Eat Your Way to a More Beautiful Beard

There’s not too much you can do about a receding hairline, other than curse your gene pool. But facial hair is a different story. “The condition of your facial hair directly corresponds to the health of your body,” says Jim White, registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesman. Specifically, he continues, “The same nutrients that have a positive effect on our heart and other major organs also benefit our skin and hair.”

In other words, you can literally eat yourself to a shinier, smoother, more healthy-looking beard. We asked White to tell us which vitamins are an essential part of a healthy facial hair diet, what they do, and how to get them into our diet. Results of our conversation below.

How they better your beard
: “Vitamin A maintains and repairs skin tissue,” says White. “And keeping your skin healthy allows for better hair growth.” Beta carotene is a nutrient that your body converts to vitamin A. Since it’s found in foods that are lower in saturated fats than those that are rich in vitamin A, you’re better off eating foods that are high in beta carotene.

Where to find them: Vitamin A is present in milk, cheese, butter and egg yolks. Beta carotene is found in yellow and orange produce (e.g., carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and papayas) and leafy green veggies (e.g., spinach and kale).


How they better your beard: Vitamins C and E promote the production of sebum, a natural oil that is produced by our bodies and lubricates and moisturizes hair, making it look thicker and more lush. Additionally, vitamin C assists in the growth of bodily tissues, including those that comprise our skin and hair follicles.

Where to find them: Citrus fruits, green peppers and broccoli are good sources of vitamin C. Wheat germ oil, almonds, sunflower seeds, safflower oil, peanut butter, corn oil, spinach, broccoli, mangoes and spinach all contain high amounts of vitamin E.


How it betters your beard: Our skin and hair are composed primarily of keratin, a structural protein made up of amino acids. We don’t produce amino acids on our own; instead, we need to eat protein, which the body then converts to amino acids.

Where to find it: Fill up on fish, lean meats, poultry, eggs, rice, beans and milk.

How they better your beard:
B vitamins help your body synthesize the protein you eat so it can be used to build new skin cells and hair. Getting enough B vitamins, says White, also helps reduce stress and prevent hair loss.

Where to find them: Fish, poultry, leans meats, eggs, nuts, and whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal are chock-full of B vitamins. Foods that are rich in B12 include beef, milk, cheese and wheat germ.

How they better your beard:
Essential fatty acids are just that: essential to normal growth, including that of facial hair. They also protect cell membranes, helping to prevent your whiskers from getting dry and brittle.

Where to find them: Make sure flax seed oil, walnuts and fatty fish (e.g., salmon) find their way into your diet.

Want to make your beard even more beautiful? Of course you do! Supplementing the above foods with a multivitamin, or with any of the individual nutrients listed above, might do the trick. Just don’t overdo it: Your body will excrete any extra water-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamin C or B12), but it’ll hold on to extra fat-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamin A). Excessive doses of vitamin A could actually lead to hair loss. Ask your doctor to recommend a proper dosage, and you’ll soon be on your way to winning whiskers.

Don’t Brave the Summer Sun Till You Read This!

Think it’s wimpy to slather on sunscreen, wear hats and avoid the brightest outdoor rays? Then you better be man enough to stare down melanoma, the most common form of cancer for young adults.

Why should you worry about skin cancer? You’re young and fit. Skin cancer -- that’s something that happens to geezers and grandmas, right?

Maybe that explains why so many people your age ignore the risks. Even big-time athletes, who have access to the best medical advice and the most to lose by not taking care of their bodies, rarely take precautions. According to a 2006 study of male and female NCAA athletes, only 8 percent used sunscreen.

Even docs know how young men feel about it. “They don’t heed the warnings,” says Dr. Jeffrey Dover, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University. “You feel infallible at that point in your life,” agrees dermatologist Dr. Kenneth Bielinski, a spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology. “You tend to throw caution to the wind.”

But the wind’s not the problem, here. It’s the sun. And here’s why you should care: Skin cancer is caused by the cumulative effects of sun exposure. When do you think you get most of that exposure? When you’re 40 and spending five days a week in an office? No, siree. It’s when you’re working and playing and hanging out at the beach, by the lake, in the park.

In other words, you could be frying up a nice case of skin cancer for yourself right now. Oh, and it doesn’t always wait until you’re way into “man-o-pause” to strike, either. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, melanoma -- the deadliest form of skin cancer -- is now the most common form of cancer for young adults 25 to 29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults 15 to 29 years old.

You want to look like the young stud you are for the girls on the beach -- and prevent the big C? “In a nutshell, sunscreen and protection are the keys to staying young-looking and avoiding skin cancer,” says Dr. Dover.

Here’s what the good doctors and the American Academy of Dermatology recommend:

Wear a Hat
Your noggin is one of the most susceptible places for skin cancer, especially if you shave your head, or have a buzz cut or thinning hair. Typically, says Dr. Bielinski, “the recommendation is to wear a loose, floppy hat. That may come across as potentially dorky, but if you just put on your typical baseball cap, you’ll get some benefit, and that’s better than none.” And, he adds, nobody has to know why you’re wearing it -- it could be because you really are a Yankees fan.

Wear Sunscreen
Yes, you should seriously lather up. And we’re not talking about single-digit protection. Use water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 that provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). Reapply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.

Stay out of the Strongest Sun
Go to the beach at night: It’s more romantic, no one can see what you’re doing and you’re avoiding maximum exposure when the sun’s rays are strongest (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Eat a Balanced Diet
Our bodies produce the essential vitamin D when we’re exposed to sunlight. A safer way to get vitamin D is through a balanced diet that includes milk (fortified with vitamin D) and vitamin supplements.

Avoid Tanning Beds
Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like you’ve been in the sun, consider using a sunless self-tanning product.

Suit up
Buy cool clothes with SPF built in: Dr. Brian Adams of the University of Cincinnati cites new performance wear with built-in SPF as one of the more notable developments in skin protection in the last couple of years. “You can wear beach shirts, shorts and outdoor gear with a neck collar that are not hot and keep you protected,” he says. A garment made of fabric with an SPF of 50 blocks 98 percent of UV radiation, according to Coolibar, the Minneapolis-based manufacturer of sun-protective clothing. Other sun-smart outdoor clothes include those by Solartex, UV Skinz and Solumbra.

Remember: If you think you look good with a deep tan, think about how disfiguring a scar from melanoma removal can be (and sometimes, that’s the best-case scenario).