Does Biotin Shampoo Actually Work?

We asked the experts about biotin shampoos to see if these popular products are worth it.

Biotin has been a sought-after ingredient in the beauty world for years now, especially when promoted as a means for improving hair health. It's often touted as a miracle supplement that increases hair's shine and volume while strengthening hair follicles and preventing loss. Typically, it's taken as an oral supplement but, it is also a key ingredient in popular biotin shampoos. Curious about whether biotin shampoos actually work, we reached out to dermatologists for some answers.

What Is Biotin?

Biotin is a common over-the-counter supplement, also known as vitamin B7. It plays a critical role in a handful of metabolic processes in our body. More specifically, it stimulates keratin growth which is responsible for healthy hair, nails, and skin.

Most of our biotin intake comes from what we eat, as it can be found naturally in many foods including eggs, fish, bananas, avocados, broccoli, and legumes.

Biotin as a Supplement

Biotin can be taken on its own in pill form, or as an ingredient in a daily vitamin. Prenatal vitamins have high levels of biotin, as it is essential to fetal growth. It is not uncommon for non-pregnant people to take prenatal vitamins for an extra boost.

Some doctors believe that in order for biotin to be effective, it must be consumed but scientific data is still too limited to prove this.

"[In terms of hair], keratin is the major structural protein 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."

"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.

Biotin Shampoo

While biotin supplements are consumed, biotin shampoos are applied topically to the 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."

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 may make your already existing strands feel thicker and healthier, just don't expect a miracle.

Are There Better Options for Hair Growth?

The reality is that we just don't have any compelling scientific data to support using biotin shampoo for hair growth or improved strength in healthy individuals.

Until research proves one way or another, you may be 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 the popular hair regrowth brand Rogaine, and Dr. King says it's the most proven over-the-counter option. "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."

Hormonal Prescriptions

Female patterned hair thinning—also referred to as "androgenetic alopecia"—is related to the sensitivity of the hair follicles to hormones. While these issues are usually genetically determined, a prescription from your doctor may 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 illness.

While a discussion with your doctor is always the best approach to creating a tailored treatment plan, taking a holistic approach can be helpful too. This means finding ways to regroup by relaxing, 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

Using biotin shampoo can't hurt but it 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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Sources
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  1. National Institutes of Health. Biotin fact sheet for health professionals.

  2. Ichihara Y, Suga K, Fukui M, et al. Serum biotin level during pregnancy is associated with fetal growth and preterm deliveryJ Med Invest. 2020;67(1.2):170-173. doi:10.2152/jmi.67.170

  3. Alyoussef A. Comparative study of the online over-the-counter hair loss products.  J Dermatol Res Ther. 2020;6(1). doi:10.23937/2469-5750/1510077

  4. Patel DP, Swink SM, Castelo-Soccio L. A review of the use of biotin for hair loss. Skin Appendage Disord. 2017;3(3):166-169. doi:10.1159/000462981

  5. Malkud S. Telogen effluvium: a reviewJ Clin Diagn Res. 2015;9(9):WE01-WE3. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/15219.6492

  6. Ring C, Heitmiller K, Correia E, Gabriel Z, Saedi N. Nutraceuticals for androgenetic alopeciaJ Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2022;15(3):26-29.

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