What Is Biotin & What Can It Do for Your Skin & Hair?
What does science say about biotin for skin and hair, and does it really deliver all the benefits it touts?December 26, 2022 5 minutes read
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If there was a magic pill you could take that would fix all of your beauty woes, wouldn't you be tempted to try it? We know we would; and one of those we've heard about a lot is certainly biotin.
So, we decided to take a deeper dive into all the skin and hair benefits biotin promises and try to find some scientific research that would prove what our family and friends tout after taking this supplement – Rapunzel's luscious locks and healthier and younger-looking skin.
What Is Biotin?
Biotin belongs to the vitamin B family and is, in fact, vitamin B7. It's also sometimes referred to as vitamin H, where the letter H stands for German words for skin and hair, Haut and Haar.
To better understand what biotin actually is, we should start from the basics and explain what types of vitamins there are. So namely, vitamins are classified into two main categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins, which determine how our bodies can absorb and store them. The former, fat-soluble ones, are absorbed together with the fats from the food we eat (hence the name) and are stored in the liver or in our body's fat tissue. Then we have the water-soluble ones, with biotin being one of them. This, essentially, means that it dissolves in water once it enters the body, gets flushed out quickly, and can't be stored for later use.
This doesn't necessarily imply that people often lack these vitamins, but some disorders, states, and lifestyle choices may lead to their deficiency, such as short-bowel syndrome and malabsorption syndrome, malnutrition, pregnancy, excessive alcohol use, smoking, and strict veganism [source].
Did you know? Eating a lot of egg whites (especially raw) can lead to biotin deficiency. Egg whites contain large amounts of avidin, a protein that binds to vitamin B7, or biotin, and prevents its absorption. Avidin denatures to some extent when egg whites are cooked and doesn't bind to biotin as strongly.
Biotin, or vitamin B7, is vital for metabolizing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. In addition, it's involved in the synthesis of DNA and the production of energy in the body. Therefore, biotin is essential for our overall health, plays a vital role in the functioning of the nervous system, and is responsible for the health of the skin, hair, and nails.
Biotin can be found in various foods, including egg yolks, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, yeast, avocado, milk and milk products, pork liver, white mushrooms, salmon, and bananas. Due to its wide availability in a variety of foods, the majority of people will receive sufficient amounts of this vitamin through their diets.
However, as we already mentioned above, vegans may need to resort to its supplementation due to their diet restrictions. Likewise, pregnant and breastfeeding women break it down at a much faster rate and will need to take biotin in the form of capsules, tablets, or powders.
Beauty Benefits of Biotin
Now, the part you've been waiting for – how can biotin improve the health and look of my skin, hair, and nails? So here's a short rundown of beauty benefits biotin promises:
Biotin for Hair & Nails
As we mentioned above, biotin is essential for producing a variety of proteins, one of those being keratin [source]. Keratin is a fiber-like protein that provides the main structural framework of our hair and nails. For this reason, biotin supplementation is often used to treat hair thinning and loss. In addition, it's often a part of cosmetic products for hair, like shampoos and conditioners.
But overall, evidence that proves its effectiveness in treating hair loss is pretty slim. There is one study showing significant improvement in hair thickness and volume after three months of taking oral supplementation of a combination of vitamins and minerals, like biotin, zinc, and vitamin C. Another study shows that biotin supplementation may help healthy individuals that have soft, brittle, and thin nails.
Biotin for Skin
Biotin is vital for the metabolism of fatty acids that nourish the skin, and research suggests that biotin deficiency correlates with a variety of skin disorders, such as skin rash. It's also necessary for the production of collagen, a protein that helps give structure to the skin. For this reason, biotin is sometimes added to creams and other skincare formulas meant for mature and dry skin.
In a randomized study from 2021, 90 women took a biotin and silicon supplement. After 12 weeks, there was a significant decrease in facial wrinkle depth and an improvement in skin texture.
However, more evidence is needed to prove the benefits of biotin supplements on the skin. While biotin vitamin may be necessary for the production of collagen and fatty acids that support skin health, it's not clear if taking biotin supplements has any direct effect on the appearance of the skin.
The Risks of Using Biotin
Taking biotin supplements is generally considered without any major risks and side effects. However, taking too much of it will lead to an excess of vitamin B7 in your body, which will, in turn, cause a decrease in vitamin B5 (or pantothenic acid) in the body.
This usually leads to different skin disorders, such as cystic acne. Other side effects of taking more biotin than recommended (which is 30 mg per day for adults) are nausea, blood pressure issues, cramps, and frequent urination.
Therefore, it's always a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement, as some supplements may interact with medications or have other potential risks.
Our Verdict: To Take or Not to Take Biotin?
As you can see, there are some studies proving the effectiveness of taking biotin supplementation for skin, hair, and nail health. But, there's no sufficient number of studies showing how biotin supplements impact the skin and hair, and the studies that are there are done on a small number of people.
Besides, taking biotin isn't without any risks – it can lead to a disbalance of vitamins B in your body, which could bring more harm than good.
And finally, if you're a healthy individual, without any disorders that may influence biotin metabolism, and who's leading a healthy lifestyle and eating a wide variety of foods, you probably already have enough of vitamin B7, or biotin. This means your brittle nails and thinning hair are the symptoms of something else and not biotin deficiency.
So, unless you're deficient in this vitamin, we'd always suggest resorting to a healthy and well-balanced diet instead of dietary supplements, and make sure to get enough biotin naturally. In any case, always talk to your doctor first to ensure that taking it is safe for you.
So magic pill or not? Hard to say. While there needs to be more research that proves a direct link between biotin and skin and hair health, it can certainly help if you have a vitamin B7 deficiency.
Nevertheless, it's vital to remember that supplements are not a substitute for a healthy, balanced diet and a good skincare routine. Maintaining good overall health through a healthy diet and lifestyle, as well as using skincare products that are appropriate for your skin type, is essential for maintaining your skin's health and appearance.
What does biotin do to your body?
Biotin is vitamin B7 which is necessary for the assimilation of other nutrients in your body, such as fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Therefore, it plays a vital role in maintaining our overall health, the health of the nervous system, and the health of our skin and hair.
Is it good to take biotin every day?
Taking biotin supplements is generally safe and is even recommended if you have a biotin deficiency. But it would be best to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement. They will best determine how much and how often to take it.
What foods are high in biotin?
Vitamin B7, or biotin, is widely available in various foods. Some foods that are a rich source of biotin are bananas, pork liver, milk and milk products, avocados, nuts and seeds, egg yolks, and salmon, to name a few.
Does taking biotin grow hair?
Some studies show an improvement in hair quality and thickness after taking biotin supplements. However, more research needs to be done to prove the exact link between this vitamin and hair growth.
Is biotin worth taking?
Biotin is an essential vitamin for maintaining your overall health, and it's worth taking if you have a biotin deficiency or some disorder, or lifestyle choices, that may cause its deficiency. However, this question needs to be answered by your healthcare provider.