Biotin is found in many products that promise hair growth. Research has shown biotin deficiency causes hair to fall, but hasn’t proved conclusively if intake of biotin enhances hair growth.
Biotin is one of the B-complex vitamins (vitamin B7) needed for the formation of fatty acids and glucose. Biotin is so good for the hair that it is often dubbed as “vitamin H.” Researchers found that when chicks were fed diets high in raw egg white, they developed skin rashes and lost the hair around their eyes. The symptoms disappeared when egg yolk (rich in biotin) was added to the chicks’ diet. A protein in raw egg white called avidin – that can bind together with biotin and prevent its absorption – was found to be cause for the hair loss. So it was concluded biotin was essential for hair growth.
Biotin is an important hair nutrient, because it helps to produce keratin, the hair protein that strengthens hair, encourages new hair growth and makes it lustrous. It also maintains healthy nails, helps in metabolizing sugar and fat and thus makes energy available to the body. In fact, when our body is unable to use sugar efficiently as fuel and experiences muscular cramps as a result, doctors suspect biotin deficiency.
Biotin is required for function of an enzyme critical for the production of fat in the body. Fat production is especially critical for skin cells since they die and must be replaced fast. When fat components cannot be made in the cells due to biotin deficiency, skin cells are the first to get affected.
Biotin deficiency causes a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis. This is a common skin disorder that mainly affects the scalp, causing scaly, itchy, red skin and stubborn dandruff. For infants, it causes scaly, white crusts on the head known as cradle cap.
Infant cradle cap; Source
Eggs are a good source of biotin. Good dietary sources of biotin include brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast, liver, cauliflower, salmon, bananas, carrots, sardines, legumes and mushrooms. Since biotin is also synthesized in the intestine by the resident friendly bacteria, intestinal problems create bacterial imbalance, the body is deprived of this alternative source of biotin.
People with genetic disorder of biotin deficiency or those who have undergone surgical removal of the stomach may need biotin supplementation. Similarly, those consuming excessive alcohol may experience biotin deficiency, and require biotin supplements.
Studies about the usefulness of biotin supplements in helping hair growth is limited. A small study conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center reported, however, that biotin, combined with zinc, helped with alopecia areata, a form of hair loss.