Is Biotin a Hair Growth Solution for Balding Men?
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.