You probably didn’t even know the word biotin before you started researching hair loss treatments, but now we’re going to guess you’ve become quite familiar. It feels like every other product these days has biotin in it, every other influencer or forum swearing it’s the miracle cure. This vitamin has been touted as a natural way to improve everything from strength to thickness, and has become very popular in hair-related products and treatments.
But does biotin actually work to prevent hair loss? It can be hard to sort the actual science from someone just telling you what you want to hear so you’ll buy their product, so we did the work for you to figure out what biotin can actually do to help, and where you might want to pair it with more proven methods in the journey toward the hair of your dreams.
Biotin, also known as Vitamin B-7 or Vitamin H, is an essential nutrient that’s found naturally in many foods. On a cellular level, biotin plays a role in metabolizing critical nutrients like fatty acids, glucose, and amino acids. Or, to put it more simply, biotin helps turn the food you eat into stuff your body can actually use.
Biotin is also important in protein synthesis, specifically keratin production, among other processes. Considering keratin is the key building block of hair, nails, and even the outer layer of your skin, you definitely don’t want to let that slide.
While the nutrient comes in many forms (we’ll get into that in a minute), most people get a healthy dose through their diets.
Considering you consume biotin through your diet nearly every day, we’d say it’s safe!
As far as taking in extra biotin, there is no evidence that high levels are toxic to humans and most people can take supplements without adverse side effects. However, abnormally high biotin levels have been shown to cause incorrect results in certain diagnostic and blood tests, so if you choose to supplement your biotin intake, you’ll want to tell your doctor.
According to the internet, biotin will solve all your hair issues. But how much of that is actually true?
Let’s start with why people think this: While biotin deficiency is rare, side effects of a deficiency can include thinning hair. That fact has led to the idea that more biotin would therefore support healthier hair—a belief so popular that the “H” in Vitamin H represents the German words for hair and skin. Given biotin’s role in keratin production (the key ingredient in hair), this is an understandable assumption.
Science seems to support this belief—to a point. Studies on biotin use and hair quality have been limited, but promising.
For instance, a study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology found that women with thinning hair who took biotin supplements had thicker hair than those who took a placebo after 90 days, and experienced no side effects. However, in a review of 18 different case reports and clinical trials related to biotin use for hair loss, researchers found that people who saw improved hair texture from biotin supplements tended to be those who had underlying conditions causing a deficiency which is, again, pretty rare.
Another study of those with male pattern baldness specifically found that biotin supplementation may improve hair quality and texture when added to a treatment plan, but did not show it decreased hair loss in any way.
So while we can’t say for sure whether biotin blocks DHT (the hormone tied to male pattern baldness)—and therefore don’t know if more biotin equals less hair loss—keeping your biotin intake in the healthy range definitely helps keep the hair you have looking its best.
If you do want to support your hair health with the help of biotin, there are a few options for you.
Pills or gummies are an extremely common form and you’ve probably come across them already if you’ve been researching hair loss treatments. While taking these are unlikely to hurt you, they’re probably overkill unless you have a biotin deficiency. Most contain far more biotin than your body needs and, since it’s a water-soluble vitamin, you’ll just pee out the excess, meaning money down the drain. That’s why hair loss vitamins,which often contain biotin, don’t work for many guys. Additionally, as mentioned above, taking excess biotin can affect blood tests, so you’ll want to talk to your doctor before going down this route.
(Side note: This all changes for pregnant people, as biotin is critical for the developing baby and deficiency is more common in folks who are expecting. Anyone in this situation should talk to their doctor about whether supplements would be helpful and safe!)
You’ll also likely see topical forms of biotin—like shampoos or serums—marketed toward hair thickening and growth. There are no studies available on whether topical applications of biotin are effective for hair, however it’s fair to assume that it may help those with a deficiency without harming people who don’t have one.
The good news is, based on the research available so far, it seems one easy way to get enough biotin to support healthy hair is through a varied diet.
So scramble up some eggs. Have salmon with sweet potatoes on the side. Sprinkle sunflower seeds on your salad. It’ll taste great and keep the hair on your head looking as good as possible.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
Finasteride is an oral medication used to treat male pattern baldness in men only. It is not for use by women. When used by men, finasteride is generally safe but it can also cause serious side effects, including but not limited to allergic reactions, sexual dysfunction, depression, and high-grade prostate cancer. Most patients find that problems with sexual function resolve when they stop taking the medicine. For full prescribing information, view the drug label information.
Photo by Kilian Baumann on Unsplash