Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Biotin for increased hair growth?

I have received a couple of comments asking about biotin. One comment in particular stated that 'it has been scientifically proven that Biotin can indeed increase the rate of hair growth -- at 5000mcg/5mg per day'

I asked the commenter to give me a reference (that is - a scientific paper) for this but as yet I have not received a response. I therefore decided to do my own bit of fact finding.

I have found multiple references where

1. In people who have biotin deficiency, low doses of biotin (0.3mg daily) can help improve the quality of hair and increase hair growth (not above normal growth rate but greater than the slow rate due to the deficiency). (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, pp 97-102, 1985)

2. Children taking certain antiepileptic medication can suffer hair loss as a side effect and this can be treated with biotin supplementation (again because they become deficient in biotin and therefore supplementation works to improve the hair to normal levels). (European Journal of Paediatric Neurology, pp439-443,2009)

In short all the articles that I read seem to indicate that deficiency in biotin can lead to dry brittle hair, dry skin and brittle nails (Brain and Development, pp405-410, 2009). I did not read anywhere that biotin accelerates hair growth beyond what is normally expected. I did not find any evidence that high doses of biotin as stated by the commenter are necessary.

The only place that I could find to substantiate the comment was a website where someone sites a hair forum as the source of information. This is what I would class as anectodal evidence (i.e he said/she said - could be true/could be false) and not scientific evidence. If anyone out there has seen or heard of a scientific paper, please do comment and quote it, I will definitely check it out!

Do you believe what you read in forums? If so, why? Do pictures convince you or is it about the length of time the person posting in the forum has been present? Why do you believe or disbelieve forum information?


  1. Biotin has an essential role in helping the body metabolize proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and may also help diabetics control their blood glucose. If it helps your hair grow faster, that's great, but the added bonus of stronger nails and skin that is less dry makes it worth trying along with the metabolic benefits.

  2. I don't disagree that taking biotin as a supplement could help improve the quality of nails and skin.

    My disagreement is the lack of factual evidence that it can increase growth rate. This is firmly a myth in my book.

    I really thought when the commenter said it has been scientifically proven that I would actually find this evidence. I was quite disappointed that I didn't.

  3. *forgot to add hair - I meant to say .....improve the quality of hair,nails and skin.

  4. Thank you for this. I was actually researching this and I could not find any scientific evidence either. I do have horrible nails though (they break very easily, very weak), so I may still take it to help me in that respect.

  5. Too much Biotin can have side effects as any other supplement can for some people. I have learned the hard way. I experienced headaches and pains in my scalp, parts of my scalp were sensitive to touch. I knew Biotin was the cause when I stopped taking it and no longer had these reactions. I have since been taking a Hair,Skin and Nail supplement which does contain Biotin, but in a lower dose.

  6. I added a biotin supplement to my diet about 2 months ago. My hair is the longest it's ever been (CBL), but I can't attribute that directly to the biotin. I have been manipulating less and moisturizing more over the past 2 months also.

    I do think there is inherent risk in "over supplementing". That being said, I know biotin is related to hair/nail/skin quality and I don't eat natural sources of biotin on a daily basis, e.g. liver, yeast, oatmeal, soy. So, I'll keep taking 3 mg/day for the forseeable future. The only other supplements I take are a multivitamin and an Omega-3.

  7. You make an excellent point about information on forums. While they are often interesting sources of first hand experience and opinions, it's so important to not to mistake opinion for fact. Phrases like "scientifically proven" are powerful but unless a reliable source is cited, I always stop to wonder if the writer is repeating marketing claims or is using strong wording to give weight to their opinion.

    I love forums for product reviews and style ideas. What I love most is that it they are a place for many, many voices.

  8. Yes Katie it was the 'scientifically proven' statement that caught my attention and was the source of my disappointment at the same time

    @Anonymous, I have seen people in forums comment on side effects of high dosages of biotin as you have noted. Some ladies reported drinking copious amounts of water to avoid these side effects. I have seen several articles by doctors who recommend normal doses (i.e between 0.15 and 0.3mg).

  9. Jc - can you clarify "normal dose"? I saw a brittle nails study where they took 2.5 mg/day and I think that first study you cited, tney took 0.3 mg three times a day, so almost 1 mg/day. I don't know how much the women in the forums are taking, but I think it's helpful for people to know what constitutes a "high dose".

  10. I read forums for the hair care information, pics, and ability to communicate with other people on the same hair growth journey.

    But, I research everything for myself. From my own research it's clear to me that all the supplements and growth products generally don't have any effect other than what the user thinks they see (which they "prove" with pictures).

    And, it kind of scares me to see so many women taking outrageous amounts of vitamins and continuing to take them even after they have negative side effects.

  11. @Litte one. The rda(recommended daily allowance) in USA is 0.3mg. In biological terms 1mg is hugely different from 0.3mg.

    Dosing requirements vary according to diet and condition (for example pregnancy or illness).

    For more information - see medline


  12. The first study I quoted was a brittle hair study which was treated with 0.3mg of biotin in one case and in other cases self resolved within 5 years without biotin supplementation.

  13. I agree with your post. I think the Biotin supplement only benefits someone in a deficiency situation. I also believe that over supplementation is merely a waste of money but not necessarily toxic. Biotin is water-soluble and therefore not stored by the body, any excess is simply excreted in urine.

  14. in what foods does biotin occur naturally?

  15. According to the food standards agency in UK, you can find biotin in eggs, kidney and dried mixed fruit.

  16. I make a conscious effort not to accept any unsourced information as true without verification. I read blogs and forums, but I treat the information as something that has to be verified separately (essentially as suggestions for further research).

    It's easy to convince yourself that trying something that might work is harmless ("What can I lose? Two bucks and five minutes of my time?"), but it is extremely important to remember that this is not true. Some treatments can easily cause far more harm that any good they might have done even if they actually worked. Besides, the more cautious I am about trusting unverified claims, the better I get at spotting them, which is a benefit in itself. :)

  17. I was the one who made the comment: 'it has been scientifically proven that Biotin can indeed increase the rate of hair growth -- at 5000mcg/5mg per day'.

    But I did not receive an email regarding my comment, or I definitely would have responded. It's just good manners. And I have to admit that I don't read every post, or even most. I only found this one because I was checking your RSS feed this evening. Not something I have much time for recently.

    My info doesn't come from a scientific paper -- I am not a scientist. It comes from research done by a dermatologist named Dr. Frederic Brandt, MD. He has stated, "It definitely affects hair. We tracked patients taking the supplement, and their hair grew more quickly in a measurable way." He gave the amount needed to see quick noticeable results, and I included it in my comment.

  18. Alena thank you for coming back and responding. I do find your suggestion that I email you a little bit ridiculous given that your profile is private and you made your statement by commenting and not via email. Consequently it is not possible to email you. I accept that you may not have read my comment in response to you for the reasons that you have stated.

    In short scientifically proven is a loaded term. For a scientist such as myself it means that the work is published in a journal. Why? A journal is a peer review system. It means that 2-3 other scientists have looked at the work and determined if the study appears to have been conducted properly and secondly if it has been reported properly (meaning not exaggerating the results).

    I do think that Fredric Brandt is indeed a reputable cosmetic dermatologist. He has published in several journals on botox and fillers in recent years.

    I have looked for the quote above in order to find where the research was published. I didn't find anything. Without a published paper, there is no scientific proof.

    Papers are really that important to scientists.

    1. Just found this post, lol. I was searching for effects of Biotin on hair, since someone gave a "BOGO" bottle of theirs the other day. Interesting dialogue exchange here! I will add that as a fellow scientist (and natural for 10 years!), I second (!) and support Jc's response to this matter.

      Thanks Jc for the info!


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