Thinning hair is a common concern for people with lupus, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common type of lupus. If you’ve ever Googled “supplements for hair growth,” you know that “biotin” is one of the first search results to pop up.
Some MyLupusTeam members have reported significant effects from biotin supplements, “I started taking biotin vitamins. Wow, my hair feels thicker, and my nails grow like crazy. You should try it faithfully every day, and you will be amazed,” shared one member.
Adding more biotin to your diet may help with hair loss, skin rash, and brittle nails if you have a biotin deficiency. However, there’s not a lot of strong evidence that extra supplementation will help with those symptoms if they’re from other causes, such as lupus. Read on to learn more about the potential benefits of biotin.
Biotin is vitamin B7, an essential B vitamin. Without it, our bodies would be unable to perform important tasks, like metabolizing glucose (blood sugar) or regulating genes.
Our bodies store biotin in the liver, and most people are unlikely to be deficient in biotin. However, symptoms of biotin deficiency can mimic those of lupus, including skin rashes, brittle nails, and hair loss.
Many foods contain biotin, including:
Additionally, over-the-counter biotin supplements are available at many pharmacies and grocery stores.
Chronic alcohol intake, pregnancy, and breastfeeding increase the risk of biotin deficiency. In addition, a compound in raw egg whites called avidin binds to biotin and makes it harder for the body to use the nutrient. Therefore, people who consume raw egg whites regularly may not absorb biotin well.
Some medications, including anti-seizure medications, may lead to lower biotin levels over time.
There’s also a rare genetic disorder in which people don’t have the enzyme required to break down biotin, causing a biotin deficiency. But all newborns in the United States and many other countries are screened for this disorder at birth.
A biotin deficiency can lead to pro-inflammatory responses that may be particularly harmful for people with lupus and other autoimmune conditions. If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough biotin, you can ask your rheumatologist for a blood test or meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist to evaluate your intake.
There’s no evidence that biotin supplements are dangerous (even in high doses). The adequate intake of biotin for most adults is 30 micrograms (mcg) — equal to 0.03 milligrams (mg) — per day, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. However, researchers haven’t observed any adverse effects with oral intakes up to 200,000 mcg (200 mg) per day, which is more than 6,600 times the required amount.
However, taking too much biotin can distort certain lab results, making it difficult for a medical professional to accurately assess other aspects of your health. For example, thyroid function tests and labs used to check for certain heart conditions can be skewed by biotin supplements.
For most people (including those with lupus), biotin supplements are probably harmless. But it’s important to remember that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate dietary supplements with nearly the same rigor as medications. Therefore, it’s possible to purchase a product with a concentration that’s higher or lower than what’s listed on the label. Some third-party organizations do monitor supplement quality, including ConsumerLab.com, NSF International, and U.S. Pharmacopeia. You can look for seals from these organizations on biotin supplement packaging.
Let your health care professional know if you plan on starting biotin supplements so they can keep an eye out for possible interactions or side effects. You can also ask your pharmacist for medical advice on whether biotin interacts with any of your current medications.
You may experience hair loss because of how lupus affects hair follicles on your scalp or due to the side effects of steroids and immunosuppressive medications. Discuss hair loss and other symptoms with your doctor to see if it’s possible to adjust your treatment plan.
Unfortunately, many over-the-counter topicals and supplements for hair loss don’t work for lupus-related hair loss. However, you can help protect your hair by:
You may also find that wigs, hairpieces, and headscarves make it easier to style your hair and help it look more full. One MyLupusTeam member had their hairdresser help with extensions, “I’ve had bald spots and thinning hair, and I see a bunch at the drain of the shower to scare the heck out of me. I have recently got human hair extensions that clip in. My hairdresser cut them and made sure my highlights matched.”
Others have found that putting coconut oil in brittle hair helps as a conditioner to reduce breakage.
MyLupusTeam is the social network for people with lupus and their loved ones. On MyLupusTeam, more than 223,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with lupus.
Have you experienced hair loss as a symptom of lupus? If so, have you tried biotin supplements or treatments to boost hair growth? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.