Stop us if you’ve heard this one before — prenatal vitamins are the secret to stronger, thicker, better hair. While it’s true that pregnant women have truly enviable strands — ultra shiny and positively brimming with health — can we really chalk it up to their prenatal vitamins? We looked at the research and double checked with a fertility dietitian for the real deal on prenatal vitamins for hair growth.
- Longer, stronger, healthier hair is a common side effect of pregnancy, and it’s largely related to higher hormone levels.
- Many of the vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy hair can be found in prenatal vitamins, which may play a role in the idea that prenatals are the reason for great hair during pregnancy.
- There are benefits to taking prenatal vitamins if you aren’t currently pregnant or hoping to become pregnant, but thicker, healthier hair isn’t one of them.
- For women of reproductive age, it's a good idea to take a high-quality prenatal vitamin in preparation for a future pregnancy.
Prenatal Vitamins for Hair Growth?
The human body is one impressive machine, and never more so than during pregnancy. While that forty-week rollercoaster has its ups and downs, thick, full, shiny hair (not to mention fab nails) seems to be a perk for many. You can largely credit hormones, and specifically higher levels of estrogen, for ten months of good hair days. More estrogen means increased blood flow to the baby and your scalp, which promotes hair growth and, importantly, prolongs the growth phase of your hair. The upshot? Fewer strands lost, less breakage, and longer, lusher hair. “Deficiencies in nutrients, especially zinc and b-vitamins, are linked to hair loss and hair thinning, as are hormone imbalances, so pregnancy is often a time where women see more growth,” adds Carly Hartwig, holistic reproductive health advocate and fertility awareness educator.
So if hormones are the secret sauce, why do so many people (celebrities in particular, we’re looking at you) rave about prenatal vitamins for better hair, pregnant or no? Well, it’s almost a case of mistaken identity. There are a few vitamins and minerals that may be key to healthy hair:
- Vitamin A, which is critical for cellular growth (did you know hair is the fastest growing tissue in the human body?!) and helps sebum production. Vitamin A deficiencies are linked to hair loss.
- B vitamins, and particularly biotin, which is great for hair growth. Biotin deficiencies are directly tied to hair loss. Other B vitamins help create red blood cells, which ferry nutrients and oxygen to the scalp for effective hair growth.
- Folic acid, which is technically a B vitamin and key for healthy cell growth.
- Vitamin C, an important antioxidant that can help protect against oxidative stress that prematurely ages the hair. Plus, vitamin C is used to create collagen, which makes up hair structure, and helps the body absorb iron, a key mineral for hair growth.
- Vitamin D, which isn’t well understood in the production of hair growth. However, low levels are linked to hair loss.
- Vitamin E, another antioxidant that wards off oxidative stress and is linked to hair growth.
Now, all of these nutrients are found in many prenatal vitamins. But correlation doesn’t mean causation, which is an alliterative way of saying that things may be related but one doesn’t necessarily cause the other. And that brings us to the idea of taking prenatal vitamins for hair growth if you aren’t pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
Are Prenatal Vitamins Effective for Hair Growth if you aren’t Pregnant?
Many prenatal vitamins aren’t designed with non-pregnant people in mind, which makes complete sense. Prenatal vitamins are for the thinking-or-actively-trying-to-get-pregnant crowd, the already-with-child folks, and the our-baby-is-here-now-what people. That means that taking prenatal vitamins solely for better hair probably isn’t going to work like you hope it will. In some cases, it will mean you’re getting higher amounts of vitamins and minerals than your body actually needs. And if you’re also taking things like vitamin D or calcium separately along with a prenatal for better hair, you’re also running the risk of over-supplementing.
Still, some fertility dietitians recommend taking prenatal vitamins if a baby isn’t the plan today, but maybe sometime in the next five or ten years.
“Starting a high-quality prenatal during your reproductive years is great insurance if you do end up becoming pregnant sooner than planned,” says Hartwig. “Most women don't get adequate nutrients from their diets, especially with our soil being depleted, and the chronic stress of today's lifestyle can easily contribute to nutrient and hormone imbalances. Instead of taking a poor-quality multivitamin that contains the bare minimum levels of nutrients, I recommend that women in their reproductive years take a high-quality prenatal like Beli to optimize their reproductive and physical health.”
In other words, women should be going for optimal health during those reproductive years, so that they’re primed for pregnancy at any time. Remember, that baby starts developing before you even know you’re pregnant, which is why starting prenatals well before you hope to conceive is the standard recommendation. This will ensure that your nutrient stores are well-established, which is critical to the developmental of a healthy embryo and fetus. And that’s true even — and especially — if you’re on the Pill. “If you're taking hormonal birth control to prevent unplanned pregnancy, there's tremendous benefit in taking a robust prenatal like Beli, as hormonal birth control depletes your nutrient levels,” says Hartwig. “Beli will counteract this depletion, keeping your body, skin, and hair healthier while you're on hormonal birth control.”
Eyes on the Prize
Of course, the most important thing a prenatal vitamin can do is fill any nutritional gaps in your diet to improve your chances of conception, a healthy pregnancy, and a healthy little bundle of joy. But let’s be honest — great hair is a happy side benefit! If a baby isn’t ever the plan, you’ll likely be better off focusing on a healthy lifestyle to support healthier, shinier, stronger hair. Drink plenty of water, get lots of quality sleep, manage your stress levels, and make a point of eating fresh produce, lean proteins, fiber, and healthy fats. The benefits of that will go well beyond a good hair day.