If you’ve ever desired longer hair or stronger nails, you’ve probably heard of — or even taken — biotin. The vitamin is the star of the show in a wide range of beauty and hair supplements, but is there any validity to all of the biotin buzz?
What is biotin?
Biotin, also referred to as vitamin B7 and vitamin H, is one of many B-complex vitamins, says Gretchen Frieling, M.D., a triple board-certified dermatopathologist in Boston. “It’s a water-soluble vitamin, meaning it’s not stored in the body and any excess is eliminated through urine,” she explains.
There are numerous biotin-rich foods, including ones most people consume daily, such as almonds, sunflower seeds, egg yolks, dairy, avocados, sweet potatoes, and spinach. Most individuals obtain an adequate amount of biotin through their diet, says dermatologist Keira Barr, M.D. Plus, it’s also produced by the bacteria in your gut, she adds.
The vitamin is crucial for overall health, not just healthy skin and nails. “It’s valuable in metabolizing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy, meaning it’s important for metabolic health, as well as for maintaining nervous system functions,” notes Dr. Frieling. Plus, it’s also essential for embryonic growth during pregnancy, and some studies have indicated it can also lower bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, she adds.
So, is biotin beneficial for skin, hair, and nails?
The important point to remember here: Biotin is, indeed, an essential nutrient for healthy skin, hair, and nails, says Dr. Frieling.
And there have been studies to support this. For instance, clinical studies demonstrate that biotin supplements can enhance hair growth, says Howard Sobel, M.D., a board-certified dermatologic cosmetic surgeon based in New York and director of Sobel Skin. A daily 2.5 microgram biotin supplement improved nail thickness and reduced flaking after several months, according to a small Journal of Dermatological Treatment study.
Credit the effect of the vitamin on keratin. Biotin has been discovered to reinforce the structure of keratin, a vital protein present in both hair and nails. There has also been some indication that biotin supplementation can aid in relieving dry, itchy rashes, which is likely connected to its ability to generate skin-nourishing fatty acids.
The catch? All of these studies and reported advantages occur in individuals who are deficient in biotin from the beginning, and very few individuals actually have a genuine biotin deficiency since it is found in so many of the foods you consume.
Case in point: Although there is no recommended dietary allowance for biotin, according to the Mayo Clinic, the recommended daily intake for teenagers and adults is 30–100 micrograms. And, according to the National Institutes of Health, the average intake in Western populations is 35–70 micrograms. In other words, most people are obtaining enough of the vitamin without requiring supplements.
Basically, if you are not deficient in biotin, taking that supplement may not have much of an impact on your hair, skin, or nails — but it most likely will not harm either. “There hasn’t been a large-scale study of biotin effects on normal hair, but it doesn’t mean that biotin doesn’t help normal hair grow healthier and faster,” says Dr. Sobel.
Biotin is generally safe to consume even if you are not deficient, adds Dr. Frieling. Additionally, numerous supplements focused on beauty combine it with a range of other nutrients and vitamins as well. (Fun stat alert: In a survey of 300 dermatologists, 66 percent stated that they suggest dietary supplements to their patients, and 81 percent of those were for reasons related to hair, skin, and nails.)
Does biotin have any adverse effects?
If you want to give it a try, go for it (just keep your expectations realistic), but it is important to consult your doctor before you start taking biotin regularly for a few reasons.
One, if you are attempting to address an issue such as hair loss, brittle nails, or dry scaly rashes (all symptoms of a biotin deficiency, FYI), you want to ensure that there is not another cause for those problems.
Two, biotin supplementation can result in abnormal findings on blood tests: “The FDA issued a recent warning that consuming biotin might significantly interfere with laboratory testing,” cautions Dr. Barr. “It can impact various blood tests, leading to inaccurate negative or positive results,” adds Dr. Sobel.
It is also worth being cautious if you struggle with acne.
“We’re observing a connection between the consumption of biotin and heightened occurrence of acne, as surplus biotin effectively diminishes the quantity of vitamin B5 that is taken in, a vitamin believed to aid in safeguarding the skin’s defensive shield and diminishing acne,” elucidates Dr. Sobel.
Are ingestible supplements the sole choice?
No, but you’ll probably achieve better outcomes with a consumable supplement. “Considering that our microbiome and intestinal bacteria play a role in producing biotin, the bioavailability of the vitamin would be most easily obtained through ingesting it,” claims Dr. Barr.
However, even though all current research has focused on ingested biotin supplements rather than topical applications, it doesn’t hurt to utilize nail solutions or hair products containing biotin, suggests Dr. Sobel.
Additionally, similar to consumable biotin supplements, many topicals contain other beneficial components. For instance, the Foligain Triple Action Complete Formula (Purchase It, $24, amazon.com) features both copper peptides and biotin, while the OGX Thick & Full Biotin & Collagen Shampoo (Purchase It, $9, ulta.com) also incorporates wheat protein and collagen to add volume to hair strands. For weak nails, apply the Butter London Horse Power Nail Rescue Basecoat (Purchase It, $18, amazon.com) that features both fortifying biotin and horesetail extract.
To ensure you obtain the maximum benefits from your biotin supplements, consider one of these oral consumables:
- Hair La Vie Clinical Formula Hair Vitamins (Purchase It, $50, hairlavie.com) contain 5000 micrograms of biotin, along with 20 different natural ingredients such as flaxseed and bamboo stem.
- Better Not Younger Significant Other Hair, Skin, & Nails Supplement (Purchase It, $29, better-notyounger.com) also incorporates vitamins A, C, D3, and zinc.
- Plant Life Organic Botanical Collagen Enhancer (Purchase, $23, amazon.com) contains 2500 micrograms of biotin and other beneficial antioxidants, all derived from fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
- Nutrafol for Women (Purchase, $88, nutrafol.com) utilizes biotin and an extensive range of researched plant extracts and antioxidants.
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