Dietary supplements that claim to improve appearance have grown in popularity in the past decade. From 2011 to 2020, the percentage of Americans who reported taking a hair, skin, and nails vitamin in the past month increased from 2.5% to 4.9%.
But experts warn of side effects and risks. Skin, hair, and nail supplements often contain much more biotin than the human body needs, for example, found a research paper published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
High doses of biotin “can alter the results of tests that healthcare providers may order, such as a thyroid test and a heart test [and] Potentially even vitamin D testing,” Dr. Rebecca Hartmann, assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and one of the paper’s authors, tells CNBC Make It.
The recommended daily dose of biotin for adults is 0.03 milligrams. In some cases, dietary supplements contain up to 650 times that amount, according to the FDA.
Levels of biotin that high can lead to misdiagnoses of hyperthyroidism and affect doctors’ ability to detect heart attacks in patients, Hartman told TODAY in June.
These side effects can sometimes be fatal, says Dr. Adam Friedman, MD, chief of dermatology at George Washington University. “A person died of a missed heart attack [during testing]Friedman explains, saying the patient’s troponin levels showed no sign of concern. It was not elevated in this person who was taking a biotin supplement for hair growth. “
Biotin, or vitamin b7, is commonly found in most foods and multivitamins, so people rarely need a supplement, anyway, says friedman. “If you have a biotin deficiency, you wouldn’t go to Walgreens to buy a bottle of biotin,” he says. “You will probably be in the hospital.”
The natural way to get biotin and collagen: a balanced diet
Claims that biotin is good for healthy hair, skin, and nails are mostly anecdotal, Hartman says, adding, “Most Americans get the small amount they actually need through their daily diet.”
While preliminary data shows that collagen may make your skin healthier, Hartmann says more research is needed to solidify this claim.
Regardless, a holistic diet is the most natural and safest way to get “beauty” nutrients like biotin and collagen, researchers agree.
Biotin-rich foods include:
These foods help boost collagen production:
- bone broth
- Fruits, leafy greens, and root vegetables for vitamin C, zinc, and copper, which aid collagen production
Before taking any supplement, it is important to ask yourself these questions:
- Does it actually contain the active ingredients it claims to have?
- What evidence supports using this exact amount of this particular product?
- Is this a reliable company to buy this specific product from?
- Is it 3rd party tested and does it contain any contaminants?
- Did you see my doctor before taking it?
Often touted as an aid to skin health, collagen supplements can be taken without undue worry — but when tested, several popular brands contained toxic heavy metals like lead and mercury, Hartmann and other dermatologists noted.
Taking collagen likely “won’t hurt, but we have very little guidance on making recommendations regarding the correct dosage,” Friedman adds.
For him, that’s the bottom line: “I tell my patients, ‘Please don’t take [biotin]. For me, there really isn’t any added benefit, only potential harm.”
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