Biotin (Vitamin H): Benefits, side-effects, uses, dosage and research

Biotin, commonly known as Vitamin H, is notable in health and wellness. This essential vitamin plays a pivotal role in maintaining the health of our hair, skin, and nails. 

Moreover, it is a key player in various metabolic processes within our bodies. As its popularity grows among experts and health enthusiasts, it becomes crucial to understand its benefits, potential side effects, and optimal dosages. 

This article aims to provide a clear, concise overview of biotin, grounded in research, to help you make informed decisions about its use in your daily life.

What is biotin or vitamin H?

Biotin, often referred to as Vitamin H, is a water-soluble vitamin that belongs to the B-vitamin family. Understanding this vitamin’s characteristics and functions can help individuals gauge its importance for their health:

  • Nature and functionality: Biotin acts as a coenzyme in the body, essential for converting nutrients into energy. It primarily supports enzymes that regulate the synthesis of fatty acids and glucose.
  • Water-soluble nature: Being water-soluble means our bodies don’t store biotin. This makes a consistent intake vital, either from our diet or supplements.
  • Naming origins: The name “biotin” originates from the Greek word “biotos,” which translates to “life” or “sustenance [1].” The alternative name, Vitamin H, stems from the German words “Haar” and “Haut,” meaning hair and skin, respectively.
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What is biotin’s role in the body?

Biotin, while small in required amounts, plays an outsized role in our health. It’s fundamental to various processes, ensuring our bodies function efficiently:

Nutrient conversion

One of biotin’s main tasks is to help convert certain nutrients into energy. It acts as a coenzyme for several enzymes known as carboxylases, which are critical for the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins [2]. 

Healthy hair, skin, and nails

Many people associate biotin with beauty benefits. While it’s not a magic solution, a deficiency can lead to hair loss and skin rashes. Hence, adequate levels do contribute to their health [3]. 

Gene regulation

On a cellular level, biotin regulates DNA formation, essential for genetic processes and ensuring proper cellular functions. 

Fetal development

Biotin is crucial during pregnancy, as it supports the growth and development of the fetus.

Understanding the multifaceted roles of biotin helps highlight its importance. Even if it’s not the most famous vitamin, its impact on our well-being is noteworthy. Maintaining adequate biotin levels is an investment in overall health.

Vitamin H (Biotin): Benefits, side-effects, uses, dosage and research

What are the health benefits of biotin?

Biotin offers various health benefits, from enhancing external appearances like hair and skin to supporting vital internal metabolic processes. Let’s break down some of the most recognized benefits:

For hair

  • Strength and growth: Biotin is often associated with promoting hair growth and reducing hair fall. Regular intake can contribute to thicker and healthier hair.
  • Hair health: While the connection between biotin and hair growth isn’t universally conclusive, many find benefits in hair texture and overall health.

For skin

  • Skin health: Biotin plays a role in maintaining the health of our skin. A deficiency might result in issues like red, scaly skin rashes. 
  • Skin hydration: Ensuring proper biotin levels might help maintain good skin hydration, keeping it soft and smooth.

For nails

Nail Strength: Brittle nail sufferers often turn to biotin. Evidence suggests it can make nails thicker and less prone to splitting. Source

Metabolic benefits

  • Energy production: Biotin aids enzymes that break down certain bodily substances, producing energy.
  • Fat synthesis: It assists in synthesizing fatty acids, which are crucial for overall health and brain function.
  • Amino acid breakdown: Biotin helps break down amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

Neurological benefits

  • Nerve function: Biotin’s role isn’t limited to external beauty; it’s vital for nerve function, impacting our brain’s neurotransmission processes [4].
     
  • Cognitive health: Adequate biotin levels support cognitive functions and help maintain a balanced mood.

Biotin’s benefits extend beyond the commonly recognized skin, hair, and nails. Its profound impact on metabolic processes ensures our bodies operate optimally on a visible level and beneath the surface. 

biotin and hair loss
Photograph: seventyfourimages/Envato

What are the side effects of biotin?

While biotin is heralded for its numerous benefits, like all supplements, it’s important to approach its consumption with awareness. 

Over-supplementation, even of something beneficial, can occasionally lead to unexpected consequences. Here are some potential side effects to consider:

Allergic reactions

  • Some individuals might experience allergic reactions to biotin supplements. Symptoms can range from rashes and itching to more severe reactions like swelling or dizziness [5].
  • It’s essential to start with a smaller dose and monitor for any unusual symptoms. 

Lab test interference

  • An excessive biotin intake might skew the results of certain lab tests, including those related to heart issues, thyroid, and others [6].
  • If you’re undergoing medical tests, ensure you inform your healthcare provider about any biotin supplements you’re taking. 

Potential acne

There have been anecdotal reports of biotin causing acne breakouts, especially on the chin and jawline. If you notice unusual acne after starting biotin, it might be worth reassessing your dosage or discussing it with a dermatologist.

Risk in high doses

While biotin is water-soluble and excess amounts usually get excreted in urine, consistently high doses could potentially lead to imbalances with other B vitamins, particularly B5.

Being aware of these potential side effects doesn’t mean avoiding biotin altogether. The majority of people consume it without any issues. However, staying informed ensures you can make the best decisions for your health. 

It’s always a good practice to consult a healthcare professional before adding any new supplement to your regimen. They can guide you on the right dosage and monitor for potential interactions or reactions.

How much biotin should you take daily?

Determining the right dosage for biotin supplements is crucial for harnessing its benefits without running into potential side effects. Here’s a breakdown of recommended dosages based on age and specific needs:

By age

  • Infants (0-6 months): 5 mcg/day
  • Babies (7-12 months): 6 mcg/day
  • Children (1-3 years): 8 mcg/day
  • Children (4-8 years): 12 mcg/day
  • Teens (9-13 years): 20 mcg/day
  • Adolescents (14-18 years): 25 mcg/day
  • Adults (19 years and older): 30 mcg/day
  • Pregnant women: 30 mcg/day
  • Breastfeeding women: 35 mcg/day

These figures are grounded in the recommendations from the National Institutes of Health [7].

For specific needs

  • Hair and nail health: Some individuals take from 500 to 5000 mcg per day, based on anecdotal evidence for better hair and nail health. Always begin with a smaller dosage and observe for any adverse reactions.
  • Metabolic concerns: If consuming biotin for its metabolic benefits, sticking to the age-specific recommendation is often advised. It’s important to discuss higher doses with a healthcare provider.

Other factors to consider

  • Individual needs: Everyone’s body and needs are unique. What works for one might not work for another. Listening to your body and adjusting based on how it reacts is key.

Existing medications: If on other medications, especially for seizures or cholesterol, it’s paramount to consult a healthcare provider. Biotin can sometimes interact with these medications.

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What foods are high in biotin?

While biotin supplements are readily available, nature also provides a rich variety of foods that naturally contain this essential nutrient. 

Incorporating these into your diet can be an effective way to ensure you’re receiving adequate biotin. Here are some prominent natural sources:

Eggs

Specifically, the yolk of the egg is a potent source of biotin. However, it’s best to consume eggs cooked as raw egg whites can hinder biotin absorption. 

Nuts and seeds

Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and sunflower seeds are tasty snacks and excellent biotin providers.

Whole grains

Foods like oats, barley, and whole wheat bread contain several nutrients, including biotin.

Dairy products

Milk, cheese, and yogurt don’t just offer calcium and protein; they’re also good sources of biotin.

Meat and fish

Organ meats (like liver and kidney) are particularly rich in biotin. Salmon and other fatty fish also make the list.

Vegetables

Spinach, broccoli, and sweet potato are veggies that boost your biotin intake.

Fruits

Berries contain small but valuable amounts of biotin, particularly strawberries and raspberries.

Fermented foods

Foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sourdough bread have biotin present, thanks to fermentation.

Which biotin supplement is best?

Biotin supplements serve as a convenient and effective way to ensure adequate intake of this essential vitamin, particularly for individuals who may have difficulty obtaining sufficient amounts through diet alone.

These supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, liquid formulations, and as components of multivitamin complexes. Here’s a closer look at biotin supplements:

Capsules or tablets

Biotin supplements typically come in capsules or tablets, providing a concentrated dose of the vitamin. These supplements are often available over-the-counter in pharmacies, health food stores, and online retailers.

Multivitamins

Many multivitamin formulations include biotin as one of the essential vitamins and minerals. These comprehensive supplements offer a convenient way to obtain a broad spectrum of nutrients, including biotin, in a single daily dose.

Biotin-enriched products

Beyond traditional oral supplements, biotin is incorporated into various beauty and health products for topical application. Shampoos, conditioners, hair masks, and skincare items often contain biotin as a critical ingredient, purportedly to support hair, skin, and nail health.

Biotin fortified foods

Biotin-fortified foods, such as cereals, energy bars, and beverages, offer an alternative way to increase biotin intake alongside regular dietary sources. These fortified products can be particularly beneficial for individuals who prefer to obtain nutrients through food rather than supplements.

Liquid biotin

Liquid biotin supplements typically come in dropper bottles, allowing for precise measurement and easy mixing with beverages or food. This supplementation may be preferred by individuals who have difficulty swallowing pills or seek a more versatile option.

What are the symptoms of a biotin deficiency?

Biotin deficiency is relatively rare, mainly because our body requires it in small amounts, and many everyday foods supply it. However, it can lead to various health concerns when it does occur. 

Symptoms of biotin deficiency

Knowing what to look out for can help in early identification. Some noticeable symptoms include [7]:

  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Red, scaly rash around eyes, nose, mouth, and genital areas
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
  • Chronic fatigue and muscle pain
  • Mood changes, like depression or lethargy
  • Digestive issues and a lack of appetite Source

What causes biotin deficiency?

Several factors can contribute to lower biotin levels:

  • Diet: Consuming raw egg whites regularly can lead to deficiency. Raw egg white contains avidin, a protein that binds with biotin and prevents its absorption.
  • Genetics: Some individuals may have an inherited condition that affects biotin absorption or metabolism.
  • Medications: Prolonged use of certain antiseizure medications or antibiotics can reduce biotin levels.
  • Digestive disorders: Conditions like Crohn’s disease or other inflammatory bowel diseases might hinder biotin absorption.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women often have a slightly increased risk as the body’s demand for biotin rises during pregnancy.

How to address biotin deficiency

If you suspect a deficiency, here are some steps to consider:

  1. Consultation: Always start by consulting a healthcare professional. They can conduct tests to confirm the deficiency and guide the right action.
  2. Dietary adjustments: Enhance your intake of biotin-rich foods, such as eggs (cooked), nuts, seeds, and organ meats.
  3. Supplementation: Biotin supplements can be a viable solution, especially in severe cases. However, it’s crucial to determine the correct dosage with a healthcare provider.
  4. Monitor medication: If you’re on long-term medication, discuss it with your doctor. They might adjust the dosage or suggest alternatives to ensure optimal biotin levels.

How is biotin utilized in cosmetics and medicines?

Biotin’s popularity extends beyond nutritional supplements. Its perceived benefits have made it a sought-after ingredient in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical sectors.

Cosmetic industry

Biotin is frequently touted as a miracle component for hair and nails. Many shampoos, conditioners, and nail care products contain biotin, believed to strengthen hair, reduce breakage, and improve nail health. 

Pharmaceutical industry

Beyond cosmetics, biotin finds its way into therapeutic products. Some research suggests biotin might support neurological function, leading to its exploration as a potential treatment for conditions like multiple sclerosis [8]. 

For consumers, it’s always essential to approach products with a critical mindset. While biotin does offer numerous health benefits, its effectiveness in topical applications or specific pharmaceutical treatments requires a more in-depth understanding. 

How might biotin interact with your diet and medications?

When considering biotin supplementation, it’s essential to understand how it might interact with other nutrients and medications. Being informed can help you reap biotin’s benefits without unintended side effects.

Interactions with nutrients

  • Pantothenic acid: Both biotin and pantothenic acid are B vitamins and use the same intestinal transport mechanisms.

    Excessive intake of one might affect the absorption of the other [9]. Moderation and balance are key. Source
  • Raw egg whites: As mentioned earlier, raw egg whites contain avidin, which binds to biotin, making it unavailable for absorption. It’s a good practice to limit or cook egg whites if you’re focusing on biotin intake.

Interactions with drugs

  • Antiepileptic medications: Drugs like phenobarbital, primidone, and carbamazepine might decrease biotin absorption, reducing serum levels [9].

    If you’re on these medications, discussing biotin supplementation with your healthcare provider is wise.
  • Antibiotics: Long-term use of antibiotics can affect gut bacteria responsible for biotin production, potentially leading to a deficiency. Monitoring biotin levels during prolonged antibiotic treatment can be beneficial.
  • Isotretinoin (Accutane): Used for acne treatment, isotretinoin can reduce biotinidase activity [10], an enzyme vital for biotin availability. If you’re undergoing this treatment, monitor potential biotin-related symptoms.

It’s evident that while biotin is beneficial, its interactions are crucial to understand. Whether it’s food or medication, knowing what pairs well or poorly with biotin ensures you make informed decisions about supplementation and dietary choices. 

What does current research say about biotin?

The interest in biotin spans various health areas, from general well-being to potential therapeutic applications. 

As with many nutrients, rigorous scientific investigation is crucial to separate anecdotal claims from evidence-based findings. Here’s a snapshot of what recent research has unveiled about biotin:

side effects of biotin

Hair health

A notable study found that women with thinning hair experienced significant hair growth when taking a biotin supplement compared to those on a placebo [11]. This supports the widely held belief that biotin can benefit hair health.

Skin and nail well-being

Biotin’s impact on skin health remains an area of exploration. Some findings suggest that biotin supplementation can strengthen brittle nails [12], though the evidence is still evolving. Source

Neurological health

There’s growing intrigue around biotin’s potential role in neurological health. High-dose biotin is being investigated for its potential benefits in progressive multiple sclerosis, with some promising preliminary results. 

Metabolic functioning

Biotin plays a crucial role in several metabolic pathways, especially in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins [13]. It’s known to assist essential enzymes in these metabolic reactions, making it a vital nutrient for our body’s energy production. 

Potential limitations and future directions

While optimism surrounds biotin’s benefits, it’s also essential to consider limitations. Most of the research on biotin is in its early stages, and many studies have small sample sizes. Larger, more rigorous studies will be instrumental in providing clear answers.

A significant focus of future research will be understanding optimal dosage and long-term impacts. This will help guide more specific recommendations for different populations.

Closing thoughts

Biotin, often referred to as Vitamin H, is prominent in the health and wellness sector. 

Its potential benefits, ranging from hair and nail health to metabolic support, make it an intriguing nutrient. 

While much has been discovered about this vitamin, ongoing research continues to uncover its depth and breadth in human health. 

For anyone considering biotin supplementation, it’s essential to remain informed, understand its interactions, and seek guidance from healthcare professionals. Knowledge, paired with action, paves the way for optimal well-being.

FAQS

What is biotin good for?

Biotin is essential for various metabolic processes, particularly in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. It is also widely recognized for promoting hair, skin, and nail health.

Can biotin help hair growth?

Yes, biotin is often touted for supporting hair health and promoting growth. Many people take biotin supplements to improve hair thickness and reduce hair loss.

Is it OK to take biotin everyday?

Yes, it is generally considered safe to take biotin daily, especially when consumed within the recommended dietary allowances. However, as with any supplement, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting regular supplementation.

What to avoid while taking biotin?

When taking biotin, it’s crucial to be aware that it can interfere with certain lab test results, especially thyroid and hormone tests. Therefore, informing your healthcare provider about your biotin supplementation before undergoing any medical tests is recommended.

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[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biotin 
[2] https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-Consumer/ 
[3] https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-313/biotin 
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4757853/ 
[5] https://www.fastmed.com/health-resources/biotin-side-effects/ 
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10553712/
[7] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/biotin-deficiency
[8] https://n.neurology.org/content/86/16_Supplement/P3.039 
[9] https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/biotin
[10] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10325581/ 
[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509882/ 
[12] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8477615/ 
[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2726758/

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