Nowadays, you cannot walk through a Target, Walmart or Walgreens without seeing a prominently displayed Hair, Skin, and Nails biotin supplements on the shelf end. Hair loss is a very common (and frustrating) complaint among both men and women, and most people would do just about anything for a magic pill to ensure them long, lustrous locks for life. One popular brand even markets “biotin for good hair days…”. Of course, who wouldn’t love more good hair days? Now onto the important question: do biotin supplements work?
But do they work?
The truth is there have been no good studies linking biotin supplementation to decreased hair loss/improved hair growth.
Biotin, vitamin B7 (or vitamin H), is derived from dietary protein and is stored in the small intestine and liver. Symptoms of deficiency include eczema, alopecia (hair loss) and conjunctivitis. Intestinal bacteria are able to produce adequate amounts of biotin in the gut, making deficiency rare. A severe biotin deficiency has never been documented in healthy individuals eating a western diet.
There are, however, genetic causes of biotin deficiency, as well as secondary causes (ex. excessive raw egg consumption, malabsorption conditions, alcoholism, pregnancy, and certain medications). To date, no scientific studies have documented improved hair growth with biotin supplementation, in the absence of a biotin deficiency.
There are, however, several nutrients that have been linked to hair loss/growth. You can:
- Ensure adequate protein and calorie intake.
- Do not over-supplement: Excessive intake of vitamin A, vitamin E, and selenium can potentially cause hair loss.
- Ensure adequate iron intake: If ferritin (the storage form of iron) is low, consider supplementation.
- Ensure adequate zinc levels and consider supplementation if low.
- Consider supplementing essential fatty acids.
- Ensure normal vitamin D level and supplement if needed. Maintenance intake of about 1,000-2,000 IU daily is sufficient for most people.
If you’re wondering if you should take biotin supplements, talk to your doctor first, especially if you are taking other medications. The Institute of Medicine’s adequate intake for biotin for adults is 30 micrograms per day.
Natural Ways to Get Biotin
Biotin occurs naturally in a lot of foods, including:
- Wheat germ
- Whole grain cereals
- Whole wheat bread
Learn more about biotin here.
So, do biotin supplements work? Maybe. If you are suffering from hair loss or looking to grow stronger hair and nails, it might be worth trying a supplement or eating more biotin-rich foods and seeing if it helps. Make sure to discuss with your doctor first!