When you hear “folic acid,” chances are you think of babies or pregnant women. That’s because folic acid is most frequently found in prenatal supplements, where it plays the super-important role in keeping fetuses healthy. However, this essential vitamin deserves a bit more attention beyond its benefits for pregnant women and new mamas — especially when it comes to hair health and growth.

Many women notice that during pregnancy, their hair and skin seem to look amazing — some say it’s due to hormones, but others have suggested it’s all because of the beneficial vitamins and minerals in their prenatal supplements, with folic acid as a leading star. Celebrities like Jessica Alba, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon have pinpointed prenatal vitamins as the secret to restoring brows, hair, and skin. So there must be something to it. Today we’ll dive into what it is that makes folic acid so effective!

Folic Acid vs. Folate: What’s the Difference?

Folic acid and folate are closely related, and ultimately, they have the same effects in the body. Folate is also known as folacin or vitamin B9, and it occurs naturally in a variety of food sources — especially in dark leafy greens like spinach and in certain meats, like beef or chicken liver.

Folic acid is the manufactured version of folate used in supplements (including prenatal vitamins) to fortify foods. Once consumed but before entering the bloodstream, folic acid converts into a biologically active form of folate. The amount of folate or folic acid each person has to consume every day depends on a few factors — children need less folate than adults, and pregnant women require the highest amount.

In the body, folate is an essential enzyme that helps with the synthesis of DNA and RNA as well as with the metabolism of amino acids. In other words, the body needs folate to make DNA, to keep the cells dividing and regenerating, and to help form red blood cells.

Folate is essential to physical health, and when you don’t get enough of it in your diet the deficiency can have significant repercussions. Beyond birth defects to which lack of folate in pregnancy can lead, folate deficiency in anyone can lead to anemia (a condition where the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells), which has a whole variety of unpleasant symptoms including fatigue, weakness, poor concentration, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath. It also impacts the appearance, often causing hair and nails to become brittle, discolored, or sparse.

Related: Reasons You Should Take Hair Growth Supplements

Folic Acid and Hair Growth

Understanding how folic acid helps with hair growth requires understanding what red blood cells do. Folic acid is essential to the formation of red blood cells in the body, which have the job of carrying oxygen to all organs, including the hair follicles in the skin. The hair follicles rely on that oxygen to function properly, and without it, they have a much harder time producing keratin, which is the building block of hair.

It is no surprise, then, that studies have shown that those with autoimmune-induced hair loss have lower levels of folate. Interestingly, folate deficiency doesn’t only lead to hair loss  it can also cause hair to lose its color and can induce premature graying.

If the cause of your hair loss is a nutritional deficiency then supplementing with folic acid will help reverse it by ending the anemia and by helping the hair follicles produce keratin properly.

What to Look for in a Folic Acid Supplement

While folic acid is clearly important, it is not the only vitamin that benefits the hair and skin. In fact, it’s best to choose supplements that include other hair-friendly ingredients — especially other B vitamins like biotin and B12. Most studies conducted on the benefits of folic acid tested it in combination with these other important B-vitamins, suggesting that they should all be taken in tandem in order to improve hair wellness. This is also because folate deficiency is rarely an isolated issue. Since folate deficiency is usually the result of a poor diet or malabsorptive disorders, it often comes hand in hand with other nutrient deficiencies.

B12 is just as important as folate to produce red blood cells and deliver keratin-stimulating oxygen to the hair follicle, but one of the most common issues with folic acid supplementation is that it can mask B12 deficiencies. B12 deficiencies can also lead to anemia, which is why it is important to take a supplement that includes both folic acid and B12. This allows both B vitamins to work together to ensure optimal oxygen circulation in the body.

Of all of the B vitamin deficiencies, however, lack of biotin is the one that has been most closely linked with hair loss. Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic often recommend biotin supplements along with other B vitamins to patients dealing with hair loss, and it has also proven itself effective for strengthening the nails.

All of these B vitamins comprise an important part of the Lovestruck Biotin Gummies for Hair, vegan vitamin gummies that can be taken twice a day to promote the health of the hair. They also include vitamins A, C, and E as well as zinc to help promote overall health. Oxidative stress has been linked to hormonal hair loss, so supplementing with these antioxidants may help as a preventative, to boost the effects of the B vitamins.

Beyond that, it’s good if the supplements include ingredients that can target other causes of hair loss beyond nutritional deficiencies.

You might find it surprising, but CBD, a non-psychoactive ingredient taken from the hemp plant, is actually a phenomenal addition to hair-loss fighting supplements. Whereas folic acid addresses hair loss caused by nutritional deficiencies, CBD can target the worsening of hair loss that can be caused by stress and inflammation, since it has a calming and anti-inflammatory effect. If you lead a stressful lifestyle, you might prefer our Full Spectrum Hemp Gummies for Hair, which combines the soothing effects of CBD with the restorative effects of folic acid, other B vitamins, plus antioxidants.

Now that you know all about folic acid and the role it plays in your health, you may envision cuddly, cheeky babies with full, thick heads of hair. Keep that image in mind when you look for ways to achieve healthier locks.