The Scoop - Spring 2018

The Scoop: A Newsletter for Consumers from the Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health Department of Health and Human Services seal  Office of Dietary Supplements logo

Spring 2018

What’s the Scoop? Information About Dietary Supplements

What’s the Scoop on Dietary Supplements for Hair, Skin, and Nails?

Dietary supplement products that are promoted for healthy hair, skin, and nails are readily available, but do they work? Formulations differ, but almost all contain very high doses of biotin.

Biotin is a B vitamin found mainly in meat, eggs, fish, nuts, and some vegetables. A biotin deficiency can cause skin rashes, hair loss, and brittle nails––hence, the belief that taking extra biotin will produce glowing skin, thick hair, and strong nails. But do these claims actually hold up?

Canned Salmon with Bolied Egg

Biotin is naturally present in some foods, such as salmon and eggs.

One of the most common misconceptions about vitamins and minerals is that if a nutrient deficiency causes a particular set of symptoms, then taking more of that nutrient will not only reverse those symptoms, but will actually leave you better off. The reality is, if you are already getting enough, getting more doesn’t usually help.

Biotin helps metabolize the food we eat into the energy we need. The recommended amount of biotin for adults is 30 micrograms (mcg) per day, and you can get this much by eating a wide variety of nutritious foods. For example, a meal with 3 ounces of salmon, 3/4 cup of cooked sweet potato, 1/2 cup of cooked spinach, 1/4 cup of roasted almonds, and 1 cup of 2 percent milk provides about 11 mcg of biotin.

Some dietary supplements contain between 2,500 and 5,000 mcg of biotin, which are very high doses. In a few small scientific studies, some people with thin and brittle nails who took high doses of biotin had harder nails. And in a few cases, high doses of biotin improved a rare hair disorder in children and skin rash in infants. But the results of these studies are too preliminary to recommend biotin for any of these conditions.

Biotin doesn’t have an upper intake limit because there’s no evidence that it’s toxic, even at high doses. Most vitamins and minerals, however, do have upper limits, and getting too much can be unsafe. Some can also interact with medications or lab tests. Biotin, for example, can cause false results on some lab tests, including those that measure thyroid hormone levels. For these and other reasons, we always recommend talking with your healthcare provider about vitamins, minerals, and other dietary supplements to help you determine which, if any, may be of value.

Have more questions? See our biotin fact sheet, as well as our fact sheets on other vitamins, minerals, and dietary supplement ingredients.

In the News

ODS Dietary Supplement Resources Featured in National Media

Two ODS dietary supplement fact sheets—Couple Senior Caucasian readingDietary Supplements for Exercise and Athletic Performance and Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss—were recently featured in an NIH news release, Will supplements help your workout or diet routine? that was covered by several media outlets, including The Washington Post,,, and In the news release, Paul M. Coates, Ph.D., Director of ODS, noted, “Dietary supplements marketed for exercise and athletic performance can’t take the place of a healthy diet, but some might have value for certain types of activity.” For example, creatine might help with short bursts of high-intensity activity such as sprinting or weight lifting, but not for endurance efforts like distance running or swimming. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E don’t seem to improve any type of physical activity, though they're needed in small amounts for overall health. And while some dietary supplements promoted for weight loss, such as chromium, might help you lose a very small amount of weight and body fat, others, such as raspberry ketones, haven’t been studied enough to know if they're effective.

FDA Recalls Kratom Products and Repeats Warning That Kratom Is Not Safe

FDAThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a recall of products containing kratom (also called Mitragyna speciosa) and warns consumers that kratom has serious safety risksexternal link disclaimer. Although kratom is not an allowable ingredient in dietary supplements, some supplements do contain it. According to the FDA, kratom affects the same brain receptors as morphine and could expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse, and dependence. “We know that some patients are using kratom because they believe it can help treat their opioid dependency, but there’s no reliable evidence to support kratom’s effectiveness for this use; and we’re deeply committed to making sure patients have access to safe, effective treatment options,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. Consumers are advised not to use any kratom products and to dispose of any products that they may already have.

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About ODS

The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency—supporting scientific studies that turn discovery into health.

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Office of Dietary Supplements
National Institutes of Health
6100 Executive Blvd., Room 3B01
Bethesda, MD 20892-7517