Vitamin H: Biotin for Beauty and Other Benefits

by Melissa Chichester

Have you ever heard of Vitamin H?

How about Vitamin B7? Getting closer? If Vitamin H and B7 leave you scratching your head, you’ve probably heard it by another name: Biotin! 

Biotin is a member of the B-complex group, water-soluble vitamins that need to be replenished daily through your diet. The B-complex group helps the body convert food into energy and plays many roles in metabolic processes, such as maintaining healthy skin, gene regulation, and creating new blood cells. 

The discovery of biotin 

In 1927, the first scientific evidence of biotin being necessary for health emerged. It wasn’t until 1942 that its structure was established by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Vincent du Vigneaud and his colleagues at Cornell University. It took more than four decades of research to understand biotin as we know it today. Plus, more discoveries continue to be revealed as science advances. 

>>A Complete Guide to B Vitamins

Biotin in foods

Since your body doesn’t store biotin, it’s important to consume a well-rounded diet. Although foods that are the richest in biotin are animal-based, there are also many plant-based sources of biotin for vegans and vegetarians. 

Animal sources of biotin:

  • Beef liver
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Pork chops 
  • Tuna 
  • Milk and other dairy products

Plant-based sources of biotin:

  • Sweet potatoes 
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Spinach
  • Oatmeal
  • Bananas
  • Apples

For children (over age 4) and adults, the Daily Value is 30 mcg.

>>Multivitamins for Every Life Stage

Biotin deficiency 

Biotin deficiency is not as common as other vitamin deficiencies. Deficiency is usually the result of certain medical disorders or genetics rather than diet deficiency. Signs of deficiency usually appear gradually. These signs include: 

  • Thinning hair to losing all hair on the body
  • Brittle nails 
  • Fatigue 
  • A red rash around body openings (e.g., mouth, nose)
  • Conjunctivitis 

Certain groups are more at risk for deficiency than others. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements states the following groups are more at risk of deficiency:

  • People with biotinidase deficiency, a rare disorder that prevents the body from releasing biotin
  • People with chronic alcohol exposure
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women (in 1984, biotinidase deficiency became part of neonatal testing)

Interestingly, eating too many raw eggs (particularly egg whites) can cause deficiency. This is because they are a source of avidin, a protein found in raw egg whites. This protein can inhibit biotin absorption.

>>5 Common Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

Biotin benefits 

One of the primary benefits of biotin is its role in supporting energy metabolism.* In addition, biotin supports skin health, nail health, and hair health.* Because of this, biotin is a primary nutrient in many hair, skin, and nail multivitamins. Biotin was actually called Vitamin H because of the German words for hair and skin: “haar” and “haut.” 

Biotin supplements 

There are many biotin supplements available today, both as standalone supplements and in multivitamins. 

Popular biotin supplements include:

If you’re eating a nutritious diet, you’re probably already getting enough biotin. However, if you think you may need more biotin, always discuss taking supplements with your personal healthcare practitioner who knows your health history.