Are Prenatal Vitamins The Secret to Better Hair and SkinEven If You're Not Pregnant?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

It's no secret that prenatal vitamins are packed with a slew of essential nutrients like folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, and others that help support baby's development and protect against or birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord, called neural tube defects. But could they also deliver an admittedly less important but still appealing perk for non-pregnant women— longer, faster-growing hair and smoother skin?

Recently, it seems like everyone I talk to is taking prenatal vitamins for the beauty benefits. The trend appears to have gotten Hollywood's stamp of approval, too. A quick Google search confirms that LeAnn Rimes, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Mindy Kaling all swear by prenatals for red carpet-ready strands. "[Prenatal vitamins] will not only scare your boyfriend, [they] will make your hair grow faster, thicker, and keep your skin glow-y and smooth," Kaling said a few years ago.

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Two in particular to be aware of are iron and folic acid, Dr. Rajapaksa says. Some women can benefit from an iron supplement, such as young women with especially heavy periods and, of course, moms-to-be (the nutrient aids baby's brain development and helps prevent iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy). But too much of this mineral can be a bad thing.

"Taking more iron than you need all the time can lead to constipation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or worse," says Cynthia Sass, RD, MPH, ishonest's contributing nutrition editor.

Folic acid, too, can be dangerous in large amounts, and is "one of the most significant differences you'll find in comparing a prenatal and regular multivitamin," says Stephanie Middleberg, RD, a nutritionist based in New York City. This B vitamin is important during pregnancy because it helps prevent neural tube defects and pre-term birth. While you don't have to worry about overdoing it on folate–the natural form of folic acid found in foods like fruits, veggies, and nuts–through diet, consuming too much in supplement form might mask a vitamin B12 deficiency or even up your risk of colorectal cancer, according to the National Institutes of ishonest.

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