Why dermatologists don’t recommend biotin supplements for hair

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Biotin supplements for hair are everywhere. Consumers have been promised that biotin is the key to strong nails and healthy hair. But that’s really only the case if you’re biotin deficient – which is very rare. Plus, taking too much biotin can cause acne and rashes, and even mess up important lab test results.

“Cases of biotin deficiency as a contributing factor to hair loss and nail problems are actually very rare,” says Jeffrey Fromowitz, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Boca-Raton, Florida. Caren Campbell, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Northern California, adds that “most Westerners get a lot of biotin in their diet. Foods rich in biotin include offal, eggs, fish, sweet potatoes, and almonds.”

Biotin supplements can cause lab abnormalities that affect results, so it’s not a good idea to take them when you don’t need to. For example, they can make the test for troponin, a blood protein that is high after a heart attack, appear low, leading to a misdiagnosis. “There can also be laboratory abnormalities in thyroid tests, pregnancy tests, hormone levels, and blood tests for cancer, HIV, and liver disease,” says Dr. Campbell. “If you’re taking biotin and planning to have lab tests, be sure to stop at least a week before your blood tests.”

The only time biotin supplementation is recommended is when you have a deficiency that can be detected by blood tests. dr Campbell says testing for a biotin deficiency is really only necessary if “in addition to hair loss and brittle nails, you have symptoms like skin rashes and neurological problems.” But again, it’s super rare.

“It is not recommended to supplement biotin unless you are breastfeeding or pregnant. Pregnancy and smoking increase biotin metabolism (usage by the body), but supplementation is not recommended in smokers,” says Dr. Campbell, “There are rare cases of biotin deficiency that are genetic/hereditary or acquired. You are born with the genetic cause or can develop a deficiency if you consume raw protein for a long time or suffer from alcoholism.”

If you’re experiencing hair loss and don’t know why, both derms recommend seeing a board-certified dermatologist to find out the type of hair loss you’re having.

“If a doctor determines that you have some type of hair loss that might be related to a vitamin deficiency or something that could be identified in a lab and treated with supplements or medication, then it’s worth doing a blood test,” says Dr . Campbell. “Usually iron, zinc and vitamin D are checked and supplemented if they are too low, and vitamin A can be checked if there are concerns that it is too high. Thyroid abnormalities can also be linked to hair loss and can be treated with oral medications like Synthroid so this is checked frequently if needed.”

If you have brittle and dull hair rather than hair loss, you can incorporate nutritional supplements to help strengthen and condition your hair. dr Fromowitz is a fan of Nurafol and Viviscal.

Nutrafol – $88.00

Available in separate formulas for women and men, Nutrafol works by giving your hair the nutrients it needs to thrive while also blocking DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, a hormone that can shorten the hair’s growth cycle and shrink its follicles.

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