I’ve heard biotin can help your hair grow. Is that true? Can it help your lashes grow too? How much should I take?
– Robin B.
I am sure you have heard all kinds of things about biotin. Perhaps you have even taken a biotin supplement before (guilty!). Super guilty, actually. In college, my friend/neighbor Chyleigh and I had a ritual where we would meet nightly to take excessive amounts of biotin, vitamin E, and gummy vitamins.. for our lashes, of course. It was a fun bonding ritual, but was it doing us any good?
This magical biotin pill supposedly gives you the thick, long, Rapunzel-esque hair of your dreams. People are crazy about this stuff. So much so that product developers have begun adding it to shampoos, conditioners, and other treatments. The idea is that if you take a tablet everyday, or just wash your hair with shampoos containing biotin, you’ll have thicker, longer, more healthy hair. If you think this sounds too good to be true, good! You have a healthy sense of skepticism, and rightfully so. Despite its cult-like following, biotin may not be the wonder pill it’s consumers believe it to be. Let’s take a look shall we?
SO…WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH BIOTIN?
Biotin–also known as vitamin H–is a member of the B-vitamin family. According to Dr. Audrey Kunin, board-certified Kansas City dermatologist and founder of DERMADoctor.com, biotin deficiencies lead to hair loss and fragility (source). Because of this, it is often recommended that people who have these deficiencies start adding biotin supplements into their diet. The body only needs a small amount of biotin, so these deficiencies are very rare. Biotin occurs in eggs (especially egg yolk), sardines, nuts (including almonds, peanuts, pecans and walnuts), soybeans, whole grains, cauliflower and bananas so most people are able to get a proper supply of biotin without the use of supplements. (source)
So will taking Biotin supplements help make your hair grow? Not quite.
There is little to no evidence that shows taking a daily biotin supplement will improve the hair health of those who arenot biotin deficient. Some experts believe that the only way biotin will help make your hair grow, is when it is used in conjunction with other nutrients and supplements, which makes a lot of sense, since vitamins typically don’t work as isolates, but only in tandem with other vitamins. Biotin is important in fatty-acid synthesis (hello.. does that sound familiar?), making it a key factor for healthy, thick hair–including lashes and brows–and nails. That being said, supplements usually have very low bioavailability, so you’re better off getting your biotin from food sources.
Carla Rivas, co-founder of Hair La Vie, doesn’t believe that biotin alone can get the job done:
“While biotin is an important part of a great hair growth vitamin, it is not a standalone supplement. To truly work wonders, biotin needs to be paired in harmony with an army of other powerful ingredients. Using biotin alone is like trying to clean your hair with just water. You need shampoo and all of its other ingredients to combine together with this water to get the job done the right way that will grow healthier, longer, fuller hair, faster than ever before.
Biotin can help grow stronger hair and keep a healthy scalp but in most cases (of breakage) it’s the actual hair follicle that has been damaged. Damaged follicles either don’t grow hair at all or grow weak, thin hair. So it’s extremely important to nourish the follicles. You need more natural nutrients like saw palmetto, borage oil and kelp to help repair the inflamed or shrunken root (follicle).” (source)
You know how I feel about shampoo, but all else aside–while taking biotin on it’s own has not been shown to improve the length or overall health of your hair (unless you are biotin deficient), it may work when used in conjunction with other nutrients. Furthermore, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support claims stating that when biotin is applied topically, as in shampoos and hair treatments, it will have any added hair growth benefits. (source) So don’t waste your money there.
Your best bet is to make a combination strategy: treat the hair from inside by eating a healthy diet, rich in biotin, vitamin E and essential fatty acids. On the outside, assuage any infllamed roots through massage and anti-inflammatory oils. Apply oils rich in essential fatty acids topically, to nourish the hair at the root.
Wait–how do I know if I’m deficient in biotin?
Although the only true way to know if you have a biotin deficiency is through a blood test, if you know that your diet doesn’t contain many foods high in biotin, it’s probably a safe bet that you’re deficient. Taking B-vitamins even when unnecessary is generally safe; since B vitamins are water-soluble, your body can eliminate the excess through your urine. However, highly excessive amounts of B-vitamins can lead to dizziness, jitters and double vision. Don’t overdo it.
Conclusion: Will Biotin Help My Lashes Grow?
You know, it’s just not that simple.
Biotin has a pretty great marketing campaign on it’s side, and tons of celebrity endorsements. It has helped plenty of people grow longer or thicker hair–including their lashes. However, it’s not always necessary, and it won’t always boost your hair, skin or nails. Healthy individuals with a healthy diet, probably won’t see the boost they’re looking for.
That being said, the American diet isn’t heavy on vitamins, and biotin is hard to come by, so feel free to give it a try. Remember: food-derived sources are better than synthetically derived forms.
Last but not least, always research a supplement (and its manufacturer) before adding it to your diet! Be careful about what you’re putting into and on your body.
*This post was part of our Beauty Q&A series, where our founder Megan answers your beauty questions every Tuesday and Thursday on the blog. Submit your beauty question to firstname.lastname@example.org