How Does Biotin Work

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More than you may ever want to know about Biotin. The science and the unofficial reports from consumers like you.

how does biotin work

The benefits of Biotin for beard hair health may have scientific backing

Biotin supplements have recently swept the web as a miracle pill for nail, hair, and beard health, but do these claims have any scientific support? How does Biotin make your beard hair grow faster, and how long does Biotin take to work? We at Rugged Rebels have looked into it for the sake of your beard and our beards. The results are ambiguous, but not without hope for those looking to add some extra luster to their chin.

What is Biotin, and how does Biotin make hair grow faster?

Biotin is a natural part of your diet, whether you know it or not. It is considered a micronutrient, required by humans in very small amounts. Also known as Vitamin B7, The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine set the adequate daily intake for Biotin at 30 micrograms per day for an adult man (Table 1). That’s 0.00003 grams — not a lot.

It is clear why most people easily get the quantity required for a healthy Biotin level from a normal diet (see Table 2). The online presence of Biotin evangelists, however, spurred us to dig a little deeper into the magical vitamin and its properties. We can separate our investigation into two interconnected categories: medicine and cosmetics.

Men’s Adequate Intake for Biotin
Life Stage Age (years) μg/day
Adolescents 14-18 25
Adults 19+ 30

Table 1. Biotin intake (Higdon, Drake, Delage, 2015)

Biotin from a medical standpoint

The food we eat every day typically provides more than our tiny required dose of Biotin for us (Higdon, Drake, Delage, 2015), so what benefits could an additional boost possibly supply? As we said in our previous Biotin article, this vitamin is a coenzyme that helps break down carbohydrates and other substances. It is water-soluble and not fat-soluble, which means that any reasonable amount of excess simply gets washed out of our bodies. Here is where the benefits of Biotin supplements start to look pretty good.

How long does Biotin take to work?

A person may have a biotin deficiency if he or she has symptoms such as hair loss or thinning, scaly rash around the eyes, depression, and possible numbness or tingling of the hands and feet. When this deficiency occurs, it usually does so in infants, pregnant women, and those who regularly consume raw egg whites. As such, the odds that you suffer from Biotin deficiency as an adult man are low; very low actually. Consuming a daily supplement will mitigate and improve the symptoms of deficiency starting as soon as 3-5 days after beginning treatment, and effectively cure them within 3-5 months2. It does not take long for Biotin to return hair to a healthier state in these cases.

“Fuller hair in few months,” you might say. “That’s not bad!” But hold your metaphorical horses for just a moment; these results are for those suffering from a deficiency. That said, a simple supplement functions remarkably well to improve hair volume and quality in such a short time. Surely, there must be applications outside of medical treatment like I have heard about, right? We will examine a more aesthetic motivation for taking Biotin soon.

However, if the symptoms listed above sound like you, follow this link to read up, and call your doctor. Beard health aside, we want you to be healthy and feel healthy!  For the rest of us, there is still some evidence out there that Biotin may make your hair and your beard more healthy.

Few side effects and interactions

Biotin has very few known side effects and drug interactions, but in order to squeeze out all of its benefits, follow these four guidelines.

  1. Do not eat raw egg whites, as they block absorption of Biotin and can cause a dangerous deficiency if consumed regularly according to many of our sources. Beard health aside, just cook your eggs; it’s a very straightforward process.
  2. Although it is considered extremely safe, avoid taking more than 10 mg (10,000 mcg) per day if for no other reason than because your body cannot absorb even that much.
  3. According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, vitamin B5 and Biotin can block each others’ absorbtion6. All B vitamins are important and beneficial, but avoid taking large doses of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) concurrently with Biotin. Alpha-lipoic acid and Biotin behave similarly together6.
  4. A select group of medications change after passing through the liver; Biotin may interfere with this process6. If detrimental interaction occurs, not only could you miss out on the benefits of Biotin, you could forego the desired effects of your prescribed medicine.

As a rule, please ask your doctor before starting any new medication or supplement as a precaution. It could save you a lot of pain, trouble, and money to make a short phone call. If you get the all-clear to proceed, keep in mind the recommended dosage, as the benefits of Biotin do not increase proportionally to the amount of the vitamin consumed. There is no published data on overdosing for Biotin, but taking too much will ultimately waste your supply and your money.

Cosmetic benefits

I know that many bloggers and forum users have already stamped the vitamin B7 pill with the beard-grower’s seal of approval, but the jury is still out as far as medical science is concerned, at least as far as beard hair health. Instead of waiting for that train to pull in, I propose some further investigation.

Biotin Research

The Mayo Clinic and others including Jane Higden at the Linus Pauling Institute state that insufficient evidence exists to indicate that Biotin supplements improve hair health1,3,4. However, Jennifer Brett, N.D. claims that Biotin can strengthen nails in about 90 percent of patients5. The structure of nails and hair alike rely principally on Keratin, the protein lattice that makes hair and nails solid. Biotin, when ingested reacts with cellular enzymes and aid in producing amino acids; the building blocks of protein. Therefore, consuming Biotin can only help your hair growth and structure.

Keratin is also present as a structural element in human skin. We have seen that Biotin deficiencies affect the hair and skin and that Biotin supplements have improved the health of skin, hair, and nails. Thus, it would seem that the positive effects of Biotin on the Keratin-heavy structures of the human body are more than coincidence.

Different Types of Hair

Differences exist even between beard hair and scalp hair which could affect how the Biotin is received and allocated. If you have ever run your hand through your beard then your hair, you know that the two hair types are distinct. Eva Tolygyesi, D. Coble, F. Fang, and E. Kairinen found in 1983 that the number of disulfide bonds differs between the two.

Specifically, beard hair has only half the disulfide content of scalp hair8. Disulfide bonds are part of the reason the keratin structure of your hair holds together and stays intact even as you grow it out. Thus, maintaining those bonds in your beard hair is paramount for its health because there are fewer to rely on. Biotin could be a contributing factor in the integrity of these bonds which rely heavily on lipids (fats) like Biotin for health.

No research yet points to Biotin harming nails or hair, even over the daily dose of 30 micrograms (30 mcg). In fact, one clinical trial of 2.5 mg/day (25,000 mcg) of Biotin for 6–15 months saw a 25% increase in the participants’ nails and two-thirds of patients who took this amount as a daily supplement saw an improvement in nail health (Higdon, Drake, Delage, 2015). So at the very least, your nails can look sharp when you hand over your business card to that next potential client.

If Biotin can have that drastic of an effect on a finger nail, I would love to see what it can do to a beard. We can hypothesize that the effect on nails has a similar time scale to the effect on the proteins of hair and by extension beards. Perhaps Biotin will make the difference between that last sparse patch and an ear-to-ear face warmer or a little extra shine in your goatee. If there’s no risk, I say, “Why not?” Many people have tried it with heartening feedback. Their reactions to the vitamin can be found on many products, blogs, and shopping sites around the web.

Rave reviews

On webMD, the average review for the 46 people who used Biotin supplements for hair loss is a shining 4/5 on effectiveness and satisfaction. Additionally, all of the top 20 bestselling Biotin supplements on Amazon sport a 4.4/5 or higher rating with a combined total of over 22,000 ratings. Even the negative reviews typically cite the unfavorable reaction as a lack of results rather than negative side effects.

For a select few users, the changes that they saw after taking Biotin were too drastic. In fact, some female users of the supplement claimed that they had to stop consuming it because of unwanted facial hair. One reviewer flushed them down the toilet when she began to grow a beard. If oral Biotin supplements have the ability to put beards where God did not, there’s a more than good chance and plenty of user reviews that confirm the growth benefit.

Can Biotin help me grow a beard?

Based on the information we have, yes! There is a caveat; Biotin has not necessarily been proven to stimulate new hair growth. It should make any hair that you do have grow faster, thicker, and more healthy. Some people may see more drastic results than others, but given the data and the reviews, your beard growth will improve.

Our editor-in-cheif decided to give biotin a try and his results after two months were rather impressive if you ask us.  His beard has grown in nicely and he did state that there was less itch and his beard feels better.

before_after

Standalone Biotin supplement

Biotin is available most widely as an oral capsule, just like your other daily vitamins. All top 20 Amazon Biotin supplements that we discussed earlier take this form. These supplements will increase your Biotin levels and potentially reinvigorate your facial hair. You can check out the top choice on Amazon which is both cheap and highly-rated here. However, this course has the potential to stimulate not only beard growth but all of your hair follicles and nails alike. For those of us a little thinner up top than we used to be, this “consequence” does not sound threatening.

Biotin for men with facial hair

Some gentlemen among us may desire a more aggressive, targeted approach. For this, I recommend a beard-specific formula. Several companies make a Vitamin B complex supplement specially formulated to stimulate healthy beard growth. You can find them on your choice of online shopping destinations or our personal favorite from Beard Czar. The gentlemen at Beard Czar know what your beard needs, and that includes B vitamins to keep your facial hair thick and powerful.

Of course, Bear Czar’s formula and others like it cannot directly and exclusively target facial hair. Any results you see will very likely include scalp hair, nails, and body hair, but they are designed to include other nutrients that we know beards crave such as vitamins A, C, E, B6 and Niacin. This is not only to keep your beard healthy but the man behind the beard as well. Many of these additional ingredients are also in appetite suppressants and other potentially expensive health supplements. For this holistic approach, Beard Czar’s complex gets a thumbs up from Rugged Rebels.

The natural way

If pills and supplements hold little appeal for you, Biotin appears in many common foods. Table 2 lists some common foods and their Biotin content. As I said earlier, the vast majority of people get their Biotin from their everyday diet. Remember: the goal is at least 30 μg per day.

Food Serving Biotin (μg)
Yeast 1 packet (7 grams) 1.4-14
Bread, whole-wheat 1 slice 0.02-6
Egg, cooked 1 large 13-25
Cheese, cheddar 1 ounce 0.4-2
Liver, cooked 3 ounces* 27-35
Pork, cooked 3 ounces* 2-4
Salmon, cooked 3 ounces* 4-5
Avocado 1 whole 2-6
Raspberries 1 cup 0.2-2
Cauliflower, raw 1 cup 0.2-4
*A three-ounce serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.

Table 2. Biotin found in food (Higdon, Drake, Delage, 2015)

How much Biotin do I need to improve my beard?

As I have stated, the recommended daily intake of Biotin is 30 mcg per day. Looking through some of the available products, you may notice that almost all of the supplements have much more than this tiny amount. Biotin is a very safe supplement; consumption of 10 mg per day has no shown adverse side effects. Taking more than this would likely not cause serious health issues, but it’s not worth the risk. In addition, any Biotin that the body does not absorb is flushed out, so it really is not worth the extra money to take more.

For maximum beard growth effect take more and for general health take a little less. Regardless your biotin intake should be somewhere between 30 mcg and 10,000 mcg of Biotin per day.

Conclusion

Biotin is a necessary micronutrient for people with and without beards. It has been shown to play an important role in the health of hair, nails, and skin. Furthermore, a Biotin deficiency can spell disaster for those trying to grow a full beard or maintain a healthy head of hair. In order to combat insufficient Biotin, you can pick up a supplement like Beard Czar’s Facial Hair Complex or carefully choose foods rich in the vitamin.

How long does Biotin take to work? If you have a deficiency, you can expect to start seeing results in as little as three to five days with a full recovery in three to five months2. Otherwise, any benefits of daily Biotin will likely follow the pattern of other users who have reported noticeable improvements starting between one week and fifteen months depending on your specific body chemistry. The only way to know for sure if Biotin will help you and your beard health is to give it a try!

TL;DR

  • Adult men need 30 μg of Biotin every day
  • Biotin deficiency causes hair thinning and/or hair loss
  • You can get Biotin in several ways
  • Foods such as eggs, liver, and yeast
  • Biotin (Vitamin B7) supplements of between 30 mcg to 10,000 mcg
  • Targetted facial hair formulas (e.x. Beard Czar’s Facial Hair Complex)
  • Results may appear in days or months depending on your body and Biotin levels
  • Avoid raw egg whites and excess vitamin B5, as these can block Biotin absorption
  • You won’t know if you will see benefits until you try, and it’s very low risk!

If you think that you want to give Biotin a try, we at Rugged Rebels wish you godspeed and a full beard. Comment below with your impressions, opinions and results. Help us build a more comprehensive investigation of the effects of Biotin on men’s facial hair. If you already have experience with a Biotin supplement, let us know about your experience. We’re just as interested as you all are and possibly more after this little research effort.

References

1. Higdon, J., Ph.D., Drake, W. J., Ph.D., & Delage, B., Ph.D. (2015, October 21). Biotin. Retrieved May 17, 2016, from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/biotin#AI
2. Scheinfeld, N. S., MD. (2016, January 31). Biotin Deficiency Treatment & Management. Retrieved May 18, 2016, from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/984803-treatment
3. Biotin (Oral Route). (2015, April 01). Retrieved May 16, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/biotin-oral-route/description/drg-20062359
4. BIOTIN: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings - WebMD. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-313-BIOTIN.aspx?activeIngredientId=313
5. Brett, J., N.D. (2006). How Biotin Works. Retrieved May 17, 2016, from http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/food-nutrition/vitamin-supplements/biotin2.htm
6. Biotin: MedlinePlus Supplements. (2015, March 17). Retrieved May 18, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/313.html
7. Best Sellers in Vitamin B7 (Biotin) Supplements. (n.d.). Amazon.com Search. Retrieved May 18, 2016, from http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/hpc/3774751/ref=zg_b_bs_3774751_1
8. Tolgyesi, E., Coble, D. W., Fang, F. S., & Kairinen, E. O. (1983). A comparative study of beard and scalp hair. Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, 34, 375-381. Retrieved May 17, 2016, from http://journal.scconline.org/pdf/cc1983/cc034n07/p00361-p00382.pdf
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