You may know silica as those little gel packets that are used for absorbing moisture. The ones that we’re always told can be toxic when ingested? Those silica gel sachets are used in a number of household and everyday items, but silica has many more uses than that.
Silica has a number of industrial applications, but it can also be used to support healthy skin, nails and hair. We’re going to discuss what exactly is silica, outline its various forms and fill you in on the benefits of taking silica supplements. Keep reading to find out more.
Before we dive into the feature, we need to give the disclaimer that not all forms of silica can be ingested. We have detailed exactly which can be added to your diet to benefit your health, but please proceed with caution as other types of silica must not be ingested and can cause serious health concerns.
What is Silica?
Silica, also known as silicon dioxide or SiO2, is a natural compound that’s made when the elements silicon and oxygen combine. It makes up over a quarter of the Earth’s crust, and can also be found in many rocks, clays and sands. Available in a number of different forms, it’s no wonder that silica has a variety of uses. Silica can be used in the production of glass and concrete, but it can also be found as a gel to absorb moisture.
Silicon dioxide can have a crystalline (fixed, geometric pattern) or amorphous (no clear ordering of atoms) structure.Crystalline silica is the most common form, and it has three main crystalline varieties: quartz, tridymite and cristobalite. It’s widely believed that silica is harmful to our health, and these concerns are due to prolonged exposure to crystalline silica. When crystalline silica is used in an industrial setting, the cutting and drilling of silica-rich materials creates dust. And this dust contains crystalline silica particles, which can cause lung disease when inhaled over a continuous period of time.
While breathing in crystalline silica dust can be extremely hazardous, not all forms of silica are dangerous. In fact, silica in its water-soluble form is extremely beneficial to our health
Silica is the third most abundant trace element in the body after iron and zinc. While they work by boosting the body’s immune system and supporting blood health, silica can significantly improve and help maintain skin, nail and hair health. It’s even known as the “beauty mineral” thanks to its ability to help achieve healthy, youthful skin. Find out more about how silica benefits skin, hair and more below.
Silica for skin
Collagen is the body’s most popular protein and it is a vital structural component of many connective tissues and parts of the body. It provides strength and flexibility to areas like cartilage, ligaments, tendons and skin.
Silica is essential for the production of collagen, acting like glue within the protein structure. It creates bonds and these bonds help collagen to retain water, and it’s also important for cell growth, regeneration and repair. That’s why silica can help to keep the areas of our body that are high in collagen strong and supple.
Our natural collagen production decreases with age, which is why our skin wrinkles as it loses its firmness and elasticity. That’s why maintaining healthy levels of silica can aid in collagen creation later in life, helping our skin to look youthful for longer.
Silicon dioxide is also a natural anti-inflammatory, and studies show that it could help to relieve eczema and psoriasis.
Silica for hair
Collagen helps to stimulate the growth of healthy hair, but silica also works in other ways to keep our locks nourished and resilient.
Silica helps to equilibrate our mineral levels, which in turn helps to keep our hormones balanced. And when our hormone level is disrupted, we may begin to suffer from symptoms like hair loss or thinning.
As well as helping to regulate our hormones, silica helps the hair by delivering essential nutrients to the scalp and hair follicles. While silicon dioxide can’t actually reverse hair loss, it can aid in strengthening hair strands and preventing breakage.
Silica for bone health
While silica is predominantly known for its links to collagen production, it has also been found to support bone health. In a 2013 study, silica was reported to increase bone mineral density and strength and support bone formation. This is believed to be due to silica facilitating bone mineralisation, a process where minerals are deposited on the bone matrix to trigger the development of bone.
Silica for nails
As we’ve discussed already, silica is crucial for the formation of collagen, which strengthens the nail bed. But silicon dioxide also contains a compound called orthosilicic acid, which has been found to help improve weak and brittle nails.
Natural Sources of Silica
Silica naturally occurs in mineral materials like quartz and flint, and in it’s water-soluble form can be found in a number of plants and grains. These water-soluble forms of silica that are derived from plants are the only safe types of silica to consume.
Horsetail is a herbaceous weed that has traditionally been used to treat wounds and support the kidneys. In the production of silica supplements, they will often contain extracts from the horsetail plant.
While horsetail is one of the most popular natural sources of silica, the bamboo plant is actually a much richer source of the mineral. Silica capsules derived from horsetail can deliver between 5-8% of potency, while supplements made using bamboo extract may contain up to 70% of silica. Bamboo also contains biotin, a vitamin which is known to boost hair and skin health.
Whole grains, cereal and oats all contain varying levels of silica. Brown rice is the most silica-dense of the rice family, and cereals containing whole grain oats have been found to contain high levels of the mineral.
Green beans are one of the highest vegetable sources of silica. The silica found in green beans is easily absorbed by the body and they’re also rich in protein and fibre.
Bananas are loaded with silica, and have one of the highest levels of silicon dioxide amongst all of the fruits. One medium-sized banana may contain around five milligrams of silica.
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, bok choy and kale all contain silica and also deliver a number of other vitamins and minerals to the body.
Studies have found the maximum silica dosage that’s safe for the human body is 700 to 1,750 milligrams a day. While this is the recommended amount, if you accidentally ingest too much it will be passed out in your urine because the mineral is water-soluble. It’s therefore unlikely to cause any side effects.
While it can be beneficial for many people, children, pregnant women and those with kidney disease should avoid silica supplements. This is because many horsetail supplements contain traces of nicotine and silica can accumulate in the bloodstream of those with kidney disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. Silica has also not been found as safe to take during pregnancy.
Natural Silica Supplements
So if our body naturally produces silica, do we need to supplement it? It completely depends on each individual’s needs. As we mentioned before, our internal collagen production decreases as we get older, and so will our silica levels too. This can start to happen from the age of 25, so it can be beneficial for those in their late 20s to early 30s to begin to take silica supplements.
Anyone with a silica deficiency or looking to improve their skin and hair health can also take silica supplements. While there are plenty of foods that can help to boost silica levels, supplements are a much more efficient and effective option.
When shopping for silica supplements, always look at the ingredients list to check that they’re free from any fillers or bulking agents. This will ensure your supplements only contain the nutrients that you’re after and they will be more efficacious. Our Wholefood Beauty Totale for Skin, Hair, Nails and UV Protection contains silicon dioxide alongside a blend of nature’s best ingredients to support skin radiance and natural UV protection, as well as fortifying hair and nails. Or, take a look at our Vegan Collagen Builder to discover the incredible benefits of the horsetail plant.
And as always, we strongly recommend that you consult your doctor or a dietary expert before you begin to supplement silica into your diet.
Now you know what silica is and how it can benefit you, why not take a look at our other natural beauty products? Discover fresh-pressed oils for nourishing the skin, our organic unrefined shea butter collection, our award-winning Biovedic™ face care range and more.