Biotin Breakouts Are Real & the Science Behind Biotin Acne

Biotin has been touted as this miracle product for hair, skin, and nails, that can give you thick, healthy hair and even reverse hair loss. And while biotin can be great for hair growth, it can wreak havoc on skin causing biotin breakouts. That’s right, the same supplement advertised as your answer to clear, beautiful skin may actually be making your skin worse. And there are a few different reasons why biotin causes acne, and they’re all backed by science.

So while the medical industry widely ascertains that biotin doesn’t cause acne, acne is a symptom of excess biotin. In fact, while lab tests will indicate it only comes with benefits, anecdotally, thousands have found that biotin causes breakouts. And there are a few scientific reasons that explain why.

What is Biotin?

Biotin acne

Biotin, also known as vitamin H and vitamin B7, is a water-soluble vitamin B complex. Biotin plays a role in nails, hair, and skin health. It is also involved in energy production in the form of glucose and fatty acids. Interestingly, our bodies don’t produce biotin naturally. It is only available through nutritional sources.

Biotin Increases Hair Growth (and Why That’s Bad News for Skin)

Biotin is widely regarded as a highly beneficial vitamin for healthy hair, nails, and skin. And that’s because Biotin, along with other nutrients, can stimulate keratin production which is the main component in hairs and nails. This quality makes it one of the most popular ingredients in hair growth products. While this is true that biotin helps ignite hair growth (particularly the baby hairs around the face and temples), this is also part of why biotin can cause breakouts, due to its ability to accelerate or even generate hair growth.

In other words, excessive keratin production can be bad news for your skin as it can plug your hair follicles and cause rough and bumpy skin patches, and those swollen pimples may actually be ingrown hairs. But these aren’t the only causes of biotin breakouts…

Why Biotin Causes Acne

Sure, biotin itself is not harmful to the skin. And you’ve likely heard time and time again the plethora of skin benefits attributed to the optimal amount of biotin intake. However, if you’re struggling with acne and taking a high dosage of the vitamin, you may be getting biotin acne. And you’re not alone. Despite the widespread notion that biotin will give you a beautiful, clear complexion, many experience just the opposite. Many hopefuls who try biotin, say, in a hair, skin, and nails supplement, find that biotin doesn’t help their skin. Rather, it makes their skin break out.

Biotin breakouts have something to do with the absorption of a substance known as “pantothenic acid.” Pantothenic acid provides a barrier to our skin against acne-causing, harmful bacteria. Our gut has the same absorption pathways for both biotin and pantothenic acid. An excessive biotin absorption means a low pantothenic acid absorption. This leaves our skin vulnerable to acne-causing bacteria and acne spurts.

What Biotin Breakouts Look Like

Biotin acne breakout

Since there are three causes of biotin breakouts, biotin acne can appear in a few different forms. Of course, this means that there is no one-size-fits-all type of acne. In other words, biotin breakouts look different based on the reason biotin is causing your skin to break out.

  • Keratin causes clogged hair follicles: When oil gets trapped behind these scaly plugs, the result is rough patches of small bumps on the skin. If you use a niacinimide-based product, the combination of these two may be the cause of your acne. This is because niacminimide also increases keratin production, so using both biotin and niacinimide can lead to kertin overload.
  • Rapid hair growth causing ingrown vellus hairs: Biotin’s hair growing ability doesn’t just mean thick lucious hair. It also means additional hair all over the body in the form of vellus hairs. These are the same types of hair that is on the face. And if growing at a rapid rate, ingrown hairs are likely, which come in the form of pimples or pustules.
  • An excess of biotin absorbion is causing low pantothenic absorbion: Pantothenic acid (a.k.a. B5) is a natural barrier that protects against bacteria, and with that, acne. If this is causing skin trouble, you may experience small acne papules anywhere on the face. Keep in mind that that doesn’t mean you need to buy a pantothenic acid supplement. In fact, combining the two products, biotin and pantothenic, may cancel one another out, and simply waste your money. However, if swapping biotin for pantothenic acid may help improve your skin.

Keep in mind that biotin is just one of many potential causes of acne. Narrow it down by checking out the most common causes of adult acne.

Common Sources of Biotin (a.k.a. the Culprit of Biotin Breakouts)

Sources of Biotin
Sources of Biotin

Biotin is found naturally in a lot of common foods. However, if you’re experiencing biotin acne, then the culprit is most likely supplements you’re taking given how a very high dosage of biotin is common in both multivitamins and never mind hair, skin, and nails supplements. For example, the average multivitamin contains biotin and typically has 100 to 1000% daily value of biotin, and never mind hair, skin, and nails supplements are packed with biotin, often around 3,333% daily value.

Here are the most common sources of biotin: 

  • Multivitamins: Multivitamins often contain a high amount of biotin.
  • Hair, Skin & Nails Supplements: Biotin is a major nutrient in hair, skin, and nails supplements as it triggers keratin synthesis.
  • Egg yolks: Egg yolks are a rich source of biotin along with other B vitamins, protein, iron, and phosphorus.
  • Bananas: Bananas provide B vitamins, fiber, and carbohydrates.
  • Broccoli: 45 grams of broccoli contains 0.4 mcg of biotin.
  • Sweet potatoes: 125 grams of cooked sweet potatoes can provide 8% DV of the biotin.
  • Peas, beans & lentils (legumes:): All legumes have some biotin component, peanuts and soybeans are believed to have the highest quantity.
  • Mushrooms: You can get 2.5 mcg of biotin from consuming 120 grams of mushrooms. 
  • Nuts and seeds: Different nuts and seeds offer different amounts of biotin.

If you think biotin is causing acne, start by cutting any supplements that include it, and if you’re not taking a supplement that has biotin then consider cutting (or reducing) the amount of biotin-rich foods you consume. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much biotin should I take per day? 

The recommended amount is 30 mcg of daily biotin intake in adults is estimated to be ample for optimal body function. For most, our diets will provide this suggested daily value, eliminating the need to get biotin from outside sources, such as a supplement.

What are the other side effects of biotin? 

Botin can also cause low vitamin C levels, high blood glucose levels, low vitamin B6 levels, and increased urine output. It can also temper insulin production and laboratory tests results. As a result, biotin can cause a number of other health issues from weakened immune systems to cracked lips, rashes, fatigue, moodiness, as well as very serious side effects, such as seizures, heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s (due to high homocysteine from a B6 deficiency caused by excess biotin).

What are biotin-free alternatives for great hair and skin? 

As much as biotin is marketed as the go-to vitamin for great hair and skin, the reality is that it’s not the only option–nor is it the best option. There are tons of biotin-alternatives, such as pearl (e.g., Moon Juice Pearl Powder Extract),  saw palmetto + collagen, Schisandra, alma, Rehmannia root. However, if you have acne, the key is to get to the root of it. For example, is it hormonal acne, is your liver having trouble functioning. In which case, consuming vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, licorice root, and dandelion root will help detox your liver, enabling it to function properly. In doing so, it will rid your body of toxins, giving your body a better way to remove waste, and reducing toxin-derived acne.

What causes adult acne? 

The cause of adult acne comes down to three main things. First, poor hygiene. Second, nutrients and nutritional deficiencies that cause organs (i.e., your liver) to be unable to function properly. And third, hormonal imbalances, which are very common and typically correlated to hormonal birth controls and environmental factors. Get the complete breakdown of what causes adult acne to find the root cause of your breakouts.

Bottom Line – Biotin Causes Breakouts 

As with everything else, an excess of biotin can be harmful to your body. As it might be necessary for some people to take biotin for health purposes, its dosage should be monitored closely. Odds are, if you’re consuming biotin via a supplement, and you’re experiencing skin troubles, you’re getting too much biotin. If you’re taking a hair, skin, and nails supplement, stop taking it. And if your daily multivitamin contains more than 50% of your daily value of biotin, try a new multi that doesn’t.

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