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City women taking wonder drug to boost hair growth

Biotin is mostly recommended for cancer patients, who have lost their hair due to effects of chemotherapy. However, the vitamin supplement has been the newest craze in town with women who have hair struggles using it to stimulate growth

As a future bride who wanted to wear her natural hair on her big day, Felicia Njonge was desperate to do everything in her power to grow her hair longer and fuller just right. Six months to the wedding, however, despite trying all kinds of remedies, oils and routines, her hairline was still bald, and her hair was stuck at 10 inches.

Desperate times call for desperate measures; a friend advised her to try out a vitamin supplement, she had read about on a women’s social media page, that would help her hair magically grow. But there was more, her friend alerted her that the supplement is used by cancer patients, who have lost their hair due to effects of chemotherapy to stimulate hair growth.

“I did not mind it, I wanted my hair to grow, and grow fast no matter what. I asked my friend where I could find the supplement and she helped me buy it online,” says Felicia. For 3,000 micrograms, which cost her a whopping Sh3,000, Felicia got herself 60 caplets.

“Within few weeks, I had thicker and fuller hair and most importantly shoulder length hair, I was glad that my dream to have 14 inches of hair would soon be a reality,” she says. This magical transformation did not just take place on her hair.

Biotin came as a package, her nails also grew longer, faster and stronger. But everything good has its dark side; Felicia says she experienced wild hair growth in all possible places on her body including her hands and legs.

“I developed hairy hands and legs and I had to purchase hair-shaving cream,” she says. The craze is real among women in Nairobi, especially on social media pages. On Kilimani Mums Uncensored for example, type ‘how to grow my hair’ on the search bar and voila! Biotin is amongst the most suggested products for that. Dr Catherine Nyongesa, an oncologist at Texas Cancer Centre, says biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that’s a part of the vitamin B family.

The body needs biotin to help convert certain nutrients into energy. She, however, diffuses concerns that the supplement is only meant for use by cancer patients. Everyone is probably already getting the daily recommended amount of biotin from the food they eat, such as organ meats like liver and kidney, egg yolk, nuts, soybeans, whole grains, bananas, cauliflower, among others.

“There is no need to worry if you are taking biotin supplements for hair and nail growth, it actually plays an important role in the health of your hair, skin, and nails. But it is important that you talk with your doctor about the right daily intake for you,” she assures.

Jack Maina, a pharmacist in Nairobi, agrees that the demand for biotin has been on the increase among women in the city. I have to ensure that I have enough stock to meet the demand. A spot check in most pharmacies in the city reveals many stock the supplement, which is sold with or without a doctor’s prescription.

Maina also says apart from growing unwanted body hair, there’s another reported side effect from taking biotin. It makes some people have acne because of an imbalance of vitamins in the body. Evans Omogeni, a skin and hair specialist in Nairobi, says that Vitamins such as Vitamin B Complex, Vitamin E, Vitamin C and biotin improve blood flow to the scalp and boost hair growth.

He says biotin just like any other supplement, does not pose any health concerns and it is not illegal to sell over the counter, but should be taken in dosages recommended by a qualified medical practitioner.

Although research is limited, studies from 2012 and 2015 suggest that results may be seen in as little as 90 days. This includes an increase in growth and shine. He says the supplement is available over the counter in capsule or tablet form with prices ranging from Sh2,800 to Sh3,000.

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