Often referred to as the “beauty vitamin,” biotin strengthens hair, nails, and skin.
By supporting healthy metabolism and energy levels in the body, this component can be found in anything from food, supplements, and even personal care products.
However, while some love it for its benefits, others fear biotin for its potential side effects, especially when it comes to its ability to cause or exacerbate inflammatory skin conditions such as acne.
But what exactly in biotin might be harmful to acne-prone skin?
In this article, we will talk about what biotin is, how it works, its benefits, and why you should avoid it if you’re prone to acne.
Table of Contents
What Is Biotin & How Does It Work?
Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is one of the eight B vitamins naturally found in food sources and essential for important bodily functions.
Biotin plays an important role in gene regulation and cell signaling, which are processes that help our system turn the food we consume into energy and fuel.
For example, biotin is essential for converting fatty acids into energy, forming glucose from non-carbohydrate sources, and synthesizing amino acids to make proteins.
One protein supported by biotin is keratin, a component that makes up our epidermis, or the outermost layer of our skin, as well as our hair and nails.
For this reason, biotin is a component that’s not only found in food sources and supplement forms, but the beauty industry also uses it to help promote healthier skin, hair, and nails.
However, while biotin does have its merits, it has also been linked to side effects, such as inflammatory skin conditions like acne. And while there isn’t a study that confirms the use of biotin will certainly lead to skin issues, we can conclude that it has a risk factor by knowing how it works and what it promotes.
The Connection Between Biotin & Acne
Acne is an inflammatory condition caused by several different factors. One of these is the body’s excessive production of skin cells and sebum, which get stuck inside the pores and serve as food for bacteria that overgrow and proliferate, triggering the immune system into an inflammatory reaction that manifests on the skin as pimples.
Now, you may be wondering what does that have to do with biotin? Well, biotin, as we already mentioned, is a component that helps promote keratin production, a protein formed by dead skin cells and makes up the outermost layer of the skin, hair, and nails.
And while biotin can be excellent for hair density, as well as making the nails stronger and healthier, by denoting the keratin-production cycle, it can cause excessive production of the protein that thickens the outermost layer of the skin, clogs the pores and leads to inflammation, triggering acne outbreaks.
Furthermore, people who are genetically predisposed to acne, a.k.a people who have oily skin and naturally produce X5 more of the surface protein keratin than those with normal or dry skin, a.k.a people who never break out no matter what they do to their skin, are more likely to suffer from biotin-induced blackheads, pustular pimples, and even cystic acne.
In short, biotin makes the already present abundance of keratin shoot into massive overdrive, making it even more difficult for those struggling to keep pores clear of cellular debris, clogs, and bacteria, to maintain clear skin.
Additionally, some minor studies on biotin-induced acne have suggested that this component may lead to breakouts due to altering how our bodies absorb other skin-nourishing vitamins.
As we already know, our skin receives nourishment from oxygen and nutrients in the blood, which we should primarily take through foods that contain them; however, when biotin is taken in too high doses, it becomes highly resistant to being broken down, which could potentially interfere with the way our bodies absorb these essential nutrients and thus alter the composition of the skin, leading to unwanted reactions like inflammation and acne.
Symptoms of Biotin-Induced Acne
Biotin can take up to 30 days to show results. During this time, your hair will likely start to thicken, and your nails might become less brittle; however, you might also notice some changes to your skin.
A pimple can take up to eight weeks to form, so when we see a spot that wasn’t there last night, this means that the pore became clogged a few weeks ago, and the process of bacterial overgrowth and the immune’s system reaction to this abnormality had time to develop.
Therefore, if you’re starting to break out after consistently taking biotin for a few weeks, this is pretty much the only symptom that should indicate this component is the culprit for your skin issues.
Ultimately, if you find that biotin is causing your acne breakouts, it’s best to stop taking it or look for alternatives to help you achieve healthier hair and nails without causing your skin to suffer.
How to Prevent Acne From Biotin
If you suspect this component might be behind your skin concerns, here are a few ways how to prevent acne from biotin without missing out on the benefits of taking this supplement:
Take Biotin in Smaller Doses
The recommended biotin dosage for an average adult is 30 to 100 micrograms (mcg) per day. However, since biotin is found safe to ingest in higher quantities, it is commonly sold in supplement forms containing 5,000 to 10,000 mcg.
This may be too much for someone dealing with acne, so lowering the dosage by splitting the capsule in half or finding a smaller dose supplement, might be an effective way to prevent biotin-induced acne outbreaks.
Take Biotin Less Frequently
For those who can’t find biotin in smaller doses, taking it every few days or on alternate days might be a better alternative to achieve the desired results.
A short break between doses will help the body regulate its biotin intake and absorb other essential vitamins, giving your skin a better chance of healing and clearing up.
Take Biotin Through Food Sources
Foods like beef liver, pork chops, salmon, tuna, eggs, sweet potatoes, broccoli, almonds, bananas, and avocados are all great sources of biotin that you can implement in your diet on a daily basis and avoid the side effects that come with high doses of biotin supplements.
Look for Biotin Alternatives for Hair and Nail Health
Collagen, omega-3s, zinc, selenium, and vitamin A supplements are all great alternatives that can help you get healthier skin, hair, and nails without disrupting your body’s natural balance or causing unwanted breakouts.
Have an Excellent Skincare Routine
Finally, having a skincare routine that addresses your skin concerns and nourishes your skin is an excellent way to make sure conditions like acne are kept at bay.
A skincare routine that consists of gentle cleansers, exfoliating actives, hydrating serums, nourishing moisturizers, and protective sunscreens will make sure your skin remains healthy, clear, and protected from pathogens that can trigger inflammation and lead to conditions that can be much more difficult to treat than prevent.
Biotin For Thinning Hair & Nail Growth
When ingested, biotin binds with five enzymes in our body, one of which is the Acetyl-CoA carboxylase beta (ACC2), which plays a key role in fatty acid synthesis.
These fatty acids then play an important role in maintaining healthy hair and nails, which is why biotin has been studied for its potential effect on thinning hair and brittle nails.
In the limited number of studies, it has been shown that participants who dealt with issues like brittle nail syndrome and thinning hair have benefited from biotin supplements.
And while it’s not proven that biotin can actually help improve hair growth or reverse conditions like androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness) or alopecia areata (autoimmune hair loss), it can still be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle to help thicken the hair that is already present and improve nail strength.
Recommended dosages for improving hair thickness and nail strength range from 5,000 to 10,000 mcg daily in supplement form and up to 35 mcg from food sources.
Other Side Effects of Biotin Supplements
Besides the potential of causing acne for those prone to developing this inflammatory condition, excessive use of biotin supplements can also lead to issues like stomach aches, nausea, trouble sleeping, and impaired kidney function, for which one of the main symptoms is excessive thirst.
Additionally, it has been noted that supplementing with biotin can also interfere with blood tests and show false results for certain conditions like vitamin B12 deficiency, falsely low troponin results, and Graves’ disease, which is why talking to a health provider who knows your medical history is essential before supplementing with this component.
Biotin is a component found in food sources, supplements, and personal care products used for skin, hair, and nail health.
While it can be beneficial when taken in the recommended dosages, it has also been found to cause or exacerbate acne in those prone to developing this condition, along with other side effects if consumed excessively.
Therefore, while taking biotin is an excellent way to support your body’s maintenance of healthy skin, hair, and nails; it is best to do so under the guidance of a qualified health provider that knows your medical history.
Frequently Asked Questions
Biotin can cause acne in some individuals due to accelerating the production of keratin, causing the outermost layer of the skin to become thickened and preventing the normal flow of sebum, which can lead to clogged pores and breakouts.
Biotin is not necessarily bad for acne-prone skin, and it might not cause acne for everyone with a predisposition for this inflammatory condition. However, those with acne-prone skin are generally at an increased risk of developing acne due to how biotin works in the body.
Biotin can be fantastic for your skin if you do not have acne, as it will help thicken the outermost layer of the skin and slow down transepidermal moisture loss, leading to plumper, more hydrated, and glowy skin.
To prevent breakouts from biotin, take lower supplement dosages less frequently, get your biotin intake through food instead of supplements, have a skincare routine that helps mitigate biotin-induced breakouts, or opt for alternative options to maintain healthy skin, thicker hair, and strong nails.
Biotin won’t necessarily cause hormonal imbalance; however, it has been shown to interfere with blood test results, showing false levels of thyroid hormones, which can lead to a hormonal imbalance if not addressed.
Vitamin B deficiency is extremely rare in adults below 75 and can manifest as dermatitis or scaly skin but not as a bacterial condition such as acne.
Certain supplements such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, testosterone, whey protein, and iodine can cause or exacerbate acne if taken in excessive amounts or combined with other supplements, medications, or hormones.