Most of us are aware of the multitude of vitamins and macronutrients we need for healthy, strong hair and glowing, youthful skin, but what about their nutrient counterparts: minerals?
Minerals are tiny, natural compounds that contribute to the health and condition of our bodies when digested. Like vitamins, they are needed for cell renewal, immunity, organ function, and our defence systems… as well as healthy-looking hair and skin!
A well-balanced diet full of fresh, unprocessed ingredients will ensure we maintain optimum levels of minerals in our systems, but with the state of the current western diet and the fast-food phenomenon, that’s not always the case.
Our bodies need a steady supply of lean protein, fresh fruit and vegetables, essential fats and plenty of water. Without these, our vitamin and mineral balance will deplete, and we will notice this in the appearance of our non-essential tissues (skin, hair, and nails) first.
A deficiency of certain minerals can have other physical effects, too, including anxiety and stress, aching or twitching muscles, and even the inability to sleep.
Most minerals will enter the body through the food we consume, but if we are lacking in any or are on a certain restricted diet (poorly managed vegan diets, for example), there are many supplement forms we can take.
If you notice your skin is looking a little lacklustre, or your hair has stopped growing, it could be down to a mineral deficiency. Try to correct it with eating a well-balanced diet first, but supplementation is often a convenient and guaranteed route to take.
Before we look into what we’re lacking, let’s focus on the 7 essential minerals we need for healthy skin and hair:
Think of iodine as the almighty mineral! This trace element is found naturally in seawater, rocks and some types of soil. It plays a major role in your thyroid function, aiding the healthy growth of hair and optimum skin functions. Iodine also prevents hair breakage and can kill any fungus that attacks the hair follicles. Iodine’s antiseptic properties protect the scalp from infections, providing a clean space for hair to grow.
If dining on a plate of soil doesn’t appeal to you, you can opt for Iodine-rich foods like fish, shellfish, and kelp. It’s also found in abundance in whitefish and dairy products, as well as potatoes, bananas, and eggs.
Otherwise known as Vitamin B3, Niacin is found in meat, fish, seeds, mushrooms, and eggs. This essential mineral not only plays a part in healthy skin; it also helps to release energy from the foods we eat, helping us feel focused and alert.
Niacin is known to boost the water content in the skin, helping us achieve a more youthful, smooth complexion. It also has beneficial effects for rosacea and acne, helping to reduce inflammation and flare-ups of both conditions.
Studies have shown that Niacin can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as other skin elasticity issues linked to premature ageing.
Necessary for keeping the skin, eyes and nervous system healthy, Riboflavin is found in dairy products like milk and eggs, as well as fortified breakfast cereals and rice.
Deficiencies in Riboflavin can lead to hair loss, and studies have shown that this mineral, part of the Vitamin B family, is essential for maintaining a healthy skin defence barrier.
Zinc is an essential mineral needed for cellular metabolism, immune function, and tissue repair. Studies show that Zinc is one of the most beneficial minerals for healthy skin and hair growth, as it can heal lesions and aid the treatment of acne, dermatitis, and psoriasis.
Zinc can control the skin’s production of oil and can also balance some of the hormones known to cause acne.
Although Zinc won’t increase your hair volume, it can prevent hair loss and maintain an optimum function of the hair follicles.
Boost your intake of Zinc by eating meat, shellfish, dairy products, and wheat germ. Nuts are also a great source of Zinc, as well as beans, spinach, and mushrooms.
Magnesium is an essential mineral for skin health, bones, teeth, and hair, and a deficiency in this mineral can accelerate ageing of the skin.
Magnesium supplements are recommended to take before bed, as they can help the repair of muscles and tissues during the night, allowing you to wake up bright and refreshed.
Dietary sources of Magnesium include Brazil nuts, buckwheat, kidney beans, wheat germ, almonds, spinach, dates, and lentils.
Silica is a trace mineral that helps support the health of your body’s connective tissues — including muscles, tendons, hair, ligaments, nails, cartilage and bone. It’s a vital component of maintaining healthy skin and aids the appearance of a youthful complexion.
Not enough Silica in your diet can lead to a lack of elasticity in your skin, speeding up the signs of ageing.
To increase your Silica intake, make sure you are eating lots of beans, chickpeas, red berries and leeks. Celery and rhubarb also contain high amounts.
Together with Sodium, Potassium helps to regulate the amount of water in your cells, so a deficiency in this mineral can result in dehydrated, dry skin. Potassium is an electrolyte, which means it holds an electric charge, vital for cells to function normally.
Bananas are the most commonly known source of potassium, but it can also be found in milk, kiwi fruit, oranges, and lentils.
Biotin is part of the B-complex and is also known as Vitamin H. It’s essential for converting nutrients into energy and plays a hugely important role in the health of our skin, hair, and nails. Biotin has been proven to improve the body’s Keratin production – a protein that makes up these non-essential tissues.
A deficiency in Biotin can lead to hair loss, scaly or dry skin, and weak nails that won’t grow. Biotin can be found in many protein-rich foods, yet a high percentage of Americans are still not getting enough.
Even if you are consuming efficient Biotin levels from food sources, it’s common to supplement this mineral further for additional benefits and healthier results.
Copper benefits the skin by promoting the production of collagen, which gives skin its strength and prevents the onset of ageing. It can also support the skin against oxidative damage and assist the creation of elastin – vital for keeping skin supple and smooth.
Copper as a dietary mineral is also required to convert amino acids into proteins to support hair and skin pigment. You can increase your Copper intake by eating sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and walnuts, mushrooms, and soybeans.
We’re all aware of how important Calcium is for healthy bones and teeth, but did you know that this mineral is essential for skin and hair health, too? A Calcium-rich diet can deter acne, support skin health, and strengthen many tissues in the body. A calcium deficiency will result in fragile and thin skin, loss of hair, weak bones, and brittle nails.
If you want to improve your overall skin and hair health, Calcium is a must! Make sure you’re eating plenty of dairy products, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. And be aware – too much alcohol and coffee can cause a Calcium deficiency!