Biotin is probably the most popular dietary supplement for hair loss. And while there has been relatively few studies into its effectiveness as a hair loss treatment, there are plenty of anecdotal reports supporting the claim that it thickens hair. So is biotin an effective hair loss treatment?
What is biotin?
Biotin is a vitamin – vitamin B7, in fact – that is found in food.
It’s sometimes referred to as vitamin H or coenzyme R.
Biotin is water soluble, meaning the body does not store the vitamin.
B vitamins, like biotin, play an important role in metabolising carbohydrates, fats and amino acids – the building blocks of protein. It’s suggested that biotin supplementation helps the body form keratin, the key structural component of hair and nails.
Some evidence has shown biotin supplementation to be effective for improving the health of hair and nails. For example, this study found:
“Investigators have documented that systemic treatment with biotin 2.5 mg/d for at least 6 months results in significant improvement in nail quality.”
As a result of this, the vitamin is often marketed as supporting healthy hair and nail growth.
Additional reported benefits include:
- Improved blood sugar regulation
- Better skin
- Reduced progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) for sufferers
Key symptoms of biotin deficiency are fine, brittle hair and hair loss.
For individuals suffering from this deficiency, biotin supplementation will improve the quality, thickness, and texture of their hair.
But a deficiency of the vitamin is rare. Foods such as sardines, nuts, carrots, egg yolks, beans, whole grains, mushrooms, and bananas are rich in this important B vitamin.
Eating certain foods can lead to biotin deficiency however.
Whilst egg yolks contain plenty of biotin, raw egg whites contain avidin. Avidin binds to biotin in your intestines, preventing your body from being able to use it. This study, for example, used an egg white diet to induce deficiency.
Raw egg whites are commonly used by bodybuilders as an easy protein source. So if you’re suffering from hair loss, this could be a potential cause.
Pregnant women are also at higher risk of developing a deficiency due to increased demand for the vitamin during pregnancy.
Supplementing biotin will give you thicker hair if your levels are low. However, this does not necessarily mean it will have the same hair growing effects on otherwise healthy adults.
Biotin for hair loss
There is currently minimal clinical evidence supporting claims that biotin is an effective hair loss treatment. However, various online users have claimed to experience benefits from supplementating the vitamin.
This user, for example, reported thick, dark hair growing in a previously bald area.
And many users in this forum thread support claims that it has a positive effect.
These two examples are by no means rigorous scientific proof! But, they do appear to support the underlying theory. And there are plenty more examples of users reporting visibly thicker and fuller hair to be found online.
How much biotin to take?
There is currently no recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for biotin.
An adequate intake, according to the US National Library of Medicine is:
“The adequate intakes (AI) for biotin are 7 mcg for infants 0-12 months, 8 mcg for children 1-3 years, 12 mcg for children 4-8 years, 20 mcg for children 9-13 years, 25 mcg for adolescents 14-18 years, 30 mcg for adults over 18 years and pregnant women, and 35 mcg for breast-feeding women.”
There is no recommended upper limit and most supplements will contain doses far higher than these levels. Many users who have reported successful hair growth from biotin claim to be taking at least 300mcg per day.
Increasing the dose, however, will not necessarily mean better results. Always consult your doctor before deciding to take any dietary supplement.
Is it an effective hair loss treatment?
But it is by no means a miracle cure. If your hair loss is around a level 7 on the Norwood scale, you aren’t likely to wake up with a full head of thick hair tomorrow morning.
And even those who report success from supplementing biotin admit that it is best used in conjunction with other, proven hair loss treatments.
But, on balance, it is a worthwhile supplement to include in your hair loss arsenal that is relatively low-risk.