Biotin (aka vitamin B7) is essential for your overall health, and most people get enough of it through their diet. It’s found in foods such as meat, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, and certain vegetables. But specific diets, such as veganism, might lead to nutritional deficiencies, which can require biotin supplementation.
Many swear by biotin to promote healthy hair, nails, and skin—which is why it might be surprising to hear too much biotin can lead to acne. Here we’ll explain the role biotin plays in acne, the pros and cons of supplementing it, the different B vitamins, and more.
Short answer: No.
Everyone’s skin is unique, so we can’t predict how each individual will react to biotin supplements. In any case, there is no strong evidence to suggest that biotin supplements are an effective acne treatment.
There’s another reason to avoid biotin for skincare purposes: It may interfere with the absorption of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).¹ There is some evidence that vitamin B5 may help treat acne,² so messing with its absorption might indirectly contribute to breakouts for some people.
Still, we can’t definitely say biotin causes acne. Although experts have found some evidence of biotin supplements leading to acne flares, this isn’t scientifically proven, either. Biotin’s effects on the skin are still somewhat mysterious, so more research is needed to understand the relationship.
On the other hand, a biotin deficiency can impact your fingernails, hair, and skin—but biotin deficiency tends to be rare. Again, most of us get enough biotin from the foods we eat. (More on that later.)
If you’re looking to improve the overall health of your body, including your skin, hair, and nails, you may be considering biotin. Like any vitamin, supplement, or medication, there can be positive and negative effects associated with its use, so we dug in to find out what they are.
Here are some possible pros of taking biotin:
It’s needed for normal fetal development: When someone is pregnant, biotin is required for the fetus to develop normally. Biotin supplementation may also be appropriate for breastfeeding people due to the body’s increased nutritional demand.³
It may promote healthy hair and nails: Biotin is thought to boost hair and nail health, but this has not been proven—so more research is needed.
There are no evident contraindications: According to recent research, biotin supplements have no evident contraindications. Basically, this means that it can generally be taken by most people. It’s a safe, nontoxic vitamin that’s excreted by the body when taken in excess. There are also no known interactions between herbal supplements and biotin.⁴
It may treat biotin deficiency: If a physician determines your body is deficient in biotin, taking a supplement should help resolve this. However, if you take anticonvulsant medication, such as carbamazepine or phenobarbital, you may need a higher dosage of biotin, as these drugs can inhibit uptake of biotin into the brush borders of membrane vesicles.
The potential cons of taking biotin include:⁵
It may reduce the body’s absorption of other nutrients: Biotin competes with Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), so high doses of either vitamin may lead to low levels of the other.
There are eight different B vitamins, including biotin. Generally speaking, B vitamins help your body produce energy and aid in the formation of red blood cells.⁶ They also play an essential role in metabolic and immune function. Dietary sources of B vitamins include proteins (e.g., fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy products), leafy greens (e.g., spinach and kale), peas, and beans. Some foods, including cereals and bread, are fortified with B vitamins, so you have plenty of options. If you eat a vegan diet that avoids fortified foods, be extra careful to get enough B12 throughout the day.⁷
Here’s a list of the essential B vitamins and their names:
B3: Niacin (niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3).
Some B vitamins may be useful in dermatology. Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6 might be useful in treating acne due to their potential ability to reduce sebum (skin oil) production and bacterial colonization.⁸ Research shows that vitamins B5,⁹ B9,¹⁰ and some forms of vitamin B3¹¹ may have some skin benefits, such as improving skin tone, texture, and inflammation (including acne).
Here’s a bit more information on these benefits:
Known as an antioxidant, vitamin B3 has anti-inflammatory qualities that have been shown to potentially improve skin tone, yellowing, and elasticity,¹² and treat moderate acne.¹³A study on aging skin also found topical application of niacinamide may improve the surface structure of the skin, smooth out wrinkles, and inhibit photocarcinogenesis, a process that may lead to cancer.¹⁴
A randomized study of pantothenic acid-based (vitamin B5) dietary supplements in healthy adults with facial acne showed a reduction in lesions after 12 weeks, as well as a significant reduction in area-specific and inflammatory blemishes. Although this looks promising, more trials are needed to confirm the results.¹⁵
Research suggests that topical application of a folic acid- and creatine-containing formulation may improve the firmness of the skin.¹⁶ Another study found that folic acid supplementation may benefit patients affected by chronic inflammatory skin conditions, such as moderate to severe psoriasis.¹⁷
The link between biotin and breakouts is unclear, but as mentioned above, taking biotin may interfere with the body’s absorption of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), which has more well-established benefits for acne. More research is needed, but this is why we think biotin may contribute to breakouts in some people.
Curology was founded in 2014 by Dr. David Lortscher, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, to help treat acne, rosacea, and signs of aging. Just answer a few questions and snap some selfies to help us get to know your skin. If Curology is right for you, we’ll pair you with one of our licensed in-house dermatology providers. They’ll prescribe you a personalized prescription formula with a mix of three active ingredients to help you achieve your specific skin goals, and they’ll be there to answer any skincare questions you may have along the way.
Our full line of skin care products is dermatologist-designed to be non-comedogenic, dye-free, and paraben-free. Complete your routine with our cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, and lip balm to keep your skin happy and healthy.
Many health and wellness influencers tout the benefits of taking biotin for your skin (as well as for nail and hair growth), but this has not been proven. If you’re looking to give your skin a boost through supplementation, we recommend sticking to other B vitamins with proven track records for addressing skin concerns.
Vitamins B3, B5, and B9 may help maintain healthy skin by improving skin tone, firmness (B9), texture, and inflammation (including acne).
Again, most people get enough biotin through their diet. You can ingest the vitamin through foods such as meat, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, and certain vegetables. Ask your medical provider or dermatologist about what supplements and products are right for your skincare routine.
It might! In a study of biotin use for hair and nail changes, patients receiving biotin supplementation showed evidence of clinical improvement in their hair and nail growth after receiving biotin. It’s important to note that every patient had an underlying pathology for poor hair or nail growth, such as uncombable hair or brittle nail syndrome.¹⁸ If you’re experiencing hair loss or other hair-related concerns and are interested in supplementing with biotin, consult your dermatologist for guidance.
Taking too much biotin, especially if you have a biotin sensitivity, may cause a rash. If you’re applying biotin topically and have concerns, you may want to try patch-testing a small area first to see how your skin reacts.
Hamid, M. Cell and Molecular Aspects of Human Intestinal Biotin Absorption. The Journal of Nutrition. (January 2009).
Yang, M. et. al. A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of a Novel Pantothenic Acid-Based Dietary Supplement in Subjects with Mild to Moderate Facial Acne. Dermatology and Therapy. (2014).
Tadi, P., Bistas, K.G. Biotin. StatPearls. (2022).
Tadi, P., Bistas, K.G. Biotin. StatPearls. Ibid.
Hamid, M. Cell and Molecular Aspects of Human Intestinal Biotin Absorption. The Journal of Nutrition.Ibid.
Hanna M, et al. B Vitamins: Functions and Uses in Medicine. Perm J. (2022 June 29).
Hanna M, et al. B Vitamins: Functions and Uses in Medicine. Perm J. Ibid.
Podgórska, A., et al. Acne Vulgaris and Intake of Selected Dietary Nutrients-A Summary of Information. Healthcare (Basel). (2021).
Yang, M. et. al. A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of a Novel Pantothenic Acid-Based Dietary Supplement in Subjects with Mild to Moderate Facial Acne. Dermatology and Therapy. Ibid.
Fischer, F. et. al. Folic acid and creatine improve the firmness of human skin in vivo. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2011.
Navarrete-Solís, J. A Double-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial of Niacinamide 4% versus Hydroquinone 4% in the Treatment of Melasma. Dermatology Research and Practice. (2011).
Bissett, D.L., et al. Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance. Dermatol Surg. (2005).
Khodaeiani, E., et al. Topical 4% nicotinamide vs. 1% clindamycin in moderate inflammatory acne vulgaris. International Journal of Dermatology. (2013).
Gehring, W. Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. (2004).
Yang, M., et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of a novel pantothenic Acid-based dietary supplement in subjects with mild to moderate facial acne. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). (2014).
Fischer, F. et. al. Folic acid and creatine improve the firmness of human skin in vivo. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Ibid.
Gisondi, P., et al. Folic acid in general medicine and dermatology. J Dermatolog Treat. (2007).
Patel, D.P., et al. A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss. Skin Appendage Disord. (2017).
This article was originally published in January 2021, and updated in March 2023.
Elise Griffin is a certified physician assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in physician assistant studies from Nova Southeastern University in Jacksonville, FL.
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Elise Griffin, PA-C