Are Biotin Supplements Worth Your Time (and Money)?
24 Jun | 2019
What is biotin, actually?
Biotin has been a widespread trend in health and beauty for the past few years. From gummy vitamins to shampoo and styling products, biotin is seemingly the latest miracle cure for hair and nail issues. In reality? Biotin is just another name for vitamin B7 which is found naturally in many foods like whole grains, meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, and dairy. It’s even produced naturally by the bacteria in your stomach.
While this vitamin plays an important role in turning food into energy, there is currently no official recommended daily dosage. Moreover, a well-balanced diet should keep you from any deficiencies (barring any underlying ailment or genetic disorder). Pregnancy may cause a slight deficiency, but this can easily be remedied with the consultation of a GP and likely a course of prenatal vitamins that include biotin.
If a biotin deficiency is allowed to continue untreated, unpleasant effects include hair thinning, brittle or weak nails, rashes around the eyes, nose, and mouth, and in serious cases, even seizures. However, again, biotin deficiencies in healthy adults with no underlying conditions are exceedingly rare.
And what does science say about the effectiveness of biotin for hair growth?
Unfortunately, there’s no scientific evidence that any dose of biotin is related to hair regrowth in healthy adults not suffering from biotin deficiency. And even in cases where healthy adults report positive results, biotin is only able to increase the strength of the hair already being grown. This in turn allows the hair to look and feel healthier and stay intact for slightly longer, but biologically biotin is not able to increase the speed at which hair grows or increase the maximum length of hair (these are frustratingly predetermined by your genetics). Any positive results will also only affect new hair growth. The average person’s hair grows at around half an inch per month, so results may not be enjoyed for months (if not years) after a supplement regimen is started.
And what about topical products like shampoos, conditioners, styling products, or serums?
Biotin is a large molecule that is not readily absorbed through the skin. Afterall, your skin’s main job is to keep out what’s out and in what’s in. This, plus the fact that any biotin in these products is very likely diluted by other ingredients means any affect experienced after using these products is probably more to do with the underlying formula of the product and not the biotin itself. Like many vitamins and over-hyped ingredients added to skincare and haircare, biotin has the best chance at helping if it is allowed to nourish the hair as it grows, not after.
While there are no reported negative effects associated with extreme doses of biotin (the Mayo Clinic recommends an adult needs about 100 micrograms daily, whereas supplements range anywhere from 1,000 up to 10,000 micrograms), some users experience side effects like acne or cystic acne which, while not life threatening, can be unpleasant to say the least.
Also, keep in mind that biotin can interfere with results from blood work and indirectly lead to serious complications. For this reason it is vitally important to discuss with your GP before beginning to take any biotin supplement, and to alert any medical professional of any biotin or other supplements you are taking if they are conducting blood labs on you.
So, should you try biotin?
We recommend always consulting with your GP before taking any supplement, including biotin. If you do begin taking it, have reasonable expectations regarding results (they won’t help regrow hair, or make hair grow longer or faster, but may make your hair slightly stronger), and watch out for unwanted side effects like acne.