Biotin is a little vitamin that can make a big impact on our hair and skin. Read more about where you can find it, and why it’s important.
Biotin for hair and skin
Biotin is also known as vitamin B7 and vitamin H. When we have enough of it, our skin and hair look healthy and shiny. But a deficiency of this water-soluble vitamin can impair other bodily functions.
It is particularly important for the healthy growth of the cells of skin tissue, blood, and male sex hormones. As a so-called coenzyme, it plays an important role in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. It also supports kidney and bone marrow function.
Where do you get it?
Different foods contain biotin, but often only in small amounts. Good sources are yeast, eggs (not raw!), sardines, nuts, liver, lentils, oat flakes, cauliflower, mushrooms, and soybeans.
Our intestinal flora (aka our gut) also produces a certain amount. However, this hardly helps in meeting demand and we can ignore it.
Since biotin is water-soluble, you should not wash or water vegetables for too long and if possible use the cooking water for sauces or soups. Cooking can cause losses of up to 70 percent of vitamins.
Steaming and stewing are particularly nutrient-friendly cooking methods. The B vitamin is relatively insensitive to heat, so preserved foods that have been heated for long periods or at high temperatures have lower vitamin values than fresh foods. Therefore, choose fresh and unprocessed foods as much as possible.
What does a deficiency look like?
Because vitamin H is found in so many different foods, a nutritional deficiency is rare. Currently, the scientists don’t know the exact need. It is estimated that an adult needs about 30 to 60 micrograms of biotin a day.
However, a lack of this vitamin can occur if you eat a lot of raw eggs. The egg, or more precisely the raw egg white, contains a protein compound called avidin. Avidin binds biotin so that the body can no longer absorb it. Heat destroys avidin.
So boiled or fried eggs are not dangerous for the biotin supply. In addition, a deficiency only occurs if you regularly eat several raw eggs a day. You should also avoid eating raw eggs during pregnancy because of the risk of infection.
Some experience a slight lack of biotin during pregnancy. The hormonal changes can lead to an increased breakdown of vitamins. As a rule, however, the deficiency is so small that it has no effect.
Smokers have an increased risk of a deficiency because nicotine increases the consumption of biotin in the body. Alcoholics and accident victims with extensive burns also have an increased need and can be affected by a deficiency. Metabolic diseases might also contribute to a deficiency.
Biotin deficiency symptoms
Signs of a lack of biotin can be pathological changes to the skin and hair. An infant can suffer from vomiting, apathy and muscle cramps. In older children, hair loss and slow growth can be signs.
The general signs of the biotin deficiency:
- muscle aches
- loss of appetite
- Inflammation of the skin and mucous membrane
- hair loss
- reproductive disorders
The symptoms of the deficiency often only occur after months of undersupply, which is why medicals often discover a biotin deficiency quite late. Medicals can make the diagnosis simply by blood or urine examination.
Can you overdose on it?
Scientists currently know of no signs or negative consequences of too much biotin. Like the other water-soluble vitamins, our body excretes excess biotin with the urine via the kidneys. No doctor has observed side effects from too much of this supplement.
Hair loss is not the same as biotin deficiency
A lack of biotin can cause hair loss, but not most hair loss is due to other factors beyond this deficiency. Since it can promote healthy hair, many ads will promote it for hair loss treatment, but sadly, it’s not a catch-all solution.
However, hair loss can have many different causes. Stress can cause hair loss, which can later disappear all by itself. Hormone changes and an unhealthy diet can also lead to temporary hair loss. The loss of hair can also be caused by serious diseases such as thyroid diseases and hormone disorders. In the case of prolonged hair loss, it is better to have a doctor examine you in order to rule out such diseases.