There has long been a debate about the benefits of biotin vs collagen for hair growth. Some say you should stick to one, while others feel they are both essential building blocks for hair health. And there are a few who don’t believe ingesting biotin or collagen will really do much for hair growth. We wanted to do a little more digging to understand the differences between taking biotin vs collagen for your hair, so we did. Below, we chatted with the experts about biotin vs collagen, and whether you should take one of them, both of them, or none of them. Keep scrolling to read what they had to say!
What Is Biotin?
You’ve heard the term biotin tossed around a few times now, but what exactly is it? Bay Area dermatologist Dr. Kaveri Karhade simply states it’s a B vitamin “essential for most important bodily functions, including the health of hair, skin, and nails.”
Dr. Melissa Anzelone, ND at Nutrafol, points out that “this water-soluble nutrient functions as a helper to break down carbs, fats, and proteins for energy. When we can break down or metabolize foods easily, we are able to release energy from foods to power all parts of our body, and most 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 that is present in various forms throughout the body, especially in hair, skin, and nails,” shares Dr. Karhade.
Dr. Anzelone notes it “is a great source of amino acids to make keratin, the protein that makes up your hair. This vital protein is key to providing strength to the hair, which allows the hair to grow and lengthen. It also provides structural support to our skin, which helps anchor hair to the scalp.”
What Are the Major Differences Between Biotin and Collagen?
From the above descriptions, one 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 the hair, skin, and nails,” shares Dr. Anzelone.
Another noticeable difference is that “biotin helps with the functioning of hair/skin/nails while collagen is physically present in hair/skin/nails,” says Dr. Karhade.
While Dr. Anzelone points out 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 then points out that “collagen is often from animal sources, while biotin is can be vegan in nature.”
How Do They Differ When It Comes to Hair Health?
Dr. Anzelone shares a very helpful metaphor to understand the difference between biotin vs collagen for hair health. She notes that “collagen provides support for the physical structure of the hair. Amino acids in collagen are needed to build out the hair strand itself. Biotin provides a means to get the energy from the food we put to power 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.” It’s all starting to come together.
So, How Does Collagen Benefit Your Hair?
When it comes to your hair, collagen’s biggest benefit is its ability to anchor the strands to your scalp. This especially comes in handy as we age. “Our scalp is made of proteins collagen and elastin. As we age, we lose the density and elasticity of the scalp, which results in weaker hair on the scalp,” notes Dr. Anzelone.
She then shares that in order for collagen supplements to be effective, “you want to make sure the collagen is hydrolyzed or broken into small pieces. This process maximizes collagen absorption in the digestive system. The more collagen you can absorb, the more likely it will work to support healthy hair.”
Dr. Karhade does mention that consuming collagen may not be enough for everyone. Other than potentially encouraging “the body to produce protein-rich hair strands,” she shares that “there is not enough scientific evidence to recommend collagen consumption for hair health.” However, because it is known to be beneficial for your skin, she says it doesn’t hurt to try collagen for hair growth. “Even if we don’t have data on the improvement of hair health, it may help.”
And How Does Biotin Benefit It?
Thinking back to Dr. Anzelone’s metaphor, we’re reminded that biotin is only a piece of the puzzle. Collagen appears to be a bit more impactful for hair growth than biotin. “Biotin helps provide the key energy needed to power hair production. It is only a part of supporting hair growth,” says Dr. Anzelone. She also notes that there isn’t a ton of clinical evidence on the solo benefits of biotin, as it often has been “combined with other botanicals and antioxidants that collectively address hair thinning.”
Similarly, Dr. Karhade notes that the “true” benefits of biotin aren’t 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 feels strongly that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to recommend collagen or biotin for hair health. That being said, she does feel trying out collagen is worth a shot. But when it comes to biotin, she strongly recommends against it. “I recommend against taking biotin for hair health as it does not help and can actually be harmful. For example, biotin can falsely change thyroid lab work, and can even change the levels of the lab that is checked to screen for whether a patient is having a heart attack.”
Dr. Anzelone notes that the nutrients are best when used together, as it is “is key in promoting healthy strong hair from a nutritional point of view.” Still, she notes 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 seeking out only biotin or collagen.
As far as products go, Dr. Anzelone gives her stamp of approval to Nutrafol. “Nutrafol combines key ingredients, including sustainably-sourced collagen from wild-caught cod fish scales,” she notes. “This ingredient plus curcumin, ashwagandha, tocotrienols, saw palmetto, target all of these factors ensuring the best support for hair growth.”
Is There Anyone Who Should Avoid Using Biotin? What About Collagen?
Before you seek out a supplement, both Dr. Anzelone and Dr. Karhade encourage you to speak with your primary care doctor. They’ll better be able to assess which supplement is right for you.
Because biotin can impact the results from lab work, the experts don’t suggest adding a biotin-based supplement into your life until you speak with a healthcare professional. Additionally, Dr. Karhade shares that she only recommends someone take it if they have a “true biotin deficiency,” which is incredibly rare.
Though the experts still recommend speaking with your doctor for collagen, they share that almost everyone can benefit from it. “This essential protein promotes elasticity in the skin of the scalp and skin all over the body. In other words, collagen can make your skin healthier and younger-looking,” says Dr. Anzelone. Dr. Karhade does suggest that those who are pregnant or lactating should be cautious, “as its safety has likely not been studied.”