Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/14/2022
If you’ve spent any time researching hair loss solutions, you’ve come across more than a handful that include biotin. It’s everywhere. But just because shampoo and supplement makers are throwing something in their products doesn't necessarily make it a wise buy.
The price of an ingredient and how popular it is plays a bigger role in what’s sold than its effectiveness or even safety. Some companies are only interested in making a buck. Google "hair loss cures", as you no doubt already have, and you’ll be met with countless results -- quite frankly, many of them useless and a waste of your time and money.
So, where does biotin fit in?
We’ll start by telling you what biotin isn’t -- a miracle cure for balding -- there isn’t one. But, unlike many solutions that claim to offer fast and dramatic results, there is some evidence that increasing biotin consumption could slow hair loss and promote hair growth.
Biotin is a B vitamin, vitamin B7 to be more exact. It’s also sometimes called Vitamin H or coenzyme because science likes to keep things confusing. Like all B vitamins, this one helps the body metabolize food, or turn carbohydrates into energy for our body to use, and break down proteins and fats.
Perhaps surprisingly, biotin is created naturally by bacteria in your intestines, but just how much is absorbed and put to use is unknown. Despite the unknowns, it’s widely accepted that a healthy body makes biotin for us. Even if it didn’t, however, we also get biotin through several food sources.
Like all B vitamins, biotin is water-soluble, so your body doesn’t store or hold onto excess amounts of the vitamin. Any extra is flushed out as waste.
Biotin either comes from the natural action of intestinal bacteria or through small amounts of the biotin-rich food you eat each day. A balanced diet full of yeast, egg yolks, sweet potatoes,, carrots, bananas, pork, and salmon can provide this B vitamin. However, cooking depletes biotin concentration, so the plant sources of biotin are best eaten raw if you’re concerned about increasing intake naturally.
Because biotin supplements don’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and because biotin deficiency is considered rare in U.S. adults, there’s no official recommended daily dose of biotin.
Despite this, the FDA does have what’s called Adequate Intake (AI) recommendations for biotin. For adults ages 19 and older, the recommended amount of biotin is 30 mcg per day.
Your body needs biotin, but the chances that you’re lacking it are rare. As a matter of fact, biotin deficiency is rare. On average, one person per 140,000 has a biotinidase deficiency, with symptoms usually observed within the first few months of life, meaning it isn't a common cause of hair loss.
"Although overt biotin deficiency is very rare, the human requirement for dietary biotin has been demonstrated in three different situations," according to the Linus Pauling Institute. This means that scientists have identified three scenarios that could definitely lead to biotin deficiency and therefore a need for supplementation.
Those situations prolonged feeding through an IV without biotin, infants fed formula without biotin, or consumption of raw egg whites for many weeks or years.
Now, a word to our muscle-bound bros -- if you’re slamming back glasses of raw egg whites after a heavy gym "sesh", don’t panic about thinning hair just yet.
You would have to eat raw egg whites daily for many weeks or even years to see biotin deficiency as a result. And, there’s a quick fix. If you want egg whites, just cook them. Cooking them renders the protein avidin unable to block biotin absorption. Problem solved.
Rarely, your body may not create biotinidase, an enzyme that’s necessary for obtaining biotin from its sources. Anti-seizure medications can also reduce biotin levels when used over a long period of time.
Likewise, if you’ve had your stomach surgically removed, you’ll need more biotin, and likely every other vitamin and mineral to man.
In case it isn’t obvious by now, you’re unlikely to be biotin deficient. However, if you aren't getting enough biotin, there would be several signs.
Symptoms of biotin deficiency include a dry, scaly skin rash around the mouth, nose, eyes or genitals; swollen and painful tongue; loss of appetite; depression; insomnia; "unusual fat distribution on the face", and hair loss. Yes, hair loss.
Other symptoms include seizures, lethargy, numb hands and feet, hallucinations, and depression.
One potential indicator for biotin deficiency is weak, brittle nails that crack easily. Low levels of biotin are also associated with a poor appetite.
Keratin is the protein that makes up your hair, and biotin does play a role in keratin production. It isn’t exactly clear how, but unlike many hair growth supplements for hair loss, there is some scientific evidence that biotin works.
One 2016 study published in the International Journal of Trichology found 38% of people complaining of hair loss actually deficient in biotin. However, the researchers concluded that biotin supplementation shouldn’t be used unless biotin deficiency was suspected after patient evaluation.
Another study published in the journal, Dermatology Research and Practice, pointed to improved hair growth with the use of biotin supplementation. It’s important to note, this study was funded by Lifes2good, Inc., a Chicago-based company that makes the supplement used in the study. Though this doesn’t negate the findings, it is worth pointing out.
Published in 2015, this study looked at the effects of supplementing with a supplement containing biotin, a marine protein complex, zinc, and other ingredients. Sixty women took part, with 30 receiving the supplement and 30 receiving a placebo. The researchers found their supplement to decrease hair loss and increase hair growth over a period of 90 days.
Finally, in a few different studies of children published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, biotin supplements were found to reverse hair loss. However, the hair loss in these children was caused by valproic acid, a seizure medication believed to contribute to biotin deficiency. So again, the positive results were seen in subjects known to be lacking biotin.
When’s the last time you wanted vitamin C to help battle a nasty cold, so you applied orange peels to your nose? Hopefully, you’ve never done that. You don’t physically apply the nutrition to the part of your body experiencing symptoms -- that’s weird.
As such, applying biotin to the hair or scalp likely does little to nothing to remedy your hair loss. It isn’t even clear that your hair or scalp can absorb biotin.
Despite this, there is no shortage of biotin hair care products. Shampoos, oils, conditioners, serums -- likely all a waste of money.
Instead, you can try biotin gummies directly from the hims platform. Because they are digested and not topically applied, these gummies are actually given a chance to get into your system and help get you healthier hair.
“I tried several different options before but Hims combined approach of all four methods by far created the best results.”
“Hims has been the greatest confidence boost, no more bald jokes! I look and feel so much younger!”
“When I show my barber my progress, he is always in disbelief. I have to recommend Hims to any guy who’s experiencing thinning.”
“Cost effective and affordable. My hair keeps growing thicker, fuller, and at a fast rate.”
“I noticed a huge change in the overall health and fullness of my hairline.”
“Now after 5 months I’m able to style waves first time in 10 years!”
“I decided to jump right in and I'm so glad I did. I definitely feel ten years younger!”
“In just as little over two and half months, I can really see the difference in thickness and in color.”
“4-months strong and my confidence boosted back up to 100% using Hims, future me really does thank me.”
“I’m a 34 year old father of two and have been using Hims for over a year now. My hair is back to what it was in my mid twenties.”
Biotin deficiency probably isn’t the cause of your hair loss, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea to take a biotin dietary supplement.
Double-blind studies published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology show that biotin is effective at helping people with thinning hair speed up and increase the rate of hair growth.
Interestingly, most studies on biotin are carried out on women, meaning the effects might not be the same for men. Even so, the research supports the idea that in both biotin deficient women and men, biotin supplementation yields results.
Biotin isn’t known to be toxic, meaning there are no negative effects to your liver or other organs from taking a biotin supplement. Study data also shows that people can safely consume biotin at much higher levels than the adequate intake (AI) without any health problems.
While biotin doesn’t have many nutrient interactions, it’s still worth talking to your healthcare provider before starting biotin if you currently take prescription medication.
One important fact to remember is that biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that needs to be taken orally in order to be effective as a hair loss treatment. This means that the biotin you see in some hair products, like shampoo, is unlikely to have any real effect on the thickness and strength of your hair.
Taking biotin for healthy hair may be a good idea, but make sure you're not overloading on the nutrient. Too much biotin could lead to side effects like insomnia, excessive thirst, and urination, according to an article published in the journal, StatPearls. However, there are no reported cases of serious complications due to taking too much biotin.
There is little risk associated with taking a biotin supplement.
If you’re taking other supplements with biotin, be aware that both alpha-lipoic acid and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) can work against the absorption of biotin. And vice versa, biotin can prevent the absorption of these supplements.
In short, no. While biotin has proven benefits for hair growth in people with biotin deficiencies, it doesn’t have any effect on male pattern baldness. MPB is hormonal and genetic, and biotin, as a vitamin, simply isn’t involved in the male balding process.
Like we said above, this doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to supplement with biotin. Just don’t expect it to regrow your hairline and reverse male pattern baldness.
If you’re struggling with hair loss and wondering what products are proven to work, there are a few FDA-approved, science-backed options available to help slow or stop male hair loss.
One of these options is finasteride, which works by inhibiting the production of 5α-Reductase, an enzyme that converts your body’s testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is linked to hair loss.
The other is minoxidil, which is a vasodilator that encourages blood flow (and with it, nutrients) to the areas on your scalp that need it most.
We’ve covered both of these options in more detail in our blog, Minoxidil vs. Finasteride, including the science behind how they’re both proven to work.
It’s unlikely, though not impossible, that your hair loss is caused by a biotin deficiency. Hair loss is just one of several signs that you could be lacking this important B vitamin. If you suspect your hair loss is due to a lack of biotin, look for other signs. Like we said before, these include rough and scaly patches of skin, swollen tongue, and fat deposits on the face. If you notice these, make an appointment to talk to a healthcare professional or dermatologist in person.
For those of us with seemingly normal levels, you can still increase your biotin intake through foods rich in biotin and with supplementation. Remember, however, biotin is water-soluble. This means massive daily doses of the vitamin are futile, as you’ll be sending any excess biotin down the toilet, literally.
Although there aren’t significant, known risks associated with biotin supplementation there also isn’t major evidence that it is helpful in growing or preserving hair in those of us with normal levels. However, unlike many other hair loss "solutions", there is evidence that biotin can aid in hair regrowth and slowing hair loss.