Biotin is one of several vitamins that play a role in the growth of healthier, thicker hair. It’s also one of the only natural hair loss treatments backed up by science, with study data showing that use of biotin produces a significant increase in hair growth in people with a deficiency.
Over the last few years, biotin grew hugely in popularity and the number of hair products that include biotin has gone from few to many. Data from Google Trends shows that twice as many people are searching for information about biotin today as in 2004.
But does biotin work as a treatment for male pattern baldness? Well, not quite. While biotin has real benefits for hair growth, it doesn’t treat the root causes of male pattern baldness -- genetics and hormones.
Below, we’ll explain how male pattern baldness occurs, how biotin affects hair growth, and why biotin isn’t necessary for treating male hair loss. We’ll also take a quick look at the real value of biotin and how it can fit into a supplement stack for improving your hair health.
How baldness happens, and why biotin won’t help on its own
Male pattern baldness can take several forms, from a receding hairline to diffuse thinning across your crown or entire scalp. With a few exceptions (which we’ll explain later in this guide), the key cause is always the same: sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone, more commonly known as DHT.
DHT is a byproduct of testosterone. When your body produces testosterone, a small amount is converted into DHT. This DHT can bind to receptors in your scalp and cause the hair follicles to deteriorate over time, resulting in a receding hairline or thinning hair.
Because the hair follicles at the front and crown of your scalp have the most receptors, they’re usually the first to be affected by hair loss.
Everyone has a different sensitivity level to DHT. This is why some men start to go bald early in life while others maintain a full hairline as they age. If you’re sensitive to DHT, you’ll eventually start to lose your hair regardless of your diet and vitamin consumption.
You can learn more about the role DHT plays in male pattern baldness in our guide to DHT and male hair loss. If you’ve noticed your hairline starting to recede or your hair beginning to thin, it’s probably (but not definitely) the result of sensitivity to DHT.
Since biotin is a vitamin, it doesn’t have any effect on the conversion of testosterone to DHT. It does, however, have a proven positive effect on hair growth, making it a useful addition to your hair growth supplement stack when used alongside something to block DHT.
Biotin can stop hair loss, but only if it’s caused by biotin deficiency
There’s only one circumstance in which biotin is effective at stopping hair loss: if you’re deficient in biotin.
Biotin deficiency is a very rare condition, meaning it probably isn’t the primary cause of your hair loss. On average, one person per 137,400 has a biotinidase deficiency, with symptoms usually observed within the first few months of life.
The symptoms of a biotin deficiency usually extend beyond hair loss. People that lack enough biotin often have red, scaly skin around their eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals. 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.
In short, biotin deficiency is extremely rare among healthy, well-nourished adults. However, it’s surprisingly common among pregnant women. Data shows that about half of pregnant women have a marginal biotin deficiency.
Since this guide is written with balding men in mind, we’re fairly certain that pregnancy-related biotin deficiency isn’t something you should be worried about.
As a general rule, you shouldn’t worry about biotin contributing to your hair loss. Biotin-related hair loss is extremely rare in men, making it much more likely that your hair loss is caused by a genetic and hormonal factor.
This doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to supplement with biotin
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 supplement.
Double-blind studies 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. Anecdotally, we’ve found that most people don’t eat foods rich in biotin on a consistent basis, making supplementation a good idea for both men and women.
Biotin isn’t known to be toxic, meaning there are no negative effects
While biotin doesn’t have many nutrient interactions, it’s still worth talking to your doctor 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. This means that biotin you see in some hair growth shampoos is unlikely to have any real effect on the thickness and strength of your hair.
Is biotin essential for preventing male hair loss?
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.
While there’s no harm in adding biotin to your hair supplement stack, it isn’t going to stop or slow down your hair loss. To do this, you’ll need to look into finasteride and minoxidil.
Like we said above, this doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to supplement with biotin. Since biotin has real benefits for hair growth, it’s still worth taking. Just don’t expect it to regrow your hairline and reverse male pattern baldness.
This article was reviewed by Brendan Levy, MD.
Important Safety information
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
Finasteride is for use by MEN ONLY and should NOT be used by women or children.
Read this Patient Information before you start taking Finasteride and each time you get a refill. There may be new information. This information does not take the place of talking with your healthcare provider about your medical condition or treatment.
What is Finasteride?
Finasteride is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia).
It is not known if Finasteride works for a receding hairline on either side of and above your forehead (temporal area).
Finasteride is not for use by women and children.
Who should not take Finasteride?
Do not take Finasteride if you:
- are pregnant or may become pregnant. Finasteride may harm your unborn baby.
- Finasteride tablets are coated and will prevent contact with the medicine during handling, as long as the tablets are not broken or crushed. Females who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not come in contact with broken or crushed Finasteride tablets.
- If a pregnant woman comes in contact with crushed or broken Finasteride tablets, wash the contact area right away with soap and water. If a woman who is pregnant comes into contact with the active ingredient in Finasteride, a healthcare provider should be consulted. If a woman who is pregnant with a male baby swallows or comes in contact with the medicine in Finasteride, the male baby may be born with sex organs that are not normal.
are allergic to any of the ingredients in Finasteride. See the end of this leaflet for a complete list of ingredients in Finasteride.
What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking Finasteride? Before taking Finasteride, tell your healthcare provider if you:
have any other medical conditions, including problems with your prostate or liver
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of them to show your healthcare provider and pharmacist when you get a new medicine.
How should I take Finasteride?
- Take Finasteride exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to take it.
- You may take Finasteride with or without food.
If you forget to take Finasteride, do not take an extra tablet. Just take the next tablet as usual.
Finasteride will not work faster or better if you take it more than once a day.
What are the possible side effects of Finasteride?
decrease in your blood Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels. Finasteride can affect a blood test called PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) for the screening of prostate cancer. If you have a PSA test done you should tell your healthcare provider that you are taking Finasteride because Finasteride decreases PSA levels. Changes in PSA levels will need to be evaluated by your healthcare provider. Any increase in follow-up PSA levels from their lowest point may signal the presence of prostate cancer and should be evaluated, even if the test results are still within the normal range for men not taking Finasteride. You should also tell your healthcare provider if you have not been taking Finasteride as prescribed because this may affect the PSA test results. For more information, talk to your healthcare provider.
There may be an increased risk of a more serious form of prostate cancer in men taking finasteride at 5 times the dose of Finasteride.
The most common side effects of Finasteride include:
- decrease in sex drive
- trouble getting or keeping an erection
a decrease in the amount of semen
The following have been reported in general use with Finasteride:
- breast tenderness and enlargement. Tell your healthcare provider about any changes in your breasts such as lumps, pain or nipple discharge.
- decrease in sex drive that continued after stopping the medication;
- allergic reactions including rash, itching, hives and swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, and face;
- problems with ejaculation that continued after stopping medication;
- testicular pain;
- difficulty in achieving an erection that continued after stopping the medication;
- male infertility and/or poor quality of semen.
in rare cases, male breast cancer.
Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.
These are not all the possible side effects of Finasteride. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA1088.
How should I store Finasteride?
- Store Finasteride at room temperature between 59˚F to 86˚F (15˚C to 30˚C).
Keep Finasteride in a closed container and keep Finasteride tablets dry (protect from moisture).
Keep Finasteride and all medicines out of the reach of children.
General information about the safe and effective use of Finasteride.
Medicines are sometimes prescribed for purposes other than those listed in this Patient Information. Do not use Finasteride for a condition for which it was not prescribed. Do not give Finasteride to other people, even if they have the same symptoms you have. It may harm them.