Biotin Alternatives for Hair and Nails

If you are looking for a healthy way to grow your hair or nails, biotin is surely on your list of supplements. 

This miracle vitamin which is found in almost all plant and animal based foods is found to improve the quality of hair, skin and nails in numerous ways.

In this article, we will delve into the details of what biotin is, and other alternatives of biotin that are available around us.

What is biotin?

Biotin is another name for Vitamin B7. This water soluble vitamin is one of the primary necessities of our daily diet as it is responsible for metabolising all carbohydrates, fats and proteins in our body.

The name biotin comes from the Greek word “bios” which means ‘to live’. While biotin is synthesised in plants, the bacteria living in the large intestines of animals synthesise it and allow the host organism to absorb it. 

Although the signs of biotin deficiency are hard to identify, they are very common in most people. The symptoms include rashes on the skin, brittle nails and loss of hair.

Natural sources of biotin

Biotin is widely found in almost all plant and animal derived foods. The significant sources of biotin are:

  1. Beef liver- 30.8 mcg
  2. Chicken liver- 187 mcg
  3. Peanuts- 18mcg
  4. Eggs- 10mcg
  5. Salmon- 5mcg

Benefits of biotin for hair and nails

Since biotin is instrumental in metabolising all the nutrients that we intake, it has a dominant impact in keeping our skin, hair and nails healthy. The major benefits that biotin imparts to our body are as follows:

  1. Biotin improves the structure of keratin- the protein that constitutes our hair and nails. Thus it can make the strands of hair strong and prevent breakage.
  2. By strengthening the keratin structure, biotin also promotes thicker strands of hair with more volume. People with biotin deficiency are identifiable by their frail and lanky hair.
  3. The most important advantage of using biotin is that it can reduce hair loss by boosting the hair follicles. Biotin is generally used as a treatment for alopecia.
  4. Biotin is also necessary in keeping our nails healthy. A deficiency of biotin can make the nails brittle with long ridges along the surface.

Biotin alternatives for hair and nails

Although biotin is invaluable in maintaining healthy hair and nails, there are some other nutrients that simultaneously contribute to keeping them healthy. Here is a list of alternatives for biotin and how they help in promoting healthy hair and scalp:

1. Other B Vitamins

The entire group of B vitamins is useful in the proper functioning of our body, including our nervous system. Apart from vitamin B7 or biotin, another significant B vitamin is vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamin allows the development of red blood cells and absorption of iron by our body. A deficiency of B12 can make the nails have bluish-black  streaks with brown pigmentation. An average adult needs 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 per day.

Additionally, vitamin B9 or folate is also useful in keeping the nails healthy. Folate also contributes to the formation of red blood cells and its deficiency can make the nails brittle and  rigid. Adults generally need 400 mcg of folate daily.

While vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal foods such as meat and eggs, vitamin B9 is found in dark green leafy vegetables.

2. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is required by all cells of our body, including hair and nails to promote growth. Besides, vitamin A helps in the production of sebum- a waxy substance that forms a film around the hair strands and makes it glossy.

Although, lack of vitamin A has been linked to hair loss, the same happens for an excess of vitamin A.. Most fruits and vegetables such as carrots, spinach and kale contain beta-carotene that converts to vitamin A inside our body. 

3. Vitamin C and Collagen

The reason why vitamin  C is necessary for healthy hair and nails is because it helps in collagen formation. Collagen is deemed as the primary building block for many tissues including hair and nails. 

The deficiency of vitamin C can be noticed in brittle nails and hair that is prone to breakage. Additionally, vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant and protects the hair from free radical damage.

Since vitamin C cannot be produced by our body, we need to include it in our diet from outside sources like lemons, oranges, kiwi and bell pepper. An adult needs an average of 80 mcg vitamin C per day.

4. Vitamins D and E

Not just in strengthening the bones, the usefulness of vitamin D is also visible on hair. Lack of vitamin D can cause severe hair loss- a condition known as alopecia. Our body can make vitamin D from sun rays as well as procure it from other sources like cod liver oil and fatty fish.

Vitamin E or tocopherol also has a beneficial effect on hair. Being an antioxidant, it can interact with the free radicals in the atmosphere and prevent them from damaging our hair and nails. Spinach and avocados are good sources of vitamin E.

5. Protein

Proteins are the building blocks of all tissues in our body. Our hair and nails are made of dead skin cells that contain a protein called keratin. 

Keratin makes the hair and nails strong and resilient from breakage or damage. If there is not enough protein in your diet, it causes the keratin structure to be weak. This can result in weak and soft nails and hair that lacks elasticity.

The protein intake for an adult should be between 10-35% of his total calorie intake. Almost all plant and animal foods such as meat, fish, eggs, lentils, grains and nuts contain proteins.

6. Zinc and Magnesium

Both zinc and magnesium are two vital minerals that are required by our body. 

Zinc helps in the growth of cells and supports many chemical reactions that take place in our body. Lack of zinc can cause your nail plate to deteriorate, which appears as white spots inside the nails. Simultaneously, zinc boosts the oil glands and hair follicles promoting fast and healthy hair growth.

Magnesium is one the minerals that is crucial for protein synthesis in our body. A deficiency of magnesium can cause uneven lines and ridges to develop on the nails and make them brittle.

Foods that are rich in zinc and magnesium include whole grains, spinach, beef, almonds, cashews and lentils.

7. Iron

The importance of iron in our body is paramount. Iron helps in the formation of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body. A deficiency of iron means that there is inadequate oxygen supply- a condition called anaemia.

Patients who are anaemic lose hair rapidly. In addition to this, their nails become brittle and concave inwards. 

To maintain a healthy supply of iron in our body, adults need to have a daily intake of 8 mcg iron in our diet. This requirement increases for menstruating women, who need 18 mcg of iron daily.

The main sources of iron are spinach, meat, leafy vegetables, beans and eggs.

8. Methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM)

MSM stands for methylsulfonylmethane. It is a sulphur based compound that is found in plants and can be produced chemically. 

There is some evidence that being a sulphur rich compound, it has anti-inflammatory properties. When used together with magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP), MSM is found to strengthen the bonds in hair and promote hair growth.

MSM can be used in shampoos and conditioners. It is found naturally in apples, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, beer and coffee.

9. Silica

Silicon dioxide or silica is a trace mineral that has a positive effect on our hair and nails. Since our body does not produce or store silica, the best way to incorporate it is through supplements based on bamboo or horsetail plants.

Although silica cannot promote hair growth, it can strengthen the hair. It delivers essential nutrients to the root of the hair, thus improving its elasticity and preventing breakage.

Additionally, silica supplements have orthosilicic acid. This acid makes the nails strong and reduces their brittleness.

Here is the video regarding Biotin.

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