Prenatal vitamins are designed for mom and baby, but rumor is men may benefit from taking prenatal vitamins for hair growth. If you're a guy looking to preserve your hair, you may be curious. However, although the nutrients may offer healthy returns, prenatals could cause more harm than good in men.
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Read more: Can Men Use Women's Vitamins?
What’s Inside Prenatal Vitamins
According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin- and mineral-packed prenatal supplements can be critical for optimizing the health of both mom and unborn baby by supplying nutrients that women need more of during pregnancy.
Two such primary prenatal nutrients are folic acid (to fend off abnormalities of the fetus' brain and spinal cord) and iron (to help make blood, both to provide oxygen to the fetus and help prevent anemia), the Mayo Clinic says.
But could these vitamins be beneficial for people who aren't pregnant and aren't planning to conceive? What if you're a man looking to maintain the health of your hair — or even trying to promote new hair growth?
Prenatal Vitamins: The Hairy Situation
According to the Mayo Clinic, beyond folic acid and iron, prenatal vitamins can contain many additional key nutrients, from calcium and zinc to vitamins A to E, many of which are shown to individually potentially affect your hair for the better.
Two such nutrients, biotin (a water-soluble B vitamin) and zinc, may actively improve your hair growth, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Moreover, zinc, along with B vitamins, also play a role in the health of your follicles.
Vitamin D could also potentially help you grow new hair follicles, the Cleveland Clinic says. And, for its part, iron, too, is crucial to the well-being and growth of your mane, because an iron deficiency (aka anemia) can contribute to hair loss, the Cleveland Clinic adds.
Finally, omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to boost the health of both your scalp and your hair, Cleveland Clinic says.
But before you speed off to the pharmacy, the potential boon of specific nutrients in prenatal vitamins to help your scalp be more budding than balding doesn't necessarily speak to their effect when packed together in a prenatal vitamin package.
The Bald Facts on Prenatal Vitamins
Per the Mayo Clinic, claims that prenatals can promote thicker hair and stronger nails are unproven — even cautioning that high levels of these nutrients may be more harmful than helpful over long periods of time for anyone who is not trying to conceive.
Nicole Avena, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, agrees: "Prenatal vitamins are specifically made for women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, and the claims that they can promote hair growth are unproven."
Adds Lutherville, Maryland-based Jeffrey Landsman, MD, a family and geriatric medicine specialist for Mercy Personal Physicians, "I would not recommend men take prenatal vitamins," pointing to the fact that these supplements simply are not formulated for the needs of men. "They typically contain iron, which most men do not need. [And] vitamins would not promote hair growth or prevent hair loss for typical male-pattern baldness."
Avena, author of Why Diets Fail and What to Eat When You're Pregnant, concurs, explaining that these supplements "contain high levels of specific vitamins pregnant women need in order to develop a healthy fetus" — like folic acid and iron. "It is not recommended that men take prenatal supplements because of [these] high levels of iron, which can build up in the body and become toxic," she says.
Instead, if you're a man looking to boost your vitamin and mineral intake, Avena suggests that you look for other alternatives: "Men with severe nutrient deficiencies may want to use a multivitamin to supplement their diet."
Read more: How to Find the Best Men's Multivitamin
Is This an Emergency?
- Mayo Clinic: “Prenatal Vitamins: Why They Matter, How to Choose”
- Mayo Clinic: “Is It OK to Take Prenatal Vitamins If I’m Not Pregnant, and I Don’t Plan to Become Pregnant?”
- Cleveland Clinic: “The Best Vitamins, Supplements and Products for Healthier Hair”
- Jeffrey Landsman, MD, board-certified family and geriatric medicine specialist, Mercy Personal Physicians, Lutherville, Maryland
- Nicole Avena, PhD, assistant professor, neuroscience, Mount Sinai School of Medicine; author, Why Diets Fail and What to Eat When You're Pregnant, New York City