Biotin is a nutrient that helps your body turn food into energy. Although you can ingest this vitamin through various foods and your body can produce it in your gastrointestinal tract, it’s often incorporated into multivitamins and supplements meant to boost nail, skin, and hair health.
Is biotin good for hair?
Biotin, also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, is often incorporated into supplements and products that can improve hair health. However, biotin’s main role is to help enzymes break down the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates you consume each day. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says that this nutrient also helps regulate gene activity and cellular signalling throughout your body.
So where does hair come into the picture? Insufficient biotin levels result in biotin deficiency, which can cause symptoms like:
- Thinning hair
- Loss of body hair
- Brittle nails
- Skin infections
- Scaly skin
- Pinkeye (also known as conjunctivitis)
- Seizures and other nervous system disorders
This has led to the development of a variety of different supplements, shampoos, and other skin, nail, and hair products containing biotin. The idea is that these products can help counteract any deficiencies and improve skin, nail, hair health. Biotin is specifically thought to help improve hair thickness and texture and promote hair growth.
Biotin supplements vs. other biotin products
Despite their growing popularity, there have been very few studies on biotin products or studying how they improve nail, skin, or hair health. How effective biotin-infused shampoos, conditioners, or lotions are is still unknown. Nutrient supplements with biotin, on the other hand, have shown a fair amount of promise. For example, a clinical trial published in the Journal of Cosmetology and Trichology reported that a supplement containing a mixture of amino acids, herbal extracts, minerals, and vitamins, including biotin, was able to help resolve hair loss symptoms.
This study was particularly interesting because it was able to help improve hair growth, strength, and volume in people with telogen effluvium, a type of hair loss that typically occurs due to stress or a traumatic event, and androgenic alopecia, which is also known as male pattern hair loss. However, it’s hard to say how much biotin contributed to these improvements since there were several other ingredients that can promote hair growth in this supplement.
Does that mean I should take biotin for hair loss?
If you’re thinking about taking biotin for hair loss, go ahead. Biotin is water soluble, which means that it’s safe to consume, even in large doses.
The Cleveland Clinic recommends taking biotin in oral form. A multivitamin supplement containing zinc and vitamin C is preferable. Biotin and hair vitamins like these are thought to work together to improve your overall hair, skin, and nail health.
All that being said, there isn’t a huge amount of information proving that biotin can help counteract hair loss. The only FDA-approved treatments currently sold for male pattern hair loss are minoxidil, finasteride, and low-level laser therapy. Despite this, the Cleveland Clinic says that biotin is particularly helpful in treating hair disorders and improving hair growth.
The controversy of taking biotin for hair loss
There haven’t been many studies analysing the relationship between biotin levels and hair loss. And according to many scientific publications, including this report in the Our Dermatology Online Journal, there’s no evidence that biotin is related to hair follicles, the hair growth cycle, or hair loss.
However, not all studies agree. A handful of newer reports have found that biotin levels are lower than average in people who have telogen effluvium, a type of hair loss that typically occurs due to stress or a traumatic event, and androgenic alopecia, which is also known as male pattern hair loss.
For example, an International Journal of Trichology study of hundreds of women with telogen effluvium found that nearly 40 percent of them were suffering from biotin deficiency. Similarly, a study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology reported that men with androgenic alopecia had biotin levels that were nearly 40 percent lower than those of healthy men, and well below the average expected levels.
Additionally, everyone seems to agree that biotin supplements can help people with hair problems caused by biotin deficiencies. Biotin deficiency can occur for various reasons. According to the International Journal of Trichology study, low levels of biotin can be due to metabolic and gastrointestinal disorders. Drinking, smoking, and taking certain medications, like antibiotics, acne or epilepsy drugs, can also lead to this deficiency.
What causes biotin deficiencies?
According to the National Institutes of Health, most adults need 30 micrograms of biotin each day. You can easily obtain this vitamin from meat and fish products, as well as eggs, nuts, and seeds. Many fruits, vegetables, and dairy products also contain biotin, but in much smaller quantities.
People who don’t consume enough biotin are at risk for biotin deficiency – but this is unlikely to happen to the average person who eats a Western diet. Biotin deficiency is much more likely to be caused by a health issue or medication. People taking epilepsy drugs, for instance, can end up with much lower biotin levels than average.
Biotin deficiency can also occur because of your diet, though. People who drink alcohol frequently or in large amounts and people who like to eat raw egg or raw egg products are both at risk for biotin deficiency. This is because both raw eggs and alcohol can block the absorption of biotin.
Aren’t eggs a good source of biotin?
Raw eggs contain a protein called avidin. Avidin can bind to biotin, preventing the body from absorbing this nutrient. However, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says that avidin is destroyed during the cooking process. This is why cooked eggs are a good source of biotin, but eating raw eggs can put you at risk for a biotin deficiency.
Don’t forget that raw eggs are also used to make many different foods, including salad dressings and dipping sauces like mayonnaise. If you think you have low biotin levels, talk to your doctor or dietitian – and make sure to stay away from drinks like eggnog and cocktails topped with egg white foam.
Biotin isn’t a cure-all for hair loss – unless your hair issues are caused by a biotin deficiency. But even if your hair loss is due to a different issue, this nutrient is still important for your health and has the potential to improve your hair.
If you’re going to take biotin to try and boost hair growth, the first product you’ll want to try is an oral supplement. A multivitamin is likely your best bet since these can include various vitamins and minerals that can improve your hair’s health. You can also consider other biotin-enriched products, like biotin shampoos, conditioners, or serums – but there’s more evidence on the benefits of oral supplements.