For some of us formerly overzealous eyebrow pluckers, there is simply no amount of pencil and spoolie action that can truly revive the lush arches we were born with. Jessica Alba gets it. "I had the thinnest, thinnest brows. I always looked curious… or mad," the actress-turned-entrepreneur told E! News, referring to her barely-there brows of yesteryear.
The good news is that Alba, who now sports a pair of thick, abundant, healthy-looking brows, got them back—naturally. Her secret? Prenatal vitamins. "I did prenatals [vitamins], and I didn't pluck my eyebrows for like two years, and that's how I grew them back," she added.
The Honest Company founder didn’t mention which brand helped salvage her bare brows, but there are certain nutrients that most prenatal vitamins contain that your run-of-the-mill multivitamin doesn’t offer. Let's take a look at the science behind those.
The nutrients inside prenatal vitamins depend on the manufacturer, but you can bet they all contain folic acid. Folic acid is also called folate—both are forms of a vitamin B9. Folate occurs naturally in food, and folic acid is the synthetic form.
Folic acid is vital for both pregnant and want-to-be-pregnant women. Most supplements contain between 400 to 600 micrograms of folic acid, as recommended by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), to prevent birth defects. The prenatal vitamins from Alba’s own Honest Company contain 650 micrograms of L-Methylfolate, a bioavailable form of folic acid that’s easily assimilated by the body. But does it really help grow hair? The Trichological Society website states, “A decrease in folic acid may contribute to decreased hair-follicle cell division and growth.” The assumption, then, is that we may need this vitamin to produce healthy hair.
Iron is another nutrient common in prenatal vitamins, as you need more of it during pregnancy. The additional supply of the mineral helps deliver more oxygen to the baby. ACOG recommends 27 micrograms, although most of us can get enough simply by eating foods like lean red meat, poultry, fish, peas, spinach, Swiss chard, and egg yolks. Many experts believe iron deficiency is linked to hair loss and taking iron supplements can help grow it back.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Vitamin D works to help the baby’s bones and teeth develop. All women, including those who are pregnant, need 600 international units of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. (Vitamin D cannot function without calcium.) So can this pair help restore hair loss? Although studies aren’t definite, research shows that it’s common for people with alopecia areata (a hair loss condition) to be deficient in vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin has also been credited with creating new follicles in the scalp, according to this 2012 study.
What to Eat to Grow Back Your Brows
So, are prenatal vitamins the answer to restoring your brows after you've tweezed them into oblivion? Unfortunately, there's no definite answer. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that they work, but prenatal vitamins -- which offer a variety of nutrients -- may simply be helping restore hair growth by filling in some nutritional gaps. Plus, there might be too much iron in them for those of us who aren’t deficient or anemic, Cathy Wong, ND, CNS, tells NYmag.com.
Alba may have gotten her sexy brows back, but she was probably also eating very healthy.(There's a reason why people who don't eat well or much at all usually see their hair thin or fall out.) As is the solution to many problems in life, focus on eating a well-rounded array of whole foods that provide you with a comprehensive spectrum of nutrients. “A balanced diet of lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fatty fish (salmon) and low-fat dairy products are potential aides to hair,” states the Trichological Society.
Looking for something more specific? This is what the hair doctors at the Society recommend:
- Dark green vegetables
- Whole grains
Of course, there is the possibility that depending on your diet, supplements can help get your brows back into Lily Collins form by making up for the nutritional holes in your diet. If you're not are or trying to get pregnant, try supplements specifically formulated with hair growth, such as Viviscal or Hairfinity. If you happen to be hosting a little one inside, however, hopefully shiny, thick, bouncy locks are a side effect you can enjoy (aside from that new mother's glow)!
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