Hair growth products that contain biotin, also known as vitamin B7, are becoming increasingly popular, as are biotin supplements.
Biotin can be found in both supplement and food form, and for those who hope to grow their hair longer and faster, it’s arguably the most used supplement today. Consuming biotin-rich foods is said to contribute to hair growth, while a lack of biotin in the body can contribute to hair loss. That’s because biotin is essential for cell proliferation. When it reacts with cell enzymes, it has a key role in producing amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Hair is made up of keratin itself, which is a form of protein.
While hair loss has multiple causes, many of them are systemic, meaning that if it’s falling out at the roots, something is likely wrong in your body or in your life, such as extreme stress. But one of the more common culprits is diet, as so many people follow restrictive diets that don’t include enough of what the body needs.
Why Do We Need Biotin?
When we eat foods that are sources of carbs, fats, and proteins and carbohydrates, biotin is required to be present in order to convert and use these macronutrients to fuel the body and carry out physical activities as well as for proper psychological functioning. This nutrient is not only important for our insides, but it’s well-known as an essential part of our outer appearance too. It helps us to maintain a younger, more attractive look as it has a significant role in supporting the health of the skin, nails, and hair. This is why it’s so commonly found in hair and skin products, though many believe it isn’t absorbed well this way and that it really needs to be ingested to receive its full benefits.
Biotin is water-soluble, which means that any excess amount taken is eliminated through urine. The body is unable to store reserves of this vitamin, which means that in order to get enough, you really need to ingest a small amount every day to keep the supply up enough.
Who Is At Risk Of Biotin Deficiency & What Are The Symptoms?
Certain people are at a higher risk of being biotin deficient, including those who are suffering from serious digestive conditions such as celiac disease, Chron’s, or leaky gut syndrome as well as those with intestinal malabsorption problems, anyone on anti-seizure medications for the long term, or taking antibiotics for a prolonged period of time.
Symptoms of a biotin deficiency include:
- Hair loss
- Brittle hair
- Chronic fatigue or lack of energy
- Nerve damage
- Mood swings
- Muscle aches
- Dry, irritated skin
- Cognitive impairment
The Benefits Of Biotin For Hair & Hair Growth
As we mentioned, biotin is important for many body processes, including to maintain healthy hair, as well as healthy skin and nails. When you don’t get enough biotin, you may notice that your hair is getting thinner, becoming brittle or even splitting. Numerous studies have found that ingesting high doses of biotin can improve the health of dry, cracked skin, and treat weak hair and nails. That’s why biotin is so often seen in shampoos, conditioners, face creams and other beauty products, however, it’s significantly more effective when eaten, rather than applied topically.
A 2012 study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology revealed that biotin is especially effective at helping women regrow hair. Women are more prone to biotin deficiency than men, particularly after pregnancy. Biotin supplements and hair loss products used in scientific research helped biotin deficient women get healthy again and experience significantly increased hair growth without any side effects. The researchers noted that the results “may represent the first description of increased hair growth in women associated with the use of a nutritional supplement.”
More Biotin Benefits For Health
Beyond the hair, skin, and nails, biotin offers many other benefits.
It supports a healthy heart
B vitamins like B7, or biotin, have a key role in helping the body defend against common causes of heart disease, like atherosclerosis and inflammation. Biotin has even been found to increase HDL, or “good” cholesterol as well as lower LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol.
It helps regulate a healthy metabolism
Biotin is important for regulating gene expressions that are vital for carrying out metabolism functions, Along with other B vitamins, biotin is necessary for converting the food you eat into energy that can be used and helps support a healthy metabolism in a number of ways. First, it helps to convert glucose from carbs and turns sugar sources into fuel as the preferred source of energy for the body. It also activates fatty acids from foods that contain fat such as coconut oil and olive oil as well as helps the body use amino acids from protein to carry out numerous different functions. Vitamin B7 improves both the utilization of glucose and the metabolism. When the body doesn’t get enough of this vitamin, symptoms can include weight gain, fatigue, lack of energy, digestive issues, appetite changes, mood swings and even the development of diabetes – all signs of a sluggish metabolism.
It protects the brain
Biotin protects the brain in a number of ways too. It works with other B vitamins to protect it against age-related cognitive impairment, like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, as well as influencing memory function. Biotin and other B vitamins, help us to feel more positive, enjoy more energy and improved concentration.
It’s important for repairing and building muscles. Biotin also has an important role in the growth and maintenance of the body’s tissues, such as building and repairing muscle. When muscle or tissue begins to break down, vitamins like B7 help to build tissue that leads to growth and stronger muscles. They also work together to lower inflammation – excess inflammation can lead to joint or muscle aches or even difficulty moving.
It supports adrenal and thyroid health
Biotin is also necessary for defending against adrenal fatigue and supporting proper thyroid functioning. These “master” glands are tasked with many functions in the body, including mood, energy, sleep, hunger and pain perception. That’s why a lack of B vitamins in the body can result in adrenal and thyroid complications – and a host of unwanted symptoms, including weight gain or loss, sleeping problems, fatigue and more.
The Problem With Taking Biotin For Hair Growth
Given all of that, it would seem that taking biotin for hair growth would be a no-brainer. After all, not only can it help you have more beautiful, longer locks, it can improve the health of your skin and nails, while offering multiple other benefits too, right?
Here’s where things get a little bit tricky. There is a downside to taking biotin. First, there are concerns about over-consuming B7, although it is rare, with very few cases ever reported. Still, it can negatively affect someone who has a serious digestive condition that can disrupt normal intestinal bacterial levels, as well as those who take oral antibiotics or anti-seizure drugs. Certain medications, like the popular acne drug Accutane, may decrease the activity of biotin. If you’re taking an abnormally high dose of other B vitamins, such as pantothenic acid, it can reduce levels of biotin in the body.
There is another potential problem with biotin too. When it comes to your skin, you may end up with the opposite of your desired results. That’s because, according to Dr. Jessica Weiser, a board-certified dermatologist for the New York Dermatology Group, “Both biotin and pantothenic acid–vitamin B5—are absorbed from the intestines via the same receptors. When taking biotin supplements, the amount of biotin in the gut far outweighs the quantity of vitamin B5, thereby leading to a relative vitamin B5 deficiency. Pantothenic acid is thought to regulate the barrier function of the surface layer on the skin and can reduce acne lesions. Therefore, a deficiency of pantothenic acid—or excess of biotin—could lead to acne flares.”
In other words, taking an excess of biotin could result in a vitamin B5 deficiency, which leads to skin problems. Other dermatologists have noticed this occurring as well, stating that there have been numerous reports of excessive biotin intake leading to acne breakouts and rashes – though they also admit that have not been any blinded, placebo-controlled research trials to confirm this.
It’s easier to overdo it with biotin too, as it’s such a common supplement and can be found in so many places – not only in shampoos, conditioners, and other beauty products but in multivitamins, B-complex vitamins, and nutritional drink powders. While biotin itself is not to blame, it’s interaction with other vitamins in the body that can cause acne in some people, particularly those who already have acne-prone skin.
While there are people who experience acne as a side effect of taking biotin, there are also people who find it helpful for clearing up breakouts. In most cases, it’s the biotin deficiency in them that made them react positively to biotin supplementation.
The bottom line is – biotin is a really useful vitamin for your hair but if you decide to start taking biotin and your acne gets worse or you start to experience frequent breakouts, you may want to stop taking it as biotin could very well be the culprit.
Top Food Sources Of Biotin
As is so often the case, getting your biotin by eating a diverse array of healthy, whole foods is your best bet. Many foods contain some biotin, but the concentration in most is negligible from a nutritional standpoint. Organ meats, such as kidneys and liver, are the most concentrated dietary source, although, milk, cheddar cheese, and seafood are other rich, animal-derived sources. Egg yolks contain a high concentration of B7, but they also contain a chemical compound that interferes with its absorption.
Many experts believe that plant-based biotin sources are best. That’s because plants contain free biotin, which is more bioavailable, than what’s referred to as protein-bound biotin, or biotin that is animal sourced. Some of the plant-based foods richest in the vitamin include nuts, particularly pecans, peanuts, and walnuts. A 100 gram serving of pecans contains 28 mcg of biotin, and both walnuts and peanuts contain nearly 37 mcg. Plus, nuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which further support heart health. Other excellent sources include sunflower seeds, with 66 mcg in 100 grams; legumes like lentils which contain 40 mcg in 100 grams; cauliflower, which offers 5% of the recommended daily amount of biotin, and bananas, one of the few fruits that are a good source of biotin. An average-sized banana offers 118 mcg of biotin – plus they offer lots of potassium, fiber and other nutrients like magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and vitamins A, C, and B6.
There are many other good sources of biotin too, like leafy green veggies, carrots, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
Even if you don’t suffer from breakouts related to an excess of biotin, that doesn’t mean you can, or should, take as much as you want. While it hasn’t been proven to be dangerous, it’s best to limit your dose to 10,000 mcg maximum, but if you’re prone to breakouts keep it to 2,500 mcg or less until you know how it will affect you.
The daily recommended value for adults over the age of 19 is 30 to 100 mcg; 25 mcg for adolescents; 30 mcg for pregnant women, and 35 mcg for women who are breastfeeding.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are no adverse effects associated with the overconsumption of the vitamin itself, and Oregon State University research has shown that it was tolerated without side effects in consumption of up to 300,000 mcg per day. Still, that doesn’t mean that taking such a large amount is a good idea as you’re much more likely to end up with problem skin.
Biotin can be found as part of B-complex supplements, which typically include a full spectrum of B vitamins, like B2 or riboflavin, B3 or niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. As a whole they work together to support brain functioning, metabolism activity, nerve signaling and much more. As they work with one another, taking them together is the ideal way to ensure that you’ll get the maximum results. It’s also important to purchase a supplement product that is made from real food sources and does not contain fillers or toxins.
Whether you choose a B-complex supplement or a strict biotin supplement, these are some of the best options available today:
Thorne Research Stress B-Complex. This supplement contains an excellent balance of B vitamins that are especially known for combating stress. It contains extra B5 to provide adrenal support, but that can also be beneficial for those who are prone to acne breakouts to prevent skin problems. Thorne is a brand that is known for using pure sources only, meaning there are no artificial preservatives, colors or flavors – everything is derived from natural non-GMO food sources. A 60-capsule bottle is available from this page on Amazon.
Vitamin Code Raw B-Complex. This is a whole-food, multi-nutrient formula that delivers vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B-12, folate, and biotin. In addition to providing at least 100% of the Daily Value for all essential B vitamins, it is NON-GMO, Vegan certified and contains no binders or fillers. You can buy a 120-capsule bottle on Amazon from here.
Sports Research High Potency Biotin with Coconut. If you’re looking for the maximum potency and want a strictly biotin supplement, this Sports Research supplement is one of the highest rated. It also contains healthy fats from coconut oil that may help with absorption. NON-GMO with no artificial colors, fillers or preservatives, a 120-capsule bottle sells here on Amazon.