Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/3/2023
If you’ve spent any time researching hair loss solutions, you’ve probably come across more than a handful that include biotin. Biotin is everywhere.
But just because shampoo and supplement makers are throwing something in their products, that doesn't necessarily make it a wise buy.
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?
Let’s 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.
Below, we'll also tell you more about:
What biotin is
What its benefits are
What the research says
Whether or not you should consider a biotin supplement as part of your daily hair care routine.
Let’s get the bio-chem homework out of the way first, fellas. Biotin is a B vitamin, vitamin B7 to be more exact. It’s also sometimes called vitamin H or a coenzyme, because science likes to keep things confusing.
Like all B vitamins, it helps the body metabolize food, which means it turns carbohydrates into energy for our body to use, and breaks down proteins and fats.
In limited research, it also has been shown to offer a few key benefits for your hair:
Treating biotin-deficiency-related hair loss. If you’re highly deficient in biotin and also seeing signs of hair loss, addressing the deficiency may correct hair problems.
Managing brittle hair. People with extremely brittle or uncombable hair can sometimes see their hair become more manageable with biotin supplementation
Boosting keratin production. Biotin plays a role in keratin production. It isn’t exactly clear how, but unlike many hair growth supplements for hair loss, there is scientific evidence to support this effect of biotin.
One 2016 study published in the International Journal of Trichology found 38 percent of people complaining of hair loss were actually biotin deficient. However, the researchers concluded that biotin supplementation shouldn’t be used unless a biotin deficiency is suspected.
Another study published in the journal Dermatology Research and Practice pointed to improved hair growth with the use of biotin supplementation (along with other ingredients).
It’s important to note that 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 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 decreased hair loss and increased hair growth over a period of 90 days.
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 — although we’ll note this study was conducted with women.
Finally, in a review published in 2017, biotin supplements were found to reverse hair loss in a number of contexts, but researchers were quick to qualify that it may not offer much to “healthy” individuals without biotin deficiencies.
Despite the potential benefits, 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.
Biotin either comes from your own body (and the natural action of intestinal bacteria) or through the biotin-rich food you likely eat regularly.
A balanced diet for hair full of things like egg yolks, sweet potatoes, carrots, bananas, pork, yeast and salmon can provide this B vitamin. But remember, chef, that cooking depletes biotin levels, so the plant sources of biotin are best eaten raw if you’re concerned about increasing intake naturally.
If you’re trying to up your consumption, you can try biotin gummies directly from the Hims platform. Because they are digested and not topically applied, these gummies actually have a chance to get into your system and help get you healthier hair.
Your body needs biotin, but the chances that you’re lacking it are rare. On average, one person per 140,000 has a biotin deficiency, with symptoms usually observed within the first few months of life.
That means biotin deficiency isn't a common cause of hair loss, and experts don’t see a widespread need for supplemental biotin dosage.
However, biotin deficiency does happen. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, "although overt biotin deficiency is very rare, the human requirement for dietary biotin has been demonstrated in three different situations."
This means that scientists have identified three scenarios that could definitely lead to biotin deficiency and, therefore, a need for supplementation:
Prolonged feeding through an IV without biotin
When infants are fed formula without biotin
Consumption of raw egg whites for many weeks or years
Other scientists have also found that anti-seizure medications and having your stomach surgically removed can lead to biotin deficiencies. And in rare cases, your body may not create biotinidase, an enzyme that’s necessary for obtaining biotin from its sources.
Now, a quick 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 a very long time 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, which is found in egg whites, unable to block biotin absorption. Problem solved.
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:
Dry, scaly skin rash around the mouth, nose, eyes or genitals
Swollen and painful tongue
Loss of appetite
Hair loss. Yes, hair loss.
For other symptoms of biotin deficiency, read our blog.
One final note: while biotin has proven benefits for hair growth in people with biotin deficiencies, it doesn’t have any effect on male pattern baldness. This type of baldness is hormonal and genetic, and biotin, as a vitamin, simply isn’t involved in the male pattern balding process.
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.
Biotin deficiency probably isn’t the cause of your hair loss, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to take a biotin dietary supplement.
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, while some limited research — like what we mentioned above — shows biotin may generally help hair growth.
Biotin isn’t known to be toxic, meaning there are no negative effects for your liver or other organs from taking a biotin supplement. Data also shows that people can safely consume biotin at much higher levels than adequate intake (AI) without any health problems, though there are some warnings about overdose (more about those in a moment).
While biotin doesn’t have many potential 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.
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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.
There are no reported cases of serious complications due to taking too much biotin, though caution is urged for people with diabetes, as biotin can have negative interactions with blood glucose levels (the science of how is still being explored).
There are, however, plenty of examples of an unexpected problem that excess biotin can create — false reports on lab tests, including those that measure hormones, specifically thyroid hormones.
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.
Biotin and hair have a complicated relationship, and the same goes for biotin and hair loss. Consider the following:
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.
If you notice signs of biotin deficiency, make an appointment to talk to a healthcare professional or dermatologist in person.
For those of us with seemingly normal levels, you can still safely 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 include insomnia, thirst, excessive urination and more.
There also isn’t major evidence that biotin is helpful in growing or preserving hair in those of us with normal levels of this vitamin.
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. It 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 on minoxidil vs. finasteride, including the science behind how they’re both proven to work.