Biotin is a B vitamin that’s important for many body functions, including metabolizing food — the process of turning food into energy. And many people swear that biotin has improved their hair, skin and nail health, too.
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But is biotin the magic solution to getting flowing locks, strong nails and glowing skin? Registered dietitian Courtney Barth, RD, explains the possible benefits of biotin and whether this nutrient could help you.
Benefits of biotin
Biotin plays an important role in converting carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy. It also helps your body’s cells function well. Biotin is essential, which means you can’t live without it.
But why does biotin get superhero status when it comes to hair, skin and nail health? Maybe because biotin deficiency — not having enough biotin — can lead to:
- Brittle nails.
- Hair loss.
- Red, scaly rash.
“But biotin deficiency is rare in the U.S.,” Barth explains. “So if you have thinning hair or brittle nails, it’s probably not due to a biotin deficiency. There’s usually another health condition causing these problems, such as iron deficiency or a thyroid issue.”
So don’t assume taking biotin supplements will cure hair, skin or nail problems. “If you notice sudden changes in your hair, skin or nails, see your provider,” says Barth. “Don’t self-treat with biotin supplements without knowing the cause.”
How much biotin do you need?
Adults need 30 micrograms of biotin each day to avoid a deficiency. Most people get adequate biotin through their diet.
“Biotin is in many of the foods we eat, such as fortified cereal, egg yolks, meat and legumes (like lentils, chickpeas and beans),” explains Barth. “And it’s always better to get your vitamins and minerals through a balanced diet rather than supplements.”
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you need more biotin, though — 35 micrograms per day.
“Pregnant or breastfeeding women often benefit from a prenatal vitamin,” says Barth. “Prenatal vitamins contain biotin, folic acid and other nutrients that are important for the health of the mother and baby. If you’re not sure which prenatal vitamin to take, ask your provider.”
Do biotin supplements help with hair growth?
Maybe you’re not worried about biotin deficiency but wonder whether a biotin supplement could help you get amazing hair. After all, many products advertise biotin as a hair growth booster.
“No studies have proven that biotin supplements will change the appearance of your hair, skin or nails,” Barth says. “But some people find that taking a biotin supplement helps them boost hair and nail growth. It’s usually not harmful to try biotin for thicker hair or healthier nails.”
If you decide to take a supplement, be patient. “It takes several months to see new hair or nail growth,” notes Barth. “Biotin may be worth a try if your doctor gives you the go-ahead. But it’s not a guarantee that you’ll see a major change in your appearance.”
Biotin supplement side effects
Biotin supplements have few side effects if you take them as directed. “Biotin supplements and B-complex vitamins are safe for most people, though they may cause a slightly upset stomach,” Barth says.
High-dose biotin supplements can also interfere with certain medical test results, so tell your healthcare provider if you’re taking them, advises Barth.
Biotin and other B vitamins are water-soluble, so it’s hard to overdose on them. “If you take in more biotin than you need, your body doesn’t store it,” Barth explains. “You naturally get rid of excess biotin and other B vitamins when you urinate.”
Still, more is not always better. Don’t take more than the dosage listed on the package and stop taking biotin if you notice side effects.
A healthy lifestyle builds natural beauty
You can enhance your hair, skin and nail health even without a supplement. A balanced diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables and protein is important for all three. Drink plenty of water, too.
“Healthy food and proper hydration will help you feel and look your best,” says Barth.