Can Biotin Really Stimulate Hair Growth?

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Biotin is a B vitamin often recommended for hair health. Since biotin deficiency can lead to thinning of the hair, proponents claim that taking biotin supplements (such as pills or tablets) or washing your hair with biotin-enriched shampoo can thicken hair and stimulate hair regrowth.

Found naturally in foods such as milk, egg yolk, and bananas, biotin in pill or tablet form is also said to promote nail growth or help with concerns such as brittle nails, biotin deficiency, diabetes, or seborrheic dermatitis.

Research on Biotin for Hair Growth: Can It Help?

There isn't enough evidence to rate biotin's effectiveness in the treatment of hair loss, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). However, there's evidence that biotin may benefit people with hair loss  or thinning hair due to a biotin deficiency.

Manufacturers claim that shampoo or hair oil, masks, or creams containing biotin can thicken hair, increase fullness, and add shine. Despite these claims, there are no scientific studies to show that biotin shampoo or any other topical product can benefit the hair.

Related: Biotin for Nail Growth

Are You Getting Enough Biotin?

Biotin deficiency is believed to be uncommon, because bacteria in the intestines usually provides more than the body's daily requirements and because biotin is found in a variety of common foods. 

Most people can meet their daily biotin needs by consuming biotin-rich foods like brewer's yeast, nutritional yeast, liver, cauliflower, salmon, bananas, carrots, cooked egg yolks, sardines, nuts, legumes, and mushrooms.

 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not established a recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for biotin. According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, 30 mcg is the daily adequate intake for adults 19 years of age and older, which can usually be achieved through dietary consumption.

Deficiency may occur in people who drink alcohol excessively or consume a great deal of raw egg white (which contains avidin, a protein that blocks the absorption of biotin). Two or more uncooked egg whites daily for several months has been known to result in biotin deficiency.

Genetic disorders of biotin deficiency (such as biotinidase deficiency), renal dialysis, and smoking may also increase your need for biotin. Certain drugs may reduce biotin levels, such as carbamazepine and other anticonvulsants, antibiotics, or isotretinoin. Since biotin is produced in the intestines, people with inflammatory bowel disease or other conditions that can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the intestines may not be able to adequately produce biotin.

If you notice any symptoms of biotin deficiency, consult your health care provider. Symptoms include thinning of the hair, a red scaly rash (especially around the eyes, nose, and mouth), conjunctivitis, depression, exhaustion, hallucinations, and numbness and tingling of the arms and legs.

Dosage and Possible Side Effects

Biotin can cause problems if you ingest too much, such as skin rashes, digestive upset, problems with insulin release, and kidney problems. According to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, biotin treatment was said to interfere with laboratory tests and mimic Graves' disease. As with any supplement, the safety of long-term or high-dose use isn't known. 

Although there is no recommended dietary allowance for biotin, proponents often recommend taking 2-5 mg (2000-5000 mcg) of biotin in supplement form daily in order to strengthen hair shafts and achieve results. Although biotin is a water-soluble vitamin (the excess is excreted in urine and feces), there is no evidence to support this recommendation and the safety of regular use of this amount isn't known. 

As with other supplements, biotin hasn't been tested for safety in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications. You can find out more about how to use supplements safely here.

Bottom Line

Losing your hair can be very distressing. If you've noticed that you're losing hair or that your hair is thinning, it's important to see your health care provider to determine the cause. Hair loss, particularly in women, may have multiple causes including nutritional deficiencies, androgenic alopecia (also called pattern hair loss), and hormone imbalances (such as thyroid troubles). Although you may be eager to halt the hair loss, taking biotin tablets or supplements without being assessed poses the risk that diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause will be delayed. 

Although biotin deficiency is considered rare, it can result in hair loss that can be addressed with supplementation. If you have symptoms of biotin deficiency or are thinking of taking it, be sure to talk with your health care provider to assess your levels and discuss whether it's right for you.

Sources:

Daniells S, Hardy G. Hair loss in long-term or home parenteral nutrition: are micronutrient deficiencies to blame? Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010 Nov;13(6):690-7.

Kummer S, Hermsen D, Distelmaier F. Biotin Treatment Mimicking Graves' Disease. N Engl J Med. 2016 Aug 18;375(7):704-6. 

Rajput RJ. Controversy: is there a role for adjuvants in the management of male pattern hair loss? J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2010 May;3(2):82-6.

Trüeb RM. Serum Biotin Levels in Women Complaining of Hair Loss. Int J Trichology. 2016 Apr-Jun;8(2):73-7. 

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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