Can Biotin Cause Acne Breakouts? Unveiling the Hidden Truth

Biotin is often touted as the go-to for hair and nails, but it may have some unintended consequences for skin. We're breaking down why biotin may cause acne breakouts for some people, and how to prevent them.

Can Biotin Cause Acne Breakouts? Unveiling the Hidden Truth

Biotin is often touted as the go-to for hair and nails, but it may have some unintended consequences for skin. We're breaking down why biotin may cause acne breakouts for some people, and how to prevent them.

Biotin is often touted as the go-to vitamin for anyone looking to grow thick, voluminous hair or maintain strong, unbreakable nails. But while it may help us reach our hair and nail goals, the vitamin might have some not so welcome effects on our complexion – particularly for those of us with breakout-prone skin. Can biotin cause acne? We’re uncovering what you need to know before adding the supplement to your routine. 

What is Biotin?

To start, let’s do a crash course on biotin. There are eight B vitamins, with biotin (also known as vitamin B7) being one of them. In the body, B vitamins ensure the cells are functioning optimally. They play a key role in energy production and also help form red blood cells (among many other jobs!). The body doesn’t produce B vitamins on its own, which means we need to get them through our diet. 

Biotin specifically helps enzymes metabolize carbs, fats, and proteins from food, supporting the body’s digestion and energy production processes. It is also believed that the B vitamin plays a role in gene expression and maintaining neurological health

There isn’t a set recommended daily allowance (RDA) for the amount of biotin we should be consuming, as there isn’t enough data for the Food and Nutrition Board to establish that recommendation. However, the group has set an adequate intake (AI) level of 30 mcg of biotin daily for adults. These levels can easily be met through your diet.

Some of the top food sources of biotin include organ meats (like beef or chicken liver), egg yolks, and soy beans. You can also find smaller amounts in other legumes, seeds, and certain veggies. 

Signs of Biotin Deficiency 

There are a few cases in which a doctor may suggest a patient take a biotin supplement, but in general, most of us don’t actually need any extra supplementation. Biotin deficiencies are very rare, as most people get enough through the food they eat – so there’s likely no need for you to add another supplement to your wellness routine! 

That all said, some signs of a biotin deficiency can include:

  • Thinning hair
  • Weak nails
  • A red, scaly rash around the eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Skin infections 

Although the visible symptoms would typically manifest first, and hopefully give someone time to course correct, there are also potential neurological signs in more severe or prolonged cases of biotin deficiency, such as 

  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations  

Before supplementing with specific vitamins, such as biotin, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor and get blood work done, to see if you actually need to or not. 

The (Potential) Benefits of Biotin Supplements

Many people choose to add biotin supplements to their wellness routine, even if they don’t have a deficiency. Most often, someone will start taking a biotin supplement in an attempt to grow out their hair or fight brittle, breakage-prone nails. 

Here’s the thing: there’s not actually a ton of research supporting the notion that biotin affects the hair and nails. There was one small study where women dealing with thinning hair experienced an increase in volume and density after adding a biotin supplement to their routine. However, this supplement also included other vitamins and minerals (including iron and zinc), which means we can’t fully attribute the effects to biotin alone. 

There have also been small studies that have found an improvement in hair growth in children after they started taking biotin supplements. However, in most cases, the participants had an underlying condition that led to a biotin deficiency. This means the findings only indicate that supplementation may help in the case of a deficiency, which as we’ve talked about, isn’t all that common in the general population.  

Additionally, there is some research that shows biotin supplementation may support stronger nails – but again, the studies are small. For example, there is one study in which 22 (out of 35) participants with brittle nails saw a 25% increase in nail thickness after taking 2,500 mcg of biotin daily

This isn’t to say that biotin won’t help if you’re dealing with weak nails or thinning hair. In fact, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that points to the potential benefits of biotin supplementation. Ultimately, there just needs to be a lot more research before we can be 100% confident in biotin’s effects. 

Despite the minimal scientific evidence for the beauty benefits of biotin, many companies have latched on to the anecdotal reports about the B vitamin’s influence on our hair and nails. It’s probably no surprise that just about any hair and nail supplement you see is going to feature biotin as one of the main ingredients. 

Can Biotin Cause Acne?

Given its potential beauty benefits, it’s no surprise so many people take biotin supplements. But while there is anecdotal evidence of biotin helping with nail and hair strength, you might have also heard people share that they experienced breakouts after adding biotin supplements to their routine. 

So does biotin cause acne? Unfortunately, the research on the topic is seriously lacking, so we can’t come to any final conclusions. That said, this doesn’t negate the fact that many people have seen an increase in breakouts after adding a biotin supplement to their routine. 

Why Does Biotin Cause Acne? The Potential Explanation

So then why does biotin cause breakouts in some people? While further research is still needed, there may be a potential explanation for why biotin supplements may be a no-go for those with acne-prone skin. 

The problem might come down to biotin’s relationship with another B vitamin: pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5. Research has shown that dietary pantothenic acid may help reduce breakouts in those with acne-prone skin. This may be due to its ability to regulate the production of sebum (AKA our skin’s natural oil, which can contribute to clogged pores), as well as its anti-inflammatory properties. 

Here’s where we might see issues: biotin may hinder absorption of Vitamin B5. While biotin itself may not directly cause breakouts, excessive amounts of it might contribute to acne by reducing Vitamin B5 levels. Again, further research is needed, but this theory is one of the best potential explanations for why biotin supplements have been anecdotally linked to breakouts. However, no studies have shown that taking biotin supplements or having a pantothenic acid deficiency causes acne.

Another potential explanation has to do with biotin’s role in the production of keratin – a protein that gives our skin, nails, and hair strength and structure. High doses of biotin may lead to excessive levels of keratin. This is good news for our nails and hair, but for those of us with acne-prone skin, all of that extra keratin may combine with dead skin cells, sebum, and other debris, leading to clogged pores.

Biotin Supplements: How High Dosages Affect the Skin

If you have acne-prone skin, we definitely aren’t trying to scare you away from foods that are rich in biotin. In fact, you probably already are getting a good amount of biotin through your diet – and it shouldn’t be having any negative impact on your skin. Plus, our body needs the B vitamin to survive and thrive! Where people typically start to see problems is when they add a biotin supplement to their routine. 

The issue with biotin supplements is that they are often loaded with the B vitamin – we’re talking way more than the adequate intake level of 30 mcg. Take a quick look at the top biotin supplements on the market, and you’ll see formulas made with 500 mcg, 2500 mcg, and even 8000 mcg of biotin (that’s more than 26,000% of the AI level!). 

By comparison, one egg (which is one of the richest food sources of biotin) will have about 10 mcg of the B vitamin. This gives you a third of your daily needs. Beef liver has even more, but 3 ounces will only give you 31 mcg of biotin. That’s still drastically less than what you get in many popular biotin supplements. 

So can too much biotin cause acne? Biotin supplements may be fine for those that don’t deal with blemishes, but for those of us with reactive skin, the high levels of this B vitamin can be problematic. While we don’t have a ton of research to work off of, anecdotal evidence (as well as our current understanding of how biotin works in the body) tells us that it’s probably best for those with acne-prone skin to steer clear of taking excessive amounts of biotin. 

Think Your Biotin Supplement is Causing Breakouts? Here’s What You Should Do

If you suspect your biotin supplement might be causing your breakouts, here is your action plan for getting your skin back on track. 

Reduce Your Biotin Intake

So your biotin supplement might be triggering breakouts. But if you’re seeing benefits in your hair and nails, it’s understandable that you may want to find a way to make it work in your routine! 

So you might be wondering: how can I take biotin without breaking out? The answer is to simply reduce how much you’re taking. You might be able to find that perfect balance where you’re getting the support you are after with your hair and nails without triggering breakouts. 

Taking a supplement daily? Try cutting it down to two to three times a week. Additionally, take a look at the dosage of the supplement you’re using. If you have a high dose supplement, consider swapping it out for a lower dose formula. 

Stick with a lower dose regimen for a few weeks, and see if your skin calms down. If your skin is still acting up, it might be time to ditch the supplement all together. 

Eat Biotin-Rich Foods Instead

If a biotin supplement isn’t a good match for you, try working more biotin into your diet through food. Some food sources of biotin include: 

  • Organ meats (including beef and chicken liver)
  • Egg yolks
  • Pork chops
  • Salmon
  • Soy beans / edamame 
  • Mushrooms
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peanuts
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Sweet potatoes

Remember: this is still going to be far less biotin than you’d get with supplements. Biotin-rich foods can give you the extra boost without sending your body into biotin overdrive. This puts you at a much lower risk of experiencing breakouts, but may still help you strengthen and grow your nails and hair. 

Try Biotin Alternatives

Biotin definitely isn’t the only solution for achieving and maintaining healthy hair and nails. There are tons of other vitamins and minerals you can add to your wellness regimen (either through your diet or with supplements) to reach your beauty goals. 

For example, there’s vitamin C. We all know about this vitamin’s immunity boosting benefits. However, this antioxidant also plays a crucial part in the production of collagen – a protein that is needed for maintaining strong nails, hair, and skin. 

Additionally, a mineral that can go toe-to-toe with biotin is silica. Like vitamin C, silica promotes collagen production, and may help improve brittle nails, weak hair, and skin texture

We are also big proponents of omega-3 fatty acids for skin and hair health. Research shows supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids may help minimize hair loss and improve hair density. Additionally, they have been shown to improve hydration levels in the skin, and may even help reduce breakouts, thanks to their ability to reduce inflammation. 

Take a Holistic Approach to Eradicating Biotin Breakouts (and Maintaining a Clear Complexion)

Last but certainly not least, it’s important to take holistic steps for not only clearing breakouts caused by biotin, but also maintaining blemish-free skin in the long run. 

As you manage active blemishes, you might be tempted to slather on harsh topical solutions to eradicate your breakout ASAP. While moderate usage of spot treatments might help, we recommend being kind to your skin as it heals, being sure to use mild cleansers and a gentle, non-comedogenic moisturizer. Being too aggressive with your skin can harm the barrier, leaving it prone to irritation, dryness, redness, and, worst of all, even more breakouts. 

While you care for your complexion topically, it’s equally as important to find ways to support your skin from within. In addition to eating nourishing foods (and reducing your intake of processed foods), drinking plenty of water, and getting your beauty rest, one of the best ways to unlock a glowing, blemish-free complexion is by supporting your gut health. With a probiotic supplement like Glow Biome – which is formulated with clinically validated probiotic strains that support skin health – you can nurture the gut-skin connection to achieve and maintain a clear, hydrated, and healthy complexion.

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