There’s a lot of debate about using biotin for hair growth or loss. Questions like ‘Will biotin thicken my hair?’ or ‘How long does biotin take to regrow hair?’ are common. But is biotin for hair loss a good idea?
Biotin is a water soluble vitamin that is important for the production of glucose and fatty acids. B7 is referred to as vitamin H, which stands for “haar and haut” — German for “hair and skin”. This is because biotin is involved in the production of the protein keratin, which is what hair and nails are made of. In addition, biotin (vitamin B7) deficiency can result in hair and nail thinning, breaking and loss.
This is also why using biotin for hair growth or loss is so popular. But what do the experts say about using vitamin B7 to improve hair health? Let’s look at the facts.
Causes of hair loss
Hair loss can be caused by different factors, which can be either permanent or temporary.
- Hereditary hair loss: male or female pattern baldness. Women experience a general thinning of the hair. Men usually experience a receding hairline/bald spot at the top of the head.
- Age: hair growth slows down with age, which leads to hair thinning.
- Alopecia areata: the immune system attacks the hair follicles, which in turn causes hair loss. This can happen anywhere on the body.
- Cancer treatment
- Stress (e.g. childbirth, illness)
- Damaging hair care (e.g. relaxing, perming) or hairstyles that pull at the scalp (e.g. tight ponytail)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Scalp infection
- Medication: hair loss is often a side effect of some medications
- Scalp psoriasis: hair usually grows back once the psoriasis has cleared
- Trichotillomania (a compulsion to pull at the hair)
- Scarring alopecia: inflammation destroys the hair follicles.
- Sexually transmitted infection: for example, syphilis, which causes patchy hair loss on the head and face
- Thyroid disease
- Biotin, iron, protein, or zinc deficiency
- Poison: e.g. arsenic, mercury, thallium, lithium, and warfarin
What are the benefits of vitamin B7 for hair growth or loss?
In the case of biotin deficiency, treatment with a biotin supplement completely reverses the hair loss.
This deficiency can be inherited, in which case your body is unable to produce the enzyme that can break down biotin. Acquired biotin deficiency occurs when you don’t have enough biotin in your diet or when you eat too many raw egg yolks. Raw eggs contain advin which blocks the absorption of biotin.
But does biotin work for hair growth if thinning isn’t caused by biotin deficiency?
The scientific evidence for this is mixed. There is strong evidence that support the use of biotin for hair growth or loss in the case of specific disorders such as brittle nail syndrome.
In a 2015 study, a group of women with self-perceived thinning hair were given supplements containing biotin. After 90 days, there was significantly more hair in a target area of the scalp and less shedding when the hair was brushed. These women had not been diagnosed with any medical conditions that could have caused their hair loss. Rather, their hair loss was associated with stress, hormonal changes and poor diet.
This suggests that using biotin for hair growth or loss can be effective when lifestyle factors such as stress and diet are the culprits.
In terms of biotin for medical conditions and for hereditary hair loss, there is little to no evidence that it can help. A systematic review of the literature found 18 cases of biotin treatment for hair loss. All 18 either had biotin deficiency (inherited or acquired) or they had brittle nail syndrome or uncombable hair. Biotin worked in treating all of the conditions.
The authors concluded that there has been no study that has demonstrated whether or not biotin can help with hair loss outside of these conditions.
Other researchers stated that there has been no proper clinical trial conducted to examine whether or not biotin supplements can outside of these conditions. The only trials that have been conducted so far have been vague, without proper documentation of the hair loss, and involving only one person at a time.
In spite of a lack of evidence, many people report using biotin for hair growth or loss. Many experience stronger and thicker hair after taking biotin supplements.
How much biotin should you take?
If you want to increase your biotin intake to improve hair health, there are a few ways you can do so. Remember that using biotin for hair growth or loss can have different effects compared to your expectations.
1. Look for sources of biotin.
There are lots of biotin rich foods you can add to your diet. These include organ meats, eggs, fish, meat, seeds, nuts, and some vegetables such as sweet potatoes.
READ ALSO: 14 Vitamin B7 Foods to Boost Your Biotin Intake
2. Take biotin supplements
When it comes to using biotin for hair growth or loss, supplements are often the most popular option.
There is no recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for biotin, but those who take it for hair loss suggest taking 2-5 mg (2000-5000 mcg) per day to achieve results.
If you do take biotin supplements, this is something you should tell your GP about. Biotin supplements can interfere with certain lab tests (such as those for thyroid supplements) so your GP could misdiagnose you if they don’t realise you have been taking biotin. Talking to your doctor before taking a food supplement is highly recommended.
As a rule of thumb, avoid supplements that only provide biotin. Instead, look for a vitamin B complex supplement to maintain the proper balance of all B vitamins in your body.
3. Biotin shampoo
You can even find biotin in certain shampoos that are targeted towards helping strengthen and grow hair. Some of these also include collagen, which is an important protein for hair growth and strength.
Keep in mind that there’s no set amount of biotin you should consume to improve hair health.
Biotin (vitamin B7) helps to create keratin, which is the protein that makes up hair and nails. Being deficient in biotin can lead to hair thinning and loss. The evidence for biotin helping with hair loss due to conditions other than biotin deficiency is mixed, however.
There is strong evidence that it can help treat brittle nail syndrome and uncombable hair, but not enough research has been done to show whether or not it works for any other hair conditions. Even so, lots of people report seeing good results after taking biotin. You can increase your intake through your diet, through supplements, or by using a topical shampoo.
Always seek medical advice from your GP before taking biotin for hair growth or loss.