There has long been a debate about the benefits of biotin over collagen for hair growth. Some say you should stick with one, while others think they are both essential for healthy hair. And there are a few who don’t believe that ingesting biotin or collagen will really do much for hair growth. We wanted to dig a little deeper to understand the differences between taking biotin and collagen for your hair, which is what we did. Below, we spoke with the experts on biotin vs. collagen and whether you should take one, both, or neither. Keep scrolling to read what they had to say!
What is Biotin
You’ve heard the term biotin a few times before, but what exactly is it? Bay Area dermatologist Dr Kaveri Karhade simply states that it is a B vitamin “essential for the most important bodily functions, including healthy hair, skin and nails”.
Dr Melissa Anzelone, ND at Nutrafol, points out that “this water soluble nutrient helps break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins for energy. When we can easily break down or metabolize food, we can release energy from food to fuel all parts of our body and, more importantly, provide energy to support hair growth.
What is collagen?
Now what about collagen? What exactly is the other nutrient we hear so much about? “Collagen is a protein found in various forms throughout the body, particularly in the hair, skin and nails,” shares Dr. Karhade.
Dr. Anzelone notes that it is “an excellent source of amino acids for making keratin, the protein that makes up your hair. This vital protein is essential for building hair strength, which allows hair to grow and lengthen. It also provides structural support to our skin which helps to anchor the hair to the scalp.
What are the main differences between biotin and collagen?
From the descriptions above, a clear difference between the two is that biotin is a vitamin and collagen is a protein. Both benefit our bodies differently. “Biotin is an essential micronutrient for metabolism, while collagen is a protein used to build parts of the body, including hair, skin and nails,” shares Dr. Anzelone.
Another notable difference is that “biotin helps hair / skin / nails function while collagen is physically present. in hair / skin / nails, ”says Dr Karhade.
While Dr. Anzelone points out that both are found in foods, she notes that “biotin is abundant in eggs, nuts, seeds and avocados. Collagen is often found in animal products, including fish and chicken. She goes on to point out that “collagen often comes from animal sources, while biotin can be vegan in nature.”
How do they differ when it comes to hair health?
Dr. Anzelone shares a very useful metaphor for understanding the difference between biotin and collagen for healthy hair. She notes that “collagen supports the physical structure of hair. The amino acids in collagen are needed to build the lock of hair itself. Biotin provides a way to get energy from the food we put in to fuel hair production. This is where the metaphor comes in: “Think of collagen as the bricks needed to build a house, while biotin is the mason that cements the bricks together. Everything begins to fall into place.
So how does collagen benefit your hair?
When it comes to your hair, the biggest benefit of collagen is its ability to anchor strands to your scalp. This is especially helpful as we get older. “Our scalp is made up of collagen and elastin proteins. As we age, we lose the density and elasticity of the scalp, which leads to weakening of the hair on the scalp, ”notes Dr Anzelone.
She then shares that for collagen supplements to be effective, “you want to make sure that the collagen is hydrolyzed or broken into small pieces. This process maximizes the absorption of collagen in the digestive system. The more collagen you absorb, the more likely it is to promote healthy hair.
Dr Karhade mentions that consuming collagen may not be enough for everyone. In addition to potentially encouraging “the body to produce strands of hair rich in protein”, she shares that “there is not enough scientific evidence to recommend the consumption of collagen for hair health.” However, since it’s known to be good for your skin, she says it doesn’t hurt to try collagen for hair growth. “Even though we don’t have data on improving hair health, it can help.”
And how does biotin benefit?
Thinking back to Dr Anzelone’s metaphor, it reminds us that biotin is only one piece of the puzzle. Collagen seems to have a bit more of an impact on hair growth than biotin. “Biotin helps provide the key energy for hair production. This is only part of supporting hair growth, ”says Dr. Anzelone. She also notes that there isn’t a ton of clinical evidence on biotin’s solo benefits, as it has often been “combined with other herbs and antioxidants that collectively treat thinning hair.”
Likewise, Dr. Karhade notes that the “real” benefits of biotin are not exactly known. “However, it can help with nail strength and growth,” she says.
Should one be used over the other? Or should they be used together?
Dr. Karhade is convinced that there is not enough scientific evidence to recommend collagen or biotin for hair health. That being said, she thinks trying collagen is worth it. But when it comes to biotin, she strongly advises against it. “I advise against taking biotin for hair health as it does not help and may actually be harmful. For example, biotin can falsely alter the lab work of the thyroid, and may even alter lab levels. which is checked to screen if a patient is having a heart attack.
Dr Anzelone notes that nutrients are best when used together because they are “the key to promoting nutritionally healthy and strong hair.” Still, she notes that there are a number of other underlying factors that can impact hair health. Using a supplement that targets these factors (stress, hormones, metabolism, environment, nutrition) will be much more beneficial than looking for only biotin or collagen.
Regarding the products, Dr Anzelone gives his approval to Nutrafol. “Nutrafol combines key ingredients, including sustainably sourced collagen from wild-caught cod scales,” she notes. “This ingredient along with curcumin, ashwagandha, tocotrienols, saw palmetto all target all of these factors providing the best support for hair growth.”
Is there anyone who should avoid using biotin? What about collagen?
Before seeking a supplement, Dr. Anzelone and Dr. Karhade encourage you to speak with your primary care physician. They will be better able to assess which supplement is best for you.
Since biotin can impact lab work results, experts don’t suggest adding a biotin supplement to your life until you talk to a healthcare professional. Additionally, Dr Karhade shares that she only recommends someone take it if they have ‘true biotin deficiency’, which is incredibly rare.
While experts always recommend speaking with your doctor for collagen, they share that almost anyone can benefit from it. “This essential protein promotes elasticity in the skin of the scalp and the skin of the whole body. In other words, collagen can make your skin look healthier and younger, ”says Dr. Anzelone. Dr Karhade suggests that pregnant or breastfeeding women should be careful, “because its safety has probably not been studied”.