Friday, April 15, 2011

Biotin Goes Back on the Menu

Is there evidence behind biotin and hair growth?
Is there evidence behind biotin and hair growth? (Photo by Martin Neuhof)

Long-time readers of the blog may remember that one of the earliest experiments I did was with biotin, also known as vitamin B7. The purpose was to see whether taking a biotin supplement would affect nail and hair strength.

I wrote back then that although a lot of people seemed to believe biotin is good for hair and nails, there were no studies showing it really did anything except in rare cases when the subject was biotin deficient. After two weeks, I posted a quick update. When I'd been taking 5 mg for a month, I concluded the experiment. As you might expect, I didn't see any results.

I've since learned that one month is way too short for any kind of results when it comes to hair growth experiments. In most cases, six months would be the minimum, otherwise you're just wasting money without really learning anything new.

A pubmed search on biotin and hair growth still doesn't come up with any interesting studies. The only thing biotin seems to be proven to do is help with uncombable hair syndrome (link):

We report a family affected to the fourth generation by uncombable hair syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by unruly, dry, blond hair with a tangled appearance. The family pedigree strongly supports the hypothesis of autosomal dominant inheritance; some members of the family had, apart from uncombable hair, minor signs of atopy and ectodermal dysplasia, such as abnormalities of the nails. The diagnosis was confirmed by means of extensive scanning electron microscopy. A trial with oral biotin 5 mg/day was started on two young patients with excellent results as regards the hair appearance, although scanning electron microscopy did not show structural changes in the hair. After a 2-year-period of follow-up, hair normality was maintained without biotin, while nail fragility still required biotin supplementation for control.

In this study, 5 mg biotin was taken daily. Even much smaller doses seem to be helpful for uncombable hair syndrome, however (link):

Three children are reported with uncombable hair syndrome, consisting of slow-growing, straw-colored scalp hair that could not be combed flat. The hairs appeared normal on light microscopy but on scanning electron microscopy were triangular in cross section, with canal-like longitudinal depressions. Oral biotin, 0.3 mg three times a day, produced significant improvement after 4 months in one patient, with increased growth rate and with strength and combability of the hair, although the triangular shape remained. The other two patients were unique in having associated ectodermal dysplasia. Their hair slowly improved in appearance and combability over 5 years without biotin therapy.

These studies confirm the fact that biotin does play a part in hair growth, and that it's possible to affect even the growth rate through biotin supplementation. Although the cause of uncombable hair syndrome is unknown, a biotin deficiency (perhaps due to genetic reasons) may play a part. On the other hand, the syndrome often improves by itself with age.

Studies like this do not really warrant supplementing with biotin if you're suffering from androgenic alopecia or just want to make your hair grow thicker and faster. And yet a lot of people seem to believe biotin will do the trick. They keep saying there's "a lot of evidence" for biotin and hair growth, but the references are missing. The actual studies are always about biotin deficiencies or like the ones I quoted above.

However, a while ago I came across one study from 1992 that actually looked at the effect of biotin supplements on hair loss. It's no wonder I didn't find it earlier, since it's not indexed in pubmed. Nor do I have access to the full paper, but here's the abstract:

An examination of the effect of biotin on alopecia and hair quality.

The effect of a daily oral dose of 2,5 mg biotin was studied in 93 patients with the symptoms hair-loss (mostly androgenetic alopecia) and reduced hair quality. The mean duration of treatment was 7,9 +/- 2,8 months. An obvious improvement of hair-loss was reported in 64%, and a slight improvement in 9%. Hair quality was clearly improved in 70% and slightly in 12%. Brittle finger nails as an additional complaint were improved in 80%. If alopecia, decreased hair quality and brittle finger nails occurred in combination, improvement was observed frequently collectively. The study allows - as already shown in a previous investigation concerning brittle finger nails - to suggest biotin as an effective and well tolerated therapy in cases of alopecia and decreased hair quality.

The majority of subjects had improvements in hair loss and hair quality from taking 2.5 mg biotin daily. Sounds good, right? Makes you wonder why nobody has attempted to repeat the experiment if the results are real. Another thing that strikes me as odd is the duration of the experiment. Why a mean duration of 7.9 months with standard deviation? Weren't all the subjects taking biotin for the same duration? Did they just quit whenever they felt like it? That just sounds like bad study design, which makes me somewhat skeptical of the results.

Still, it's intriguing enough to make me add biotin back on the supplement menu for the time being. Although a "it can't hurt and might help" mentality may be dangerous in some cases, I'm unaware of any negative side effects from taking 5 mg biotin daily. This time I'm aiming for at least six months instead of just one.

For more information on hair growth, see these posts:

Soy Isoflavones and Chili Pepper for Hair Growth – Experiment Update
Emu Oil vs. Hair Again® Topical Gel: Hair Growth Battle Conclusion
Do Flax Lignans Reduce Hair Loss from MPB?
2% Nizoral Shampoo Increases Hair Growth More than 2% Minoxidil

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20 kommenttia:

claza April 16, 2011 at 11:18 AM  

Great post. Have you done any experiment's with spearmint tea? In a study on women with women who had hirsutism and pcos it was shown to reduce free testosterone.

I have been reading that too higher level of testosterone in guys can cause hair loss and some men on hair forums are talking about trying the spearmint tea for hair loss. I do not know the kind of doses a guy would take, guys may have to be careful not to reduce sex drive. The female dose in the trail was a cup of spearmint tea twice a day for 5 days. If you google you will find more info.

Being a woman I am quite happily trying the spearmint tea trail out for myself to see if it reduces body hair.

Anonymous April 17, 2011 at 1:13 AM  

"To read the rest of the post, visit the blog!"

How about I unsub instead, yea, that's what I'm doing now.

Franco April 19, 2011 at 7:38 AM  

Nice blog you have going here!

For hair and nail growth (not that I have any problems with that) I believe nothing beats D3 or good old sunshine.
That's why hairs and nails grow faster in summer, don't they?

Antonio April 21, 2011 at 9:56 PM  

The Biotin article is interesting, especially in the light of that NY Times article where scientist discovered people can be classified into 3 Cat based on their gut bacteria. Apparently the Enterotype 1 creates more enzymes in the Gut the produce B7.

Antonio April 21, 2011 at 10:00 PM  

The Biotin article is interesting, especially in the light of the NY Times articles where scientist discovered they can place people into 3 Categories based on their gut bacteria. The Enterotype 1 people produce more enzymes that create B7 than the other Enterotypes.

Biotin April 24, 2011 at 8:04 AM  

Can I get information about prices Biotin

JLL April 25, 2011 at 10:48 AM  

@Biotin, has the cheapest prices I've found -- but if someone knows a cheaper bulk supplier, let me know.

This is the one I bought:

But looks like this brand is a few cents cheaper:

If you've never ordered from iHerb before, you can use my coupon code 'NEN423' to get $5 off (and help me fund my experiments).


Anonymous April 25, 2011 at 1:13 PM  


I couldn't find any other way to contact you, so I hope it's okay I'm just asking this on our most recent post.

Where do you get your palm oil? I have yet to find a respectable source of it in Europe.

Anonymous April 25, 2011 at 2:04 PM  

I also managed to put an extra letter in your name and comment on the second most recent post instead.

Sorry, one of those days :)

JLL April 25, 2011 at 3:20 PM  


I buy mine from ethnic shops in my city, most of the Asian/African stores carry it here. I've never ordered it online since the price is not bad, but Amazon UK seems to carry one brand:


Beth May 16, 2011 at 11:59 PM  

Biotin is important for many reasons, specifically for the production of fatty acids, the metabolism of fats and particularly for cell growth. Healthdesigns is my preferred supplement supplier, I think for the majority of products it is cheaper there. Either way, there are a lot of resources out there.

Antonio May 20, 2011 at 3:05 AM  

Reread the abstracts again. One study stated that hair normality stable after 2 year follow up but fragile nails still required biotin supplementation for control. Did they verify Biotin strengthened fragile nails?

JLL May 26, 2011 at 10:02 AM  


There is a seasonal difference in hair growth, but I think the cause is not entirely clear. Sunlight (and thus vitamin D) probably plays a role, but what about people living near the equator? I haven't seen a comparison of seasonal patterns in hair/nail growth in different latitudes.


JLL May 26, 2011 at 10:04 AM  


It seem so, but since I don't have the full paper, I'm not sure how they measured it.


Antonio August 16, 2011 at 4:11 AM  


Any updates on your Biotin supplementation?

Have you had a chance to look into the Acell therapy Dr. Hartziq is experimenting with?

Paul Newman - Facebook August 17, 2011 at 5:28 PM  

Did a lot of digging on biotin a while back. Now I count find the damn studies. Anyways it was on d-Biotin, which from what Ive heard, is better than the regular form/USP.

The regular bland "Biotin", could be anything I guess, just not specified.

Started not paying any attention to it since I was under the impression that adding eggs to diet could offset any deficiencies, but it seems the whites cancel that out. I did happen to take 5000mcg for 100days(2 years ago) and did notice increased fingernail/hair growth. Which wasn't my goal.

Jen February 19, 2012 at 10:36 AM  

For hair health and growth, best to eat foods rich in vitamin B complex, rather than taking isolated supplements, or even B complex supplements.
I eat liver and take brewer's yeast and blackstrap molasses. In one of Leslie Kenton's books on health and beauty, she named liver, blackstrap molasses and seaweed as the top hair-promoting foods.

Anonymous April 23, 2012 at 11:10 AM  

@Jen - Molasses is supposedly high in iron, so be careful people.

Anonymous July 13, 2012 at 1:24 AM  

I've been taking Biotin for almost a year and I must say I've seen some improvement with my hair growth. I have always dyed my hair a lighter color than my natural and ever since I started taking it I noticed I have to dye my roots more often. So I definitely believe that Biotin does help with hair growth. The only down side I've noticed is that my skin gets extremely oily and it started after taking Biotin, I guess, since it became so oily it made me break out a bit and had to start contolling my oily face with salycic acid.

Anonymous November 24, 2014 at 1:19 AM  

I was on anti fungal journey, experimenting with different herbs and vitamins. I followed a strict daily regimen of these pills for nine months when I noticed my ponytail had grown two inches!!! I checked everything I was taking and found the biotin supplement was the only thing that would cause nail and hair growth.
I am a black woman with fairly thick hair past my shoulders. My whole life, people have complimented me on my hair but after the biotin use, strangers would stop me in the street and talk about my hair. With that being said, I highly recommend biotin (from 1000mcg to 5000mcg) daily for at least one year for someone follicular challenged. It is a water soluble vitamin which means it's pretty safe as you will urinate any excess out everyday unlike fat soluble vitamins that stay in fat cells and take time to leave the body.

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