Does biotin help hair growth?
Dr. Aysha Butt is the Medical Director of FROM MARS, and is a GP Partner at Woodcote NHS Medical Practice.
If you’ve spent any time researching hair loss products online, the chances are you’ve come across biotin – it seems to be everywhere right now. It’s a popular supplement that lots of people are using to improve the health of their hair and to fight hair loss.
But does biotin really work? And are there any risks to taking it?
Here we delve into the science behind biotin and hair growth. We find out if it affects your hair and if it can be harmful to you.
What is biotin?
Biotin is a natural vitamin from the B family of vitamins. It’s usually counted as vitamin B7, but sometimes it’s also called vitamin B8. In Germany it’s called vitamin H because it’s so important for hair and skin (haar and haut in German).
Biotin is used by your body in a wide range of processes, but one of the most important is keratin production. Keratin is the main ingredient of hair (and also finger nails and toenails). It gives your hair strands structure, it makes them flexible and supple and it forms a protective layer around the outside of them. You need biotin to make keratin and you need keratin to make healthy hair.
Where can I find biotin?
Like other vitamins, you can find biotin in a variety of foods. Eggs are rich in biotin as are dairy products, especially Camembert and blue cheeses. Most nuts are biotin rich, especially almonds, as well as fatty fish like salmon and tuna too.
Meat including beef and chicken and a range of fruits and vegetables such as avocados, broccoli, bananas, spinach and other leafy greens are all packed with biotin.
And again, just like other vitamins, you can also buy a range of supplements that contain biotin. They’re a quick and easy way to make sure your hair is getting the biotin it needs.
Biotin is also added to various beauty products, like shampoos and conditioners, serums and creams.
What is a biotin deficiency?
A biotin deficiency is when your body doesn’t have enough biotin to function properly (your body is deficient in biotin).
A biotin deficiency can happen if you don’t get enough biotin in your diet (you regularly get less than the recommended 30 to 100 micrograms per day). Or if your body has a problem absorbing biotin, which can be caused by diseases, particularly intestinal conditions that stop your body absorbing nutrients effectively, like Crohn’s disease or by certain medications, including antibiotics.
If you have a biotin deficiency you can develop a red rash on your skin, your skin can dry and crack, you can feel fatigued, develop depression and have problems sleeping. Most importantly for hair, a biotin deficiency can make your hair brittle and prone to damage, it can even make your hair fall out.
What does the science say about biotin and hair growth
The research on biotin for hair growth is still very much in its early days.
A host of scientific studies have shown that taking biotin supplements can help re-grow lost hair. But all of these studies to date have been conducted on women who have health conditions that caused their hair to thin and fall out.
There’s no conclusive scientific research yet that shows biotin can help men regrow lost hair. This doesn’t necessarily mean biotin won’t help with hair loss though, just that it’s not yet proven. And there are anecdotal reports from men who claim biotin has worked for them.
As biotin doesn’t cause any known side effects it’s something you can try for yourself to see if it helps with your hair.
How much biotin should you take for hair growth?
Not getting enough biotin in your diet can harm your hair and can make it fall out. Experts recommend you get a minimum of 30 and 100 mcg (micrograms) per day, but lots of people advocate higher doses for hair health, as high as 2000 to 5000 mcg.
How long does it take for biotin to work?
The scientific research on biotin is still in its early days, but studies suggest that you can see results, like increased growth, thickness and shine, in as little as 90 days. If you have a biotin deficiency you may see results faster than this.
Are there any risks to taking biotin?
Biotin is a naturally occurring vitamin and something your body needs to function properly. It’s not a synthetic product.
And whilst some vitamins can become toxic at high doses, biotin isn’t thought to do so, as it’s not a vitamin that gets stored in your body if you take excess amounts (it’s water-soluble rather than fat-soluble). In the US there’s no recommended maximum daily amount of biotin that you can exceed.
No side effects have been found for taking biotin supplements either, even in high doses and it’s not thought to interact with any medications. The only known effect of taking large quantities of biotin is that it can interfere with the results of some blood tests.
Biotin supplements are safe, but if you do have any worries about taking them you should talk to your doctor anyway, just to be on the safe side.
Can taking biotin cause hair loss?
No, taking biotin won’t cause hair loss, even in high doses. Excess biotin isn’t stored in your body (you pee it out), meaning it doesn’t build up and become toxic. Your body takes the biotin it needs, then it gets rid of what’s left.
Is biotin for me?
If you have a biotin deficiency then biotin is most definitely for you. But even if you don’t have a biotin deficiency, increasing your biotin intake may help with your hair growth. The science on biotin supplementation is still in its infancy, although results so far are promising, but there are lots of anecdotal reports of people getting good results with biotin.
If you have male pattern baldness, the most common cause of hair loss in men, then biotin alone may not be enough. If you want to slow your hair loss, and even regain lost hair, two medical products that are scientifically proven to work are finasteride (Propecia) and minoxidil (Rogaine).
The good news is you can take finasteride, minoxidil and biotin together as a holistic treatment plan to maximize your hair growth. If you’re interested in finasteride, minoxidil and biotin you can order them directly FROM MARS.