Biotin is a B vitamin often touted as a natural remedy for brittle nails. Found naturally in a number of foods, biotin is widely available in supplement form. Proponents claim that biotin supplements can also help promote weight loss and treat conditions ranging from acne and eczema to diabetes and depression. Although research on biotin and nail health is somewhat limited, some studies suggest that biotin supplements may help treat brittle nails.
The Science Behind Biotin and Nails
To date, there isn't enough scientific evidence to rate the effectiveness of biotin in treatment of brittle nails, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Still, some research shows that biotin may help reduce brittle nails. For instance, in a 2007 report published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, scientists state that brittle nail syndrome may subside upon taking 2.5 mg of biotin in supplement form daily.
Several small, older studies also indicate that biotin holds promise in the treatment of brittle nails. For instance, in a 1993 study from the journal Cutis, researchers assigned 44 patients with brittle nails to six months of treatment with biotin supplements. Of the 35 people who completed the study, 63 percent showed significant improvement while 37 percent reported no change in their condition.
Should You Use Biotin for Nail Growth?
While some research suggests that biotin may help treat brittle nails, there's not yet enough evidence to draw any firm conclusions about the benefits of using biotin supplements for healthier nails. To get your fill of biotin without using supplements, include biotin-rich foods like brewer's yeast, nutritional yeast, liver, cauliflower, salmon, bananas, carrots, egg yolks, sardines, legumes, and mushrooms in your diet.
Although biotin deficiency is uncommon, it may occur in people who drink alcohol excessively or consume a great deal of raw egg white (which contains a protein that blocks the absorption of biotin). Genetic disorder of biotin deficiency, infant seborrheic dermatitis, and surgical removal of the stomach may also increase your need for biotin. Symptoms of biotin deficiency include thinning of the hair, a red scaly rash (especially around the eyes, nose, and mouth), depression, exhaustion, hallucinations, and tingling of the arms and legs.
Brittle nails are often a normal result of the aging process. However, nail brittleness can sometimes signal an underlying health problem (such as thyroid disease). Symptoms of brittle nails include frequent and/or easy tearing, cracking, splitting, or breaking of nails. If you have brittle nails, it's important to consult your doctor rather than self-treating your nails with biotin supplements.
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Hochman LG, Scher RK, Meyerson MS. "Brittle nails: response to daily biotin supplementation." Cutis. 1993 Apr;51(4):303-5.
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National Institutes of Health. "Biotin: MedlinePlus Supplements". July 2011.
National Institutes of Health. "Nail abnormalities: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia". June 2011.
Scheinfeld N, Dahdah MJ, Scher R. "Vitamins and minerals: their role in nail health and disease." J Drugs Dermatol. 2007 Aug;6(8):782-7.