Biotin is a vitamin that has been purported to increase the growth of hair and nails. You can find biotin on the shelves at your local grocery store and in the pages of big name fashion and health magazines.
What’s the truth behind biotin supplements? Are they really the miracle workers they’ve been made out to be? Here, we’ll give you a brief background on biotin and how it works in the human body. We’ll also show you the best uses and benefits of biotin supplements backed by research.
What is Biotin?
Biotin is a B vitamin that is known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H. This vitamin is water-soluble and absorbed by the body to metabolize amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates. This vitamin also helps produce enzymes. Essentially, biotin helps the body process food into energy to help you tackle the day.
Biotin occurs naturally in foods including bananas, nuts, egg yolks, and whole grains. Unfortunately, biotin can be rendered ineffective due to common cooking techniques.
That’s where supplements come in. Biotin supplements are essentially concentrated forms of biotin. They usually come in small capsules that should be taken with water. Some biotin supplements are fortified with other vitamins and nutrients to target specific issues.
Who Should Take Biotin Supplements?
People who consume a well-rounded diet are most likely getting all the biotin they need. This can of course depend on how you prepare food since that can affect biotin uptake.
In general, eating raw biotin-rich foods such as bananas and nuts will help you achieve a good amount of biotin. You can also try salmon, carrots, cauliflower, and cereals, which all contain high amounts of biotin.
Stick to non-GMO and organic foods for the best results. You can also find biotin in many gluten-free foods if that is important to you. Avoid cooking or preserving these foods for the best results.
The FDA doesn’t establish a daily recommended allowance of biotin. That’s mainly because biotin deficiencies are so rare. However, the Mayo Clinic recommends that adolescents and adults consume anywhere from 30 to 100 mcg of biotin daily. This can come from natural foods or by using biotin dietary supplements.
Most biotin supplements far exceed the daily recommended allowance. Biotin products including popular brands like Nature’s Bounty, Vitafusion, and Natrol biotin typically contain 1,000 to 5,000 mcg of biotin per dose. Extra strength and high potency biotin supplements and veggie capsule can contain up to 10,000 mcg. In most cases, you will simply pee out the excess biotin.
Research thus far shows there are no toxic effects of even high doses of biotin. There are however some things to keep in mind when taking biotin supplements.
Biotin Uses and Benefits
1. Helps Grow Healthy Hair
Biotin is commonly used to treat thinning hair, dry and brittle nails, and to minimize hair loss. Research on the hair growth benefits of biotin is still emerging, but there is evidence to show it can be helpful.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology analyzed the effects of biotin supplements on women with temporary hair thinning. The randomized, double blind study consisted of women between 21 and 75 years of age. The subjects received either an oral placebo or an oral biotin supplement.
At the conclusion of the study, participants who took biotin supplements showed significant hair growth and also reported increased hair volume and thickness. These participants also showed an improvement in hair shine, smoothness, and moisture retention in both hair strands and skin on the scalp.
How to Use: Hair Massage
Combine 2 tablespoons of coconut oil with two tablespoons of vitamin E oil and 2 drops of liquid biotin. Massage the oils gently into your scalp for 10 to 15 minutes.
2. May Treat Hair Disorders
One of the purported health benefits of biotin is its ability to treat hair loss and damaged hair. Researchers are divided on whether biotin is truly effective when it comes to developing healthier hair.
A 2017 scientific review examined the existing research on biotin supplementation to discover its health benefits. Researchers found that 18 studies proved significant changes in hair and nails when using biotin supplements. All of these studies were conducted on individuals that had an underlying pathology for poor hair or nail health.
The researchers agree that biotin supplementation may be useful in treating hair loss and other hair growth issues in cases of acquired or inherited biotin deficiency. Biotin supplements can also help individuals who have uncombable hair or brittle nail syndrome.
How to Use: Oral Supplementation
Most research shows that biotin can help build healthier hair in individuals with underlying problems. If you have issues with tangled or thinning hair, try taking a biotin supplement once or twice daily.
3. May Treat Brittle Nails
Biotin enables the uptake of fatty acids and other compounds that can support nail health. Getting the daily amount of biotin can lead to stronger nails. These benefits are particularly useful for people who have brittle nails and other nail deficiencies.
A Swiss study published in Cutis examined the effects of biotin supplements on brittle nails. The study consisted of 35 patients who took daily doses of biotin and were evaluated over a six-month period.
Researchers found that 22 of the participants had clinical improvement in the thickness of their nails. These participants showed an average 25 percent increase in nail thickness at the conclusion of the study.
How to Use: Oral Supplement
Biotin hasn’t been shown to further strength already healthy nails so this is best for brittle or damaged nails. Take one or two capsules daily according to your doctor’s suggestion.
4. Treats Biotin Deficiency
Biotin deficiency can by caused by proteins and acids including pantothenic acid and avidin that inhibit the absorption of biotin. In sports research, bodybuilders and other intense athletes use biotin supplements to prevent biotin deficiency disorders caused by eating raw egg whites. Egg whites contain high levels of the protein known as avidin.
Avidin binds to biotin and prevents the body from absorbing it properly. This can lead to biotin deficiencies, which can cause skin rashes, hair loss, and anemia. The easiest solution to biotin deficiency is to supplement a healthy diet with biotin capsules or biotin gummies.
How to Use: Oral Supplements
If you suspect you have a biotin deficiency, set up a consultation with your doctor. They will run tests to determine if you are truly deficient or if there is another issue. For biotin deficiency, take a supplement once or twice daily according to your physician’s instructions.
5. May Help Regulate Blood Sugar
Biotin may help to lower blood sugar levels when combined with chromium picolinate. A study backed by Nutrition 21, a supplement manufacturer, found that biotin increased the efficacy of chromium in terms of lowering blood sugar.
It’s important to note that while the study was successful, it consisted only of 35 participants. To establish these results, scientists need to conduct research on a larger number of individuals. Nutrition 21 also has a stake in these findings since it sells biotin supplements. Overall, the study provides interesting information on the potential usefulness of biotin in the treatment of diabetes.
Side Effects of Biotin Supplements
Interference With Lab Tests
High doses of biotin supplementation may affect blood tests. In 2017, the FDA released a Safety Communication on the potential effects of biotin on laboratory test results. Biotin can cause high or low results depending on the type of blood test. You can still take biotin supplements, but the FDA recommends speaking with your doctor first.
Let your physician know that you are taking biotin supplements before taking any lab tests. You may need to stop taking the supplement temporarily a few days before the test to avoid false results.
The vitamin supplement industry has very little oversight in the USA. Many supplements may contain artificial colors and other additives that can have harmful side effects. Always buy biotin products from reputable brands that focus on high quality. To increase your biotin intake when there is a deficiency, it’s best to purchase pure biotin rather than capsules mixed with other b-complex vitamins.
Biotin Supplement Recap
Biotin supplements are often touted for their ability to improve the look of hair, skin, and nails. Research has shown that biotin offers improvements in hair growth and the condition of hair and nails. Most of these results are limited to damaged hair and nails or underlying pathological conditions.
If you suffer from brittle nails or hair, biotin supplements may improve your condition. Most individuals receive the daily recommended value of biotin from naturally occurring foods. If you think you aren’t getting enough biotin or want to try it out to improve hair or nails, talk to your doctor about biotin supplements.