For many men and women, hair loss and unhealthy hair growth are a very sensitive subject and major issue in their lives. In hopes of finding an effective and affordable treatment for this problem, several have turned to biotin supplements in an effort to reverse brittle, thinning and shedding hair and even the condition known as “cradle cap” in infants.
But, is there any solid proof that supplementing with biotin makes a difference to hair health?
What is Biotin?
Obtainable from certain nutrient dense foods or in supplement form, biotin is a type of B vitamin that is also known as vitamin B7, Appearex, vitamin H, coenzyme R, biotina or biotine depending its source. Aside from its pure form, biotin is also commonly found in multivitamins and in vitamin B-complex supplements.
Biotin creates usable energy in the body by breaking down digested food and turning it into sugar, while also playing a role in keeping blood sugar levels stable. The vitamin is important for metabolizing many of the enzymes, proteins, fatty acids and amino acids in the body.
Biotin boosts cell proliferation, assists in the maintenance of a healthy liver and promotes healthy hair (and prevents hair dryness) and nails (through keratin production), eyes and nervous system. It is also essential for pregnant women to get Biotin in order for their fetus to develop properly.
Despite biotin being extremely vital to human health, it can only be obtained from the diet, as it is not stored in the body.
As an active component in biotin, Sulphur is the only substance that helps to transform the mineral into collagen. The Sulphur in biotin is responsible for making fingernails transparent, extremely strong and flexible, protecting the skin and ensuring that hair remains healthy and split-end free while also making it less fragile and good-looking with great hair color.
Biotin for Hair Growth and Hair Loss
Individuals suffer from hair loss and unhealthy hair growth for a variety of reasons, such as genetics (male and female pattern baldness), age, stress level and poor hair care practice (such as excess heat and chemical use).
For people in any of these situations, biotin may be a beneficial solution to the problem, particularly if combined with a healthy lifestyle and healthy hair care habits.
Biotin is known to stimulate hair growth by increasing hair elasticity and moisture, and strengthening its cortex while also revitalizing follicles and roots. The vitamin helps to slow or stop excessive hair loss and breakage, which translates into longer, thicker and healthier hair in less time.
Causes and Symptoms of Biotin Deficiency
While suffering from an extreme lack of biotin is not common, it is in fact possible to become deficient in this nutrient due to any of the following factors:
- Genetic disorders
- Not eating a wholesome and balanced diet
- Extreme and rapid weight loss
- Infant seborrheic dermatitis
- A surgically removed stomach
- Having an A blood type
- Nutrient absorption issues
- Acid Reflux and GERD
Studies show that there may be a link between a biotin deficiency and developing type 2 diabetes. Other studies showed that diabetic patients who took a combination of biotin and chromium supplements saw a reduction in elevated blood sugar and insulin levels. These finding led scientists to conclude that individuals who suffer with diabetes (along with obesity) can potentially benefit from including biotin supplements in their nutritional plan.
Some individuals who suffer with diabetes take biotin in order to find relief from nerve pain that often accompanies the disease. However, there are no official studies that prove that this is effective.
Common symptoms of a biotin deficiency include:
- Dry, thin, brittle and breaking hair
- A scaly rash around the eyes, nose or mouth
- Dry eyes
- Brittle and cracked nails
- Tingling in arms and legs
Consult with a physician immediately upon noticing any of the above symptoms.
Also, explore options for getting more biotin by either eating foods rich in the vitamin (the better option if possible) or supplementing with biotin on a daily basis.
Food Sources of Biotin
There are many nutritious foods that provide biotin to the diet, which consumed daily, have a positive effect on healthy hair growth, including:
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, etc.)
- Egg Yolks
- Cheddar Cheese
- Whole Wheat Bread
- Vegetables (cauliflower, Swiss chard, carrots, mushrooms, etc.)
- Fruits (avocado, raspberries, etc.)
These foods are also source of vitamins A and B6 which are also beneficial for hair growth.
Note: Overconsumption of egg whites and alcohol can lead to biotin deficiencies.
Biotin supplements for hair growth and hair loss come in many different forms, which include:
- Biotin Pills
As the most popular type of biotin supplement, there are numerous brands of pills available, all promising faster and stronger hair growth.
Biotin pills are an effective nutrient delivery system for most individuals, with the exception of those who have problems swallowing or digesting supplements in pill or capsule form. However, there are also liquid capsules, soft and hard gel capsules as well as vitamin tablets available for biotin supplementation.
- Biotin Oil
Another option for including biotin in a hair revitalizing regimen is in oil form.
Many beneficial hair products such as shampoos, conditioners and hair oils, are infused with biotin to make them even more effective for treating weak and unhealthy hair. Adding biotin oil to a healthy hair care regimen helps to restore health and vitality to the hair, while promoting growth and length retention.
- Biotin Shampoo
Shampoo formulated with biotin introduces beneficial amino acids to the hair and scalp, which increases circulation and helps to repair damage. Along with boosting hair growth, biotin shampoos improve the volume and thickness of hair due to its high collagen content.
Does Biotin Help Hair Grow Faster?
Many individuals have made reports of biotin supplementation having a positive impact on their hair growth rate and health, particularly in persons with known deficiencies. However, there is no proof of these claims backed by scientific studies.
There is also no known positive correlation between the dosage of biotin taken and hair growth rate. In other words, taking extremely high doses of biotin does not lead to faster than normal hair growth.
That said, many individuals continue to use biotin supplements to promote faster and healthier hair growth because of the results obtained by their peers, and the fact that it is generally safe to take.
Does Biotin Make all Hair on the Body Grow?
No it does not. While taking biotin to increase hair growth from the scalp is effective, it will not increase the rate of hair growth on the rest of the body, as it can only grow to a specific length (genetic) and no longer.
What Results Can Someone Expect?
Results obtained by people supplementing with biotin for faster and healthier hair growth varies dramatically, with many individuals reporting positive long-term benefits of faster, stronger and healthier hair growth.
Factors that affect an individual’s response to biotin supplementation includes:
- Level of absorption (metabolism)
- Diet and nutrition
- Activity level
- General health
- Daily water consumption
- Medicines being taken
- Alcohol consumption
Patience is often cited as a necessity for getting full results, since biotin needs to be taken every day for at least four to six months for maximum effect.
Recommended Dosage: How Much Biotin to Take for Hair Growth?
The United States Department of Agriculture has determined that taking biotin is safe and does not lead to any adverse effects (even in the event of an overdose). In fact, a study conducted by the Oregon State University concluded that doses as high as 300,000mcg each day are well-tolerated and do not show any evidence of side effects.
There are dosage levels deemed “adequate” for nutritional benefit by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board, however, the recommended daily dose depends on the age of the individual:
- Birth to 12 months: 7 mcg
- 1 to 3 years: 8 mcg
- 4 to 8 years: 12 mcg
- 9 to 13 years: 20 mcg
- 14 to 18 years: 25 mcg
- Adults: 30 mcg
- Pregnant women: 30 mcg
- Breastfeeding women: 35 mcg
Biotin can typically be obtained in 10, 50 or 100 microgram tablets.
For healthier and faster hair growth in biotin deficient individuals, experts recommend approximately 500 to 700 mcg (up to 1000 mcg) daily for at least three to six months.
While it does not seem to be effective for everyone, anecdotal evidence suggests that many people taking 5000mcg of biotin each day, with half of the dosage taken in the morning and the other at night notice hair growth that is longer and thicker than usual.
Biotin Side Effects
While biotin is considered safe and non-toxic for the vast majority of individuals when taken orally in supplement form, it is slightly more likely to cause potential issues if it is introduced to the muscles of the body via injection. However, it is generally tolerated well by most people, including pregnant and breast-feeding women and children, once it is taken following proper dosage instructions.
Warning: Always check with a doctor before starting a supplement regimen.
With that said, some individuals have reported experiencing side effects they suspect are caused by taking biotin supplements, which include:
The development of chin and jawline cystic acne is a risk factor for individuals supplementing with biotin. While is it not known why this occurs, drinking a lot of water and limiting biotin dosage to less than 2500 mcg daily helps to reduce the chances of it happening.
Experts suggest that individuals adjust their daily biotin intake to figure out what dose produces the best results without causing this side effect. In the event that someone does develop cystic acne after taking biotin, it typically clears within weeks once the supplement is stopped.
While it is very rare, some individuals (who also tend to be allergic to cobalt and vitamin B12) develop allergic reactions after taking biotin.
Common symptoms of a biotin allergy include itchy rashes, nausea, a swollen face and throat, as well as chest pain and tightness. These symptoms can lead to death, so it is important to contact a medical professional immediately if a situation arises.
For unknown reasons, large doses of biotin can lead to miscarriage in some women. Consult with a doctor to determine individual risk factors while taking biotin during pregnancy or while trying to conceive.
- Medicinal Interactions:
Individuals suffering with high cholesterol, seizures and diabetes may notice negative medicinal interactions or a change in symptoms while supplementing with biotin. Biotin has been shown to reduce the effectiveness and response of certain medications used to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
In one known case biotin was linked to the development of a life-threatening heart and lung condition (eosinophilic pleuropericardial effusion) in a woman taking high doses.
Despite all the above, there is no concrete evidence supporting the fact that biotin causes any side effects, even if it is consumed in very large doses.