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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. Many lotions, supplements, and ointments promise better hair, skin, and nails, but true health starts from within.
Ahead, learn how your thyroid affects your hair, skin, and nails and what to do if you still experience related symptoms no matter how many times you condition or lather.
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
Typically, hair follicles 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, inadequate 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). 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 outer third of your eyebrows starts thinning; 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 are not due to allergies or new products could indicate 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, or attachment to the nail bed. Pay attention if you experience ongoing hangnails, ridges in your nails, 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 test your thyroid to understand the next best steps and proper treatment.
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.
Treat the source
Should your results show that your thyroid is underactive, it is a treatable condition. Optimizing your thyroid levels with thyroid hormone replacement medication is usually the first step in improving symptoms like skin, hair, and nail issues. When choosing thyroid medication with your thyroid doctor, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment.
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 important to healthy hair, skin, and nails. They are available 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 support your endocrine system to give the proper growth cues to your glands.
Consider vitamins or mineral supplements
Supplements that can help with new cell growth and fortifying your hair, skin, and nails may include collagen, antioxidants, biotin, and calcium. We recommend you discuss any supplements with your doctor before beginning a new regimen.
Keep in mind that if you take a supplement that contains biotin, it can interfere with some thyroid lab results, so check with your lab to ask if you should avoid taking biotin before testing your thyroid.