Biotin, also known as vitamin B7 and vitamin H, is one of many B-complex vitamins. It’s a water-soluble vitamin, meaning it’s not stored in the body and any excess is eliminated through urine. There are plenty of biotin-rich foods, including ones most of us eat daily, like almonds, sunflower seeds, egg yolks, dairy, avocados, sweet potatoes, and spinach. Most people get plenty of biotin via their diet and it’s also produced by the bacteria in your gut.
The vitamin is essential for overall health, not just healthy skin and nails. It’s useful in metabolizing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy, meaning it’s important for metabolic health, as well as for maintaining nervous system functions. It’s also essential for embryonic growth during pregnancy and that some studies have shown it can also reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) levels.
The big takeaway here: Biotin is, in fact, an essential nutrient for healthy skin, hair, and nails. And there have been studies to back this up. For example, clinical studies show that biotin supplements can improve hair growth, says Howard Sobel, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologic surgeon. A daily 2.5 mcg biotin supplement improved nail thickness and reduced flaking after several months, according to a small Journal of Dermatological Treatment study.
Credit the vitamin’s effect on keratin. Biotin has been found to strengthen the infrastructure of keratin, a key protein found in both our hair and nails. There’s also been some indication that biotin supplementation can help alleviate dry, itchy rashes, which is likely linked to its ability to produce skin-nourishing fatty acids.
Keratin is not a vitamin, but a protein that exists in your body. It also exists in the bodies of animals, and scientists have found that bird feathers and animal horns are often derived from the same substance. The protein itself is what your hair, skin, and nails are made of, which is why keratin is thought to help your hair and nails look and feel stronger. Your body also creates keratin to protect your organs and glands. As this substance is protective, it means it doesn’t scratch as easily as many other cells in the body. Both the vitamin and protein help create strong hair and nails, meaning that taking them together will only make them look and feel stronger than ever.