Are Your Friends Who Swear By Biotin Lying to You?
“We do know that biotin improves the protein infrastructure of the keratin that makes up hair and nails - though there’s not much data regarding what role biotin plays in hair and nail growth,” says our contributor Barbara.
In other words, studies support that hair and nails grow healthier with the vitamin, though not necessarily longer. But for many, growing healthier hair and nails can mean being able to grow a longer length simply because hair is not splitting or nails breaking as easily before.
For the small percentage of people who have a biotin deficiency (symptoms include brittle nails and hair loss that isn’t otherwise related to illness or stress), taking supplements can reverse these conditions, says Barbara. For otherwise healthy people with no deficiency, a more moderate difference in hair and nails may be seen. And patience is a virtue; it typically takes four to six weeks to see improvement.
From a nutritional perspective, biotin helps convert food into energy, facilitate liver detoxification, and improve the production of proteins that make up hair, skin, and nails, says Barbara. The recommended daily dose of biotin is 2.5 - 5 milligrams (or 2,500 - 5000 micrograms, the unit many supplements list).
Just remember that too much of a good thing isn’t always wonderful. “You can actually overdose on biotin, so follow the label’s recommendation,” says Barbara. Experts say that ingesting more than five milligrams over a prolonged period of time can cause problems, such as a red skin rash and slower release of insulin, which causes blood-sugar levels to spike.(Headaches, feeling extra thirsty, and having to pee more are all signs of elevated blood-sugar levels.)
There's another caveat: If you damage the keratin, a protein found in the hair and nails, taking biotin may not work as effectively as it should. Keratin is made up of living cells called keratinocytes, which can be damaged and thinned out by heat styling and chemical processes like bleaching, as well as by rough treatment of nails. You’ll need to keep all of the above to a minimum if you want to get the most out of your biotin supplements.
Keep in mind this general rule: The thicker the layer of keratin, the healthier the hair or nails tend to appear, as the dead outer cells protect the live cells in the center. In addition to making sure you get enough biotion, moisturizing hair and nails generously is key to keeping keratin healthy and to preventing cracking and splitting related to dryness. So while biotin can definitely contribute to the growth of stronger hair and nails, there are other factors at play, too.