The Independent Pharmacy

Does Biotin Really Work For Hair Loss

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 3 Oct 2023

Hair loss can be deeply distressing, and we understand the urgency many feel in searching for solutions. Biotin has emerged as one of the most popular options, with claims it can help grow thicker, healthier hair. But does biotin actually work for hair loss?

The short answer is: it depends. For those with a true biotin deficiency, supplementation may help reverse associated hair loss and damage. At The Independent Pharmacy, we know how hopeful many are about biotin, but for those without a deficiency, it might not be the miracle solution they're hoping for.

The science shows biotin plays an important role in producing keratin, an essential protein for hair strength and flexibility. However, multiple factors influence hair growth, and biotin alone may not override other issues causing shedding or thinning hair.

So, what role does biotin play in hair loss?

Here’s all the information you need to stay safe on your hair growth journey.

The Science Behind Biotin and Hair Growth

What exactly is biotin? It’s a B vitamin that helps your body process nutrients from food into energy. Biotin helps important enzymes in our body do their job.

The cool thing is biotin also plays a key role in your hair health. It’s needed to produce keratin, which is the protein that makes up your hair and nails. Keratin gives your hair strength, smoothness and flexibility.

When you don’t have enough biotin, your keratin levels may drop. And that can lead to brittle, breaking hair. Not an ideal situation!

Some studies give us clues about how biotin affects hair. One study in women with thinning hair found that taking biotin supplements increased their hair volume and made hair feel smoother. Other studies show that low biotin can cause hair loss in mice.

While more research is still needed, these findings suggest getting enough biotin may support healthy hair, especially if you have a nutritional deficiency. Science shows biotin is vital for producing keratin, the building block of hair. And early studies reveal some promising benefits.

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Does Biotin Help Prevent Hair Loss?

We recognise the hope many people place in biotin to combat hair loss, but the evidence is still being gathered. There isn’t strong evidence yet that biotin prevents balding or thinning hair in healthy individuals. More research is needed.

Some people do report thicker, fuller hair from taking biotin supplements or using biotin shampoos. However, many factors influence hair growth, so it’s hard to know if biotin is directly responsible.

Genetics, hormones, nutrition, stress levels and hair care habits all play a role. Biotin alone may not override other issues causing hair loss.

That said, research in the Skin Appendage Disorders journal proves that biotin is more likely to benefit those with an actual biotin deficiency. In fact, this could be one of the reasons why some people lose hair. In one of the studies in the International Journal of Trichology, 38% of women who were experiencing hair loss had a biotin deficiency. Symptoms like brittle nails and hair loss could improve by correcting the deficiency. Eating more biotin-rich foods or taking supplements may help.

We empathise with those seeking a quick solution, but for most without a deficiency, biotin might not be the magic answer. While it supports hair health, managing expectations is important. Be wary of hype proclaiming it will stop hair loss for everyone. The scientific support just isn’t there yet.

How Long Does It Take Biotin To Work On The Hair?

If you've started taking biotin for hair growth, we understand the anticipation. Remember, real change takes time, so be gentle with yourself.

While some people notice minor improvements after a month or so, it really takes 3-6 months to see meaningful results from biotin.

Here’s why: Hair only grows about 6 inches a year, which equals to 1/2 inch per month. So those new strong strands sprouting from your scalp need time to grow out and replace the hair that was falling out before. Biotin can’t make hair grow overnight.

For biotin to really have a chance to work its magic, you’ve got to take it consistently for a few months. Popping a biotin pill or two won’t cut it. You need that ongoing supply so biotin can get to those hair follicles and boost keratin.

Be patient and stick with it for at least 90 days. Results happen at different speeds for different people. But giving biotin a few months to work provides the best shot at seeing a noticeable difference in thickness and growth.

We know it's challenging, but hang in there and give it some time. Your patience may be rewarded. Let those thin, lifeless hairs gradually get replaced by the new and improved locks!

Symptoms of Biotin Deficiency

If you're worried and wondering whether you might have a biotin deficiency, here are some signs to look out for:

  • Brittle, thinning hair - Lack of biotin can cause weak, brittle hair prone to breakage. Noticeable hair loss typically occurs in patches.
  • Dry, scaly skin - Biotin deficiencies often lead to itchy, red rashes on the face, mouth and genital area. Cracked lips are another indicator.
  • Weak, brittle nails - Without enough biotin, nails become softened and split easily. Ridges or grooves may also appear.
  • Fatigue and muscle pain - Biotin activates enzymes involved in energy production. Deficiency can lead to exhaustion, aches, and cramps.
  • Tingling in the hands and feet - Nerve damage related to biotin deficiency can cause numbness and a tingling sensation in the extremities.
  • Mood changes - Cognitive effects like memory issues, depression and anxiety have been linked to biotin deficiency.

If you are experiencing any combination of these symptoms, see your doctor about getting your biotin levels tested. Addressing a deficiency early is important to reverse the damage and get your hair growth back on track.

Who Might Be At Risk For A Biotin Deficiency?

Biotin deficiencies are uncommon, but some people are at greater risk:

  • Pregnant women - Proven by research, pregnancy ups how much biotin your body needs, so deficiency can happen if you don’t supplement.
  • People with digestive issues - Conditions like Crohn’s disease can make it harder for your gut to absorb biotin from foods.
  • Those taking certain seizure medications - Some of these drugs have been shown to lower biotin levels over time.
  • Heavy alcohol drinkers - Too much alcohol can damage your digestive system and get in the way of absorbing biotin.
  • Longtime smokers - Years of smoking may drain biotin reserves and make deficiency more likely.
  • Older adults - As we age, our bodies gradually get worse at extracting and using biotin from what we eat.

If you’re in one of these higher-risk categories, be proactive. Ask your doctor to check your biotin levels and recommend treatment if needed. Catching a deficiency early can get your hair back on track quickly!

How Much Biotin Should You Take?

With biotin for hair, more is not always better. Just taking the recommended daily amount is plenty for most people.

Adults only need 30 micrograms of biotin each day. That’s what you’ll find in a basic multivitamin such as Forceval. Popping pills with super-high amounts of biotin, thinking it will work better, is a bad move.

Taking too much biotin can interfere with some medical tests. And your body can’t even absorb all that extra anyway.

Stick to 30-100 micrograms a day from a normal supplement. Add in some biotin-rich foods, too, like eggs, salmon, and nuts. That combo covers all your bases.

The only folks who need a temporarily higher biotin dose are those with a true deficiency. But after getting back to normal, they should drop down to the standard recommendation.

So be wary of supplements packed with crazy amounts of biotin. More doesn’t automatically equal better hair growth. Finding a sensible balance is the healthiest approach.

What Types of Biotin Are There?

When it comes to getting your daily biotin, you’ve got options. Let’s explore some of the top sources of biotin and how they compare.

Biotin-Rich Foods

Enriching your diet with foods filled with biotin is a tasty way to maintain healthy levels. Some delicious choices include:

  • Eggs: The egg yolk is a biotin jackpot. Scramble up some eggs for breakfast or make an omelette for dinner.
  • Salmon: This fish packs a double punch with biotin and omega-3s. Fire up the grill or bake a salmon filet with lemon and herbs.
  • Avocado: The smooth, creamy green goodness of avocado is a biotin blessing. Mash it up on toast or dice it into salads.
  • Nuts and seeds: Snack on a mix of almonds, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds for biotin galore.
  • Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, and Swiss chard bring biotin and other hair-healthy nutrients to the table. Toss them in salads and sides.

Aim for 2-3 of these biotin all-star foods daily as part of balanced meals. That helps you cover all your hair health nutrient bases.

Biotin Supplements

Biotin supplements can help fill any nutritional gaps if optimal daily intake is hard to maintain through diet alone. Look for supplements in the recommended 30-100 mcg (micrograms) range. However, there is no proof that high levels of biotin could be toxic or harmful, and that's why you might notice

Multivitamins contain biotin, but you can also find standalone biotin supplements. Just don’t overdo it with mega-doses, thinking more means better results. Stick within the recommended range.

Biotin Shampoos and Conditioners

If you want biotin working directly on your hair and scalp, give these products a try:

  • Biotin shampoos - can strengthen strands and boost volume
  • Biotin conditioners - help repair damage and increase shine
  • Biotin serums - applied to the scalp to support healthy hair growth

The research is still limited, but they may provide an extra boost along with internal biotin intake.

Possible Side Effects of Biotin

When taken in recommended daily doses, biotin is considered very safe with minimal side effects. But here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Allergic reactions are possible, though rare. Discontinue use if any swelling, breathing issues or severe rashes develop.
  • High biotin doses can skew lab test results, leading to incorrect high or low values. Let your doctor know about any supplements.
  • Excessive biotin intake from mega-dose supplements may theoretically contribute to higher blood sugar levels and thyroid issues. Moderation is key.
  • Other medicines can affect how our body uses biotin. Consult a doctor about potential interactions.
  • Those with a history of seizures should use caution, as biotin may potentially lower the seizure threshold in some people.

Overall, biotin is well-tolerated when not overdone. Seek professional guidance to ensure your daily intake aligns with medical recommendations for optimal hair health.

Other Options for Hair Loss Beyond Biotin

While biotin is one of the most popular supplements for hair health, it’s not the only option. A holistic approach can give you the best shot at fighting hair loss.

Other beneficial vitamins and minerals include:

  • Iron - Supports blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles. It is found in red meat, beans, and dark leafy greens.
  • Zinc - Can help with hair tissue growth and repair. Oysters and nuts are great sources.
  • Vitamin D - This may help create new follicles and encourage growth. Boost levels with some daily sunshine.
  • Protein - Hair is mostly made of protein. Ensure adequate intake of meat, eggs, fish and dairy.

Beyond vitamins, other strategies include:

  • Scalp massage - Improves circulation and stimulates growth. Do it daily with oils.
  • Stress management - High stress can worsen hair loss. Try yoga, meditation, and journaling.
  • Hair care - Avoid tight hairstyles that pull on hair. Use soft, gentle handling.
  • Prescription treatments - At The Independent Pharmacy, we've got your back covered. When vitamins and a healthy lifestyle aren't enough, your GP might offer you options like Regaine (minoxidil), Regaine for Women, or Finasteride.
  • Shampoo with caffeine - When you don't think that biotin is what you need after you consult your GP, try products like Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo, which contains caffeine and targets hair growth.

We know many are searching for that one perfect solution. While biotin can help, it's just one piece of the puzzle.

People Also Ask

What is better for thinning hair, biotin or collagen?

Both biotin and collagen supplements have benefits for hair health. Biotin aids keratin production, while collagen supports hair follicles and growth factors. Most experts recommend a combination for the biggest impact.

Take biotin to boost keratin levels along with collagen for stronger, thicker strands. AAdd foods like fish, citrus fruits and berries for vitamin C to maximise collagen absorption.

What to avoid while taking biotin?

Certain medications and supplements can interact with biotin absorption and should be avoided, including:

  • High doses of vitamin B5 (can compete with biotin)
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Some antibiotics and acne meds
  • Supplements that reduce stomach acid

Also, avoid eating raw egg whites, which contain a protein that binds to biotin and blocks it from being used. Cook eggs fully to prevent issues.

Who shouldn't take biotin?

Those who should avoid biotin supplements or seek medical guidance include:

  • Pregnant women (recommended doses are higher when expecting)
  • Individuals on dialysis (excess biotin can affect test results)
  • People scheduled for cancer scans (can affect accuracy)
  • Those taking medications that reduce biotin absorption
  • Anyone with a history of biotin-related allergies

Will taking biotin cause weight gain?

Nope, no evidence shows biotin causes weight gain - that's just a myth. Biotin actually helps your body use carbs, fats and protein. So healthy biotin levels support normal metabolism. Unless consuming excessive calories, weight gain should not occur when taking recommended doses.

Conclusion

The evidence shows biotin plays a clear role in producing keratin, the building blocks that make hair strong and flexible.

But biotin is not a quick fix or cure-all. The road to healthier hair requires patience, diligence and realistic expectations. While biotin may provide measurable benefits over time, especially for those with deficiencies, it works best as part of a bigger-picture approach. One that also prioritises overall nutrition, stress management, hair care practices, and, in some cases, medical treatments.

Remember, hair grows slowly. Consistency is key when evaluating any supplement or regimen. Give biotin at least 3-6 months before expecting to see significant changes in volume or shedding. And aim for the recommended daily dose, not mega-quantities that could do more harm than good.

Sources:

A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss - PMC (nih.gov)

Serum Biotin Levels in Women Complaining of Hair Loss - PMC (nih.gov)

Anatomy, Hair - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)

Biotin - Health Professional Fact Sheet (nih.gov)

Biotin and biotinidase deficiency: Expert Review of Endocrinology & Metabolism: Vol 3, No 6 (tandfonline.com)

Biotin Deficiency in Telogen Effluvium: Fact or Fiction? - PMC (nih.gov)

Marginal Biotin Deficiency is Common in Normal Human Pregnancy and Is Highly Teratogenic in Mice, , - ScienceDirect

Determination of the biotin content of select foods using accurate and sensitive HPLC/avidin binding - PMC (nih.gov)

Biotin - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)

How stress causes hair loss | National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Hair loss - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

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