The B vitamins are a group of eight water-soluble vitamins that includes vitamin B7, also called biotin.
Biotin is essential for optimal health, and given that your body doesnâ€™t produce it, itâ€™s important to consume enough of it from food or supplements.
This nutrient has long been known for its role in maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails. In fact, it was originally coined vitamin H, named after the German words â€œhaarâ€ and â€œhaut,â€ which mean â€œhairâ€ and â€œskin,â€ respectively.
Yet, you may have also heard that regularly taking biotin supplements can cause acne.
This article provides an overview of biotin supplements and explains whether they improve or worsen acne and other skin conditions.
Importance of biotin
Biotin is an essential part of certain enzymes that are needed to metabolize fats, proteins, and carbs. Thus, this vitamin aids digestion and energy production, both of which are necessary for human growth and development (1, 2, 3).
In addition, newer research has uncovered that biotin likely plays a much larger role in gene expression and neurological health than was initially thought (4, 5, 6).
Whether biotin deficiency is caused by inadequate intake or a genetic defect, it appears to contribute to some inflammatory and immunological disorders (3, 7).
Though deficiency is rare, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are at a higher risk due to changes in biotin metabolism (8, 9).
Common signs and symptoms of biotin deficiency include (1):
- hair loss or thinning
- a red, scaly rash around the eyes, nose, or mouth
- brittle nails
Noticeably, some of these symptoms affect the hair, skin, and nails. This is one reason why biotin has gained a reputation for benefitting these parts of the body.
Biotin plays an important role in gene expression, digestion, and metabolism. Some symptoms of deficiency include hair loss, rashes on the face, and brittle nails.
Effects on skin health
Biotin is often promoted as a treatment for dermatitis and a way to improve skin health. However, only limited case studies â€” mostly in infants â€” support these benefits (10).
Thus, additional research is needed to determine whether biotin supplements can improve skin health in adults who arenâ€™t deficient in this vitamin.
Biotin supplements and acne
Currently, there is minimal evidence that taking biotin supplements causes acne.
The logic behind such claims has more to do with pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, than with biotin.
Pantothenic acid plays a significant role in the function of the epidermal skin barrier, which is the outermost layer of your skin (11).
This fact, along with evidence that some pantothenic-acid-based products can soften the skin, is why some people believe that pantothenic acid plays a significant role in the cause and treatment of acne.
Plus, some people theorize that biotin supplements could cause acne by interfering with the absorption of pantothenic acid, as your body uses the same pathway to absorb both nutrients (12).
However, no studies have shown that taking biotin supplements or having a pantothenic acid deficiency causes acne. On the contrary, research shows that biotin and pantothenic acid supplements could help treat the condition.
Biotin has a reputation for both improving skin health and potentially causing acne. More research on these topics is needed to support these claims.
How to treat acne with B vitamins
Though biotin has been said to cause acne, some research has found that it may improve comedonal acne, which is characterized by symptoms like blackheads and whiteheads on the forehead and chin (13).
Additionally, this vitamin may be particularly useful in controlling flaking and reliving irritation from acne that has caused red, flaky rashes on the skin (13).
One 12-week study in adults with mild to moderate acne found that those who used both a topical cream and an oral supplement containing biotin and other vitamins experienced significant improvements based on the global acne grading system (14).
Although this study shows potential for using biotin to treat acne, itâ€™s important to note that the results cannot be attributed to biotin alone, as other vitamins and nutrients were also present in the treatments.
In addition to biotin, vitamin B5 has been studied as an acne treatment.
For example, a 12-week study in 41 adults with mild to moderate acne observed a significant reduction in inflamed lesions in those who consumed a pantothenic- acid-based supplement, compared with a placebo group (11).
Currently, there are no official recommendations on the dosage of biotin or vitamin B5 to help treat acne, so itâ€™s best to consult a dermatologist or physician to establish a safe approach.
Both biotin and vitamin B5, which is also known as pantothenic acid, have shown potential to treat acne. However, official recommendations on dosages have not yet been established.
Do biotin supplements have side effects?
As long as biotin supplements are taken as prescribed by a healthcare provider, they donâ€™t appear to have any severe side effects.
However, when taking these supplements, itâ€™s important to keep the following potential effects in mind.
Could interfere with laboratory tests
In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an official safety communication informing medical providers and consumers of the possibility that biotin supplements could interfere with various lab tests and cause false results (15, 16).
Therefore, you should inform your medical provider if youâ€™re taking these supplements prior to having blood work done.
Could interact with certain medications
Biotin supplements could interfere with how your liver processes certain medications.
Furthermore, some medications may lower biotin levels by increasing the breakdown of the vitamin in the body and reducing the amount absorbed in the intestines.
These include the following, as well as other anticonvulsant medications used to treat epilepsy (1):
May reduce the absorption of other nutrients
Your body uses the same pathway to absorb biotin as it does other nutrients, such as alpha-lipoic acid and vitamin B5. This means that taking these together may reduce the absorption of either (12).
Additionally, the protein avidin, which is found in raw egg whites, tends to bind with biotin in the small intestine, reducing the absorption of the vitamin. Thus, consuming two or more raw or undercooked egg whites each day could cause a biotin deficiency (17).
In general, biotin supplements are considered safe when taken as prescribed. Possible side effects include interaction with certain medications, reduced absorption of other vitamins, and false lab results.
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