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Biotin vs Collagen: Which One Should You Choose

When it comes to beauty-based supplements, biotin and collagen have both become incredibly popular.  But while interest has grown, many people still aren’t exactly sure what the differences between the two are.    

That's why in order to shed some light on the biotin vs collagen debate, we’re diving into the science to highlight what each substance actually does and how each may benefit you.  

What is Biotin?

Biotin (also known as vitamin B7) is a naturally occurring coenzyme that plays a number of important homeostasis-related roles in the human body.  In addition to aiding in the metabolism of fatty acids and branched-chain amino acids, biotin also plays an important part in hair and skin maintenance.   

Studies suggest that as little as 30 micrograms of biotin per day may be enough to meet most healthy adults’ needs. (1) Even so, research has illustrated that factors like pregnancy, breastfeeding, and alcohol abuse can all increase the risk of having a biotin deficiency. (2)

An inadequate intake can negatively impact your health in several ways.  Symptoms of biotin deficiency generally include hair loss, skin rashes, and fragile nails. (3)

What Does Biotin Do?

1. Prevent Hair Loss & Promote Hair Growth

While research on biotin is still developing, there does appear to be some evidence that biotin supplementation may help to promote healthy hair growth and prevent hair loss in those with deficiencies. (4) For example, a 2017 review published in the Journal of Skin Appendage Disorders evaluated several different studies involving biotin and hair loss. (5)

The researchers ultimately found that amongst those with deficiencies and pathological abnormalities, biotin supplementation had a significant effect on several factors related to hair growth and overall health.  

With that being said, it’s important to point out that research investigating the effects of biotin supplementation in healthy individuals is lacking, which makes it difficult to say for sure whether or not the same benefits can be expected in the average person.  

Whatever the case may be, there is likely little risk associated with the regular consumption of biotin. For instance, to date, the National Institute of Health has found no evidence of toxic effects in humans even when taken at extremely high doses. (6)

2. Help You Grow Stronger Nails

There is also a limited amount of evidence that biotin supplementation may help to strengthen your fingernails.  A handful of studies have explored the effects of biotin intake on individuals with brittle nail syndrome. (7)

However, it is important to point out that none of these studies included control groups or evaluated participants’ baseline biotin levels, which makes drawing definitive conclusions more difficult.

For example, one study explored the effects of a 2.5 mg daily dose of biotin on 45 participants with brittle nails. (8)  After an average of 5.5 months, the researchers ultimately found that 91% of study participants demonstrated significant improvements in the firmness and hardness of their fingernails.     

A further study also administered a 2.5 mg daily dose of biotin to subjects with brittle nails. (9)  After somewhere between 6 and 15 months, the researchers found that 63% of the study population experienced significant improvements in their nail health.  

3. Reduce Skin Rashes

A limited amount of research also suggests that supplementing with biotin may help to reduce skin rashes and improve similar symptoms related to dermatitis and alopecia as well. 

However, it must be noted that to date, the few studies that have been conducted have all involved infants with skin disorders, not healthy adults. With that being said, most did demonstrate significant effects. (10)(11)

Warning: Biotin Can Interfere with Lab Test Results

While there is little risk involved in taking biotin, you will want to talk with your doctor about taking it if you are having lab tests done. The FDA warns that biotin supplementation can cause faulty results in lab tests that use your biotin level as a diagnostic tool. (12)

Over the past few years, the FDA reports that several cases of misdiagnosis can be attributed to biotin interference. Again, the point is not that an increased biotin intake is harmful but rather that if you're having health issues, it can potentially make it more difficult for your doctor to figure out what is wrong.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a structural protein that actually makes up about 30% of all the proteins found in the human body.  It’s considered a structural protein because it plays a foundational role in tissues like your skin, cartilage, and bones.     

While your body does make some collagen all on its own, it’s mainly obtained through your diet.  In addition to being found in foods like bone broth and chicken skin, collagen is also available as a dietary supplement.    

What Does Collagen Do?

1. Improve Skin Health and Appearance

A number of clinical and experimental studies have found that regular collagen intake helps to improve skin health and appearance across multiple different measures.

More specifically, numerous double-blind, placebo-controlled trials have found a significant relationship between collagen intake and improved skin elasticity, particularly in middle-aged participants. (13)(14)(15)(16)

For example, a 2014 study recruited 69 healthy, middle-aged women to investigate the effects of collagen intake on skin health. (17)  Following 8 weeks of supplementation, the researchers ultimately found a significant improvement in skin elasticity in patients who were given collagen.  The placebo group ultimately saw no such improvements.  

2. Decrease Joint Pain

There appears to be a sizable body of evidence that collagen consumption helps to reduce joint pain and discomfort.  Several randomized control trials have found that collagen protein helped to reduce pain and increase mobility in everyone from those with arthritis to healthy adults with chronic joint pain. 

For instance, a 2008 study investigated the effects of collagen intake on 147 healthy college athletes. (18)  Following a 24-week trial, the researchers ultimately found that compared to the placebo group, the group who was given collagen demonstrated significantly better improvements across all measurements of joint pain included in the study.  

3. Prevent Bone Loss

A few clinical trials have also demonstrated that regularly consuming collagen may help to combat bone loss as well, especially in older folks.  (19)(20)(21)

For example, a 2015 study recruited post-menopausal women to investigate the effects of collagen protein supplementation on bone mineral density.  Following a 1-year trial, the researchers were able to demonstrate a significant reduction in bone loss amongst individuals who were given a collagen protein supplement. (22)

4. May Improve Nail Health 

There is some evidence that collagen intake may help to improve nail health as well, however, to date, most studies involving human subjects have tended to have inherent limitations like the lack of a control group.  

With that being said,  a 2017 study recruited a group of 25 women to investigate the effects of collagen intake on brittle nail syndrome. (23)  After 24 weeks, the researchers were ultimately able to demonstrate a 12% increase in growth rate along with a 40+% decrease in the occurrence of broken nails compared to baseline.  

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Biotin vs Collagen: Which One Should You Choose?

Deciding which one is right for you largely depends on the benefits you’re after.  If your primary concerns are related to bone loss or joint pain, you’ll likely benefit more from taking collagen.  

However, if you’re more interested in improving your hair skin and nails, there may be benefits to be had from taking both collagen and biotin.  In fact, there are a number of products out there that actually contain both biotin and collagen for this very reason.   

As far as the studies go, there is more evidence to support the use of collagen as a dietary supplement compared to biotin; however, that’s largely because clinical and experimental trials involving human subjects are laking when it comes to biotin.  

With that being said, there does appear to be clear evidence that an inadequate biotin intake can lead to hair loss, skin rashes and brittle nails, meaning that those with deficiencies could likely see significant improvements through increasing their biotin intakes.  

Even for those who are getting enough biotin, there doesn’t appear to be any serious risk associated with biotin supplementation, even at high dosages, although it’s difficult to say for sure if the same improvements can be expected in healthy individuals.    

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