Let’s face it: That moment when you remove your 8-free polish and look down at your actual, bare nails can be disheartening. Without the cute nail art or trendy shade to make your manicure look fab, you may notice discoloration, brittleness, or spots—all of which could signal something important about your health.
This is where supplements come in. Rather than keeping the problem out of sight, you can (and should) address your nail issues by attacking the deficiency at its source. “When it comes to maintaining proper nail health, there are many vitamins and minerals that play an active role in the growth and rejuvenation of your nails,” says Rosemarie Ingleton, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. “That’s why taking a supplement or multivitamin is an easy way to ensure that you’re getting sufficient nutrients.”
Just like how what you eat shows up on your skin (raise your hand if you break out after eating dairy), your diet can majorly influence what your pre-mani nails look like. “A diet rich in biotin—cold water fish like salmon, almonds, peanuts, swiss chard, and eggs—is always a healthy way to go for good nail health,” says dermatologist and nail specialist Dana Stern, MD. On the flip side, she cautions, “Trends like extreme juicing can lead to deficiencies.”
Instead of making a salon appointment the next time you break a nail, reach for one of these supplements.
Keep reading for the 6 key supplements for strong, healthy nails.
It’s not just for luscious locks—biotin’s been shown to boost your nail health as well. “Biotin’s a B-complex vitamin that promotes nail growth and gets absorbed where both skin and nail cells are generated,” says Dr. Ingleton. According to Dr. Stern, you should take it for at least four months to see the benefits (nine if you’re trying to rehab your toenails). For optimal results, she recommends taking 2,000 to 3,000 micrograms.
If spots of discoloration are showing up on your bare nails or if your mani easily splits (ouch), that could be an indication of a zinc deficiency. “Zinc plays a crucial role in healthy cell division,” says Dr. Ingleton. “It’s necessary for nail growth because they’re a part of your body that quickly reproduces.”
3. Vitamin C
You gulp down the vitamin C when you’re sick and slather it on your skin for an even complexion, but taking it in supplement form (if you don’t get enough from your diet) helps to keep your nails healthy. “Vitamin C strengthens the skin, connective tissues, and bones,” says Dr. Ingleton. “So it’s a big aid in nail growth and overall health.”
4. Folic acid
You may have added folic acid to your supplement regimen when you were trying to grow your hair past your shoulders or fight depression, and the vitamin works wonders for your nails, too. “Folic acid helps generate new cells and tissues in your body, so it promotes nail growth,” says Dr. Ingleton. Good news for those who want a larger canvas for their badass nail art.
If you’re noticing abnormal indentions on your nails, you could need more iron in your diet. “Iron’s essential in keratin production, a building block of healthy nails,” says Dr. Ingleton. “A key indicator that you’re not getting enough is thin, curved, or ridged nails.”
“Cysteine’s an amino acid found naturally in the structure of nails and it’s known as a revitalizing agent in nail growth,” notes Dr. Ingleton. It works as an antioxidant and boosts collagen production—talk about a beautifying protein.
Other good news for your mani: Gel manicures are now way healthier. And these are 5 myths about natural nail polish you should know about.