Biotin is an essential vitamin found naturally in many foods. And while its main job is conversion of food to energy within the body, it’s also been shown to strengthen the hair and nails, as well as improve skin (1).
In this post, I’ll teach you the benefits of biotin use as they relate to hair. We’ll then discuss the various natural sources of biotin, and how you can incorporate biotin into your hair care routine.
The Scientifically Proven Benefits of Biotin Use
While biotin’s role in the conversion of food to energy cannot be overstated, there are other important processes that biotin supplementation supports.
Cell division and growth is vital to the growth of healthy hair. In fact, without active cell growth there would be no hair cycle.
Biotin supports cell growth when used both internally and externally, and this is important if you want a head of healthy hair.
This has been shown by many studies, including a 1985 study on biotin’s role in HeLa cells and in a 2004 study on biotin’s role in the growth of placenta cells (2, 3). But how does this translate to the growth of hair follicle cells?
The hair follicle is a complex structure with various parts. These include the dermal papilla, the germinal matrix, and the bulb. All of these structures play a role in hair growth, and they all contribute to the proliferation of healthy hair cells.
In fact, many of these cells are actually stem cells (4).
By using a known cell proliferator such as biotin, you can then induce the production of more cells. The more cells produced, the thicker and healthier the hair will be.
Carbon Dioxide Transfer
An often overlooked aspect of healthy hair is the oxygen and carbon dioxide transfer that occurs on a regular basis.
In short, carbon dioxide is a molecular compound that is produced from the waste process. This process takes place throughout the body, including within the hair follicle.
However, when thinning occurs due to DHT sensitivity, this leads to hair follicle miniaturization (5). As the follicle miniaturizes, the blood flow from the scalp to the follicle is slowly lost.
When this happens, the hair follicle is no longer able to receive oxygen and other essential nutrients. In addition, the waste buildup (including CO2) can no longer be transported away from the follicle. As CO2 builds up, this further damages the hair follicle and can lead to further scalp damage and hair issues.
Biotin, though, aids in the transfer of CO2 (6).
Whether ingested or applied to the scalp, biotin can help to remove CO2 buildup from the the scalp. This will improve the health of the scalp (and the hair follicle) over time.
There are many processes – both natural and not – that can contribute to cell damage and death. This is true even within the hair follicles.
As mentioned, some of these processes are natural (such as aging). However, some are artificial and caused by outside forces (such as injury and damage, hair styling, and hair products).
No matter the cause, though, the repair of these damaged cells is important for healthy hair growth. That’s where biotin comes in.
Biotin Use and Your Body: The Benefits of Supplementation
Aside from the biological benefits mentioned above, biotin supplementation can also lend itself to improved health of your hair, skin, and nails. How?
As shown above, biotin plays a key role in a number of cellular processes. This includes proliferation and repair.
But how can this promote the health of all three body parts?
Hair, skin, and nails are made of a compound called keratin (8). This compound can be impacted by various processes (such as sun exposure, aging, and injury). However, antioxidants can help to prevent damage from occurring.
In fact, biotin is an effective antioxidant that can prevent signs of premature aging (such as wrinkles, dark spots, and greying hair) (9).
Can Biotin Deficiency Cause Hair Thinning?
While biotin deficiency is fairly rare, it can happen due to severe malnutrition or as a result of a genetic disorder (such as biotinidase deficiency) (10).
Interestingly, biotin deficiency can lead to hair problems. This can happen indirectly (by causing seborrheic dermatitis) or directly (causing alopecia).
Symptoms of Biotin Deficiency
The symptoms of biotin deficiency can be severe (11). This is particularly true for those with a genetic disorder causing the deficiency. A few common symptoms include:
- Rashes (including seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis)
- Hearing loss
- Optic atrophy
Of course, these symptoms can be caused by a variety of other disorders or illnesses, too. As such, it’s important to speak with your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.
Can Biotin Shampoo Help With Hair Shedding?
While biotin supplements are a popular choice for many health conscious individuals, you may be interested in a more direct route of application. So, can shampoo be a good option if you’re looking to supplement with biotin?
The first question we must ask is whether biotin can even be absorbed through the skin. And, while many have said it can not, science has proven otherwise.
A 1999 study consisting of 31 patients (20 with atopic dermatitis and 11 healthy) was performed (12). For healthy patients, only biotin oil was applied to the scalp daily. However, patients diagnosed with dermatitis used an ointment consisting of both biotin oil (0.3 percent) and one to four grams of steroid ointment.
To determine whether the biotin was penetrating the scalp and being absorbed, serum biotin levels were taken both before the study began and after. These were the results:
As shown in the chart above, the majority of research subjects saw an increase in serum biotin levels. In fact, 10 out of 11 healthy subjects (90.9 percent) saw an increase in serum biotin levels.
What does this tell us?
In both healthy and non-healthy individuals, biotin is readily absorbed through the skin. Even more, it increases biotin levels significantly enough to make a difference.
Is There a ‘Best’ Brand of Biotin Shampoo?
If you choose to add biotin shampoo to your hair care routine, you should know that some brands will be better than others. And while I won’t direct you towards one brand or another, I can provide some guidelines for you as you start your search.
When looking for a high-quality biotin shampoo, you should be sure to choose one with minimal preservatives (such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)) and additives.
If you have a sensitive scalp, or if you suffer from a condition such as dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, it’s best to choose a formula with little to no added fragrances.
There are some brands that claim to specifically target hair loss, and these may be of particular interest to you. They will likely contain other components, such as ketoconazole and topical DHT blockers.
Now, let’s take a brief comparative look at some of the most popular brands of biotin shampoo on the market:
|Organix Thick And Full Biotin And Collagen Shampoo||Water (Aqua), Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Fragrance (Parfum), Biotin, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Ethyltrimonium Chloride Methacrylate/Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Copolymer, Polyquaternium-10, Glycol Distearate, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Laureth-4, Laureth-23, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid, DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Ext. Violet 2 (CI 60730).||13 ounces||$5.74 at Amazon|
|Nourish Beaute Vitamins Hair Loss Shampoo with Biotin||Contains patented Procapil (TM) – developed in Europe and proven in clinical studies to grow hair and decrease hair loss – plus Biotin, Coconut Oil, Castor Oil, Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine (derived from Coconut Oil), Sodium Cocoyl Alaninate (derived from Coconut Oil), Polyquaternium-7, Sodium PCA, PEG-8 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, PEG-150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate, Apigenin (extracted from the Grapefruit Tree), Biotinoyl Tripeptide-1 (Biotin), Butylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Oleanolic Acid ( from Olive Leaves) , PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, PG-26- Buteth-26, Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate (derived from Coconut Oil), Fragrance (Parfum) (Procapil is derived from a patented formulation of Biotinoyl Tripeptide-1, Oleanolic Acid and Apigenin)||10 ounces||$26.45 at Amazon|
|Pura D’or Hair Loss Prevention Therapy Shampoo||Deionized Purified Water, Decyl Glucoside (derived From Natural Sugar), Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine (derived From Coconut), Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sufonate (derived From Coconut), Cocamidopropyl Betaine (derived From Coconut), Polyquaternium 71 (derived From Plant), Cocamide Mipa (derived From Natural Sugar), Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate (derived From Coconut), Polyquaternium 80 (derived From Plant), Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate (derived From Coconut), Melaleuca Alternifolia (tea Tree) Oil*, Argania Spinosa (argan) Kernel Oil*, Biotin (vitamin H), Nigella Sativa (black Cumin) Seed Oil, Emblica Officinalis (amla) Oil, Urtica Dioica (nettle) Extract, Serenoa Serrulata Extract (saw Palmetto) Extract, Cedrus Deodora (cedarwood) Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (rosemary) Oil*, Salvia Sclarea (clary Sage) Oil, Polygonum Multiflorum (he Shou Wu) Root Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (lemon) Oil*, Hibiscus Sabdariffa (hibiscus) Extract, Nicotinic Acid (niacin), Zinc Pyrithione, Tocopherol (vitamin E), Soy Isoflavone (non-gmo), Beta Sitosterol, Camellia Sinensis (green Tea) Leaf Extract, Phenoxyethanol (mild Preservative), Caprylyl Alcohol, Ethylhexyl Glycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Citric Acid (derived From Citrus Fruits).||16 ounces||$26.49 at CVS|
|Nature’s Gate Biotin Strengthening Shampoo||Water (Eau), Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, Lauryl Glucoside, Glycerin, Biotin, Panthenol, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Borago Officinalis (Borage/bourrache) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Ascorbic Acid, Geranium Maculatum (Geranium/geranium) Extract, Olea Europaea (Olive/olivier) Leaf Extract, Viola Tricolor (Pansy/pensée) Extract, Bambusa Vulgaris (Bamboo/bambou) Leaf/Stem Extract, Niacin, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Cysteine, Arginine, Serine, Threonine, Aspartic Acid, Ascorbyl Palmitate, PCA, Glycine, Alanine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Polysorbate 20, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Glyceryl Undecylenate, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid, Fragrance (Parfum)*||18 ounces||$30.39 at Amazon|
|Avalon Organics Biotin B-Complex Thickening Shampoo||Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Aqua (Water), Coco-Glucoside, Sodium Laurylglucosides Hydroxypropylsulfonate, Glycerin, Sorbitan Oleate Decylglucoside Crosspolymer, Xanthan Gum, Cedrus Atlantica Bark Oil, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Oil, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil, Juniperus Virginiana Oil, Rosmarinus O cinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Zingiber O cinale (Ginger) Root Oil, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Calendula Officinalis (Calendula) Flower Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Chenopodium Quinoa Seed, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Root Extract, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Fruit Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Serenoa Serrulata Fruit Extract, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit/Leaf/Stem Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Alcohol, Beta-Caryophyllene, Citric Acid, Inulin, Sodium Chloride, Benzyl Alcohol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Limonene||32 ounces||$12.49 at Amazon|
Natural Sources of Biotin
Whether you want to apply to the scalp or consume biotin, these natural sources can be used in many different ways. Let’s take a look.
NOTE: Biotin, as with most other nutrients, can be destroyed or diminished during the cooking process. As such, you should aim to eat the foods in as raw a state as possible. Obviously, this isn’t possible for all of the food items mentioned below. But, it’s something to keep in mind.
Eggs are a beneficial health food, with plenty of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate (13). However, eggs (particularly egg yolks) also offer one of the highest sources of biotin that’s found naturally.
Nuts and Legumes
While not all foods within these groups contain high levels of biotin, there are a few worth adding to your diet for a biotin boost.
In nuts, these are:
And for legumes:
Fortunately, all of these are easy to add to your diet. For example, you can sprinkle them over many dishes (such as soups and salads) or add them right into your smoothies. Of course, you can also snack on them throughout the day, too.
While whole grains seem to be a foodie trend, there’s an obvious reason for this: they provide a whole lot of nutrition in small doses (14).
Aside from iron, fiber, and antioxidants, they also work as a source of biotin.
The easiest way to add whole grains into your diet is to make substitutions for the grains you already eat. For example, switching from white bread to whole wheat. Or, replacing your usual sugary cereal with oats.
Meat and Fish
While the majority of animal products contain biotin, the types of meat with the most biotin are organ meats. These include the kidney and liver.
But if you’re not too keen on these extraneous cuts, you can also consume pink salmon, pork, tuna, and beef as alternatives.
Side Effects of Biotin Supplementation
For healthy individuals, there have been no documented side effects associated with biotin supplementation. However, anyone with a medical condition should consult their physician prior to use.
If you’re pregnant or nursing, speak with your obstetrician before supplementing.
In rare cases, an allergic reaction can occur. The symptoms of an allergic reason contain one or more of these symptoms:
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, cheek, or throat
- Tightness in the chest
If you experience any of these symptoms, stop supplementing immediately and seek emergency medical help.
Is It Possible to Experience Hair Fall With Biotin Use?
In the long run, biotin can promote healthy hair growth. In the beginning, though, you may notice an increase in shedding. But why is this?
Hair growth takes place as part of a hair cycle (15). It contains three stages, and they are:
- Anagen. The phase of active growth, and also the longest stage (lasting from two to six years).
- Catagen. The transitional phase, lasting for only a few days to two weeks.
- Telogen. The rest phase, lasting for three to six months, and resulting in noticeable (but relatively minor) shedding.
In a healthy individual, about 90 percent of your hair follicles will be in anagen phase while the other 10 percent are in telogen. This means only about 50 – 100 hairs are shed per day.
However, when you use supplements or other treatments to promote hair growth, you speed up the process of shedding (putting a higher percentage of hair in telogen phase). This is because in order to regrow, your hair follicles need to reach anagen phase which requires cycling through the other two phases.
An excess of shedding is common in the first few weeks of treatment. If you’re consistent, this shedding should return to normal. If you stop treatment, though, then shedding can last longer as your follicles readjust.
Another thing to keep in mind is that proper (i.e. noticeable) hair regrowth can take months to achieve. This means that consistency is key, and giving up after only a few weeks will not get you the results you want.
Will Biotin Work for Everyone?
As I like to stress, knowing the cause of your hair problems can help a lot when it comes to treating it.
If your hair loss is caused by a condition that leads to follicle miniaturization, it’s very likely that biotin can help.
If you’re suffering from hormonal imbalance or other such conditions, though, a biotin supplement may not produce noticeable regrowth. However, this doesn’t mean that biotin supplementation would be worthless. Even if biotin won’t regrow your hair, it can help to strengthen the hair that is present.
Cost and Availability
As mentioned, biotin supplements can be found in many different forms. These supplements may be available at your local grocery store, but they’re more likely to be found at a pharmacy or health foods shop. You can also find them online such as on Amazon.
For example, a 120-count of 2,500 mcg softgels goes for $13.18/bottle on Amazon. However, prices vary by brand.
The same goes for biotin-containing shampoos, of which there are many on the market.
You should attempt to find one that contains the least amount of preservatives and additives, or at least avoid those which are known to cause irritation such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) (16).
While biotin deficiency isn’t a common occurrence, there is evidence to suggest increased biotin consumption and supplementation can have numerous health benefits.
These include, but are not limited to, a healthy skin and scalp and promotion of hair growth.
So, what about biotin shampoo?
There’s evidence that supports the use of biotin topicals on the scalp and, as such, the use of a biotin shampoo formula may help as you attempt to slow hair loss and even regrow your hair. Just remember to beware of formulas with many preservatives and alcohols, as the drying effects of these ingredients may counter the benefits from the biotin.