There has been a recent increase of women taking biotin supplements in the hopes of boosting the rate of hair growth and/or promoting length retention, but as naturals, we tend to have a habit of getting caught up in the hair care fads the same way some people get caught up in diet fads; there’s a certain goal we want to reach and we want to get there as fast as possible, sometimes sans research (even I’ve done it, but I’ve wised up). The question at hand is, do biotin supplements really help hair grow longer, faster, and thicker?
What is biotin?
Originally known as “vitamin H,” biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin, more commonly identified as B7, an essential constituent of an enzyme called acetyl Co-A carboxylase that aids in the metabolism of substances in the body, such as carbohydrates and fats, and plays a critical role in the process of fat production in the body.
What does biotin have to do with hair?
If the body is deficient in biotin, the physical symptoms include a red, scaly rash around the eyes, nose, and mouth, skin dryness, seborrheic dermatitis, brittle nails, depression, lethargy, hallucinations, prickling or burning sensation in the hands and feet, and hair loss. A deficiency in biotin resulting in hair loss can be remedied by supplements or a natural dietary increase of biotin. However, biotin deficiencies are quite rare as most people obtain the necessary daily amount through eating meats, vegetables, eggs, and other food items.
Will biotin supplements help my hair grow faster and/or longer?
Yes and no, but mostly no. Yes, because biotin has such an important role in supporting the creation of the building blocks of basic body functions on a cellular level, making sure you’re eating a balanced diet that includes foods that contain biotin will prevent your body from developing a deficiency, which as stated earlier, may result in hair loss (medically known as alopecia).
No, because if you aren’t experiencing the symptoms of a biotin deficiency or have a disease that deprives your body of biotin, you are getting enough of it through your daily intake of food. There is NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE supporting any claims that biotin can treat hair loss or stimulate hair growth in those with normal biotin levels. Biotin supplements truly aren’t necessary unless you have a deficiency or related disease, but should you decide to supplement your intake of B vitamins, it is best to start out on the LOWEST dosage of micrograms and work your way up to a higher dosage over time. Also important to understand is that biotin is water-soluble so it can easily be stored in and excreted from the body; you must drink the full recommended 8 glasses of water a day to reduce the occurrence of a commonly reported side effect, acne.
Below is a list of foods rich in biotin:
Swiss Chard. Swiss chard is the A-Team of biotin producers and also an antioxidant.
Carrots. Carrots, in addition to being an excellent source of beta-carotene, which helps with eye health, also contain biotin.
Walnuts, almonds, and other nuts. Walnuts are rich in biotin and vitamin E and are the only nuts that contain a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids, but other nuts are also great suppliers of biotin and by snacking on them, you can easily incorporate more biotin into your daily diet.
Chicken eggs. Eggs are another good source of biotin, however, it is crucial to understand that it is the egg yoke that contains the well of biotin whereas the egg whites can actually cause a deficiency. Raw egg whites contain a specific component that binds to biotin and greatly decreases it’s bioavailability (absorption for use in the body).
Cow or goat milk. These milks are high in biotin as well as calcium.
Berries. Raspberries, strawberries, and other certain types of berries can supply the body with significant amounts of biotin and antioxidants.
Halibut. Also known as a “brain food,” halibut too, is a source of biotin.
Other vegetables. Onions, cucumbers, cauliflower are items people eat regularly and they all contain biotin. They are super easy to incorporate into meals to help up your biotin intake, as well as other vitamins, naturally.
In closing, biotin (though, it does seem to strengthen nails) does not necessarily increase the growth rate of hair, but it is an important part of the B-complex in supporting basic body functions. There are many vitamins required to remain healthy and a deficiency in any number of them may cause hair loss or thinning as well as other physiologically detrimental effects. Being that a biotin deficiency is rare as it is available in so many different food items and most people eat a fairly balanced diet, it is not necessary to supplement. However, if any symptoms are noticed, a physician and/or pharmacist should be consulted in the decision to supplement with pills and for the necessary dosage; taking too much of any type of vitamin can sometimes cause adverse effects (i.e. an excess of B vitamins turns urine light green). The best way to help naturally increase biotin intake is to eat the above mentioned foods and doing research into other foods containing significant levels of biotin.
If you are concerned with hair health and length retention, the best way to help your hair is by caring for it gently, eating right, and avoiding bad products and practices, such as sulfates and frequent manipulation or coloring. Try protective styling, washing with non-sulfate hair washes, washing less frequently, staying away from chemicals, including color, properly moisturizing, and taking multivitamins to fill in any gaps in your diet in order to grow healthy, strong hair.