March 01, 2012
The dietary supplement called Biotin, also known as vitamin H, is trending in the beauty world for it's reputation of being able to strengthen nails, clear up skin, and make hair grow faster. These claims are not scientifically proven, however a favorable ratio of people who had taken it over a few months time saw improvement with no side effects. I've read tons of forums and reviews in the depths of the internet that encourage use; promising that it will provide the most amazing results including supermodel skin, strong nails, and long flowing 'Rapunzel hair' that shines like gold. I wasn't sure if I believed all the hype, but I had to try it for myself.
The Need to Know about Biotin
What is it?
A common B vitamin
Microorganisms that are found in the intestines
What does it do?
Essential part of energy production
Vital to metabolism of amino acids and carbohydrates
Supports the health of skin, nerves, digestive tract and cells
Forms fatty acids and glucose (blood sugar)
Involved in many different roles of the body including hair production and absorption of protein
Does it really work?
Little scientific evidence is known about the health benefits
Claims of acne and eczema treatment as well as hair loss reversal have not been proven
Biotin is not what I initially thought of it to be; I pictured one of those man-made pills that is advertised to do crazy things like make you lose belly fat or grow your breasts a few cup sizes. Before researching it more, that's the sort of assumption I made; a gimmicky pill that other's raved about because it had some insane level of ingredients in it. I learned that it is an actually an important part of our energy system that is naturally there. It aids with many internal occurrences of the body, even involving the tiniest of cells. This is what sort of struck me in a strange way.. could taking a supplement like this actually be safe?
Our bodies obtain more Biotin through food we eat and recycle what has been already used. Some common foods that contain the coenzyme are : liver, cauliflower, salmon, carrots, chicken, nuts, bananas, soy flour, cereals, and yeast.
A deficiency of this vitamin is extremely rare; those who do consume the pills are most likely 'uping' their natural levels in order to see dramatic results. Here are the three major conditions that will cause a need for extra Biotin through supplements:
Genetic disorder of biotin deficiency
Seborrheic dermatitis in infants (also known as cradle cap)
Surgical removal of the stomach
I did a lot of research online about oral Biotin supplements and decided to pick up a bottle. Although I didn't have any major concerns, I wanted to see if I could notice a difference in the improvement of my acne prone skin, my stubby nails and my hair growth. The pills I picked up by the brand Spring Valley which is sold at Walmart and on Amazon.com. There are also other ingredients in this supplement such as collagen, gelatin, and vitamins A, C, D, and E that work in conjunction with the Biotin for a super powered beauty enhancer. I read all the reviews on this brand that I could find online, and most turned out to be very positive stories of women how had simply taken one a day and saw results within just a few months. I believe I paid around $7 for the bottle, so it wasn't a huge investment even if the product didn't work out. The medication I was taking at the time had been in my system for quite awhile, and to my knowlege had not been noted to cause a negative reaction to any of the ingredients in the caplets.
After months of consistent use, I did not yield any noticeable results like all the other excited women whom I had read about. I faithfully took one pill every morning for about 4 months after eating breakfast. Before taking Biotin, my skin was particularly clear, with only a few small whiteheads popping up right before my menstrual cycle each month. About a month into taking it daily, I had begun to breakout way more than usual; the type of deep, painful, cystic pimples that I haven't gotten in years. My diet hadn't changed, however I had been busy traveling so I though that maybe the environmental fluctuations and added stress could have been the cause of the new persistent acne. Another month goes by, and the spots still appeared. This is when I decided to stop taking the pills and see if it was the main factor in my acne spots. Sure thing, a few weeks later my skin was back to normal, if not a little more clear than usual. However, me being the hopeful person that I am just wanted to make sure it wasn't some random coincidence, and that it was sorely the Biotin causing my skin breakout. I started the pill once more and took it for about a month when the pimples started to come back again. I was so disappointed to find out that I did not react well because the results others have had were so great. I know everyone's body is different and not every supplement will work properly or the same because of that. My hair grows at the average rate of a half inch per month, and I've never had a problem with brittle nails or horribly awful skin (not counting young teenage years) so either I was putting too much Biotin into my body, or it was the wrong amount, or there was an interaction with one of my medications that imbalanced something in my system. I did some more research after I stopped taking it and discovered the reason why I saw more acne flare ups was because my own hormone levels along with the ones that are altered by my medication somehow did not agree with the Biotin. I found a handful of other people who wrote online about having same side effects as me. Taking any medicine for hormones, hair growth or loss, thyroid conditions, glucose issues, and others may put you at risk for more side effect. To truly know it is safe to use, you may want to seriously consult a doctor before taking Biotin in all medical situations.
These particularly big pills smelled and tasted so awful and strong, it was not a pleasant experience to wash them down every morning. The bottle will continue to sit in a drawer of mine and collect dust.
This is why it's so important to make sure you know all the information necessary while still consulting a professional before taking any sort of supplement. The only side effect I noticed was the cystic acne, however in other cases certain drug or chemical interactions may be more dangerous or fatal. From my knowledge of medicine from working in a pharmacy, a skincare chemist's lab, as well as my own research, I felt confident enough to take at my own risk. Turns out I will never know everything because the human body and it's contents are so complex and particular. There is always the possibility of negative results despite feeling so sure about the decision.
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