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How Hypothyroidism Affects Your Hair, Skin, and Nails

Explore the connection between hypothyroidism and your hair, skin, and nails.
How Hypothyroidism Affects Your Hair, Skin, and Nails

Hypothyroidism may be the cause of hair, skin, and nail problems.

Everyone likes to look their best, and in many cases, how you feel about your appearance relies on your hair, skin, and nails. A myriad of lotions, supplements, and ointments promise better hair, skin, and nails; but beauty starts from within.

Learn what to do if your thyroid is sabotaging your beautification efforts no matter how many times you condition or lather.

How does your thyroid affect your hair, skin, and nails?

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck. It is responsible for producing hormones that regulate your body's energy use, along with many other essential functions. These hormones affect virtually every system in the body, including the growth of hair follicles, skin cells, and nail beds. When your thyroid hormone production drops, these body processes slow down and change.

Thyroid impact on hair

Typical, hair follicles can regenerate themselves, going through the phases of growth, regression, resting, shedding, then growth again. However, low thyroid hormones can alter hair and skin structure and function. Research shows that thyroid hormones can directly impact hair follicle cycling. So, low thyroid hormone slows the hair growth cycle. 

Hair loss with hypothyroidism occurs over the entire scalp rather than specific areas (as is the case with alopecia). If you notice that your hair is coarse, thinning, breaking, or even missing, it could be one symptom that indicates a thyroid condition. You may also notice that the outside third of your eyebrows start to thin; this is a telltale sign of hypothyroidism. 

Thyroid impact on skin 

Similarly, thyroid dysfunction can affect skin tissues. Thyroid hormones regulate skin cell renewal. So when the thyroid is slow, the skin renewal cycle also slows, resulting in dry and flaky skin.

Changes in the skin that cannot be attributed to allergies or new products could be indicative of a thyroid problem. Itchy, dry, and flaky skin is a possible indicator that your thyroid levels are off-balance. 

These symptoms usually clear up once people begin thyroid hormone therapy.

Thyroid impact on nails

Thyroid dysfunction can also affect your nails, causing abnormality in nail shape, nail color, of attachment to the nail bed. Pay attention if you experience ongoing hangnails, ridges, splitting, peeling, or even dry cuticles.

These effects on your hair, skin, and nails do not necessarily or immediately mean that you have an underactive thyroid. However, if you experience these symptoms in a chronic, ongoing manner, it may be beneficial to talk to your doctor.

How to support these symptoms

Treat the source

Should your results show that your thyroid is underactive, it is easily treatable in almost everyone. Optimizing your thyroid levels with thyroid hormone replacement medication is usually the first step in minimizing symptoms like skin, hair, and nail issues. 

Eat a healthful diet

The more dietary stress you put on yourself, the more likely you are to experience inflammation that can interfere with your thyroid function.

Eat a healthy diet of nutrient-rich foods and limit processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol to support your hair, skin, and nails from the inside. Peptides and lipids are natural oils that are important to healthy hair, skin, and nails. These can be found in eggs, nuts, and avocados. 

Antioxidants can also provide your skin with a lift when eaten in addition to being applied topically. Anti-inflammatory foods like ginger and turmeric may boost your endocrine system so that it can provide the proper growth cues to your cells. 

Consider vitamins or mineral supplements

Various vitamins and minerals may increase new cell growth and fortify your hair, skin, and nails. Some common supplements include collagen, antioxidants, biotin, and calcium. (Note that biotin may interfere with thyroid labs. Leave at least 12 hours between your last biotin dose before testing.) 

Discuss any supplements with your doctor before beginning a new regimen. 

If you're worried about your hair, skin, or nails, it may be worth testing your thyroid function.

While many labs only look at thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), we believe it's critical also to measure free triiodothyronine (fT3), free thyroxine (fT4), and TPO antibodies. These four markers help you understand the big picture of what's happening with your thyroid function, and where specifically to make improvements. 

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