Face lotions and creams help your skin, hair and nails become more resilient but what you eat and drink really does make a big difference. What are the best foods for skin that glows, shiny hair and stronger nails? Here’s an overview.

What are the best foods to prevent acne and redness?

Acne is caused by many things, one of which is hormonal fluctuations. That’s why you get more breakouts when you’re a teenager. As you get older, not getting enough sleep, stress and an unhealthy diet can cause hormonal issues.

Include whole grains and slow-burning carbohydrates into your diet, like oats, chickpeas, lentils and beans, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potato and corn. These are among the best foods for your skin, as they will help stabilise your blood sugar levels and prevent the highs and lows that can contribute to acne and cause skin redness. You’ll find plenty of free recipes with these ingredients on my website.

What foods help reduce eczema? 

Eating foods high in antioxidants can help manage eczema. Basically, all those bright and colourful vegetables and fruit will be loaded with antioxidants, to reduce eczema-contributing inflammation. No superfoods for skin health required. However, please note that stress is one of the biggest causes of eczema.

That said, you can eat salads all day, but if you’re perpetually stressed, you’ll continue to get flare-ups. When I get stressed, I get eczema on my fingers… Which I affectionately call my stress fingers. When they flare up, I use it as a sign that I’m pushing too hard, not sleeping enough and need to slow down. Thanks, body!

Bright and colourful vegetables and fruit are loaded with antioxidants and are among the best foods for skin health. Image: Unsplash
Bright and colourful vegetables and fruit are loaded with antioxidants and are among the best foods for skin health. Image: Unsplash

What are the best foods to prevent wrinkles and lines?

Tomatoes may help prevent skin damage from the sun. The part of the tomatoes that makes them red is called lycopene, an antioxidant that buffers ‘free radicals’. Those are the things that cause premature signs of ageing. A study found that those who consumed tomato paste 33% more protection from the sun. Don’t skip the sunscreen but do add tomatoes to your meals like this breakfast.

Oranges, kiwi fruit and cauliflower are great sources of Vitamin C. Yes, vitamin C is good for boosting immunity but it’s also needed by your body to produce collagen. That’s what helps your skin stay plumper. Loads of fruit and vegetables have vitamin C, just another reason to eat the rainbow and practice crowding out less healthy options for more fruit and veg.

Berries are also a great source of antioxidants, which can prevent free-radical damage helping to reduce redness, inflammation and create a smoother skin surface.

Berries, with all their antioxidants, are a great food for glowing skin. Image: Lyndi Cohen
Berries, with all their antioxidants, are a great food for glowing skin. Image: Lyndi Cohen

What are the best foods to help grow strong hair?

A lot of the foods that are good for your skin are also good for your hair and nails (as they are all connective tissue). There are a lot of reasons to include healthy fats in your diet and strong, healthy hair is just one of them. People who don’t get enough essential fatty acids find their hair breaks and falls out.

Healthy fats can help your scalp and hair shiny and hydrated. I like to include salmon about twice a week, I’ll eat around an avocado over the week and eat seeds, nuts and extra virgin olive oil daily. I also buy a dozen eggs once a fortnight. I always include the egg yolk which contains biotin, a B-group vitamin that may help your hair, skin and nails.

Iron is also important for stronger hair (and energy!) so make sure you aren’t low on iron, especially if you get heavy periods or are an athlete.

Is salmon good for your skin? Yes! You find plenty of delicious recipes on my website or in my app Back to Basics – like this convenient Sesame Soy Salmon One Tray Bake. Image: Lyndi Cohen

What are the best foods for stronger nails?

Pumpkin seeds, walnuts and brazil nuts are all great sources of zinc, selenium, healthy fats and fibre. These nutrients help you grow stronger nails. White spots on your nails can indicate that you might be low in zinc.

Because your skin, hair and nails turn over quite often, you need to keep getting enough zinc in your diet. My tip? Add pumpkin seeds to your yoghurt and muesli in the morning, toast and put on a salad or include it in your nut and fruit mix.

I have brittle nails (naturally). I found applying a nail strengthening top coat on my nails every other day for 1 month made a big difference to my nails.

What about probiotics for healthy skin?

Having a daily probiotic is a great way to boost your skin health (as well as your digestion, immunity and potentially, mood and concentration). Probiotics help your body buffer from free-radical damage. By boosting your gut health, you might also notice an improvement in your skin.

You don’t need to take a probiotic supplement. Personally? I prefer to eat real food than take supplements for health. Greek Yoghurt is the best source of probiotics in the diet so have plain greek yoghurt every day with your smoothie, wholegrain muesli or enjoy as a snack.

Not sure how to find a healthy yoghurt? This blog post might help.

What about supplements for skin, hair and nails?

  • Some people take biotin for better hair health but there really isn’t much evidence that B-group vitamins are a magic bullet for better hair. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it.

  • What about collagen? Many people are fans of collagen to boost the appearance of skin, however, there is limited research out there to support this. Take it if you want, but personally, I prefer to get collagen naturally in my diet by eating fish, plenty of brightly coloured fruits and veg (red, orange and yellow ones especially) and including a moderate to small amount of meat in my diet.

Want to hear more about this? Is collagen powder worth the money? Will it live up to the hype? Or is it just wankery? You’ll hear all about this in this episode of my podcast: Is collagen powder the secret to perfect skin & eternal life? 

Podcast No Wellness Wankery

Take home message

  • The best diet for your skin, hair and nails includes variety. Include whole grains, seeds and nuts, healthy fats, eggs and yoghurt, and plenty of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables.

  • Drinking too much alcohol, stress, not enough sleep and eating highly processed, sugary and fatty food will not be good news for your blood sugar levels, mood or skin, hair and nails.
  • Probiotics are the only supplement I recommend but I like it best in the form of plain Greek yoghurt.

  • Take supplements if you want but I recommend eating a balanced diet where you get all the nutrients you need.

Remember: You don’t have to look perfect to be healthy. 

Sure. Topical products can help. Eating the right foods can boost your hair, skin and nails but let me keep it real. There are a lot of things that are completely outside of your control.

Some people naturally have more brittle nails and hair whilst others are really sensitive to hormonal fluctuations so their skin flairs up. Take care of your body but at the same time, be kind to yourself.

You don’t have to look perfect or be beautiful to be healthy.

If you struggle with healthy eating, yo-yo dieting and body image, check out my app Back to Basics, designed to help you ditch your weight loss diet and feel healthy, radiant and comfortable in your body. Check it out here!