Silicon for Stronger Skin, Hair and Nails
First appearances mean everything, and the condition of our hair, skin and nails can make a lasting impression. If you want radiant skin, healthy hair and strong nails, then you need silicon!
Silicon (not to be confused with silicone), is the second most abundant element on Earth, and the third most abundant trace element in our bodies (1). In plants, silicon is stored in a form called silicon dioxide or silica, which is silicon attached to 2 oxygen atoms. This is the form of silicon most common in our diet, which provides 24-30 mg daily. However, silicon intake decreases with age to less than 20 mg per day, so as we age, it is important to make a conscious effort to ensure we are getting enough of this nutrient. In addition, in order to absorb and use silicon as a nutrient, we must convert dietary silica into individual silicon units called ortho-silicic acid (2). Food and supplement sources like bamboo, horsetail, green beans, and beer are a rich sources of this organic silica.
Silicon increases the production of collagen in bone-forming cells and skin fibroblasts by stimulating enzymes involved in the production, called hydroxylating enzymes (3). Silicon also helps with the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans, which are complex sugar and amino acid containing substances found in connective tissue along with collagen (1). Collagen is the most abundant protein in the animal kingdom and is what makes our bodies, including our skin, hair and nails, strong and resilient. Collagen, combined with elastin and glycosaminoglycans, ensures skin is flexible, supple and hydrated (1).
So it is not surprising that within our bodies, connective tissues, especially in the aorta, trachea, bone, and skin, contain the highest silicon content. Silicon is present in hair, nails, the outer layer of the skin, called the epidermis, and the hair cuticle (2). Higher silicon content in hair results in lower rates of hair loss and increased brightness. Nails are also affected by the presence of silicon, since this is the predominant mineral within nails. In fact, soft and brittle nails can indicate a silicon deficiency (1).
Silicon deficiency is associated with impaired synthesis of connective tissue compounds including collagen and glycosaminoglycans (2) and silicon supplementation has been shown to stimulate collagen production. For example, a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study including 50 women, 40-65 years old, with photo-damaged facial skin, had significantly decreased depth and incidence of fine wrinkles following silicon supplementation. They took 10 mg of silicon for 20 weeks, and various methods were used to evaluate skin roughness, hydration and other mechanical properties before and after treatment. They were also evaluated on a scale from 0 to 3, where 0 = none and 3 = severe brittleness of hair and nails. During the study, skin roughness increased in the placebo group, but decreased in the silicon treated group. In addition, scores for nail and hair brittleness were significantly lower following silicon treatment compared to baseline scores (4). These improvements were likely due to an increase in silicon-induced skin collagen production, and an overall strengthening of the skin, hair and nails.
Another randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study included 48 women with fine hair, who were given 10 mg of silicon per day for 9 months. The structure and mechanical (tensile) properties of their hair were evaluated before and after treatment. This study showed that silicon supplementation improved hair tensile strength, including elasticity and break load, and resulted in thicker hair (5).
As mentioned earlier, collagen is not only important for our skin, hair and nails, but is also necessary for strong bones and the strength and flexibility of our arteries. Therefore, silicon has roles in enhancing collagen production in these tissues as well, which may lead to improvements in skeletal and cardiovascular health. So take your silicon to enhance and maintain your beauty, while knowing that you are also improving your overall health and longevity!
1. Araújo LA, Addor F, Campos PM. Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical forms available and efficacy. An Bras Dermatol. 2016 May-Jun;91(3):331-5.
2. Jurkić LM, Cepanec I, Pavelić SK, Pavelić K. Biological and therapeutic effects of ortho-silicic acid and some ortho-silicic acid-releasing compounds: New perspectives for therapy. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2013 Jan 8;10(1):2.
3. Keeting PE, Oursler MJ, Wiegand KE, Bonde SK, Spelsberg TC, Riggs BL. Zeolite A increases proliferation, differentiation, and transforming growth factor production in normal adult human osteoblast like cells in vitro. J Bone Miner Res. 1992;7(11):1281–1289.
4. Barel A, Calomme M, Timchenko A, De Paepe K, Demeester N, Rogiers V, Clarys P, Vanden Berghe D. Effects of oral intake of choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid on skin, nails, and hair in women with photodamaged skin. Arch Dermatol Res. 2005;297:147–153.
5. Wickett RR, Kossmann E, Barel A, Demeester N, Clarys P, Vanden Berghe D. et al. Effect of oral intake of choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid on hair tensile strength and morphology in woman with fine hair. Arch Dermatol Res. 2007;299(10):499–505.