Struggling with skin issues is something that most of us can relate to. It’s also a very emotional health dysfunction because we can literally see it. When you look in the mirror and see pimples, dry/flaky skin, dullness, dark circles, brittle/lifeless hair, or our hair falling out in chunks all you want to do is curl up in a ball and hide under blanket. I know when I struggled with skin issues, I always tried covering it up with tons of makeup to hide it from the world because I was so self conscious about it. That only made it worse, piling on all of those pore clogging ingredients onto my skin! Then, all you can think about is how everyone around you is probably staring at those huge pimples on your face and not really looking at YOU. Ugh. So depressing and I’ve been there!
Issues with our skin, hair and nails are a symptom and a sign that our body is giving us that something is not functioning right within the body. Only until I really addressed my health from the inside out, did I start seeing huge improvements in my skin, hair and nails. For me, it was healing my gut, balancing my blood sugar, balancing my hormones and eliminating the foods that caused inflammation in my body (processed food/sugar, wheat, gluten, most dairy, almonds).
As with many other things, healthy hair, skin and nails starts with the digestive system. The digestive system is often referred to as “the gut”. Our digestion needs to work properly in order to absorb and assimilate all of the nutrients from our food. All of those nutrients are then transported to the different tissues and organs in our body and our skin just so happens to be the largest organ.
When our digestive system isn’t working properly or we have “leaky gut”, which is when the lining of the digestive tract becomes damaged and undigested food enters the blood stream undigested, it can cause all sorts of dysfunction within the body such as hormonal imbalances, blood sugar disregulation, fat malabsorption, detox issues, autoimmune diseases, food allergies/sensitivities, mood disorders and more! A sign of one of these dysfunctions within the body can be acne, eczema, dry skin, brittle hair and nails, hair loss, etc.
So, you can see why addressing the health of our gut is an extremely important and why I think it’s the first step in improving the health of our skin, hair and nails. How do we do this? I’ll walk you through six key steps to help heal your hair, skin and nails from the inside out.
Improve digestion on a foundational level.
Lemme give you a quick run down of what that looks like.
Digestion really starts in the brain because the brain sends signals to all of the organs involved in the digestive system to “turn on” and get ready to digest the food that we are going to eat. In order for the brain to properly signal that it’s time for the body to eat and digest, we need to get into a parasympathetic state or “rest and digest”. Most of us are not in a parasympathetic state when we’re eating and instead we are in a sympathetic state or “fight or flight”. We’re busy rushing around and doing other things while we are eating. We’re scrolling through our phone, answering emails and phone calls. We are driving or even standing up mindlessly shoving food down our throats. Our digestive system is not turned on and we honestly probably aren’t even absorbing most of the nutrients from the food we are eating! So, the first step in digestion is to focus on the meal, relax and even make a ritual out of it so that our brain can tell our body’s that it’s time to digest.
The next step is to slow down and chew our food. Once our brain has told our digestive system to get going, our mouths start to produce saliva which has enzymes in it to start breaking down the food. Chewing our food thoroughly and slowing down instead of wolfing down our food is going to help out our stomach a ton. Our stomach’s job is to clean out any pathogens using stomach acid before our intestines assimilate the nutrients.
After our stomach has given the all clear that pathogens are taken care of, our liver and gallbladder produce bile and enzymes to help break down fats and then filter out any toxins. This is HUGE for the health of our hair, skin and nails! Essential fatty acids are needed to keep our skin and hair from drying out. Fats are also the building blocks of our cells membrane, so healthy and strong cells mean healthy and strong hair, skin and nails!
Once the food enters our small intestine all of those amazing nutrients are sent all over the body to be absorbed while the remainder feeds the good bacteria in our gut. If we have any bacterial or yeast overgrowths and the good/bad is out of balance, we’re going to see the effects of that in our skin. Fiber, leafy greens and probiotic rich foods are going to promote that good gut bacteria.
The last step is for the large intestine to move all of the leftover toxins and waste out of the body so staying hydrated and figuring out any GI issues is super important. We don’t want those toxins hanging out in our digestive tract because the other option for the body to rid of them is through the skin, AKA acne!
Digestion is such an important factor to the health of our hair, skin and nails and is why I think it’s the most important first step.
Drinking clean, filtered water keeps our skin, hair and nails, hydrated and plump. Dry, dull looking skin can be a sign of dehydration. Staying hydrated is also going to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
Ah stress. The root of all evil. Keeping our stress in check is important for a bunch of different reasons when it comes to healthy hair, skin and nails.
When we’re stressed out, we’re in a sympathetic state or “fight or flight”. Digestion shuts off and nutrients aren’t digested and appropriately absorbed which can lead to leaky gut.
Being in a constant state of stress can also cause the adrenal glands to release cortisol all of the time in order to cope/keep our hormones in balance. This can lead to our blood sugar being out of whack which is a vicious cycle because our body is constantly releasing cortisol to balance everything out and it leaves us feeling depleted and our other hormones out of balance.
Sleep is so important for so many reasons. When we sleep we are restoring the body, recharging the brain, and turning over cells. When we are lacking in sleep or getting poor quality sleep it can lead to hormonal imbalances (especially with our hunger hormones), blood sugar imbalance (worsens with too much caffeine), mood swings, and can cause us be less resilient to stress. Kind of like proper digestion, getting good sleep is foundational to many areas of our health which is all a chain reaction to the health of our skin, hair and nails.
Nutrient dense, whole foods diet.
Remove all processed foods, highly refined sugars and oils, gluten and conventional dairy. If you’re going from a Standard American Diet that is heavy in processed and packaged foods, then the best first step is to immediately remove all of those. They are nutrient poor and highly inflammatory. If you have already removed processed foods and added sugar, then an elimination diet is the next best step. Start with removing gluten and dairy to see if that helps clear up your skin and then if you suspect other food sensitivities or have some major gut healing to do, going on a grain free Paleo style diet may be best or try out.
Foods rich in Vitamin A, D, E, zinc and healthy fats are especially good for the hair, skin and nails. Wild caught fish (salmon, cod, sardines, oysters), extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pastured eggs, liver, leafy greens (kale, mustard, beet, arugula, spinach) are all great choices and full of these vitamins!
Bone broth, collagen peptides and fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and coconut milk yogurt) are great foods for the gut! I take collagen daily and have seen great results in my hair, skin and nails! It’s easy because it doesn’t taste like anything and you can add it to tea, coffee, soup, or bake with it. I have more ideas in this blog post.
Safer cosmetics and household products.
You know the saying “you are what you eat”? Well, that should also include, “you are what you put on your skin”. What we put *in* our bodies is just as important as what we put *on* our bodies. This includes skincare, makeup, lotions, perfumes, laundry detergents, household cleaning products, hand soaps, dish soaps, etc. I love using the EWG Skin Deep website, which lets you search for products that you use and gives you a score. They also have a list of ingredients to watch out for you that you can take with you when you go shopping for new, safer products.
It can be overwhelming switching out all of your products for safer versions because they sometimes just don’t work like the conventional products and it can also be expensive. My recommendation is to start switching over as you run out of things. That’s how I got started. Once my mascara ran out, I bought a new cleaner version. Once my foundation ran out, I switched. Same with laundry and cleaning products. There are also a ton of recipes and resources online for making your own products. Vinegar and lemon essential oil are great for cleaning and they are super affordable!
Here are a few of my favorite brands:
- Primally Pure
- Dr. Bronners
- Honest Co.
- Seventh Generation
- Cocokind Skincare
- Mad Hippie Skincare
- Thieves cleaner & essential oils
If you have any questions on how to heal your gut, get healthier skin & hair or questions about safer cosmetics, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with details, goals and questions and I will be happy to guide you!