For a long time, I took having good hair for granted—it was naturally dark and shiny, thick and strong, and grew fast.
In the past few years, though, I’ve experienced a change in my hair. I started dyeing it regularly, taking a powerful acne medication, and moved to an area with different water, and quickly noticed all this take a toll on my strands. My once-strong, shiny hair was now dull, a little frizzy, and piling up in the bristles of my hairbrush. My locks looked crazy dry, yet my roots were a total oil slick. I realized I needed to start prioritizing my hair in my beauty routine ASAP—so I did a little research, and started taking biotin supplements.
You've probably seen biotin on the ingredient lists of prenatal vitamins or hair growth supplements. This B vitamin (it's also known as vitamin B7) can help strengthen the development of hair follicles, particularly if hair is damaged or lacking strength. "I’m a big fan of biotin supplements because they help increase the diameter of each hair, so they make your hair look fuller," says Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City, adding that it usually takes about three to six months for people to start seeing results.
"Biotin is popular for the treatment of hair loss, although the usefulness has not been substantiated by clinical trials," Ava Shamban, MD, a dermatologst based in Beverly Hills and founder of SKINxFIVE, tells Health. Not having enough of the vitamin may also affect strands. "When [biotin is] absent or too low, people experience hair loss and scaly skin, among other symptoms."
As someone who has a hard time swallowing pills—admitting that makes me feel like a child, but it’s true—it wasn’t until I came across Neocell Biotin Bursts ($15; amazon.com), a chewable daily supplement, that I was able to try the magic ingredient firsthand. The no-pill-swallowing factor first drew me to this product, and the low price tag and availability on Amazon made it easy to buy my first 30-day box. I immediately loved them, thanks to their acai berry flavor. There are other great options out there, too, such as Vitafusion Extra Strength Biotin Gummies ($11; amazon.com), Nature Made Biotin Dietary Supplement Softgels ($11; target.com), and Olly Undeniable Beauty Glam Vitamin Gummies ($14; target.com). Most multivitamins also contain biotin, Dr. Shamban adds.
Important to note: Neocell Biotin Bursts contain 10,000 micrograms of biotin, which is more than the average person needs (most women need only 30 micrograms a day, according to the NIH, and Dr. Jaliman tells us that 2,500 micrograms should be plenty in a supplement). But she adds that because biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, your body will not store any excess—it will just be eliminated in your urine. It's a good idea to check with your doctor before taking any new supplement, however, especially if you are getting blood drawn; the FDA warns that taking too much biotin may interfere with lab test results.
My hair now. Photo via Michelle Gonzalez of Mimi's Salon, michlgon/Instagram.
Within a few months, I started to notice a change in my hair for the better. I was shedding less, my locks felt restored to their pre-dye thickness and strength, and my waves looked shinier. What's more, my once-oily scalp was no longer an issue at all; my roots felt fresh for longer. I’ve experimented with other treatments and products, but biotin has been the only consistent factor in my routine, so I credit it with helping my hair become healthier over time.