ensure that your body makes the most of all the vitamins.
- Use Whole Fat Grass-Fed Dairy – If you didn’t know it by now, I’m a huge proponent of real foods. This includes organic raw dairy from grass fed cows or goats. Real dairy contains lots of bioavailable Vitamin A – which among other things, is a supervitamin for your skin. Vitamin A helps maintain and repair skin cells; a deficiency will result in a dry, flaky complexion. As an antioxidant, Vitamin A also fights free radical damage that can prematurely age the skin.
- Eat Almonds – Almonds are full of skin healthy Vitamin E. Vitamin E’s rich oils moisturize dry skin. Its antioxidant value helps protect against sun damage and premature aging, as well as helps to improve and maintain the skin’s elasticity. But, don’t overdo it. Almonds are beneficial to the skin in small amounts (a handful). In large amounts they can cause weight gain and can be inflammatory due to their Omega 6 fat content.
- Eat Avocados – “Recent research has shown that absorption of two key carotenoid antioxidants—lycopene and beta-carotene—increases significantly when fresh avocado (or avocado oil) is added to an otherwise avocado-free salad.”(quoted from whfoods.com) In other words, the fat in avocado helps the body absorb beta-carotene (which is converted to Vitamin A in the body), which we already know is essential to good health. Besides containing healthy fats, avocados also contain a rich complex of B Vitamins (like Niacin – B3) which are also beneficial to the skin and hair. In addition, avocados are packed full of anti-inflammatory phytosterols and anti-oxidants which will help remedy any skin condition.
Product Suggestions for Radiant Skin and Hair
The following products are by no means exhaustive when it comes to having healthy skin and hair, but they are things that I’ve personally found that will surely help.
- Tracey Gurley Bath & Body Soaps – I’ve tried a lot of different soaps over the years and so far, Tracey’s are the best! I found out about her through a friend, who gave me a couple of bars of her Caribbean Coconut soap. When I used it, I was amazed at how great this soap is. Tracey’s soaps are awesome, no kidding! She makes them all herself, and strives to use the best ingredients for the skin. If you want some of your own (which I highly recommend), you can order yours HERE.
- Dr. Ohira’s Probiotics – I believe this to be one of the best probiotic formulas out there. It’s a bit pricey, but you get what you pay for. Healthy gut flora is key to healthy skin and hair.
- Dr. Ohira’s Probiotic Magoroku Skin Lotion – Combined with his probiotic pills, this lotion is a very effective and holistic way to treat skin conditions like rosacea, psoriasis, eczema and acne. You can find it HERE.
- A Loofah Sponge – There are all kinds, shapes and sizes out there to buy. All I know is that when I use a loofa with Tracey’s great soap, it makes a tremendous difference in my skin. Exfoliating is definitely key to healthy skin. Here’s the one I currently use.
- Acure Day Cream – I’m currently using this and love it. It smells really good, has all edible organic ingredients, and makes my face feel great. Acure seems to make great products. I haven’t used a lot of them, but I will definitely keep trying their stuff. You can see all of their stuff HERE.
- Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter Blend – As I said before, I use this brand and believe it to be the best. You can order it HERE.
- Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil & Products – I order all of my coconut oil from Tropical Traditions. They have great organic products and are always running specials. This is by far the most economical way of getting coconut oil for cooking and supplementing your diet. They also have some great skin lotions and shampoos. Check them out.
Keep in mind that the above suggestions are not meant to be a cure all for every skin condition, but are general guidelines for maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails. If you have extremely brittle hair, itchy, flaky skin, rashes or other conditions, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure you’re not dealing with a more serious underlying condition (such as a thyroid or hormonal issue).
I know there’s a lot of information in this article. If there’s one rule of thumb that will help improve and maintain your skin and hair health as you age, it is the following –
Eat Real, God-made foods that nourish the body! If you cannot eat it, you probably shouldn’t put it on your skin or hair. This is the best advice that I can offer when it comes to the health of your skin, hair and nails!
As always, I welcome your personal comments and suggestions.