When it comes to bona fide “secrets” for healthy-looking hair, skin, and nails…
That also help your brain, metabolism, blood sugar and more…
There’s one critical nutrient that often gets left out of the conversation, and it goes by the name of vitamin B7 or, more commonly, biotin.
Now, if you’ve ever done any research on hair loss or brittle nails, you may, indeed, have come across some information on biotin.
However, in many other ways, biotin is flying under the radar, despite being an incredibly important nutrient.
Here’s a much-deserved closer look at the health benefits of biotin and why it’s essential for your hair, skin, and nails (AND your entire body). This includes key information on deficiencies and when to consider a supplement.
What is Biotin? A Mighty and Underrated B Vitamin
Biotin is a B complex vitamin that, like other B vitamins, is water soluble, which means your body doesn’t store it.
Within your body, biotin acts like a coenzyme to help convert the food you eat into energy and make macronutrients usable. Or to put it another way, biotin is needed by your body to turn proteins, fats, and carbohydrates into amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose.
Amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose are absolutely essential for numerous everyday functions throughout your entire body— something that makes biotin a critically important nutrient.
In fact, the word “biotin” is believed to come from the ancient Greek word biotos, which translates to “life” or “sustenance”. That should give you some idea of just how significant this nutrient is!
And while biotin is needed by your body as a whole, it’s especially key for your hair, skin, and nails, even gaining the nickname “vitamin H” from the German words (Haar and Haut) for hair and skin.
Why You May Be Falling Short on Biotin
At first glance, it seems easy enough to get adequate amounts of biotin through food alone. Indeed, full-blown deficiencies are rare, which is one of the reasons biotin often gets overlooked in the nutrition conversation.
The recommended daily intake for biotin is 30 micrograms (mcg)— 35 mcg during lactation. This means that only a relatively small amount is needed to get the full health benefits of biotin.
However, the most common higher sources of biotin are certain animal-based foods. Eggs provide 10 mcg per egg, for example, and it’s particularly high in chicken liver (138 mcg per 3 oz. serving) and beef liver (30.8 mcg per 3 oz. serving).
By comparison, some top plant-based sources of biotin are sunflower seeds (2.6 mcg per 1/4 cup serving) and almonds (1.5 mcg per 1/4 cup).
In other words, if you eat mostly or entirely plant-based, it is certainly possible to get enough daily biotin… but for many it’s not easy. (For example, you’re looking at consuming the equivalent of nearly 3 cups of sunflower seeds daily just to get to the RDA.)
Now, if you eat soybeans, the reliable research is still rather unclear, but they may be a top plant source of biotin.
And remember, biotin is water soluble, so it isn’t being stored in your body.
Whatever foods you consume for it you have to routinely consume to keep up with your body’s demand for it.
Other factors like long-term antibiotic use, gastrointestinal disorders, pregnancy, smoking, and certain anti-seizure medications can also put you at a greater risk of low biotin levels.
The bottom line: While serious deficiencies may be rare, it’s easier than many people think to fall short on biotin intake. And that’s something you do not want to do.
Key Health Benefits of Biotin for Hair, Skin, & Nails
Some of the most obvious signs of a biotin deficiency include hair loss, skin rashes, and brittle nails. Even if you don’t have a “true” deficiency, inadequate intake could result in thinning or brittle hair, dry and irritated skin, or weak nails— all incredibly frustrating.
Why is biotin so vital for healthy skin, hair, and nails?
The short answer is that it helps your body produce a key protein that all three need. But of course, it’s a little more complex than that…
What Your Hair, Skin, and Nails Have in Common
In many ways your hair, skin, and nails are very different. Nails are hard and tough, skin is soft, and hair is somewhere in between.
However, the three of them do have something in common: A protein known as keratin.
Keratin is a protective and structural protein. It’s tougher than other types of proteins and cells your body makes and is less prone to being scratched or torn. Because of this, it’s a key component of the outer layer of your hair, skin, and nails.
Your body naturally creates the keratin it uses, but it must have a supply of specific nutrients in order to do so.
Biotin is one of the most important nutrients involved in keratin production because it plays a key role in protein synthesis. Without it, your body can’t produce enough keratin to keep your hair, skin, and nails looking healthy and beautiful.
What Can Go Wrong
Obviously, there are more components to your hair, skin, and nails than keratin. But it’s fair to say that if keratin production slows down, none of the three are going to be healthy.
And unfortunately, there are many reasons why this could happen.
One of the top reasons is that you simply aren’t consuming enough biotin to get its health benefits for keratin production. Or perhaps your body isn’t fully absorbing biotin from food due to a digestive issue. (There’s also the fact that our food is getting less nutritious because of soil depletion.)
Life stages/events also have an impact on biotin availability and keratin production— particularly for women.
Pregnancy, menopause, chronic stress, and anything else that affects hormone levels can alter the way your body uses nutrients, including biotin. Research also shows that the aging process causes keratin production to decline, resulting in hair, skin, and nail “challenges”.
Now, to address a loss of keratin, you could try taking a keratin supplement, but this is NOT recommended. It can only be sourced from ground up animal parts (horns, hooves, feathers, fur) and isn’t even easy to digest.
A better approach is to resupply your body with the nutrients it needs to make keratin on its own, particularly biotin.
What Biotin Can Do for Your Hair, Skin, & Nails
As mentioned earlier, a biotin deficiency often shows up in the form of hair, skin, and/or nail symptoms. In spite of this, not many quality studies have been conducted on using biotin supplementation to address these problems.
However, those that have been done generally point to the conclusion that boosting biotin intake can aid certain hair, skin, and nail issues for those who aren’t getting enough biotin. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t have much of an effect on those who already meet the RDA.
Here are a few specific examples:
Hair— Children with biotin deficiency have experienced hair growth and better hair quality in multiple studies.
Women (aged 21-75) with self-perceived thinning hair had “perceived improvements in overall hair volume, scalp coverage, and thickness of hair body after 90 days” of taking a supplement containing biotin and other nutrients in another study. They also went from a baseline hair count of 271 all the way up to 571! (There was no changed in the placebo group.)
Biotin supplementation alone had a minor to significant impact on hair loss in a third study.
Skin— The same study that found a biotin-containing supplement improved hair health in women also found that it improved skin smoothness and moisture retention after 180 days. But remember, this supplement contained several nutrients in addition to biotin.
Biotin supplementation cleared dermatitis in an infant with a deficiency in another study. It also aids fatty acid metabolism, which is critical for hydrated skin and the prevention of infections, including rashes.
Nails— The health benefits of biotin for nails are more well documented than for hair or skin. It has been found to help treat brittle nails and increased nail thickness by as much as 25% in one study.
Other studies consistently show similar results. In one, 91% of participants that started with brittle nails experienced significant improvements in the firmness and hardness of their nails. However, note that it took an average of 5 months for these results to occur, so it’s not an instant process.
Other Nutrients that Complement Biotin
It should be clear by now that biotin is absolutely essential for healthy hair, skin, and nails. But it’s also important to understand that your body uses it alongside other nutrients to produce keratin and support all your cells and tissues.
There are just a few other nutrients to be aware of if you aren’t happy with the appearance of your hair/skin/nails.
For keratin production, your body needs an amino acid known as L-cysteine, which is a key component of keratin itself. Zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin A all support the production of keratinocytes, which are the skin cells that actually make keratin.
(Vitamin C and vitamin A are especially critical for healthy, youthful-looking skin.)
Vitamin D and selenium are both involved in hormone regulation, making them essential for stress management and getting the nutrients required for keratin production where they need to go. Vitamin D deficiency is estimated to impact 40% of U.S. adults, so make it a point to get enough of the ‘sunshine vitamin’!
Even More Health Benefits of Biotin
You may be interested in biotin solely for thicker hair, smoother skin, or stronger nails. But the truth of the matter is this one nutrient plays an incredibly important role in the health of your entire body.
If you aren’t convinced yet that biotin is a little-known superhero vitamin, here’s a quick overview of what else it can do:
- Biotin helps your body convert food into energy and is critical for healthy metabolism. Without it, your energy levels would fall off the table.
- Biotin helps regulate the synthesis of insulin. Higher levels of this vitamin are linked to better blood sugar control in those with diabetes. When combined with chromium, it may prevent insulin resistance.
- Biotin helps keep your brain and nervous system healthy by assisting with nerve signaling and neurotransmitter activity. A severe deficiency can lead to neurologic symptoms like depression and hallucinations.
- Biotin supports heart health, thyroid health, and proper adrenal function. Supplementation has even shown potential to lower triglycerides and VLDL cholesterol levels— two risk factors for heart disease.
- Daily doses of biotin can help with symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and have even reversed progression of the disease in certain cases.
- Biotin aids the growth and maintenance of all bodily tissues (including muscles) and is especially critical during pregnancy for embryonic growth.
Should You Take a Biotin Supplement?
Given the incredible health benefits of biotin, it seems to make sense that a supplement would be the way to go if you think you aren’t getting enough in your diet. This is especially true if you’ve already noticed signs like hair loss or brittle nails.
However, this is where things get a little tricky.
The right biotin supplement may make a world of difference— especially to your hair, skin, and nails— but the wrong one will simply be a waste of money.
A significant problem with many supplements (biotin included) is that they are not formulated to make it through the harsh environment of your digestive system. They are mostly depleted by the time they make it to your intestines where the nutrients should be absorbed and/or get flushed straight out of your body via urine.
Thankfully, supplement technology is improving, and there are options out there that address this problem.
Top Recommendation: Complete Biotin Plus from Everbella
If you are tired of lackluster hair, skin, or nails and want a biotin supplement your body can actually utilize, look into Complete Biotin Plus from Everbella.
This is a top-quality biotin supplement that uses a micelle liposomal formula to protect the nutrients it contains from stomach acid and deliver them to your intestines where they can be absorbed. This helps to boost absorption by up to 800%.
Complete Biotin Plus also adds in other 100% natural ingredients to work alongside biotin. This includes vitamin D and selenium as well as black cumin seed oil and pumpkin seed oil.
Read more about Complete Biotin Plus for yourself here, and don’t forget to take a hard look at your diet to see if you are getting enough of the underrated, superstar vitamin that is biotin!