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How to take biotin for hair growth

While the benefits are unproven, many dermatologists say it works!

In the crowded wellness field of vitamins and nutritional supplements, you may or may not have heard of biotin. Also known as vitamin B7, or vitamin H, biotin helps the body convert proteins, fats, and carbohydrates you ingest into energy. In recent years biotin has become popular because some people claim that taking extra biotin can help slow hair loss, strengthen thinning hair, or even regrow lost hair. It’s a claim that, if true, would ensure a huge market for this particular pill.

Half of men experience noticeable hair loss—scientifically known as androgenetic alopecia or male-pattern baldness—by the age of 50, according to the Cleveland Clinic. About 70% of all men will lose hair at some point in their lives. Women aren’t immune to hair loss either. Some estimates suggest that 50% of women will experience hair loss, with the prime cause also being androgenetic alopecia (called female pattern hair loss in women). The condition is estimated to affect about 30 million women in the U.S. alone.

RELATED: Why is my hair falling out?

Does biotin really work for hair growth?

Although it’s easy to find numerous websites touting biotin for hair regrowth (as well as a way to improve skin and brittle nails), the official word from the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements is that “there is little scientific evidence to support these claims,” and “more research is needed before biotin can be recommended for any of these conditions.” 

“We used to think that biotin worked for hair growth, but the science is more contradictory now,” says Sandra Marchese Johnson, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at Johnson Dermatology in Fort Smith, Arkansas. “Research shows there is no to limited benefit.” 

Deirdre Hooper, MD, cofounder of Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans adds: “Although some very small studies have shown some improvement in hair or nail diseases with biotin supplementation … several studies have shown biotin to interfere with many blood tests, including thyroid and cardiac function tests.”

Not everyone is so down on biotin, however. A 2019 article from the Cleveland Clinic claimed that dermatologists have quietly prescribed biotin as a hair loss treatment for many years, even though the research hasn’t proved its health benefits. Why? Because some believe it works and it is not known to be harmful.

How much biotin should you take?

The recommended amount of biotin you need each day is up for debate and is thought to depend on your age. Newborn babies need just 5 micrograms (mcg) daily, while adults should be getting at least 30 mcg, and breastfeeding women should shoot for 35 mcg or more. Since biotin is found in many foods, “it would be unusual for anyone to be low in biotin,” Dr. Johnson says. 

Dr. Hooper adds: “For adults, biotin intake of 30 mcg per day is easily achieved through a well-balanced diet including biotin-containing foods, such as meat, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, and certain vegetables like sweet potatoes, spinach, and broccoli.” This highlights that a person eating a well-rounded diet does not need biotin supplementation. 

If you choose to supplement, biotin can be taken by itself or along with other B-complex vitamins in multivitamin form. Most of the websites touting biotin for hair growth recommend taking 2-5 milligrams (2,000-5,000 mcg) of biotin in supplement form each day, and many supplements are sold under the name Biotin 5000, indicating a 5000 mcg (5 mg) size. This is far more than doctors recommend, although for most people the extra biotin shouldn’t present any health problems. No toxicity of excess biotin intake has been described

“It is a B vitamin, so it is difficult to overdose on it—most people will urinate out what they do not need,” says Johnson. “With that said, I suggest not taking more than the daily recommended dose of 30-100 mcg per day for an adult.”

In rare cases, people may suffer from biotin deficiency (not enough biotin) due to a genetic error of metabolism, a bacterial imbalance in the gastrointestinal tract, or the use of certain medications, including antiepileptics—such as carbamazepine, phenytoin, and phenobarbital—and the acne treatment isotretinoin. Older adults, heavy drinkers, smokers, and malnourished children are also more likely to have low levels of biotin. Usually, symptoms of biotin deficiency are treated with a 5,000 mcg supplement regardless of the cause. 

Although biotin can interfere with some blood tests (including troponin, digoxin, ferritin, testosterone, brain natriuretic peptide, and progesterone). According to the Mayo Clinic, “no side effects have been reported for biotin in amounts up to 10 mg (10,000 mcg) per day.” Even so, numerous websites claim that too much biotin can weaken the immune system, impact the neurological system, contribute to high blood glucose levels, and cause digestion problems or skin rashes. If you are taking biotin as a supplement and notice any of these symptoms, contact a doctor. It is also suggested to stop biotin supplementation 72 hours before bloodwork is drawn so that the results are more accurate.

Best biotin for hair growth

If you’ve spoken with a healthcare provider and decided to take a biotin supplement as part of your hair care regimen, you may be aware that the market is flooded with biotin supplements that all make the same claims. How can you tell which ones are the best? The answer depends on what you’re looking for specifically and what you consider important.

Based on reviews, if you just want biotin without any other vitamins or nutrients, Meribin High Potency Biotin, a 5,000 mcg capsule, is a trusted name. Customers say another good, inexpensive choice is Nature’s Bounty Biotin Softgels, which come in 5,000 mcg and 10,000 mcg sizes. If you’re looking for a little less biotin, some recommend trying Solgar Biotin, a 3,000 mcg tablet that is vegan, non-GMO, and gluten free. If you want something you can chew on, people like Vitafusion Biotin gummies, which are 5,000 mcg and naturally blueberry flavored with no high-fructose corn syrup. 

In many cases, biotin is packaged together with other ingredients in a multivitamin or hair growth supplement. These can be aimed at boosting B-vitamin levels across the board or promoting healthier hair, skin, and nails. One of the most popular hair-health supplements on the market is Country Life Maxi-Hair Plus, which contains 5,000 mcg of biotin along with vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, folate, zinc, and more. Users say a good choice for a B-vitamin booster is Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw B-Complex, which contains 325 mcg of biotin and other vitamins derived from raw, organic fruits and vegetables.

Other popular choices for hair growth include:

  • Zhou Hairfluence, which has 5,000 mcg of biotin, collagen, hydrolyzed keratin, and other essential vitamins
  • Code Age hair vitamins, which contain 10,000 mcg of biotin and other hair-healthy ingredients
  • MegaFood Skin, Nails & Hair, which has 300 mcg of biotin and a special support blend made from organic plants.
  • Nutrafol, which has 3,000 mcg of biotin, selenium, iodine, and vitamin C, A, and D
  • Viviscal, which has 120 mcg of biotin and a proprietary marine complex of amino acids

Home remedies for hair growth

Whether you’re taking biotin or not, there are a number of things you can do at home to help give you healthy hair. Perhaps the best place to start is with changes to your diet or lifestyle. Eating foods like salmon, tuna, and walnuts that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids can improve hair health. Avoiding cigarettes can eliminate the damage that smoking does to your hair. And if you blow dry your hair or use hot styling tools, you should know that heat is a common cause of dry, brittle hair. 

“Avoid trauma to your hair,” Dr. Johnson advises. “Keep your scalp happy with antidandruff shampoos and non-waxy conditioners, and do all of the things that promote overall health: sleep, limit stress, eat well, hydrate, exercise.”

Massaging your scalp will increase blood flow to your scalp, which can help encourage hair growth. You can do this with just your fingers, or you can massage in creams or oils. Aloe vera can help unblock clogged hair follicles, and coconut oil, fish oil, or castor oil can make your hair more lustrous. Essential oils like rosemary oil, geranium oil, and lemon oil may help hair grow, and even onion juice can stimulate hair regrowth and treat conditions like alopecia areata (patchy hair loss)—as long as you can stand the smell.

To pamper your hair with something special, try a hair mask made with egg yolks and olive oil (or cinnamon and olive oil). Mix the ingredients together and apply them to your hair for 30-45 minutes before showering. And on a day-to-day basis, be gentle with your hair when you brush it or style it.

Some medications have been shown to contribute to hair loss, including blood pressure and cholesterol medicines, certain antidepressants, and hormone-related medicines like birth control and testosterone. If you are taking any of these medications, consult your doctor before stopping their use, and if simpler measures don’t work, ask your doctor about medications that have been proven to help regrow hair.

“Minoxidil is a great tool with lots of science to back it up,” says Hooper. “Many forms of hair loss will improve with minoxidil.” Hooper recommends using the stronger, more effective 5% solution rather than the 2% solution, unless the 5% solution irritates your skin or “if you notice hair growing where you don’t want it to be, like on your face.”

When to see a doctor for hair loss

If you notice sudden hair loss, make an appointment to see a doctor right away. Sudden hair loss can be a sign of an underlying medical condition like thyroid disease, ringworm, menopause, or pregnancy. Hair loss can also be a sign of a reaction to a medication used to treat cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis, depression, or heart problems.

If you are losing your hair gradually or noticing more scalp than you used to, and you have any concerns about it, contact a dermatologist sooner rather than later. Hair loss can be permanent, so the earlier you start treating it, the more likely you are to have better results.

“A board-certified dermatologist is the expert at diagnosing and treating hair loss,” says Dr. Hooper. “Hair loss is complex and often has a combination of causes. Your dermatologist will talk to you about how much hair you have lost, examine your scalp, skin, and nails, and possibly do blood work or a biopsy to help diagnose your issue and create a treatment plan.”