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Biotin vs Keratin For Hair Loss: Which is Right for You

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 7/21/2022

Hair loss is a major problem for men, and when your looks are on the line, it’s perfectly understandable to suddenly care about medical science, proteins and biological processes, and to weigh the benefits of taking supplements like biotin vs keratin.

Biotin and keratin have a long history — a partnership, if you will — and both are important for your hair’s health. 

But the devil is in the details. They’re part of the same “club,” the way romaine and parmesan are part of a caesar salad.

Still confused? A little hungry? Wondering whether you should down those biotin supplements by the handful or just eat carrots and other keratin-boosting foods like crazy? We can help you figure out the best plan for your needs. 

As for the question of which is right for you — biotin vs keratin — well, it’s not that simple. As with many things in the worlds of biology and medicine, the answer is both, neither, and more depending on what you’re really asking with your question. 

Grab a snack, and let’s start unpacking this.

The Difference Between Biotin and Keratin

Biotin and keratin are both things your body produces, but that’s about where the similarities end. 

What Is Biotin?

Biotin is a B vitamin, also referred to as vitamin B7 or vitamin H. It’s a water-soluble vitamin, and deficiency in biotin, while rare, can result in skin conditions, eye issues, developmental delay in children and, yes,  hair loss.

Generally speaking, vitamin B in all forms is important for your hair. Vitamin B2, riboflavin, vitamin B7, biotin, folate, vitamin B6 and B12 are versions of vitamin B complex, which plays a critical role in cell signaling, cellular development, gene regulation and hair growth.

The good news is your body largely gets its supply of biotin from a balanced diet — supplements are only necessary when something’s not working right, but even then, all the biotin we need can usually come from improving a well-balanced, healthy diet. 

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What Is Keratin?

Keratin, on the other hand, is not a vitamin, and while you do need it to live, it doesn’t function as an element of cell production so much as it is part of the cells themselves. 

Keratin is a fibrous protein — one of three responsible for literally keeping your skin and hair from turning to dust, alongside elastin and collagen. 

While the latter two keep your skin bouncy and full, keratin acts like armor plating. Keratin cells take the beating from sunlight and external sources of damage so the rest of your cells don’t have to. Keratin is what makes your healthy nails healthy and what’s missing from brittle nails.

Okay, so it makes your skin stronger, but what about hair? Well, buddy, you see that hair on your head, face, arms and everywhere else? 

One hundred percent of what you can see is actually hardened keratin. And what’s below the surface is more or less a big keratin factory, to make the keratin you see. You run your fingers through your partner’s hair? You’re stroking keratin.

Which Is Better for Hair Loss?

Explaining which of these is “better” for hair loss is kind of the wrong question, but let’s get into it.

Keratin is the more important part of the equation when it comes to hair loss, full stop. If you don’t have keratin, well, you’re probably dead. But if your hair doesn’t have keratin, you don’t have hair.

Biotin, on the other hand, is just a really, really important part of the hair production question. 

You can, in theory, have hair without a single trace of biotin in your body. Again, probably irrelevant, because zero biotin wouldn’t be good for the whole “staying alive” thing, but it’s a difference between water and air: you can survive a while without water — without air, you won’t make it to the bottom of this page.

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Biotin and Keratin Side Effects

There aren’t really “side effects” to keratin — while over-keratinized cells and tissues will have scar tissue properties, you can’t overdose on keratin. So, talking about the side effects is a bit silly. The side effect of having keratin is having hair and skin. 

Biotin, likewise, is pretty hard to get into your system at such excessively high levels that it will cause you problems. The Office of Dietary Supplements says that supplemental doses of 10mg to 50mg don’t produce any symptoms of toxicity — and that level, for the record, is twice the amount in our biotin gummy vitamin supplement. They suggest about 30 mcg per day for an adult.

That said, biotin can potentially interfere with lab tests if you ingest high dosages, and can lead to inaccurate hormone level readings in the thyroid. In some cases, this has led to tests falsely indicating conditions like hyperthyroidism or Graves' disease in some patients. 

There’s a fair amount of information out there on the effects of biotin for hair growth and health, but overall, the data on supplements for hair growth is inconclusive — we just know that too little can cause hair loss, and extra doesn’t necessarily boost hair growth.

Other Ways to Treat Hair Loss

Short of science-fictional injections of super keratin or nano-bots laced with biotin, you’re not going to see hair health improvements from using keratin or biotin as a “treatment.” There are only a few Food and Drug Administration- and expert-approved ways to boost hair growth, and two of the most commonly recommended are finasteride and minoxidil

Finasteride is a daily oral medication that helps your body reduce its levels of the androgen hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) — it can cut them back by about 70 percent according to some studies, and since DHT has a reputation for decommissioning hair follicles and causing androgenic alopecia, you may want to consider using finasteride if you’re genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness

Regardless of the kind of hair loss you’re experiencing, you might likewise benefit from topical minoxidil, which studies show can increase your total follicle count by 12.7 percent to 18.6 percent by increasing blood flow to the follicles in question. 

There are other treatments out there, but these are the big guns. These generics go by other names — Propecia® and Rogaine®, respectively — and they’ve been helping people with hair loss for decades.

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Finasteride & Minoxidil

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Biotin and Keratin: The Big Picture

So, you’ve just learned a lot about hair health and two of the main components of healthy hair growth. Congrats! It’s like you sat through a lecture in med school — a really short, top-level lecture. Chances are, though, you still have questions. 

We’re guessing you got here because you’re experiencing (or worried about potential) hair loss symptoms. If that’s the case, you may be on the precipice of male pattern baldness.

What’s next? Talking to a healthcare professional about these concerns. 

Our advice? Contact a healthcare provider — whatever questions you have about hair health and hair loss are going to be much easier to answer with the support of a professional. And if your hair is in danger, they’re your best hope for protecting it.

7 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S., & Leerunyakul, K. (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug design, development and therapy, 13, 2777–2786. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/.
  2. Hoover E, Alhajj M, Flores JL. Physiology, Hair. Updated 2021 Jul 26. In: StatPearls Internet. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499948/.
  3. Almohanna, H. M., Ahmed, A. A., Tsatalis, J. P., & Tosti, A. (2019). The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatology and therapy, 9(1), 51–70. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/.
  4. Bistas KG, Tadi P. Biotin. Updated 2021 Sep 29. In: StatPearls Internet. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554493/.
  5. Rafi, A. W., & Katz, R. M. (2011). Pilot Study of 15 Patients Receiving a New Treatment Regimen for Androgenic Alopecia: The Effects of Atopy on AGA. ISRN dermatology, 2011, 241953. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262531/.
  6. Office of Dietary Supplements - Biotin. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2021, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/.
  7. Skin: Layers, structure and function. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10978-skin.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.