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Hair loss is weird. It can make you fall into a strange Google spiral in search of a “cure” to get your hair back to its fuller glory days. While there’s lots of hype and rumors about pro-growth products on the internet, we like to follow the science.
Often recommended by hairstylists, dermatologists and probably your aunt, biotin is like the queen bee of popular hair loss treatments. But does a biotin shampoo work — or is Uncle Pat’s suddenly fuller hair really a toupée?
Biotin is a B vitamin (also called vitamin B7) that helps your body metabolize carbohydrates, protein and fat, turning these macronutrients into energy. It’s also essential for the production of keratin — a vital structural protein that makes up your hair.
You might have seen biotin mentioned on the labels of shampoo bottles or over-the-counter hair and skin supplements.
Below, we’ll explain what biotin is, as well as how regular use of a biotin-rich shampoo might help you treat and prevent thinning hair.
If thinning hair has you in a tizzy, you can learn more about hair loss in our comprehensive guide.
Back to the main event: Is biotin shampoo good for your hair?
To answer this, let’s go back to the basics. While biotin plays a role in healthy hair growth and nail growth, most people typically get enough of it if they eat a healthy diet. This includes meat, fish, egg yolks, sweet potatoes, spinach, legumes, bananas, avocados, seeds and nuts.
Though the exact number is unknown, dietary intake of biotin is estimated to be between 35 and 70 micrograms per day in Western populations. Biotin deficiency is fairly rare, but supplementation can help those who aren’t getting enough of the nutrient through food.
A 2016 study measured the serum biotin levels of 541 women experiencing hair loss, and 38 percent of participants had measurable biotin deficiencies. So if you’re a woman with noticeable hair thinning, there's a chance you might be deficient in biotin.
Biotin supplementation could help your hair grow if you’re deficient. If you choose to take a biotin supplement, check with your healthcare provider first to make sure it won’t interfere with any other medications you’re taking or health conditions you have.
When it comes to biotin shampoo for hair growth, there aren’t any studies available on whether topical applications of biotin are effective for hair. However, it’s fair to assume that biotin shampoo delivers some of the effects of biotin, only topically.
A biotin shampoo should be safe to use every day — just be sure to follow with conditioner after every wash to avoid drying out your hair. In general, haircare products designed for thinning hair can be helpful, at the very least by adding body and volume.
If you’re experiencing thinning, don’t let yourself get to day eight of no washing. While it’s tempting to spritz some dry shampoo and skip the whole cleanse-and-dry routine, it can create a less-than-healthy scalp environment.
And healthy hair growth really does start at the root. Not washing often enough can lead to excess sebum on the scalp, which could potentially shrink your hair follicles.
A recent study noted that sebum accumulation and itch severity increased significantly 72 hours after shampooing. Higher scalp sebum levels have also been shown to increase scalp sensitivity.
Though there’s limited research on the topical effects of biotin shampoo, some benefits may include:
Removing excess sebum to promote a healthy scalp and encourage healthy hair growth
Keep reading for more considerations about biotin shampoo.
Currently, there aren’t any known risks to using a biotin shampoo, so you can lather, rinse, repeat without fear.
Unlike some medications, which often come with unwanted side effects, biotin isn’t linked to any harmful health effects. In other words, even if it doesn’t improve your hair health and thickness, it isn’t going to harm you.
On the whole, biotin may be helpful for promoting hair growth and preventing thinning if you’re deficient in the nutrient. If not, using a biotin shampoo isn’t going to hurt, although it might not produce the hair growth results you’re hoping for.
Biotin is a supplement, so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t established any recommended daily doses for it.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends a daily intake of biotin supplements of 30 micrograms for adults 19 years of age or older. Most women can hit this number by eating a healthy diet. For shampoos or other topical haircare products infused with biotin, there’s no suggested recommendation for dosage.
Additionally, most haircare products may not disclose exactly how much biotin is in the formulation, so you won’t know how much topical biotin you’re getting.
Interested in learning more about upping your biotin? Read our guide on biotin results for details.
If you’re truly biotin-deficient, a supplement may be your best bet to ensure you’re getting the right amount. Beyond pills, liquid biotin can also be an option.
While there is no such thing as having too much biotin or biotin toxicity, loading up on the vitamin may offer little to no real benefits for your hair. It could also potentially increase the risk of showing false, inaccurate results on certain lab tests and blood tests.
Like biotin, other deficiencies can be related to hair loss. Do hair vitamins work? Read our article for answers.
Now, if you’re not noticing enough results from biotin shampoo alone, you may want to try other ways to get yourself to Chia Pet status. Promoting new hair growth can be possible — with the right hair loss treatment, that is.
Minoxidil reigns supreme in the world of hair loss treatments. This medication is FDA-approved for the treatment of female pattern hair loss, and lots of studies back up its efficacy.
Because it’s a topical treatment, you may experience fewer side effects compared to oral treatments like spironolactone (more on that below). You also can get minoxidil over the counter in the United States, making it an easy option for anyone wanting to jump into action ASAP.
Minoxidil comes in a few forms, including:
Minoxidil drops. This 2% dropper solution may be a good pick if you have early signs of thinning.
Minoxidil foam. A foam solution can also be applied topically. Studies have shown that 5% minoxidil is more effective than 2% minoxidil in treating alopecia, so this may be a good option if you have advanced hair thinning.
Oral minoxidil. Oral minoxidil isn’t FDA-approved for female hair loss. But there’s been some promising research demonstrating the effectiveness of oral minoxidil at various doses (0.25 to 2.5 milligrams daily) to help promote hair regrowth.
Topical finasteride and minoxidil spray. This two-in-one spray combines the powders of minoxidil with finasteride.
Finasteride helps reduce DHT levels. It can be especially helpful for hormonal-related hair loss (like postmenopausal hair loss).
Spironolactone is an oral medication that helps reduce the effects of testosterone on skin and hair. It’s used to treat issues like female pattern hair loss, acne, and hirsutism.
Have you considered volumizing shampoo and conditioner? While some volumizing formulas may be infused with biotin, most thickening shampoos will help lift strands and give your hair more body.
A lightweight conditioner will help boost moisture and elasticity for dry hair. And in general, using hair products formulated for your specific hair type will be the best bet — like styling products for color-treated hair or a deep hydration mask for damaged hair.
Though it won’t hurt to try a biotin-infused shampoo, don’t expect miracles or major differences with shampoo alone. That said, if you’re biotin-deficient, it may be helpful to supplement or use topical haircare products containing vitamin B7 for an extra boost of volume for fine hair.
To really target signs of hair loss, hair loss treatments like minoxidil are probably your best bet. Here’s what to keep in mind:
Biotin can be helpful for healthy hair and nails, but you’re likely already getting enough through a healthy diet.
If your hair is thinning, get lab tests done to see if you have a deficiency. If it turns out you’re low in biotin, supplement accordingly and talk to a healthcare provider about how much to take.
If you have considerable hair breakage or thinning, try a science-backed hair loss treatment to help promote new hair growth.
Learn more about how to get stronger hair for your lushest mane ever in our comprehensive guide.
Or if you want a healthcare provider-recommended haircare treatment plan, start your consultation today.
Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. She is the director of the Teledermatology Program, as well as the Associate Program Director of the Yale Dermatology Residency Training Program. Her research focuses on telemedicine and medical education. Her practice includes general medical dermatology, high-risk skin cancer, and procedural dermatology.
Dr. Perkins completed her undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania and obtained her medical degree at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She completed her medical internship at the Massachusetts General Hospital, followed by residency training in dermatology at Yale University, after which she joined the faculty.
Ahmad, M., Christensen, S. R., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). The impact of COVID-19 on the dermatologic care of nonmelanoma skin cancers among solid organ transplant recipients. JAAD international, 13, 98–99. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10518328/
Ahmad, M., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). Learning dermatology in medical school: analysis of dermatology topics tested in popular question banks. Clinical and experimental dermatology, 48(4), 361–363. https://academic.oup.com/ced/article-abstract/48/4/361/6869515?redirectedFrom=fulltext&login=false
Belzer, A., Leasure, A. C., Cohen, J. M., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). The association of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma with solid organ transplantation: a cross-sectional study of the All Of Us Research Program. International journal of dermatology, 62(10), e564–e566. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.16700
Ahmad, M., Marson, J. W., Litchman, G. H., Perkins, S. H., & Rigel, D. S. (2022). Usage and perceptions of teledermatology in 2021: a survey of dermatologists. International journal of dermatology, 61(7), e235–e237. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.16209
Asabor, E. N., Bunick, C. G., Cohen, J. M., & Perkins, S. H. (2021). Patient and physician perspectives on teledermatology at an academic dermatology department amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 84(1), 158–161. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7491373/
Belzer, A., Olamiju, B., Antaya, R. J., Odell, I. D., Bia, M., Perkins, S. H., & Cohen, J. M. (2021). A novel medical student initiative to enhance provision of teledermatology in a resident continuity clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic: a pilot study. International journal of dermatology, 60(1), 128–129. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7753449/
Cohen, J. M., Bunick, C. G., & Perkins, S. H. (2020). The new normal: An approach to optimizing and combining in-person and telemedicine visits to maximize patient care. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 83(5), e361–e362. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7316470/
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