Does Biotin Really Help Hair And Skin Health?

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We've all heard the claim that taking biotin will help your hair grow faster and thicker. But is this claim true? Apparently, for many people, this claim is their solution for all their hair and skin issues. As seen in data collected by the market forecast website ReportLinker, by the year 2028, the global market for biotin supplements is expected to reach a whopping $952.6 million. Additionally, the hashtag #BiotinForHair has racked up over 3.5 million views and counting on TikTok.

Biotin seems to be on everyone's mind, and it's easy to see why it's in so many products now. In recent years, many companies have taken an interest in adding biotin-infused products to their lineups. With the influx of biotin products, many people have sought after the ingredient to help with their hair growth journey. But what is the truth behind biotin, and should you be investing your time and money into this ingredient?

What is biotin?

Biotin is another for the vitamin B7, a "water-soluble" vitamin found in a wide range of foods, including egg, salmon, nuts, sweet potato, and beef liver (via Harvard Public Health). The purpose of biotin is to help the enzymes in our bodies metabolize or break down proteins, fats, and carbs into energy that can be used to create the things our body needs. Among them is keratin, "the type of protein that makes up hair, skin, and nails," according to Healthline.

Perhaps due to this link between biotin and keratin, it remains a popularly sought-after vitamin. However, the National Institute of Health (NIH) explains that most healthy adults typically get the right amount of biotin just by eating a varied diet, with instances of deficiency being "rare." Moreover, although biotin plays a role in keratin production, the connection between biotin intake and healthy hair and skin is "supported, at best, by only a few case reports and small studies."

Since biotin is water-soluble, meaning it dissolves in water, it can't be readily stored in our bodies. But adequate biotin intake for an adult is just 30 mcg, according to the NIH, the same as eating about three cooked eggs. You may only need to be concerned about biotin if you were born with a condition restricting biotin intake or are in an at-risk group for dietary deficiency, including pregnant individuals and those with "chronic alcohol exposure."

Biotin supplements, shampoos, and serums

Biotin is extremely popular in many forms. The most popular instances of biotin found under the best-selling list on Amazon are usually the supplement kind that you ingest orally (though there are also some instances of patches).

For example, the most highly reviewed products include powders, drops, gummies, and pills, with featured products including shampoos and hair sprays. You'll find those listed say that they target "hair, skin, and nails," with concentrations in the range of around 2,500 mcg to 10,000 mcg, well beyond the daily intake needed for a healthy adult.

Of course, there's also the topical kind. These are featured in shampoos and conditioners, oils, sprays, and facial serums, with products claiming they can do everything from thickening hair to helping with hair loss. Some hair companies, like Vegamour, sell biotin-infused hair products "designed to increase visible hair density and help you get thicker, fuller, longer-looking hair in as soon as 90 days," per its website.

Is biotin shampoo better than other types of shampoo?

Comprehensive reviews on the effects of biotin on hair have found a "lack of sufficient evidence" for its efficacy on healthy individuals (via Skin Appendage Disorders). Rather, they found the majority of cases where biotin was found to help with nail and hair growth were for people who have an underlying condition, namely the at-risk groups mentioned above, among others.

In fact, as dermatologist Dr. Hadley King tells Real Simple, while biotin-containing shampoos and oral products may be helpful, there's "scarce data" to support this claim. It's more likely that since the formulas containing biotin are already designed to support hair loss, they would be effective "with or without biotin's help." In other words, a regular shampoo for thinning hair is neither better nor worse than one with biotin.

"Using a topical biotin is very unlikely to have a beneficial effect on hair growth, especially in a shampoo, which is diluted and rinsed off quickly," consultant trichologist at Philip Kingsley, Zoë Passam, tells Glamour UK. There may be better options for those looking for a hair-saving shampoo. "If hair has been damaged, for example by excessive coloring and heat styling, using an appropriate shampoo to minimize breakage can be helpful in maintaining volume," she says. "Shampoo containing humectants such as glycerin will help to draw moisture into the hair, and hydrolyzed proteins can help to retain this moisture."

Does biotin actually work?

Now that we know what biotin is, one solid question remains: Does it actually work? "Although Biotin has gained massive popularity, there is limited research that proves supplemental biotin's efficacy on hair strengthening and growth," dermatologist Michelle Henry tells Shape. However, "Some studies have shown how biotin supplements significantly increased hair growth in individuals with temporary hair loss."

The claim that biotin will help with clear skin is also untrue. Paula's Choice director of applied research and education Desirée Stordahl tells InStyle that while a product that has biotin might help with skin health, it wouldn't be only because of its biotin contents. "Unfortunately, we've researched it and there are no benefits to topical biotin," she tells the outlet, which means that biotin may not be the skincare savior we all thought it was. Stordahl also mentions that she hasn't seen any studies that show any large correlation between clear skin and biotin. The margin of correlation between the two is around 2% in those studied.

We should also keep in mind that since biotin is water soluble, it can raise questions about how much of it can actually be absorbed topically. For instance, research in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology notes that "most B complex vitamins" are "unstable and sensitive" when exposed to certain elements like "heat, oxygen, and light." Furthermore, "Their instability in cosmetic products may lead to their degradation, which affects the quality and also efficacy."

Potential side effects of taking biotin supplements

Since biotin is water soluble, it's unlikely our body could store enough of this vitamin for it to pose a health risk. As the Mayo Clinic notes, "No side effects have been reported for biotin in amounts up to 10 milligrams a day." However, some experts, like Dr. Tania Elliott, an allergy and immunology specialist, claim that biotin can cause rashes. "There have been instances of severe skin rashes from biotin, where blood vessels can become inflamed because the immune system perceives the biotin as something foreign," she tells Bustle

A frequently noted side effect of biotin use is its ability to affect laboratory and blood testing results. For instance, the American Academy of Dermatology warns that it can interfere with the accuracy of testing thyroid levels and certain key biomarkers that can help in clinical diagnosis, making a person's results seem normal or abnormal even if they are not.

Apart from this, reports on the safety of biotin conclude that oral ingestion was safe but not necessarily effective (per the Cosmetic Review Expert Panel). No carcinogenic effects were found. However, this was in the absence of studies that could either confirm or deny whether it had such effects. But, they do note that "a large number of people are exposed to biotin daily," and if there were issues with toxicity, we would have likely seen them by now. Nevertheless, it's important to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements.

Potential side effects of applying biotin topicals

While the above report from the Cosmetic Review Expert Panel found little evidence of harm when taking biotin orally, they do mention some instances where topical biotin caused slight eye irritation. However, the examples were from tests conducted on animals, and they found no other research to back up the idea of dermal irritation. The experts generally thought the potential for any reaction to topical application was low.

From what is available in the research literature, there's only been a few investigations on the topical application of biotin for the skin. However, WebMD comments that biotin concentrations of up to 0.6% should be safe for the skin and may be helpful for those suffering from a preexisting skin condition, though there's a lack of information to confirm why or how this works.

As for hair, BioLabs Pro notes that "more research is needed to determine the exact dosage and overall effect," but products containing biotin are recommended by many dermatologists. Information regarding any potential side effects of topical biotin in hair products is limited. As always, it's recommended that you speak to your doctor about any questions or concerns. 

What supplements can work for hair and skin health?

As the Mayo Clinic explains, it's possible to help your hair and skin health without the need for vitamins or supplements. Since hair is mostly made of proteins, it's important to consume enough protein in your daily diet. Protein, of course, can be found in common foods such as poultry, eggs, and fish. Furthermore, healthy fats are responsible for making sure your skin and hair have an adequate amount of moisture. You can get your share of healthy fats from unsaturated fats, plant-based fats, or omega-3s.

Making sure you get a variety of vitamins from supplements is important for an effective strategy for hair growth and healthy skin. According to Penn Medicine, you want to avoid focusing only on one vitamin unless you are deficient and have been directed to focus on one vitamin by your physician. Better skin and hair health results from multiple vitamins working together, and this cooperation can include biotin. While it's not fully responsible for hair growth, it can certainly help. It just needs a little help from other vitamins and proteins if it's going to succeed to its fullest potential.