3 High-Protein Foods To Promote Healthier Hair, Skin And Nails, According To Derms

Protein is essential for not only your overall health, but specifically that of your hair, nails and skin (at any age). We checked in with dermatologists and skincare experts for three timeless, go-to, nutritious food suggestions to add to your diet if a more protein-rich menu is your goal. Read on for tips, suggestions and insight from Dr. Elaine F. Kung, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Future Bright Dermatology and Dr. Enrizza Factor, MD, board-certified dermatologist and researcher at My Vitiligo Team.


1. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, like salmon, Factor explains, are "rich in omega-3s and a good source of lean protein. Fish choices like "salmon, herring and mackerel have nutrients that may promote hair growth," she adds, while they are also "great sources of protein, selenium, vitamin D3 and B vitamins, nutrients that may help promote strong and healthy hair." When it comes to your skin, there are also plenty of benefits offered from fatty fish, Kung agrees. "Fish is an excellent protein source, which supplies amino acids for our body to make collagen," she says.


Collagen, she continues, is the protein responsible for supple skin and its elasticity, and can be taken in supplement form daily while also found in many foods. "Fish skin is a rich source of collagen, and salmon is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may enhance collagen formation," Kung points out.

2. Eggs

Kung dubs eggs to be a terrific source of skin-loving "protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants," along with iron and many other vitamins and minerals like "zinc, biotin, choline, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamins A, B12, and D," which all promote glowing skin, thicker hair and stronger nails. Besides bone health, Kung notes that vitamin D in eggs has been "shown to protect the skin from UV damage and reduce inflammation."  Eggs also contain "oleic acid and palmitic acid," which Kung explains are important for maintaining our skin's lipid layer.  "Eggs contain B vitamins which are important antioxidants, help skin retain moisture, and repairs DNA damage," she stresses, and zinc is "another key mineral in healthy collagen production."
Factor agrees, and points out that eggs are also a great source of "selenium and other hair-healthy nutrients." This, she says, makes them "one of the best foods to consume for optimal hair health." Eggs also contain B12, vitamins A and E, iron, and biotin (also known as Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H, and a part of the B-complex vitamins), and Factor says that Biotin has been "scientifically shown to increase fingernail thickness and reduce brittleness and splitting."

3. Spinach

Spinach contains "calcium, chloride, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, choline, folate, riboflavin, and vitamins A, C, E, K, B6," which Kung says are all vital regarding the appearance of your skin, hair and nails.  "Foods that contain vitamins A, C, E and carotenoids are wonderful for skin health and prevent skin aging because they are potent antioxidants," Kung adds. She tells us that vitamins A, C, E and E prevent "discoloration and pigmentary changes that ages our appearance." Vitamin C in particular, she reiterates, is a "really important part" of collagen synthesis.

Factor concurs, and notes that this healthy green vegetable is loaded with beneficial nutrients "that promote hair growth" like "folate, iron, and vitamins A and C." Spinach is also what she deems to be a "great plant-based source of iron," which is "essential for hair growth." Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body to fuel your metabolism, Factor adds, and aid growth and repair. "Spinach provides your body with enough iron, folate, and calcium to get nails back into fighting shape," she concludes.