What is biotin and how does it work?

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Biotin is a supplement on many people’s radar when it comes to combating hair loss and improving hair health. If having healthy, shiny hair is a goal, then it is worth knowing more about this popular vitamin.

As hair loss can be unpleasant and frustrating for both men and women, many people often seek treatment to fix this problem and also prevent it from happening in the first place. Many of these hair loss treatments contain biotin. What is it exactly and how effective is it in improving hair growth?

What is Biotin

Biotin is a B vitamin also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H. It is found naturally in certain foods, including liver, salmon, cheese, legumes, egg yolks, nuts and sunflower seeds. It is soluble in water, so it cannot be stored in the body. In addition to food sources, biotin can be taken in pill form or used as a topical treatment. It has been added to the best shampoos, hair serums, skin creams, and nail treatments.

Benefits of biotin

Biotin has a host of health benefits, which may explain its popularity. According to Medical News Today, it helps digestion, promotes nail and hair health, improves skin, helps with pregnancy and breastfeeding, lowers blood sugar in people with diabetes, and may help in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

  • Improves digestion: Biotin helps enzymes that convert fats, proteins and carbohydrates in food and turns them into energy.
  • Supports healthy nails and hair: Biotin deficiency can cause brittle nails and hair loss.
  • Improves skin: People with biotin deficiency sometimes have skin problems such as a scaly rash. Biotin can also help improve psoriasis.
  • Help with pregnancy and breastfeeding: Biotin deficiency is more common during pregnancy or breastfeeding, but medical tests should determine if supplements are needed.
  • May lower blood sugar: Biotin may be helpful for people with type 2 diabetes, but more research is still needed.
  • May help in the treatment of multiple sclerosis: Some research also suggests that biotin supplements may help in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS).

A biotin deficiency is rare, but it is more likely in people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people who drink a lot of alcohol, or people who frequently eat raw eggs. Since people generally get biotin naturally from food, there is little evidence that consuming the extra is beneficial unless someone is deficient in biotin.

Side effects of biotin

Biotin is believed to be very safe even at higher levels because it is not stored in the body. No side effects have been reported when taking 10,000 mcg (or 10 mg) of biotin per day, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, biotin can cause unusual lab results, including thyroid test results, so people with thyroid disease should consult a doctor before taking biotin.

It is possible that biotin will interact with certain medications, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health. Other drugs can affect a person’s biotin levels. One type of medication to note is the anticonvulsants used to treat epilepsy, which have been shown to lower biotin levels.

When to use biotin (and when not to use it)

While some people have been tested and have biotin deficiency, taking biotin is often the general advice for anyone with hair loss. Taking a biotin supplement seems like an easy fix, but there’s not a lot of evidence to prove it works. However, some people think the anecdotal results are compelling enough that it is worth trying biotin for themselves.

Unless biotin deficiency has been diagnosed, there is little evidence that supplements containing biotin are helpful. “The take-home message is that these skin, hair and nail supplements are really not necessary from a health standpoint,” Dr. Zoe Diana Draelos, president of Dermatology Consulting Services, PLLC told Dermatology Times. ., High Point, NC. “The nutrition you need can be achieved very easily with a multivitamin or, probably better, by adjusting your diet to include more fruits and vegetables.”

Doctors can look for biotin deficiency, but they can also look for other underlying health issues that could be causing the hair loss. The reasons can include stress, hormonal imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, extreme diets, genetic diseases, autoimmune diseases or even certain hairstyles or color treatments.

How to use and apply biotin

According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, adults should consume 30 mcg of biotin per day, and breastfeeding people should consume 35 mcg per day. Many supplement pills contain between 1,000 and 10,000 mcg of biotin in each pill. However, taking a biotin supplement is probably not helpful unless medical tests show a biotin deficiency.

Biotin can also be found in some shampoos and other products that can be used once or twice a week by most people, those with oily hair can use it more frequently. Some outlets, like The Chicago Tribune, have reported that biotin shampoos can help strengthen brittle hair. However, other outlets, such as Yahoo! News, who say there is no scientific proof that this addition helps with hair loss.

Biotin is a vitamin found in foods that can be taken as a pill or used topically. Although important for a healthy body, biotin deficiencies are rare except during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

However, people who are hoping that biotin will help reverse hair loss should not experience any adverse reactions to the biotin supplementation they already get from food.


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