There are two reasons why prenatal vitamins may rank among thinning hair remedies: Iron and biotin.
Pregnant women have long sworn that prenatal vitamins thicken and grow their hair, but after Mindy Kaling — who plays the airhead Kelly from The Office – revealed prenatal vitamins were the secret to her thick, long locks, the Fashionista decided to investigate. A reporter asked dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Hale whether there’s any legitimacy to the rumors prenatal vitamins will thicken female thinning hair.
Hale revealed that prenatal vitamins contain extra iron, which may help women who are slightly anemic. Since anemia can be a common cause of female thinning hair, the iron in the prenatal vitamin may help stop hair loss.
Some research does show a connection between biotin and hair loss, and it’s well established is that the body uses biotin to grow new hair and skin cells.
A biotin deficiency will cause hair loss, as well as conjunctivitis, a scaly red rash around the eyes, nose, mouth and genitals, and neurological problems, including depression, lethargy, hallucination, and numbness and tingling in the extremities. Biotin deficiencies are rare, however, because intestinal bacteria generally produce biotin amounts higher than your body’s daily requirements.
Still, biotin ranks high among thinning hair remedies, so many of the supplements that claim to help female thinning hair contain it. Not surprisingly, it’s also found in some prenatal vitamins, including the Trader Joe brand Kaling’s hair stylist, Jen Atkin, bought her.
Biotin is water soluble, so you’ll eliminate anything your body doesn’t use. While that may be literally flushing money down the toilet, it’s not dangerous.
Iron, on the other hand, can dangerous if taken in too high a dose, since it builds up in your system and becomes toxic — which is why the Mayo Clinic says you shouldn’t take prenatal vitamins unless you’re pregnant, nursing or trying to get pregnant. This is especially important if you’re over 51, because you’re iron needs drop to a mere 8 mg a day.
And while not all prenatal vitamins contain biotin, all contain extra iron.If you suspect anemia could be causing your thinning hair, a simple blood test will be able to tell you for certain whether or not you need an iron supplement.
So, it may not be the best idea to just start popping prenatal vitamins, even if your hair stylist recommends them.
A better alternative: Talk with your doctor about biotin and other vitamins that might be related to hair loss. Then ask your doctor to test your body’s vitamin and minerals levels to see if you have any deficiencies, and let your doctor tell you what vitamin supplements you should be taking.
For safe solutions for treating female thinning hair, check out Vibrant Nation’s Great Hair After 50: Hip Hairstyles, Best Products for Healthy Hair, Coloring Secrets, Whether (and How) to Go Gray, Managing Fine or Frizzy Hair, and Solutions for Thinning Hair and Hair Loss.