Biotin and collagen are both vital nutrients within the body, and both have frequently been identified as nutrients that positively impact the health of hair, skin, and nails, and prompt nail and hair growth. While they are both important components of healthy hair, skin, and nails, they also perform in different ways elsewhere in the body, and have different levels of research to support their use. The differences between biotin and collagen may not initially seem substantial, but in addition to the composition of them chemically (think: protein and amino acids versus vitamins), they impact human health in significantly different ways.
Biotin vs Collagen: Which Is Better for You?
Before enlisting the help of a supplement to promote healthy skin and support cell growth, it is important to do your research and determine which source of support is best for you and your needs. To adequately determine which is better for you, biotin or collagen, you need to assess your own needs and goals (a primary focus on hair, skin, and nails, for instance, or a peripheral focus on blood vessels, cellular health, and more) and determine how those needs and goals align with biotin and collagen.
What is Biotin?
Although biotin makes frequent appearances in vitamins and supplements designed to improve the appearance of hair, skin, and nails, few know exactly what it is. Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, and can also be found under the names "vitamin H" and "Vitamin B7," in B complex vitamins. Far from only strengthening hair, skin, and nails and improving one's appearance, biotin is an essential nutrient for all living things, because it aids in the enzymatic breakdown of food and aids cellular receptors within the body. Without biotin, the body cannot effectively consume and utilize food, or communicate intra or inter-cellularly, all of which will quickly cause a breakdown in the body's ability to conduct essential behaviors.
Functions of Biotin
Biotin comes alongside enzymes in the body to metabolize carbs, proteins, and fats. For those unfamiliar with the enzymatic breakdown of food and nutrients, enzymes essentially function as entities used to separate the different nutrients and components of food in order to make those nutrients and components available to the body. Without biotin, enzymes cannot effectively complete their tasks and adequately break down nutrients for use in the body.
Biotin is also used in regulating gene expression. Although the precise mechanism behind biotin's role in gene expression and regulation is not known, it has been identified as a fundamental part of gene expression, and its lack or inconsistent presence has been identified in neurological disorders like Alzheimer's Disease. Without adequate biotin, the body cannot properly and effectively carry out healthy gene expression, which can lead to the onset of numerous diseases, not merely those with a neurological component.
Although biotin is used in enzymatic activity for all manner of metabolic reactions, it is also specifically and clearly utilized in a specific type of enzymatic reaction carried out by carboxylases, or enzymes that catalyze the joining of a CO2 molecule with another compound in the body. What does this mean, exactly? Without adequate biotin, the body cannot properly synthesize some reactions involving CO2. Because this form of synthesis is vital in metabolic processes, biotin functions as an essential nutrient both in human bodies and in the bodies of other life forms, such as bacteria.
Benefits of Biotin
Biotin has long been linked to the maintenance and improvement of eyes, the liver, skin, and hair. Many, if not most, beauty-based supplements include biotin as an important part of their overall makeup, in order to maximize the likelihood of encouraging healthy hair, nail, and skin growth and production. The links between biotin and eye health
Biotin has also long been used to both manage and treat pathological hair conditions, such as alopecia. While biotin supplementation alone is not typically considered enough to treat these conditions, many treatment options include biotin in their ingredient list, or encourage biotin supplementation as a complementary "therapy."
Biotin has not only been linked to the health of skin, hair, and nails, but also lustrous hair and strong nail growth. People who struggle with patterns of losing hair or symptoms like brittle nails often turn to biotin as a way to reduce hair loss and breakage and brittle nails, in order to prompt further hair and nail growth and development. The evidence is limited to support the use of biotin as a growth mechanism for hair and nails, and relies primarily on anecdotal evidence to support its use in this arena.
The notion of reversing a disability of any kind is controversial at best, but some evidence has suggested that biotin can play a role in reversing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The understanding of how biotin plays a role in epigenetics is increasingly being explored and identified. Although initial evaluations and studies are promising, biotin is not currently included in the recommended treatment regimens for multiple sclerosis and related conditions, awaiting further investigation.
What Foods Contain Biotin?
Biotin can be found in numerous natural food sources. These include organ meats, eggs, fish, meat, seeds, nuts, and vegetables such as sweet potatoes. Because it serves as a metabolic aid, much of the biotin found in food is bound to different types of protein.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein found abundantly in connective tissues, tendons, ligaments, and the cornea, and is readily identified by its links to skin and joint health. While it may seem simple enough to identify "collagen" for collagen supplements and overall human health, there are between 15 and 20 types of collagen that can be separated and differentiated, each of them found in different tissues and used to achieve different functions and processes in the body.
As a structural protein, collagen has ties to skin health, hair health, and nail health, and collagen production has also been linked to adequate joint elasticity and strength to maintain joint health even well into middle age. It is the loss of collagen associated with aging that has been linked to the onset and increase of wrinkles, bone and joint degradation, and other signs of aging. When collagen is in abundance in the body, joints, hair, skin, and nails can all thrive, and when it is lacking in the body, each of these bodily components suffer.
Functions of Collagen
While the functions of collagen are robust, the most important actions of this protein involve cellular structure, attachment, and differentiation. In essence, this means that collagen is used as a means of creating structure in the body (think cellular matrices, bones, and joints), as well as encouraging communication between the different cells in the body.
Benefits of Collagen
Some clinical trials have determined that collagen peptides can effectively be used to reverse skin aging by increasing the hydration and elasticity of skin. In improving hydration and elasticity, collagen can help reduce not only the appearance but also the onset of wrinkles and fine lines, which have traditionally been viewed as one of the more dramatic and less desirable effects of aging.
Collagen has also been linked to effective osteoarthritis treatment. By strengthening the structure of bone and improving bone matrix, the abundant protein in collagen can help alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis, leading to fewer breaks and decreased risks after experiencing a fall.
Which Foods Contain Collagen?
Collagen production in the body can be improved by consuming collagen-rich foods, such as chicken, fish, bone broth, citrus fruit, berries, garlic, tropical fruits, and even egg yolks, all of which contain collagen and can be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Apart from diet, collagen can also be derived from extraction from sponges, fish, jellyfish, skin and tendons, and even pork skin. These collagen sources are more likely to be found in supplements containing collagen and purporting benefits like healthier hair, while dietary sources of collagen are more likely to be accompanied by important amino acids and fatty acids.
Biotin vs Collagen: Which is better?
Collagen and biotin serve different purposes in the body. One is an essential vitamin, and symptoms of biotin deficiency can significantly impair health, while the other is a powerful nutrient that plays a role in mitigating health issues like inflammation and supports skin elasticity. To determine which is better, consider taking a closer look at the oral supplementation recommendations and dosages.
The Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board recommends supplementing biotin at a rate of 30 mg per day for adults. There is not currently a biotin supplement recommendation for children and pregnant women, and some hesitation has been expressed regarding the use of biotin in these populations (though some have argued that pregnant and breastfeeding women would benefit from biotin supplementation).
Biotin is metabolized more quickly in smokers. Scientific evidence suggests that individuals who smoke or who have smoked in the recent past may require a higher dosage.
Because bioactive collagen peptides and other collagen products are not measured in the body in terms of excess and deficiency, there is no standard recommended dosage set forth by any health or governing body. Instead, the requisite dose to reap the health benefits of collagen supplementation is left up to the manufacturer of the product in question. Collagen typically comes in the form of capsules or powder, and can be delivered via different types such as hydrolyzed collagen, undenatured collagen, and gelatin, all of which can be used and consumed in different forms.
Biotin Risks and Side Effects
Because biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, there are no known major side effects or risks associated with even high doses of biotin. When biotin is found in excess in the body, it is simply removed via the body's natural waste pathways. Nevertheless, if biotin is taken in high quantities in one sitting, one study determined that it could lead to an upset stomach, and the official recommendation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is to avoid biotin supplementation altogether because there has not been a reported instance of significant biotin deficiency.
Collagen Risks and Side Effects
Collagen is not an essential nutrient, and can be found in many food sources such as lean meats, broth, and more. When collagen is consumed in supplement form, it can lead to side effects such as heartburn, bloating, and fullness. These side effects are not considered a significant issue, and are not usually severe, but can prove unpleasant for anyone taking in collagen protein in supplement form, or in large amounts.
Collagen and biotin supplementation can prove useful for overall health, as well as specifically targeting hair, skin, and nails. Although both are useful, collagen has more studies evaluating its value as a supplement, and the official recommendation from the FDA does not promote the use of biotin as a daily supplement. Whether you are in search of a supplement to improve cellular function or encourage a healthy appearance, collagen supplementation has a solid backlog of evidence to support its use, with minimal side effects and risk factors.