Will Biotin Help Hair Grow Faster?
Things to Consider Before Taking Biotin for Hair Growth
Question: “Will biotin help hair grow faster?” Biotin is one of the first vitamins that comes to mind when it comes to hair growth. Many women say that they’ve had good results from taking this supplement. However, as with any dietary supplement, you have to ask a few questions first to figure out if it’s right for you. Ideally, that’s a decision you should make under the direction or advice of a pharmacist, registered dietitian and/or primary care doctor.
What Is Biotin? How Much Should I Have Each Day?
Biotin also goes by the names Vitamin H and Vitamin B7. It plays several roles such as aiding with metabolism, fatty acid production and cell growth. It can also improve hair manageability and reverse certain types of hair loss (Erickson, Reclaim Healthy Hair, 2011). According to the National Academy of Sciences, adult women (pregnant and not) age 19 and over need about 30mcg per day from their diet (Erlich, University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011). Breastfeeding women need about 35mcg per day from the diet.
Will Biotin Help Hair Grow Faster? How Do I Know If I’m Getting Enough?
Most people will never be deficient in biotin because it’s in so many of the foods we eat. The typical diet provides 100-300 micrograms per day, much more than the 30 micrograms we need (Fiume, International Journal of Toxicology, 2001). Eggs, nuts, soybeans, brewer’s yeast, cucumbers, cauliflower and whole grain are common dietary sources. Also, bacteria in the digestive tract produce some of the biotin we need.
Can I Be Low In Biotin?
Most people will never have a biotin deficiency. In fact, it’s rare to find a case of low biotin in the diet. Still, it’s possible to be low in this nutrient in some special cases:
-If you’re an alcoholic or heavy drinker. Note: Women should limit alcohol intake to one drink per day; the limit for men is two per day. One standard alcoholic drink is 5 oz of wine, 12 oz of beer, 1.5 oz of distilled spirits (hard liquor) or 8 oz of malt liquor.
-If you eat lots of raw egg whites (some bodybuilders may still do this).
-If you have a condition that affects how you absorb food (Chron’s disease is one example).
-If you’re taking certain prescriptions (antiseizure or anticonvulsants like Carbamazepine or Carbatrol. Also, Phenobarbital, Phenytoin (Dilantin), Primidone (Mysoline) are more examples.
-If you’re on antibiotics for a long time they might kill some of the beneficial organisms in the digestive tract that produce biotin.
-If you’re on a feeding tube.
-If you’re pregnant. Up to 50% of pregnant women may have a moderate biotin deficiency (Zempleni, et. al, Nutrition Reviews, 2008). However, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should talk to their health care provider about whether they should take biotin or consume dietary sources, which may be more than enough.
How Much Biotin Is Safe to Take?
Water-Soluble vs. Fat-Soluble
When it comes to the dosage of any vitamin supplement, the first thing to consider is whether it is water-soluble or fat-soluble. That’s because any excess amount of water-soluble vitamins you take from a pill or eat in food are eliminated in the urine. However, any excess of fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body’s cells and are potentially very toxic in megadoses. That said, biotin (and all the B vitamins) are water-soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K.
Is It Dangerous to Take High Doses of Biotin?
Taking biotin is generally safe, even when taken in high doses (Erlich, University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011). In general, it does not interfere with most prescription drugs although only your pharmacist can make that call for you individually.
Now, this is where my recommendation differs from most of what I’ve read on other health and beauty sites; some of them suggest up to 5000 micrograms of biotin per day to promote hair health/growth. Being that the recommended daily amount of biotin is only 30 to 100 micrograms, 5000 micrograms is definitely a megadose.
I do not/will not advocate any dietary substance in extreme excess of what is needed. I tend to think that I don’t need to improve or override my design. If we only need a small amount of something, I simply trust that’s about how much I should have. In other words, the requirement is that low for a reason and I simply don’t recommend going to extremes of any kind to achieve health or beauty outcomes.
For example, no-carb diets (such as Atkins) are very popular and people do lose weight on them. However, they are not healthy no matter how popular they are. That’s because your body needs carbs. In fact, about half of all the calories you eat should be from carbs and at least half of those should be complex carbohydrates. I could write a 10 page article about all the
reasons that no-carb diets actually set you up to set you up to gain more weight, but I digress. You get the point: extremes might be popular but not necessarily the healthiest thing you can do.
Will Biotin Help Hair Grow Faster- What Science Says
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine Steven Erlich put it this way (University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011): “There are not many good quality studies evaluating biotin. Many of its proposed uses are based on weak evidence or case reports.” Keep in mind that statement doesn’t invalidate anyone’s great hair-growth results from taking biotin.
How to Grow Your Hair Without Taking Biotin
Take a multivitamin each day, invest in a quality juicer to increase the micronutrients in your diet, avoid caffeinated drinks within 2 hours of a meal (or within 2 hours of taking vitamins) and adopt a healthy hair care regimen. That’s not to say that you may not benefit from taking biotin but it doesn’t have to be the first thing you reach for when it’s time to improve your hair health/growth.
If you’re taking vitamins to reverse hair loss, then make sure you identify the underlying cause before attempting to self-medicate. Often, hair loss is an underlying symptom of a more serious health condition (such as thyroid disorder) or lifestyle choices (such as high stress or heavy alcohol use).
Erickson, K. (2011). Inside & out. Reclaim healthy hair. Better Nutrition, 73(5), 26.
Erlich, S. (2011). Vitamin H (Biotin). University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved from
http://how-to-go-natural.com/axFiume, M. (2001). Final report on the safety assessment of biotin. International Journal Of Toxicology, 20 Suppl 41-12.
Kane, E. (2009). Hair today, gone tomorrow?. Better Nutrition, 71(4), 20-21.
Zempleni, J., Chew, Y., Hassan, Y., & Wijeratne, S. (2008). Epigenetic regulation of chromatin structure and gene function by biotin: are biotin requirements being met?. Nutrition Reviews, 66 Suppl 1S46-S48.