Does Biotin Shampoo Actually Work?

We asked the experts.

Biotin has been a heralded ingredient in the beauty world for years now, especially when it comes to improving hair, nails, and skin. Typically, it's taken as an oral supplement with the intended goal of promoting hair growth and strengthening hair, but biotin in haircare, dubbed "biotin shampoos," have been making their way onto drugstore shelves as of late. Curious about whether biotin shampoos actually work, we reached out to a couple dermatologists for their hot takes.

What is biotin—and how can it benefit hair?

To understand what biotin shampoo is, we need to first take a look at biotin, specifically. Also known as vitamin B7, it plays a critical role in a handful of metabolic processes in our body.

"[In terms of hair], keratin is the major structural protein of hair and biotin plays an important role in keratin formation," notes Blair Murphy-Rose, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York. "Biotin deficiency is rare, but if you have a true biotin deficiency, then [oral] supplementation of biotin can help to improve hair symptoms."

In that sense, taking biotin with the rest of your vitamins can benefit you if (and only if) you're experiencing thinning hair and have a diagnosed deficiency. This could possibly support hair growth and strengthen your strands.

"There is no evidence, however, that biotin supplements, or any form of topical biotin for that matter, improves hair quality, growth and/or appearance in those with normal biotin levels," says Dr. Murphy-Rose.

Does biotin shampoo for hair growth work?

Instead of ingesting biotin via a yummy gummy or daily vitamin, biotin shampoo is infused with the vitamin and applied topically to your hair and scalp. From the data that's been collected so far, the answer to whether biotin shampoo works is… limited.

"When applied topically, there is some evidence that biotin may strengthen existing strands and minimize splits and breakage," says Hadley King, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. "However, the formulas are already formulated for thin, fine hair, so they may promote fuller-looking hair with or without biotin's help."

Dr. Murphy-Rose concurs, adding that to-date there's scarce data that says biotin shampoos—"or any other form of topical biotin for that matter"—can improve hair quality, growth, or appearance.

It's also worth noting that these shampoos are left on the scalp only briefly and then rinsed away, so the skin probably won't have sufficient time to absorb the ingredients and work at a follicle level. That doesn't mean they're not worth using—they can make your already existing strands feel thicker and healthier (just don't expect any magical regrowth).

Is biotin shampoo safe everyday?

There is no reason you shouldn't use biotin shampoo or why you can't use it every day. However, if you don't have a particularly oily scalp, keep in mind that experts don't recommend daily hair-washing—regardless of shampoo type. Shampooing too often washes away your natural oils before they go anywhere, leaving your hair dry and leading to significant breakage.

Are there better options for hair growth?

The reality is that we just don't have the compelling scientific data that supports using biotin shampoo for hair growth or improved strength. While promising findings may come down the pipeline at some point, we're simply not there yet.

Until then, we argue you're much better off using volumizing hair products that temporarily promote a fuller-looking head of hair and utilizing oral or topical treatments that have a more robust scientific track record of delivering long-term results. Those include the following:

Topical Minoxidil

Minoxidil is the key ingredient in Rogaine, and Dr. King says it's the most proven over-the-counter option for both men and women. "It is a potassium channel opener, causing hyperpolarization of cell membranes," she explains. "Theoretically, by widening blood vessels and opening potassium channels, it allows more oxygen, blood and nutrients to reach the follicles."

Hims and Hers sells minoxidil solution treatment drops in both 5% and 3% concentrations (respectively). Bosley MD also sells a Women's Hair Regrowth Treatment with Minoxidil ($40; ulta.com) at a 5% concentration.

Hormonal Prescriptions

Female patterned hair thinning—also referred to as "androgenetic alopecia"—is related to our hormones and the sensitivity of the hair follicles to the hormones. These things are genetically determined, so we have little control over them. However, a prescription from your doctor can help correct the course. Dr. King says, "Hormonal prescription medications, such as some oral contraceptives and spironolactone, can be very effective in making the scalp hair thicker.

Holistic Supplements

In some cases, temporary hair loss (telogen effluvium) may be due to poor diet, stress, or a major change or upheaval in our lives or bodies. Case in point: There's been an uptick in temporary hair loss due to the pandemic, presumably because of the stress we've all been under. Women who've recently given birth are also likely to experience telogen effluvium.

While a discussion with your doctor is always the best approach to create a tailored treatment plan, taking a holistic approach can be helpful too. That means finding ways to regroup and relax, eating well, and taking supplements that nourish your body.

"Nutrafol and Viviscal are two hair supplements that have demonstrated statistically significant results in studies," says Dr. King. "Nutrafol includes ingredients that have anti-inflammatory, stress-adaptogenic, antioxidant and dihydrotestosterone-inhibiting properties. The idea is that this combination can address different causes of hair loss."

Bottom Line

You can continue using biotin shampoos, of course, but these products really shouldn't be the hero of your regimen. Instead, focus on creating the look of fuller hair with volumizing products and use proven ingredients that promote growth and strength.

If you are concerned about ongoing hair loss or hair thinning, it's also a good idea to speak with your doctor. Together you can come up with a game plan to tackle the issue, which is more common than many realize.

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