The INSIDER Summary:
- Biotin supplements claim they “support” healthy skin, hair, and nails.
- But unless you’re deficient in biotin, these supplements aren’t going to do much. (And biotin deficiency is extremely rare.)
- These supplements are generally a waste of money.
Stroll down the vitamin aisle in any drugstore and you’ll probably find a bunch of bottles that look like this:
Whether it comes in gummy form or pill form, the claim is always the same: Taking biotin, the labels claim, will help you get healthy hair, skin, and nails.
The problem is that — even if you take it religiously — a biotin supplement probably won’t change your hair, nails, or skin at all.
INSIDER spoke with dietitian Andy Bellatti, MS, RD, to learn why. Here’s what you need to know.
Biotin is another name for vitamin B7.
Just like all the other vitamins, it’s something that your body needs to survive but can’t make on its own. That means you need to get it from food or supplements.
And it’s got a couple functions inside your body. Along with all the other B vitamins, biotin plays a role in helping your cells convert food into energy.
“But one thing that biotin does specifically is that it is involved in the infrastructure of keratin,” Bellatti told INSIDER. “Keratin is a protein in hair, skin, and nails.”
So there is a real link between biotin and your skin, hair, and nails. In fact, being deficient in biotin can cause symptoms like thinning hair, skin rashes, and brittle nails. And Bellatti said there has been research showing that biotin supplements improve hair and nails in people who don’t have enough of the nutrient to begin with.
But you probably aren’t deficient in biotin.
“Biotin deficiencies are really rare, mainly because it’s found in so many foods, and also because you don’t even need all that much,” Bellatti said.
We only need 30 to 100 micrograms a day, and it’s likely that you’re already getting what you need from your diet. It’s in a wide variety of foods but some of the most common sourcesare bananas, eggs, whole grains, soy, nuts, seeds, salmon, and pork.
And there’s no reason to believe that people with normal biotin levels will benefit from taking extra.
Bellatti said he’s not aware of any strong evidence that biotin can improve hair, skin, or nails of people who don’t have a biotin deficiency or some existing hair/skin/nail problem. If your hair and biotin levels are already normal and you just want it to grow faster or longer, biotin pills aren’t going to do much.
This is especially true when it comes to improving skin. “If somebody wants better skin I wouldn’t even put biotin anywhere near the top ten things they should be looking at,” he said. (A better plan, according to Bellatti: Less added sugar and alcohol, more vitamin C and omega-3 fats.)
If you have been taking a biotin supplement, you don’t need to worry. Since excess B vitamins are flushed out with your urine (rather than stored in the body), it’s tough to overdose on them. The National Institutes of Health says that there’s no evidence of high biotin intake being toxic to humans. But there is some evidence that big doses of biotin can mess with lab tests for hormones. As always: Make sure you tell your doctor about every medication or supplement you take, even it’s something you get over the counter.
And — when your current bottle of biotin runs out — just know there’s probably no reason to replace it.