Biotin is a B-complex vitamin that has gained a lot of attention recently as a nutrient that can thicken hair or improve nail health. That's why you may see it in "beauty" supplements. But this vitamin isn't just about your appearance, it's vital to your overall health.
Biotin is an essential water-soluble vitamin also known as B7.
Biotin plays a key role in the body's metabolism. Biotin is involved in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, which means it is needed to convert the food you eat into energy. Your body does not produce biotin on its own, so you need to get the nutrients from the foods you eat. In some cases, you may also choose to take a supplement containing biotin.
According to the Office of Dietetics at the National Institutes of Health, vitamin B7 occurs naturally in a variety of foods, such as whole eggs, canned salmon, pork, and hamburgers. Vitamin B7 supplements are also found in small amounts in vegetarian sources such as sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, and almonds. One of the best sources of biotin is beef liver, with just three ounces of cooked beef liver containing more than 100% of your daily value of the vitamin.
Biotin supplement forms
Biotin (B7) supplements come in many forms, including:
- biotin capsules
- Biotin soft capsules
- Biotin Gummies
- biotin tablets
- B complex supplements
- Various vitamins
- Professional hair and nail formulas
Potential health benefits of biotin
One study showed that as many as 29% of nearly 38,000 adults took biotin between 1999 and 2012.
Biotin supplements may treat biotin deficiency
One of the main reasons you should seek out biotin supplements is to reverse biotin deficiency. Fortunately, biotin deficiency is rare, and severe biotin deficiency has never occurred in healthy individuals consuming a typical diet of a variety of foods, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. If you follow a healthy, well-rounded diet, you're likely getting enough biotin every day.
But a specific genetic disorder called biotinidase deficiency can cause biotin deficiency.
In addition, long-term drinking can affect the absorption of biotin, leading to deficiency.
Additionally, Richard points out that smokers are at risk for deficiency, with past research showing that smoking accelerates the breakdown of biotin in the body. Likewise, people with diabetes or malabsorption problems and people who receive tube feedings may be at risk for biotin deficiency. If you are concerned about your biotin levels, talk to your doctor.
Biotin supplements may not improve hair, nail and skin health
Google "biotin supplements" and you'll see a lot of options, many of which are designed to improve hair, nail, and skin health. Why? Hair loss, rashes, and brittle nails are all signs of biotin deficiency. It is hypothesized that additional biotin may provide additional beauty benefits. Additionally, many hair and nail supplement products on store shelves contain biotin ingredients like collagen, zinc, and vitamin D.
The hype in this case may be unfounded: Claims that biotin improves hair and nail health are largely unfounded. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that biotin supplements can improve the health or appearance of your hair, nails, or skin unless you are actually deficient in biotin, which is quite rare. A December 2020 review of oral hair growth supplements was blunt: There is no evidence to support the use of biotin as an oral hair growth supplement. The authors also write that there is no evidence that “biotin has a direct effect on hair follicle circulation or development.
That said, if you are biotin deficient, supplementing may indeed be beneficial to your hair. One review found that biotin helped improve hair and nail growth in people with underlying conditions related to biotin deficiency. No benefits have been demonstrated in healthy people.
When it comes to nail health, another review published in the International Journal of Dermatology in August 2022 found that while biotin can treat brittle nails, it is not effective for general nail growth. Bottom line? According to an April 2021 article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology , dermatologists simply don't have enough evidence to recommend biotin supplements.
Biotin supplementation can help during pregnancy and breastfeeding
If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, you may benefit from supplements, Richard says. The recommended intake of biotin for adult women and men is 30 micrograms (mcg). This is also the recommended amount during pregnancy, but it may be more difficult to get the amount you need during this time, which is why you may want to take a prenatal medication that contains biotin (as most people do; read your Tag of). Also note that if you are breastfeeding, your biotin needs increase to 35 mcg. You can continue taking your prenatal supplements during this time.
Potential Risks and Side Effects of Biotin Supplements
In most cases, biotin supplements are safe to take. It may not be harmful if taken in excess (above daily recommended levels) because it is water-soluble, but it may also be of no benefit, especially if it is not needed. So if you take biotin regularly and expect one of the touted benefits above, but lack research, you may be wasting your energy and money.
Also, keep in mind the following disadvantages of biotin supplements.
Biotin can interfere with certain laboratory tests. Research shows that the most common tests affected are:
- Troponin (a protein found in the heart muscle and used to diagnose heart attacks, according to the National Library of Medicine)
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), used to diagnose thyroid disease
- Antithyroid antibodies, also used to diagnose certain thyroid disorders
Richard points out that biotin can affect test results for vitamin D, estradiol and folate levels. Biotin supplements may cause falsely high or low results, which may affect your final diagnosis or the treatment recommendations your medical team prescribes for you. If you are taking biotin supplements, tell your provider before having any type of blood test.
How to Choose and Store Biotin Supplements
If you are interested in purchasing a biotin supplement, be sure to get approval from your healthcare provider first. Before you buy a supplement for a specific reason, such as thinning hair or brittle nails, it's important to rule out potential underlying causes of your symptoms. There are many common medical conditions that can affect the health of your hair, nails, and skin, including hypothyroidism and iron deficiency anemia.
If your healthcare provider recommends you take a biotin supplement, here's how to buy it wisely and safely.
You can take biotin as a standalone supplement or as an ingredient in a multivitamin and B-vitamin formula. The benefit of B-complex formulas is that they contain other B-complex vitamins, such as vitamin B12, that may be low in the diet. Taking a multinutrient product makes more sense than just taking a biotin supplement.
No matter which brand you choose, double-check that the product has been third-party tested. This ensures that the active and inactive ingredients listed on the label are present in the bottle and that the supplement is free of contaminants.
Store biotin supplements in a cool, dark, and dry place. Bathrooms, refrigerators, and cars are all places where moisture can accumulate and degrade your supplements.
Biotin Supplement Dosage
Biotin supplements, either in stand-alone formulas or in the Hair and Nails Multi-Nutrient Formula, contain up to 5,000 mcg of biotin, equivalent to 16,667% of the Daily Value (DV). B-complex supplements, on the other hand, may contain much less, containing 30 mcg per tablet, or 100% of the daily value. Dosage varies depending on the brand and type of supplement, so read the label on your supplement to know exactly how much you are taking. If you plan to use biotin long-term or at higher doses, it's best to talk to your doctor or dermatologist to discuss the benefits versus risks.