We've all seen it on our feeds: An influencer with an impossibly thick and shiny head of hair, who took to the caption to attribute their enviable locks to a bottle of biotin supplements. Over the last few years, biotin has exploded in popularity, sought after for its alleged ability to boost the health of nails, skin, and of course, hair. As with many trends on social media, however, the reality of the situation is not so simple. So to separate fact from promotional ad, we reached out to hair experts Gretchen Friese and Angela Phipps.
Meet the Expert
Keep on reading to find out what they had to say about what biotin can—and can not—do for your hair.
What Is Biotin?
Biotin, also known as vitamin B-7, is an essential nutrient that is most often found naturally in food; biotin-rich foods include cereals (wheat and oats), vegetables (like spinach and mushrooms), and rice. "Biotin converts glucose from carbohydrates into energy for the body and aids amino acids in carrying out normal bodily functions," says Phipps. It plays an important part in a balanced diet and hair health.
Biotin for Hair
- Type of ingredient: A water-soluble B vitamin
- Main benefits: Enhances shine, strengthens, and protects.
- Who should use it: Those with dull and/or damaged hair
- How often can you use it: Daily
- Works well with: Shampoos
- Don’t use with: No ingredients are known to interfere with biotin.
Benefits of Biotin for Hair
For anyone on Instagram or TikTok, biotin is perhaps most famous for its purported beauty benefits. And actually, our experts concur that it does play a role in your hair and scalp health. However, the efficacy of biotin supplementation—beyond the biotin you get from simply eating a balanced and nutritious diet—is up for debate. "To date, there’s only limited evidence to suggest that increased biotin intake may help promote hair growth. In reviewing studies, evidence is inconclusive that biotin influences hair growth as supplements taken contain not only biotin but other ingredients as well. The improvement in hair growth cannot be attributed to the biotin alone," Phipps tells us. Still, there may be other reasons why you want to consider taking biotin for hair:
- Strengthens and thickens: Biotin "is well known for its positive effects on hair including growing stronger thicker strands," says Friese.
- Protects: Because biotin strengthens hair, it is less likely to break off at the ends, promoting and protecting length, explains Friese.
- Enhances shine: "There is some research to suggest that increased biotin intake can improve overall hair quality, including thickness and shine," comments Phipps.
- Promotes healthy hair and scalp: Phipps says that biotin improves the infrastructure of keratin, a basic protein that makes up hair, skin, and nails. It can improve hair health—including volume and scalp coverage—adds Friese.
- May prevent hair loss: According to Friese, biotin can fight inflammation, a leading cause of hair loss. This may suggest that biotin can be used as a preventative measure to fight hair loss.
Hair Type Considerations
Biotin can potentially make strands stronger and shinier, which is why those with dull, damaged locks could most benefit from using it for their hair. And despite being marketed as a "hair loss treatment," there isn't much proven scientific data to suggest that biotin supplementation can help with hair regrowth. "If you’re experiencing hair thinning or hair loss, it is best to see a hair loss specialist," advises Phipps. However, it's worth noting that making sure you're getting enough biotin in your diet can potentially help prevent thinning in the first place. (Though again, deficiencies are pretty rare.) "Biotin can help maintain the health of your nervous system, which is important for healthy hair growth and prevention of hair loss," says Friese.
How to Use Biotin for Hair
Biotin can be used topically—most commonly as an ingredient in shampoo—or taken orally as a supplement. But keep in mind that taking supplements should only be done if you're not getting all of the vitamins you need from your diet. "You can maintain a healthy biotin level by eating meat, eggs, fish, seeds, nuts, and some vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and sweet potatoes," says Friese.
And while most people can take biotin supplements without any adverse reactions, Phipps says that it's best to pay a visit to your doctor before adding any supplements to your daily routine. Again, "You may already be getting the biotin you need through your diet, so talk with your doctor about the best option for you. They may recommend certain dietary changes or a biotin supplement. Be sure to follow any dosage guidelines that they provide." If you have any unusual symptoms while taking a supplement, stop using it immediately and be sure to make an appointment with your doctor ASAP.
Are there any side effects to using biotin for hair?
"Most people can take biotin supplements without any negative effects, but minor side effects are possible," says Phipps, including nausea, diarrhea, and cramping. (Though "You may be able to reduce your risk for side effects by taking your supplement with food," she says.)
Where can I find a biotin supplement?
You can find pure biotin at most drug stores and almost all vitamin stores. However, "Although the Food and Drug Administration regulates dietary supplements, it’s important to read the packaging carefully and only purchase from a supplier you trust," stresses Phipps. And always make sure to follow the doctor's orders.
What is the recommended dosage of biotin?
"Increasing your biotin intake between 2mg and 5mg per day may improve the strength and thickness of your hair," says Friese. But always check with your doctor first before taking a supplement.