Whether you have male pattern hair loss or just want to preserve the hair you do have, you may be wondering if you can safely take biotin, a nutrient that's been widely touted for its hair growth benefits. Here's how the science stacks up when it comes to men taking biotin for hair growth.
Should Men Take Biotin?
"Biotin is an essential nutrient" whose job is to facilitate "energy-producing chemical reactions in the body," says Dallas, Texas-based Lona Sandon, PhD, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and associate professor in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
But are biotin (aka vitamin B7) supplements a good idea? The short answer, Sandon says, is no. So what's all the hype on biotin? That goes to the link between the B vitamin and hair loss. And that's where biotin purportedly comes in.
Per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the vitamin plays a significant role in helping enzymes break down fats, proteins and carbs in the food you eat, while also helping manage cell signals and gene activity. Biotin is also often touted as a boost for healthy hair, skin and nails — and even as a remedy for hair loss, it says. However, at this time, science doesn't support the idea of biotin as a hair regrowth or hair loss remedy.
Biotin and Hair Growth
According to Mayo Clinic, assertions that taking biotin supplements to treat such conditions as hair loss have not been proven.
That said, the link between biotin levels and male androgenetic alopecia (MAGA), also known as male pattern baldness, are founded. In a February 2019 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, biotin levels were lower among men with MAGA, thus calling for testing of whether supplementing biotin may help improve hair quality and texture (note: not hair growth).
As Harvard T.H. Chan summarizes, although hair loss as a result of biotin deficiency has been founded, there is zero evidence to demonstrate biotin supplements are beneficial. Mayo Clinic agrees that claims about biotin for hair growth are unproven. And the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) notes that the only case reports showing a hair growth benefit involved children with a rare hair shaft disorder.
Biotin: Little Reward, Some Risk
The entire promise of hair growth is based on hair loss being a sign of biotin deficiency, Sandon says. But deficiency is rare, and "taking biotin supplements when a true deficiency does not exist has not been proven to improve hair growth," Sandon says.
As to risk, the ODS cautions that excess biotin in high amounts can cause certain blood tests to potentially produce false results for thyroid hormone levels and vitamin D. But ODS says there's no evidence that taking high amounts of biotin can be toxic. And Harvard T.H. Chan adds that because biotin is water-soluble, excess amounts will simply be excreted.
"The most likely side effect is loss of money on something that doesn't hold up to the many claims that are made," Sandon says.
Read more: Can a Person Take Too Much Biotin?
How Much Biotin Do You Need?
So how much biotin is in range for your daily needs? The level, as defined by the ODS, is 30 micrograms per day for adults 19 and up. This adequate intake (AI) level is assumed by experts to provide you with nutritional adequacy when there is not enough evidence to establish a more critical recommended daily allowance (RDA) level.
And we get enough biotin in a typical diet, Sandon says. "We only need very small amounts [for] adequate intake [levels]."
Indeed, according to the Mayo Clinic, this B vitamin is naturally found in a wide range of common foods. So if you are looking for a biotin boost, try noshing on:
And as Harvard T.H. Chan points out, there's no recommended dietary allowance because there's just no proof yet that healthy individuals stand to benefit from a minimum daily consumption.
Read more: What Is a Safe Dosage of Biotin?
Is This an Emergency?
- Lona Sandon, PhD, RDN, LD, registered dietitian nutritionist; associate professor, Department of Clinical Nutrition, and director, Master of Clinical Nutrition Coordinated Program, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
- Mayo Clinic: “Biotin (Oral Route)”
- Office of Dietary Supplements: “Biotin”
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Biotin – Vitamin B7”
- Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology: “Serum Biotin and Zinc in Male Androgenetic Alopecia”