Biotin is an essential vitamin found naturally in many foods. And while its main job is conversion of food to energy within the body, it’s also been shown to strengthen the hair and nails, as well as improve skin.
In this post, I’ll teach you the benefits of biotin use as they relate to hair. We’ll then discuss the various natural sources of biotin, as well as how you can incorporate biotin into your hair care routine. This will include a homemade shampoo recipe that you can begin using immediately.
The Benefits of Biotin Use
While biotin’s role in the conversion of food to energy cannot be overstated, there are other important processes that biotin supplementation supports.
Cell division and growth is vital to the growth of healthy hair. In fact, without active cell growth, there would be no hair cycle.
Biotin supports cell growth when used both internally and externally, and this is important if you want a head of healthy hair.
This has been shown by many studies, including a 1985 study on biotin’s role in HeLa cells and in a 2004 study on biotin’s role in the growth of placenta cells. But how does this translate to the growth of hair follicle cells?
The hair follicle is a complex structure with various parts. These include the dermal papilla, the germinal matrix, and the bulb. All of these structures play a part in hair growth, and they all contribute to the proliferation of healthy hair cells.
In fact, many of these cells are actually stem cells.
By using a known cell proliferator such as biotin, you can then induce the production of more cells. The more cells produced, the thicker and healthier the hair will be.
Carbon Dioxide Transfer
An often overlooked aspect of healthy hair is the oxygen and carbon dioxide transfer that occurs on a regular basis. Without this process taking place,
In short, carbon dioxide is a molecular compound that is produced from the waste process. This process takes place throughout the body, including within the hair follicle.
However, when thinning occurs due to DHT sensitivity, this leads to hair follicle miniaturization. As the follicle miniaturizes, the blood flow from the scalp to the follicle is slowly lost.
When this happens, the hair follicle is no longer able to receive oxygen and other essential nutrients. In addition, the waste buildup (including CO2) can no longer be transported away from the follicle.
As CO2 builds up, this further damages the hair follicle and can lead to further scalp damage and hair issues.
Biotin, though, aids in the transfer of CO2.
Whether ingested or applied to the scalp, biotin can help to remove CO2 buildup from the the scalp. This will improve the health of the scalp (and the hair follicle) over time.
There are many processes – both natural and not – that can contribute to cell damage and death. This is true even within the hair follicles.
As mentioned, some of these processes are natural (such as aging). However, some are artificial and caused by outside forces (such as injury and damage, hair styling, and hair products).
No matter the cause, however, the repair of these damaged cells is important for healthy hair growth. That’s where biotin comes in.
Biotin is a vitamin that has been shown to repair damaged cells and reverse signs of cellular aging. This can be done anywhere in the body, even the scalp.
Biotin Use and Your Body: The Benefits of Supplementation
Aside from the biological benefits mentioned above, biotin supplementation can also lend itself to improved health of your hair, skin, and nails. How?
As shown above, biotin plays a key role in a number of cellular processes. This includes proliferation and repair.
But how can this promote the health of all three body parts?
Hair, skin, and nails are made of a compound called karatin. This compound can be impacted by various processes (such as sun exposure, aging, and injury). However, antioxidants can help to prevent damage from occurring.
In fact, biotin is an effective antioxidant that can prevent signs of premature aging (such as wrinkles, dark spots, and greying hair).
Can Biotin Deficiency Cause Hair Thinning?
While biotin deficiency is fairly rare, it can happen due to severe malnutrition or as a result of a genetic disorder (such as biotinidase deficiency).
Interestingly, biotin deficiency can lead to hair problems. This can happen indirectly (by causing seborrheic dermatitis) or directly (causing alopecia).
Symptoms of Biotin Deficiency
The symptoms of biotin deficiency can be severe. This is particularly true for those with a genetic disorder causing the deficiency. A few common symptoms include:
- Rashes (including seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis)
- Hearing loss
- Optic atrophy
Of course, these symptoms can be caused by a variety of other disorders or illnesses, too. As such, it’s important to speak with your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.
Can Biotin Shampoo Help With Hair Shedding?
While biotin supplements are a popular choice for many health conscious individuals, you may be interested in a more direct route of application. So, can shampoo be a good option if you’re looking to supplement with biotin?
The first question we must ask is whether biotin can even be absorbed through the skin. And, while many have said it can not, science has proven otherwise.
A 1999 study consisting of 31 patients (20 with atopic dermatitis and 11 healthy) was performed. For healthy patients, only biotin oil was applied to the scalp daily. However, patients diagnosed with dermatitis used an ointment consisting of both biotin oil (0.3%) and 1 – 4 grams of steroid ointment.
To determine whether the biotin was penetrating the scalp and being absorbed, serum biotin level were taken both before the study began and after. These were the results:
As shown in the chart above, the majority of research subjects saw an increase in serum biotin levels. In fact, 10 out of 11 healthy subjects (90.9%) saw an increase in serum biotin levels.
What does this tell us?
In both healthy and non-healthy individuals, biotin is readily absorbed through the skin. Even more, it increases biotin levels significantly enough to make a difference.
Natural Sources of Biotin
Whether you want to apply to the scalp or consume biotin, these natural sources can be used in many different ways. Let’s take a look.
NOTE: Biotin, as with most other nutrients, can be destroyed or diminished during the cooking process. As such, you should aim to eat the foods in as raw a state as possible. Obviously, this isn’t possible for all of the food items mentioned below. But, it’s something to keep in mind.
Eggs are a beneficial health food, with plenty of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate. However, eggs (particularly egg yolks) also offer one of the highest sources of biotin that’s found naturally.
Cayenne Pepper & Egg Yolk Hair Mask
- Cayenne pepper powder (1 TBSP)
- Olive oil (1 TBSP)
- Egg yolk (1)
- Brandy (20 grams)
- Lemon juice (2 TSP)
Combine the above ingredients, and mix well. Let the mixture sit for half an hour. Apply the mixture to your scalp, and let sit for another 30 minutes.
When done, rinse thoroughly with lukewarm (or cold) water.
Cayenne pepper has been shown to stimulate hair growth. In addition, the egg yolk delivers a healthy dose of biotin and the lemon juice gently cleanses. The most interesting ingredient in this recipe – brandy – helps to remove excess sebum from the scalp, but the olive oil and egg yolk ensure that the scalp still stays hydrated.
Nuts and Legumes
While not all foods within these groups contain high levels of biotin, there are a few worth adding to your diet for a biotin boost.
In nuts, these are:
And for legumes:
Fortunately, all of these are easy to add to your diet. For example, you can sprinkle them over many dishes (such as soups and salads) or add them right into your smoothies. Of course, you can also snack on them throughout the day, too.
While whole grains seem to be a foodie trend, there’s an obvious reason for this: They provide a whole lot of nutrition in small doses.
Aside from iron, fiber, and antioxidants, they also work as a source of biotin.
The easiest way to add whole grains into your diet is to make substitutions for the grains you already eat. For example, switching from white bread to whole wheat. Or, replacing your usual sugary cereal with oats.
Meat and Fish
While the majority of animal products contain biotin, the types of meat with the most biotin are organ meats. These include the kidney and liver.
And, while not everyone is too keen on these less “desirable” cuts, there are easy and delicious ways to incorporate them into your diet. Take, for example, this hearty, Biotin-boosting recipe from Good Food.
- Potato (400 g)
- Olive oil (2 TBSP)
- Spring onions (4, trimmed and each cut into 2-3 pieces on the diagonal)
- Unsmoked bacon, (4 rashers, snipped into pieces)
- Plain flour (1 TBSP)
- Paprika (1 TSP)
- Lamb’s liver (75 g, sliced into thin strips)
- Flatleaf parsley (20 g, chopped)
- Hot vegetable stock (made with bouillon powder) (150 g)
- Sour cream (4 TBSP)
- Cut the potatoes in half, and simmer in salted water (12 – 15 minutes). Drain the potatoes, and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a wok, and add the potatoes. Fry them for 4 – 5 minutes (until browned and crispy) over a high heat. Remove and set aside.
- Add the spring onions and bacon into the wok. Allow them to cook for 3 – 4 minutes (or until the bacon is crispy), stirring occassionally.
- While the spring onions and bacon cook, add the flour, paprika, salt, and pepper to a small bowl. Then, use the mix to coat the liver.
- Add the liver into the pan and cook for 2 – 3 minutes.
- Re-add the potatoes to reheat, and stir in the chopped parsley. Remove everything from the pan and keep warm.
- Pour the hot vegetable stock into the wok and scrape any leftover bits from the bottom. Allow to simmer for 1 – 2 minutes, then pour over the liver and potatoes.
- Add a spoonful of sour cream and a bit of paprika to taste.
A Homemade Biotin Shampoo Recipe
- Water (1/2 cup)
- Liquid Castile Soap (1/2 cup)
- Aloe Vera Gel (1/3 cup)
- Olive oil (1 teaspoon)
- Almond Oil (2-3 teaspoons)
- Biotin Oil (2 liquid softgels)
- Geranium Essential Oil (10 drops)
Mix the water, castile soap, aloe vera, olive oil, almond oil, and geranium oil in the container of your choice. Now, pierce two liquid softgels with a needle or pin and squeeze the liquid into your mixture. Combine well.
Lather the mixture onto your scalp, and massage for 1-3 minutes. Allow the mixture to sit for another 1-3 minutes, and rinse thoroughly with water.
This shampoo, while providing a healthy dose of biotin to the scalp, also has a number of other healthy ingredients. The liquid castile soap acts as a gentle cleanser, while the aloe vera gel alkalizes the scalp and balances the pH.
In addition, both the olive oil and almond oil moisturize the scalp, and the geranium essential oil boosts circulation and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory.
How to Use Biotin Shampoo
If you’re now convinced of the benefits of biotin supplementation, and you want to give a shampoo version a try, here is what you need to know.
First, I highly recommend you use a homemade shampoo (such as the one offered above) as an alternative to shop-bought products. This is due, in large part, to the many preservatives and additives within shop-bought shampoos that aren’t in any way beneficial to your hair.
In fact, many of these additives (such as SES) can cause serious harm to the hair follicles and scalp.
I also suggest that you limit how often you use shampoo.
It’s true that shampoo cleanses the scalp of hair product and daily pollutants. But, it also strips the scalp of its natural oil.
This oil contains nutrients, and it also protects the scalp and hair strands from damage. Instead of daily washes, I recommend just two to three times per week.
When you do use the shampoo, here’s how to use it:
- Pour the shampoo into your hand, and rub your palms together to distribute the shampoo.
- Massage the shampoo into the hair and scalp using gentle, circular motions for 2-3 minutes.
- Allow the shampoo to sit on your hair for at least 3 minutes.
- Rinse the shampoo thoroughly from your hair using lukewarm (or, even better, cold) water.
When you’re done, you can then use any hair products or elixirs (such as my own Gro2) without delay.
Are There Other Ways to Use Biotin?
Whether this special kind of shampoo doesn’t appeal to you, or you’d like to take a multi-faceted approach, you’ll be happy to learn that shampoo isn’t the only way to add biotin into your hair care routine.
In addition, you can purchase biotin supplements in the form of tablets, liquid gel capsules, or powder.
You can take your biotin supplement with or without food. However, if you have a sensitive stomach or otherwise are sensitive to supplements, you should take with a meal.
The exact dosage requirements will vary, but biotin is NOT a supplement that’s needed in large quantities. For adults, 300 – 5,000 mgs per day is recommended.
This will depend on your needs, as well as your purpose for taking biotin. If you’re just looking for hair growth, 1,000 mcgs seems to be the magic number.
Side Effects of Biotin Supplementation
For healthy individuals, there have been no documented side effects associated with biotin supplementation. However, anyone with a medical condition (such as diabetes) should consult their physician prior to use.
If you’re pregnant or nursing, speaking with your obstetrician before supplementing.
In rare cases, an allergic reaction can occur. The symptoms of an allergic reason contain one or more of these symptoms:
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, cheek, or throat
- Tightness in the chest
If you experience any of these symptoms, stop supplementing immediately and seek emergency medical help.
Is It Possible to Experience Hair Fall With Biotin Use?
In the long run, biotin can promote healthy hair growth. In the beginning, though, you may notice an increase in shedding. But why is this?
Hair growth takes place as part of a hair cycle. It contains three stages, and they are:
- Anagen. The phase of active growth, and also the longest stage (lasting from two to six years).
- Catagen. The transitional phase, lasting for only a few days to two weeks.
- Telogen. The rest phase, lasting for three to six months, and resulting in noticeable (but relatively minor) shedding.
In a healthy individual, about 90% of your hair follicles will be in anagen phase while the other 10% are in telogen. This means only about 50 – 100 hairs are shed per day.
However, when you use supplements or other treatments to promote hair growth, you speed up the process of shedding (putting a higher percentage of hair in telogen phase). This is because in order to regrow, your hair follicles need to reach anagen phase which requires cycling through the other two phases.
An excess of shedding is common in the first few weeks of treatment. If you’re consistent, this shedding should return to normal. If you stop treatment, though, then shedding can last longer as your follicles readjust.
Another thing to keep in mind is that proper (i.e. noticeable) hair regrowth can take months to achieve. This means that consistency is key, and giving up after only a few weeks will not get you the results you want.
Will Biotin Work for Everyone?
As I like to stress knowing the cause of your hair problems can help a lot when it comes to treating it.
If your hair loss is caused by a condition that leads to follicle miniaturization, it’s very likely that biotin can help.
If you’re suffering from hormonal imbalance or other such conditions, though, a biotin supplement may not produce noticeable regrowth. However, this doesn’t mean that biotin supplementation would be worthless. Even if biotin won’t regrow your hair, it can help to strengthen the hair that is present.
Cost and Availability
As mentioned, biotin supplements can be found in many different forms. For shampoo, though, I suggest purchasing liquid softgels (as they’re very easy to add to your shampoo recipe).
These supplements may be available at your local grocery store, but they’re more likely to be found at a pharmacy or health foods shop. You can also find them online (such as on Amazon).
For example, a 120-count of 2,500 mcg softgels goes for $13.18/bottle on Amazon. However, prices vary by brand.
While biotin supplementation is typically recommended for the health of your hair, skin, and nails, its commonly suggested that you take it orally. However, adding biotin to your shampoo can have positive results, and it’s a quick and easy way to supplement your hair care routine.