If you’re suffering from dry, brittle hair, you might be lacking in keratin. This protein is essential for keeping your hair hydrated and strong. Lack of keratin can also lead to dull, lifeless skin and weak nails. Many people turn to keratin supplements and keratin-infused products to get their fix, but nothing beats getting this essential protein from whole foods. Though keratin itself is not naturally present in foods – many vitamins, minerals and protein found in foods either fortify the keratin already present in the body or encourage its production and regulation. Read about keratin rich foods below!
What Is Keratin Made Of?
Keratin is a structural protein that makes up the hair shaft, skin, and nails. It’s composed of long chains of amino acids, which are held together by disulfide bridges (13).
There are two types of keratin: hard and soft. Hard keratin is found in nails and hair, while soft keratin is found in mucous membranes and the outer layer of skin (13).
Keratin is produced by keratinocytes, which are cells in the outer layer of skin. When these cells mature, they move to the surface of the skin and eventually die and flake off as dust (13).
Your body is constantly producing new keratinocytes to replace the old ones. This process is known as cell turnover (13).
Keratinocytes are produced in the lower layers of the skin, and as they move up to the surface, they become filled with keratin. This gives them their hard, protective properties (13).
The following nutrients are necessary for the production of keratin:
Protein serves many bodily functions, but it’s particularly important for the production of keratin which is a protein itself (13). Foods that are rich in protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils, and nuts.
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that’s found in many foods. It’s also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H. Biotin is necessary for the metabolism of fats and proteins, and it plays a role in the production of keratin (1).
Some good sources of biotin include egg yolks, liver, salmon, avocado, and cheddar cheese.
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Also known as retinol, vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s found in animal products. Precursors to vitamin A, such as beta-carotene, are also found in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A is necessary for the growth and development of the skin and mucous membranes (16).
It also helps regulate cell turnover, which is important for keeping the skin looking young and healthy. This nutrient can fortify the amount of keratin in your body and prevent inhibition of this key process (c). Foods that are rich in vitamin A include liver, carrots, and other orange-colored fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin D plays an important role in the development of keratinocytes. This vitamin helps these cells mature and move to the surface of the skin (12).
Vitamin D is also necessary for the absorption of calcium, which is important for strong nails (12). You can get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, as well as from certain foods such as fatty fish, mushrooms, and eggs.
Zinc is a mineral that’s necessary for the function of more than 300 enzymes in the body. It helps with cell growth and repair, immune function, and wound healing (15).
Zinc also plays a role in the production of keratin (15). Foods that are rich in zinc include oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, and chickpeas.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that’s found in oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel. These fats are important for the health of your cell membranes (5).
They can also help to reduce inflammation and keep the skin looking young and healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help combat hair loss (5).
12 Foods Rich In Keratin-Promoting Nutrients
Here are some foods that contain nutrients to help promote keratin production and which may help improve the health of your hair, skin, and nails.
As one of the richest sources of biotin, eggs are essential for keratin production. Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that helps the body convert food into energy. It’s also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H (14).
In addition to biotin, eggs are also a good source of protein, which is essential for healthy hair, skin, and nails (14).
Chicken is another excellent source of protein, which is necessary for keratin production. It’s also a good source of niacin and vitamin B6 (11).
Niacin helps the body metabolize protein, and vitamin B6 is necessary for the production of melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives skin and hair its color.
This leafy green vegetable is packed with nutrients that are essential for healthy hair, skin, and nails. Spinach is a good source of vitamins A, C, and E, all of which are important for maintaining healthy skin (6).
It’s also a good source of iron and folate. Folate helps the body produce new cells, and iron is essential for proper circulation (6).
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Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy skin and hair. It helps the skin stay hydrated and protects it from damage (4).
Nuts are a good source of biotin, which as we mentioned before, is essential for keratin production. They’re also a good source of zinc. Zinc helps the body heal wounds and is necessary for the production of new cells (9).
Seeds are another excellent source of biotin and zinc. They’re also a good source of essential fatty acids, which are necessary for the production of sebum. Sebum is an oily substance that helps keep hair and skin hydrated (9).
Some of the best seeds for hair, skin, and nails include pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and sunflower seeds.
Fish is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for maintaining healthy skin and preventing dryness. They also help keep hair hydrated and may help fight hair loss and improve hair density along with other essential fatty acids (5).
Avocados are a good source of biotin, vitamin E, and healthy fats. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect the skin from damage. The healthy fats in avocados can help keep hair hydrated and prevent breakage (7).
Believe it or not, dark chocolate is actually good for your hair, skin, and nails. Dark chocolate is a good source of iron, magnesium, and copper.
Iron helps the body produce new cells, magnesium supports protein synthesis, and copper helps the body produce collagen (15). Collagen is a protein that gives skin its elasticity.
This delicious fruit is a good source of vitamin C, which is necessary for the production of collagen. Mangoes are also a good source of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A (8). Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy skin and hair.
Garlic is a good source of sulfur, which plays a role in the production of collagen. It’s also a good source of vitamins C and B6. Vitamin C helps the body produce collagen, and vitamin B6 is necessary for the production of melanin (10).
What Else Can You Do For Healthier Hair, Skin, And Nails?
Your diet isn’t the only thing that affects the health of your hair, skin, and nails. Here are a few other things you can do to keep them looking their best:
Water is essential for healthy hair, skin, and nails. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids every day, and avoid dehydrating beverages like coffee and alcohol.
Remember to protect your skin from the sun with sunscreen, and your hair from damage with a hat or scarf.
Use a moisturizer regularly to keep your skin and hair hydrated. Choose one that’s right for your skin type, and be sure to apply it to damp skin to lock in moisture.
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Exfoliating helps remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. This can help improve the appearance of your skin and prevent breakouts.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise helps improve circulation, which is essential for healthy hair, skin, and nails. It also helps the body to produce more collagen (2).
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep gives your body a chance to repair and regenerate cells. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Chronic stress can take a toll on your hair, skin, and nails (3). Try to find ways to relax and reduce stress in your life.
Choose The Right Products
Look for hair products that are designed for your hair type, and avoid those that contain harsh chemicals.
Keratin-infused hair care products can help to strengthen and protect your hair, while oils can help keep it moisturized.
When it comes to skin care, choose products that are non-comedogenic and free of harmful chemicals. Vitamin C and retinol are popular ingredients which have demonstrated benefits for the skin. Talk to your dermatologist for help building a routine that is right for you, and always include sunscreen.
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It’s always better to get your nutrients from foods, but if you can’t get enough of certain nutrients from your diet for any reason, you may want to consider taking supplements. Biotin, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins C and E are all important for healthy hair, skin, and nails (15). Always talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements.
You can also find beauty products that contain these nutrients. For example, there are hair care products that contain biotin and omega-3 fatty acids, and skin care products that contain vitamin C.
The Bottom Line
Keratin is a protein that’s found in the hair, skin, and nails. It’s responsible for keeping them strong and healthy. While you can get keratin-promoting nutrients from dietary sources, you can also find them in supplements.
Add these foods to your diet and you’ll be on your way to healthier, more youthful-looking hair, skin, and nails.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss (2017, nih.gov)
- Blood flow interplays with elastin: collagen and MMP: TIMP ratios to maintain healthy vascular structure and function (2010, nih.gov)
- Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging (2014, nih.gov)
- Chemical constituents and health effects of sweet potato (2016, pubmed.gov)
- Effect of a nutritional supplement on hair loss in women (2015, pubmed.gov)
- Functional properties of spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) phytochemicals and bioactives (2016, pubmed.gov)
- Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects (2013, nih.gov)
- Mangifera Indica (Mango) (2010, nih.gov)
- Nuts and seeds (2021, betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
- Potential Health Benefit of Garlic Based on Human Intervention Studies: A Brief Overview (2020, nih.gov)
- Role of poultry meat in a balanced diet aimed at maintaining health and wellbeing: an Italian consensus document (2015, nih.gov)
- ROLE OF THE VITAMIN D RECEPTOR IN HAIR FOLLICLE BIOLOGY (2007, nih.gov)
- Structure and functions of keratin proteins in simple, stratified, keratinized and cornified epithelia (2009, nih.gov)
- The Golden Egg: Nutritional value, Bioactivities, and Emerging Benefits for Human Health (2019, nih.gov)
- The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review (2019, nih.gov)
- Vitamin A deficiency and keratin biosynthesis in cultured hamster trachea (1986, pubmed.gov)