Research Review: Is Biotin Supplementation Worth the Hype?

Biotin benefits

Biotin is included in most supplements for hair and nails, even though biotin deficiency in humans is rare. Researchers are starting to question if it is worth the hype. So what’s the answer? Is biotin supplementation really effective?

The Function of Biotin in Our Bodies

Biotin belongs to the B vitamin complex and is also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H. It is an essential nutrient that serves multiple functions in the body. It’s involved in processing fats and carbohydrates, it maintains nervous system function, and it is an essential component of healthy hair and nails.

A deficit in biotin can cause rashes, anemia, depression, and hair loss among other things, and supplemental biotin has been shown to reverse these effects. But biotin deficiency is actually very rare. Most people’s gut bacteria make more than enough biotin for a person’s daily needs. Deficits are only seen in people with certain genetic conditions or in people who are being depleted of biotin through other means – such as gastrointestinal disorders or as a side effect of certain drugs. But although biotin deficiency is rare, biotin is included as an ingredient in most nutritional supplements for hair and nails.

What Does Science Say About Biotin Supplementation

There are numerous studies that look at the effectiveness of biotin supplementation in hair loss treatment. A summary of these studies called “The Infatuation with Biotin Supplementation” have been put together by Dr Teo Soleymani, Dr Kristen Lo Sicco and Dr Jerry Shapiro and published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. The review looks at the results of the studies done on biotin to determine who can benefit from its use and whether it deserves its reputation as a panacea for hair problems.

Biotin effects
A deficit in biotin can cause rashes, anemia, depression, and hair loss, but biotin deficiency is actually very rare.

Biotin a Routine Treatment for Hair Loss in the 1980s

Biotin supplementation was used in the 1980s as a routine treatment for hair loss from any cause (Shelly – Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1985;13:97-102). Even though there were no scientific studies to back up its use, and an earlier study even found that it was ineffective (Pawlowski – Polish Medical Journal1965;5:447-452).

However, a study done on dogs in 1989 showed that biotin supplementation had a positive impact on nearly all animals with poor coat quality (Frigg – Schweiz Arch Tierheilk, 1989 131:621-625). 91% of them showed some improvement in hair quality and quantity after a period of 3 to 5 weeks.

When applied to humans, the same results have not been realized (Famenini – JDD, 2014 Jul;13:715-724 and Rogers – JAAD, 2008;59:547-56). A study that looked at biotin’s effect at the molecular level also failed to show that it had an impact on the expression of keratin (the building blocks of hair) in hair producing cells.

Biotin Supplementation No Longer Supported as Blanket Treatment

The results of these studies are not encouraging for the use of biotin as a blanket treatment for hair loss and indeed, the medical community no longer supports using biotin in all cases of hair loss. There are, however, several situations in which biotin can be a helpful part of hair loss therapy. In cases where hair loss is due to biotin deficiency, supplementation has been shown to be effective in restoring hair condition.


Conclusion: Biotin is Not for Everyone

The evidence for biotin use is quite clear in cases of specific deficiency, but there is no evidence to support its use for the average person looking to improve their hair quality. However, marketing and celebrity endorsements have given biotin a reputation as a key supplement for beautiful, shiny hair. This can lead to disappointing results for people who use these supplements.

While it is true that biotin is a component of healthy hair, the same can be said for other vital vitamins that we need for our bodies to be healthy. Biotin supplementation for hair is only recommended in a small number of cases. More scientific research into the causes of hair loss is needed to create effective supplements that can help a larger number of people improve their hair quality.

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