With Vitamin B12 IV drips and supplements taking over our Instagram feeds, we’re here to tell you to proceed with caution. Before you sprinkle some into your water, pop a pill, or get a needle stuck in your arm, keep this in mind: vitamin B12 might make your skin break out.
“Vitamin B12 is a necessary vitamin to produce red blood cells,” Beverly Hills-based dermatologist and founder of SkinxFive Ava Shamban explains. However, it can make those with acne-prone skin more susceptible to breakouts. She explains, “There have been reports that the oral supplement does cause inflammation and acne through altering the metabolism of bacteria that live on the skin.”
A 2015 study from Science Translational Medicine showed that an injection of vitamin B12 can change the genetic expression of P. acnes, the common acne bacteria found in pores, in patients with acne. Shamban notes the study did not explore oral supplementation. However, “they did in a laboratory setting, by adding vitamin B12 to P. acnes growing in a petri dish,” she explains. “These P. acnes produced porphyrins, which promote inflammation in acne.” Yikes.
Despite this, board-certified dermatologist S. Manjula Jegasothy, founder of the Miami Skin Institute, tells Allure that breakouts due to oral supplements of vitamin B12 are still “fairly rare.” There is one factor that might increase your chances, though. There are two different types of vitamin B12: methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin.
“Methylcobalamin is the type most actively absorbed by our intestines,” Jegasothy explains. “If you are prone to acne from vitamin B12, it would be more likely that methylcobalamin will cause increased breakouts.” Your best bet is cyanocobalamin, which is a synthetic, manufactured form of the vitamin. Jegasothy says it does not absorb into the intestines as well, making it a more suitable form of vitamin B12 supplementation for people who get breakouts from it.
Unsure if you even need vitamin B12 supplements? Alexandra Sowa, an internist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, tells Allure that a “deficiency can affect every organ system” because it is linked to DNA synthesis. The most common symptoms of a deficiency include “fatigue, brain fogginess, and numbness or tingling in limbs,” Sowa says, adding that it can also cause hypopigmentation wherein white patches popping up on your skin. If any of those symptoms seem to apply to you, a simple blood test can be done to check your vitamin B12 levels.
As for over-doing it on the supplement, Sowa says that’s not really possible. Your body will just naturally filter it out. (Read: you’ll just have to pee a lot.) We recommend asking your doctor if you need to take them in the first place, though. And if switching over to the cyanocobalamin form doesn’t help or if you just want to be preventative, Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, recommends using a cleanser with salicylic acid “to help remove excess oil from the skin and exfoliate dead cells.”
More on what could be making your skin break out and how to stop it:
- This Healthy Snack Could Be Making You Break Out
- Reddit Users Claim a Very Surprising Drink Got Rid of Their Acne
- This Drugstore Moisturizer May Be the Secret to Clearing Cystic Acne — But There’s a Catch
Now, learn what makes this cystic acne sufferer feel beautiful:
WEDNESDAY, June 24, 2015 (HealthDay News) — New research suggests that high levels of vitamin B12 may affect germ activity in certain people, boosting the odds that they’ll develop acne.
However, it’s too early to say if anyone should cut down on their vitamin B12 intake from food or vitamins to avoid getting pimples, researchers said.
“I don’t think we have studied enough to suggest that,” said study leader Huiying Li, assistant professor of molecular & medical pharmacology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Still, the research provides insight into not only vitamin B12 but also genetic activity that could prompt pimples.
“There are certain genes that could potentially influence whether people have acne breakouts or not,” she said. “These genes could be targets of future drug treatment.”
The study appears in the June 24 issue of Science Translational Medicine.
A deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause serious health problems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Too little vitamin B12 has been implicated in anemia; digestive problems; and neurological problems, such as numbness and tingling in the extremities, vision problems and memory loss.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products such as dairy and shellfish. Vegetarians and vegans are advised to take supplements or eat enriched foods to get this nutrient. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “many people over age 50 lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from foods,” and weight-loss surgery can cause the same problem.
The current study looked at what factors make people more vulnerable to acne. Li and her colleagues found signs that vitamin B12 may boost acne by disrupting a type of skin bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes that’s related to acne.
After linking the vitamin to acne, the researchers then analyzed 10 people with clear skin who were told to begin taking vitamin B12 supplements. Their extra consumption of vitamins affected how genes in skin bacteria processed the vitamin, Li said, although only one person subsequently broke out with acne.
- Too Much Of This Vitamin Could Give You Acne
- Latest Articles:
- 2. Probiotics
- 3. Krill Oil
- 4. Vitamin B Complex
- 5. Calcium/Magnesium Blend
- These 5 supplements will help you get rid of acne once and for all
- Common Vitamin Has Been Linked to a Higher Risk of Acne
- Vitamin B12 screws with your skin bacteria and could cause acne
- Too Much of a Good Thing: How Vitamin B12 Triggers Acne Breakouts
- Why B12 Supplements Can Cause Acne
- Do Food Sources of B12 Cause Acne?
- The Bottom Line
- Have Awful Adult Acne? This Vitamin You’re Eating Every Day May Be to Blame
- The acne you have now is a lot different than teen acne
- Out-of-whack hormones are a problem for most
- Certain conditions and family history can also predispose you
- And what you eat certainly has an impact
- The vitamin to avoid: B12
- Foods high in vitamin B12
- The best way to take care of adult acne
- Why Vitamin E Can Impact Acne and Skin Health
- The #1 DNA Test For Health
- How Does Vitamin E Help Fight Acne?
- How Do You Use Vitamin E for Acne?
Too Much Of This Vitamin Could Give You Acne
Given the fact that it’s required for our nervous system to function properly and is vital for the production of blood, vitamin B12 is pretty essential for our bodies. But while many believe that you can never have too much of a good thing, it seems that this is not the case here. According to new research, an excess of this vitamin could prompt skin breakouts.
As described in Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found that vitamin B12 altered the activities of a particular species of skin bacteria that’s associated with acne, causing them to produce compounds that are known to trigger inflammation in this skin disorder.
Although B12 is found in various foods – including meat, fish and eggs – at this stage there is insufficient evidence to suggest that changes in diet could help people towards clearer skin. However, if further studies support the suggested relationship between B12 and acne, people prone to the skin condition may want to reconsider vitamin supplementation choices as it is often found in high quantities in various multivitamin pills.
For the investigation, researchers were interested in finding possible explanations for the observation that the common skin bacterium, Propionibacterium acnes, causes spots in only a subset of individuals. They began by swabbing the faces of clear-skinned and pimple-ridden individuals and culturing the species of interest. After comparing the two groups, the researchers found that the biochemical pathway in P. acnes that produces B12 was significantly dampened in those with acne.
To probe this potential relationship further, the skin microbes were analyzed in healthy, spot-free subjects that were given vitamin B12 injections. Supporting the previous finding, they found that the bacterial B12 biosynthesis genes were repressed following supplementation, almost mirroring the expression patterns observed in those with acne. One patient even developed acne just one week after the injection.
For the final phase of their study, the team cultured P. acnes in the lab and exposed them to B12, hoping to find out more about the potential underlying mechanism for this apparent link. They found that the vitamin increased the production of inflammatory compounds called porphyrins, which have already been associated with the development of acne.
Although this study can’t prove that too much vitamin B12 causes acne, it does demonstrate that it is capable of altering gene expression in skin bacteria, which is interesting. Further studies will be needed before researchers are convinced of the link, especially since some studies have found that B12 may act as an anti-inflammatory agent, which contradicts these findings, Live Science points out.
Please welcome my sister Kelsey to the blog. She put together this guest post on how she healed her own acne using real foods!
I am one of those unlucky folks that dealt with lingering acne well into my twenties. Now I am not just talking about a small pimple here and there, I am talking about moderate acne that created multiple bumps underneath my skin that caused inflammation in my cheeks and forehead. I was embarrassed that I had to deal with such a thing when all my friends had clear skin. I tried so hard to hide the scars and bumps, but despite the layers of makeup that I applied I could never quite do it. Eventually I was unwilling to go out with friends. To some this may seem a little bit silly, but after five years and no luck of successful treatment I was self conscious and tired of it. Luckily, with the help of an integrative dermatologist and my sister, I was able to come up with a supplement regimen that changed my skin for the better. Here are the supplements that immensely helped my skin and overall health.
When my acne was at its strongest, I spent a great deal of my time knit picking every detail of my skin in the mirror. I desperately wanted my skin to cooperate to the point that I was practically at the dermatologist every month and was prescribed a new prescription each time, some that caused terrible headaches and stomach pain. After trying just about every treatment, my dermatologist suggested isotretinoin, a drug derived from Vitamin A which aims to stop the production of oil. I was aware of this medication and knew a quite a few people who had success while on it, but I was unwilling to try it due to the lengthy and serious side effects. Furthermore, I was curious as to why about 80% of the American population suffers from acne, yet there is little scientific research explaining what causes it. I was also aware that most cases of severe and moderate acne do not respond to antibiotics and topical creams. Therefore, I was determined to find an alternative course to my acne treatment and began research of my own. What I found was astonishing!
This fundamental mineral plays a strong role in cell division and regrowth. In other words, it accelerates the development of skin cells necessary for clear skin. When bacteria gets into a blocked pore it can create irritation that causes your pimples to turn red. It is important to note that when you have acne, your body is more likely to react severely to these irritating bacteria than for those with “normal skin”. Therefore it is important for acne sufferers to include zinc in the diet because it works to reduce the inflammatory response to bacteria. The DIY Zinc Taste Test can help you to assess whether or not you are zinc deficient, however many experts recommend supplementing nonetheless.
Those who have ever been to a dermatologist for acne treatment might find it counterintuitive that I suggest a probiotic since most dermatologists prescribe an antibiotic to fight acne. However, in the last few years dermatologists realized that their patients were unhappy with the side effects of antibiotics and thought it would be helpful to prescribe probiotics to help minimize unwanted discomforts. In doing so, they found that probiotics actually have unexpected benefits for acne sufferers all on their own. Probiotics create a healthy or “good” bacteria that helps to digest your food and better absorb the nutrients. When your gut does not have enough of this good bacteria, it can wreak havoc on your entire body and cause inflammation, including on your skin. By taking a probiotic and creating good bacteria you can balance your gut and utilize the nutrients from your food, in return reducing irritation of your skin. A stable pre- and probioitic blend such as Prescript Assist may offer the most help. You can learn all about prebiotics in this post.
3. Krill Oil
Krill oil is derived from a species of crustacean and contains omega-3 fatty acids in combination with the antioxidant astaxanthin. The fats found in krill oil are thought to help build up healthy cell membranes as well as decrease both local swelling and inflammation of deeper skin layers associated with acne. In tandem, astaxanthin works to fight free-radicals and prevent damage from the sun and other environmental assailants. Although astaxanthin is naturally found in regular krill oil, some varieties (like this krill plus 12) also have extra astaxanthin to increase the protective effects that algae offers.
4. Vitamin B Complex
The B complex vitamins (a group of eight nutrients including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) help convert carbohydrates, proteins and fats into energy, as well as assist in their digestion. By doing so, the B vitamins improve immunity, help build the nervous system and contribute to our overall health. Most notably, the full spectrum is needed on an ongoing basis to preserve the integrity of the skin, hair, eyes and liver. During acute flare-ups I have used a topical Vitamin B3 spray that can be helpful at decreasing inflammation. But, because the B vitamins work better as a group, supplements and foods containing all eight nutrients are more beneficial over the long term than those that contain just one or two. Vitamin B complexes, like this one from Premier Research Labs, have synergistic effects that enhance positive results. I take it along with Radiant Life’s Grass-fed Liver, which has all of the natural co-factors (like copper and vitamin A) needed to properly absorb the B vitamins.
5. Calcium/Magnesium Blend
Magnesium is an important mineral that helps with the most basic pathways and reactions in the body. In addition to increasing cell growth and protein production, it helps keep hormone levels balanced and the nervous system running smoothly— both of which are very important for preventing acne. Furthermore, this powerful mineral directly reduces skin inflammation by lowering the plasma concentrations of C-reactive protein, a protein connected to the inflammation process within your body. By taking magnesium with calcium you have a better chance of improving the absorption and utilization of this mineral.
When you suffer from acne it is also important to include calcium because it helps with cell renewal and is involved in the production of antioxidants that help combat inflammation, which as we have learned, is key in reducing acne. However, you need to be careful when choosing where to get your calcium from. Pasteurized dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are typically what people gravitate towards for their source of calcium. Nevertheless, the ingredients found in these items might make your acne worse. The reason being, they can interfere with your hormonal balance. Most commercially-sourced dairy products contain their own source of hormones which, when absorbed into the bloodstream, can effect acne. Therefore, you should include other whole foods that are in rich in calcium such as dark greens, salmon, and sardines. Supplementing with a properly derived calcium and magnesium combo like Coral Legend Plus, which sustainably takes the minerals from actual coral, can also be a very helpful addition to your acne-fighting routine.
As for how much to take, I generally follow the serving sizes listed on each supplement. I take them just once a day in the morning, because that is when I know I will remember! My routine looks something like this:
1 teaspoon of Liquid Zinc Assay (10 mg zinc)
1-2 capsules of Prescript Assist probiotics
2 capsules Krill Plus 12 (166 mg omega-3 fatty acids, 12 mg astaxanthin)
1/2 teaspoon of Max B-ND (40mg B vitamin blend)
2 capsules Coral Legend Plus (288 mg calcium, 132 mg magnesium)
And now an early-morning, no-makeup selfie to show you just how much of a difference these changes have made:
Thanks for reading!
DISCLAIMER: This post is not meant to be taken as medical advice. The articles, text and images on this site are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the consult of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Too much vitamin B12 may promote acne, according to a new study.
The study found that, in the presence of vitamin B12, the skin bacteria that are commonly linked to acne start pumping out inflammatory molecules known to promote pimples.
In the study, scientists investigated the differences between skin bacteria from people prone to acne and bacteria from people with clear-skinned faces. The researchers looked at the bacteria’s gene expression, hoping to figure out why Propionibacterium acnes, which is the most common skin microbe, causes pimples in some people but not in others.
They found that vitamin B12 changed the gene expression of the skin bacteria, which could have led to acne-promoting inflammation.
In humans, vitamin B12 plays roles in metabolism, red blood cell formation and the maintenance of the central nervous system. It’s commonly found in multivitamins, but the new research could raise questions about whether people with acne should take vitamin B12 supplements.
“I think there’s a link” between vitamin B12 and acne, said Huiying Li, a co-author of the new study and an assistant professor of pharmacology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. Her team found a molecular pathway that could explain the link in their study, but it will need to be confirmed by future research.”There’s still a lot to be studied in order to really understand if B12 causes acne,” she said.
Looking for a mechanism
By looking at the gene expression patterns, Li’s team first found that the pathway that produces vitamin B12 was significantly altered in the skin bacteria of people with acne, compared with the skin bacteria of people without acne. This finding raised Li’s suspicions about B12’s role in acne, she said. Prior studies citing an association between these two elements confirmed the possibility of a link — research dating back to the 1950s has suggested that vitamin B12 supplements could contribute to some people’s acne.
Li’s research team then looked at the skin bacterium in pimple-free people who received a vitamin B12 injection. The researchers confirmed that the B12 supplement repressed the expression of genes in P. acnes involved in synthesizing the vitamin. In fact, the expression of those genes was lowered to levels similar to those of acne patients.
A week after receiving the vitamin B12 injection, one of the 10 participants broke out in pimples. That person’s P. acnes gene-expression pattern also changed, the researchers found. Before the B12 injection, it was similar to those of the other healthy participants, but 14 days after the vitamin B12 shot, it looked much more like an acne patient’s pattern.
The researchers also did experiments on P. acnes growing in lab dishes.They found that when they added vitamin B12 to the bacteria, the microbes started producing compounds called porphyrins, which promote inflammation in acne. Inflammation is a key step in the later stages of acne development, Li said.
Together, the new findings suggest that when too much B12 is present, the bacteria have changes in their gene expression that suppress further synthesis of the vitamin. These bacteria switch to producing porphyrins, the researchers explained, and in some people, this uptick in inflammatory compounds may contribute to acne.
“We think the pathway we studied could potentially explain part of acne’s pathogenesis,” Li said.
Hang on to those vitamins
But although the study found a possible link, it did not prove that too much vitamin B12 definitely causes or worsens acne.
“The data and hypothesis are very intriguing, but much additional investigation is required to determine if this is a real cause-and-effect phenomenon,” said Josh Miller, a professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University who was not involved with the study.
In addition, although the new findings suggest that B12 supplements may promote inflammation, other studies have suggested the opposite — that vitamin B12 has anti-inflammatory properties, Miller said.
“Proof of a causative effect of B12 supplements on acne development will require randomized control trials with enough subjects to see a significant effect, if one exists,” he told Live Science.
Li also cautioned that it’s way too early to suggest that people dealing with acne should stop taking multivitamins with B12. Most of the studies that have found an increase in acne with vitamin B12 involved large doses of the vitamin, given by injections, she pointed out.
“This study does present some compelling evidence suggesting that supplementation with B12 can cause or exacerbate acne in a subset of individuals,” said Dr. Whitney Bowe, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “However, we don’t have enough evidence at this point to broadly recommend that all acne patients try to avoid vitamin B12 supplements or foods rich in vitamin B12.”
The aim of the research was to better understand how humans, and the microbes that live on their bodies, interact to cause disease, Li said. A deeper understanding of microbial-disease pathways could lead to more targeted treatments, the researchers wrote in their study, published today (June 24) in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
“The study shows that “what we eat or drink can impact the health of our skin by affecting the microbes that live on our skin,” Bowe said. “We have 10 bacterial cells for every one human cell in our body. The more we learn about these bacteria, the more we are realizing the major impact they have on our health and well-being.”
Follow Jennifer Abbasi on Twitter. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.
These 5 supplements will help you get rid of acne once and for all
Sometimes creams and cleansers just won’t do the trick. But a combo of supplements and skincare can lead you on the path to a clear complexion. But is popping a pill really worth the hype?
According to Lianne Leach, educator at Beauty Boosters Australia, the answer is yes.
“Many people have seen a huge improvement in their skin’s health and appearance after taking a supplement. If you’re looking to heal scarring caused by acne, you may find that supplementing with vitamin C and zinc helps to support connective tissue and wound healing while also regenerating healthy new skin cells. If you’ve had recent changes caused by fluctuating hormones you could benefit from essential fatty acids like evening primrose or fish oil.”
Dr. Vivian Tam a Doctor of Chinese Medicine and the founder of Zilch agrees. “They support the body from the inside out. A lot of breakouts and acne problems come from an internal imbalance, whether that be digestion and detoxing, or hormonal imbalances – supplements can be very powerful in addressing these and provide a long term change.”
Whether you’ve got cystic bumps, flare up around your period or just get the occasional spot, we’ve found a supplement for you.
Based on Chinese herbal medicine principles it’s believed imbalances in body temperature and poor blood circulation can cause inflammation and breakouts. According to Dr. Tam they work by reducing the inflammation, including the soreness, redness and swelling associated with larger bumps. So, if you’re suffering from types of adult acne like hormonal or cystic, Chinese herbs can help. “Zilch contains 17 all-natural Chinese herbal ingredients that promote circulation, detox the body, balance heat and inflammation and promote healing.”
Usually found as an ingredient in drying lotions and spot creams, it makes sense sulfur has made its way into supplements and is one of the latest wellness trend ingredients to come out of L.A. Although found in foods like cauliflower and broccoli it’s more powerful in the form of a powder. The mineral helps the body detoxify and flushes out unwanted toxins from the skin’s cells which means they’re healthier, less inflamed and clear, so it’s perfect for mild spots, red pimples and blackheads.
Acne: What works and what’s to blame
Acne: What works and what’s to blame
Recent studies have shown that people with acne were more likely to be deficient in Zinc, as it causes skin irritation and imbalances. It’s antioxidant powers work to support your skin’s structure and renewal so it’s essential for a glowing, clear complexion. Upping the amount you consume helps to balance sebum – too much and you get zits, too little and your skin can become dehydrated, heals skin and regulates hormones so you can say goodbye to those pesky bumps.
Popping a vitamin C pill isn’t just for boosting your immune system, it’s great for diminishing redness associated with pimples too. It works to calm the immune system rather than stimulate it, which reduces the inflammation. Aside from redness, this vitamin is great for reducing the appearance of acne scars and repairing skin after a breakout, as it promotes collagen and elastin production.
Evening Primrose Oil
This guy is a triple threat, not only does it help balance the hormones that can cause acne, it also works to reduce inflammation and flare ups, and last but not least, helps your cells refresh so they’re clear of clogged dead skin and bacteria – the stuff that causes pimples. “Evening Primrose Oil is a rich source GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid) a type of Omega 6 which is involved in the hormone production that contributes to the skin’s inflammatory processes and can balance the skin’s sebum production,” explains Leach. “Plus, it can also prevent the skin from drying out too much which can be a symptom of some acne medications.”
Beauty Boosters Complexion Perfection $59.95https://beautyboosters.com.au/products/complexion-perfection
Common Vitamin Has Been Linked to a Higher Risk of Acne
Vitamin B12 – found in many meat and dairy products and taken as a supplement for better brain function and to stave off anaemia – might alter the genetic make-up of facial bacteria, promoting rapid inflammation that’s been linked to the formation of pimples, according to a 2015 study.
As many poor souls are well aware, acne isn’t just for teenagers. In fact, it affects most of us at some point in our lives, with an estimated 80 percent of people between the ages of 11 and 30 around the world experiencing a breakout at some point.
The unluckiest of us will have to deal with the unsightly lumps and bumps well into our forties and fifties, and the worst part is that despite being an incredibly common affliction, scientists don’t actually know much about what causes acne and how to prevent or treat it.
To investigate, Huiying Li, a molecular pharmacologist at the University of California-Los Angeles, and her team decided to focus on high levels of B12 as a possible culprit, based on research from the past six decades that’s linked it to higher instances of the condition.
“It has been reported several times that people who take B12 develop acne,” she told Arielle Duhaime-Ross at The Verge back in 2015.
The first thing they did was identify the molecular pathway that produces vitamin B12 in the skin bacterium Propionibacterium acnes, and compared it in people with good skin, and people with acne-prone skin.
They found that the vitamin B12 biosynthesis pathway in P. acnes was significantly down-regulated in the acne patients as compared to the patients with healthy skin.
Next, they wanted to test the effects of an increased intake of B12 from eternal sources on the levels of naturally produced B12 in these skin bacteria. They gathered 10 volunteers with clear, healthy skin, and asked them to receive a vitamin B12 injection.
As Jennifer Abbasi reported at LiveScience, “The researchers confirmed that the B12 supplement repressed the expression of genes in P. acnes involved in synthesising the vitamin. In fact, the expression of those genes was lowered to levels similar to those of acne patients.”
So it looks like by intaking extra vitamin B12, we could be prompting the bacteria in our skin to slow down on their production of it, which leads to an imbalance that could heighten our risk of developing acne.
According to the paper, which was published in Science Translational Medicine, one of the clear-skinned participants ending up developing acne one week after receiving the vitamin B12 injection.
When Li and her team examined the gene-expression in their P. acnes bacteria, they found that it had gone from looking like that of the other clear-skinned participants to that of their acne-affected volunteers 14 days after the injection.
The team followed up the finding by performing lab tests in which vitamin B12 was added to P. acnes bacteria.
The bacteria responded by producing compounds called porphyrins, LiveScience reported, which are known to promote the kind of inflammation that previous research has linked to the appearance of severe acne.
“It’s exciting that we found that the potential link between B12 and acne is through the skin bacteria,” Li told Duhaime-Ross at The Verge.
Now, before you decide to stop taking supplements and cut down on anything rich in vitamin B12, such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and milk – you know, all the delicious things – remember that this is a small study, and there’s not a whole lot to go on yet, except that vitamin B12 looks like an intriguing candidate for further research.
The study was published in Science Translational Medicine.
A version of this article was first published in June 2015.
Vitamin B12 screws with your skin bacteria and could cause acne
A vitamin found in meats and dairy products may be linked to acne, a study published today in Science Translational Medicine suggests. Vitamin B12 alters how the genes of facial bacteria behave — a change that in turn promotes inflammation, which has been linked to pimples in the past. The finding could eventually help create new drugs that can keep acne away. But it’s still very early, so the researchers warn against making any drastic changes to your diet or habits for now.
“It has been reported several times that people who take B12 develop acne.”
People sometimes take B12 as a supplement to improve memory or combat anemia. But “it has been reported several times that people who take B12 develop acne,” says Huiying Li, a molecular pharmacologist at the University of California-Los Angeles and a co-author of the study. “So it’s exciting that we found that the potential link between B12 and acne is through the skin bacteria.”
More than 80 percent of teenagers and young adults have to deal with acne, often on a regular basis. It can go away on its own, but it can also lead to some pretty bad scarring — not to mention some big dips in self-esteem. Unfortunately, researchers don’t know nearly as much about this particular skin condition as one might expect. Scientists have shown that the production of sebum — the oily, waxy stuff your skin makes — and a disorder of the cells that line the inside of hair follicles are both involved in acne development, but the role of bacteria in those pimples we all dread still holds some mysteries.
That’s why Li and her team of researchers decided to look into B12. Since the 1950s, a number of studies have linked the vitamin to acne, but that association was largely anecdotal, Li says. And the researchers had suspected that the vitamin might have an effect on skin bacteria, most notably Propionibacterium acnes. Now, Li and her team think they may have figured out how B12 acts on P. acnes, thanks to experiments her team performed on bacteria taken from a small number of people.
The study revealed that humans taking B12 end up with high levels of the vitamin in their skin. As a result, P. acnes senses these higher levels and lowers its own production of B12, which it uses to carry out its everyday bacteria-like activities. This causes an imbalance that prompts P. acnes to produce more porphyrins, a related molecule. And unfortunately porphyrins are linked to inflammation — a pretty important factor in the development of severe acne.
“The main message is that skin bacteria are important.”
Thus, it seems likely that for some people, taking B12 causes inflammation in the skin, which leads to acne. That last step in this pimply chain of events has yet to be demonstrated, however. Doing so will take a bit more time, Li says.
“The main message is that skin bacteria are important,” Li says. They’re contributing members of our skin’s society, and they like to do things in a certain manner. But until other researchers confirm the link between B12 and acne in a larger number of people, dermatologists won’t really be able to make any clinical recommendations one way or the other, she says. Still, just knowing about the ways in which we can affect the organisms that live on our skin is pretty fun. “I don’t want people to misinterpret the results by not taking B12,” Li says — this is all about the bacteria.
Too Much of a Good Thing: How Vitamin B12 Triggers Acne Breakouts
None of us are immune to “bad skin days.” An uneven skin tone, splotchy bumps and pimples have plagued us all. And while white sugar, caffeine, dairy and chemical-laden makeup are the most common skin saboteurs, research suggests too much of a certain vitamin may also be causing your breakouts: vitamin B12 (1)(2).
Now, when you consider the relationship between nutrition and the skin, nutrient deficiencies are typically what you’d think of first. We must get an adequate amount of essential nutrients, such as healthy fats, antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, for bright, clear skin. In fact, B vitamin deficiency has been linked to rashes, an uneven complexion, and yes—acne (3)(4).
So, how is it possible then, that a B12 supplement could cause acne—especially when B12 supplements or injections are commonly recommended for improving skin health?
Why B12 Supplements Can Cause Acne
First, let’s get something clear: B vitamins are essential for your skin. They help produce collagen, moisturize, prevent dryness, and help reduce the appearance of wrinkles (5). As a true “skin food,” B vitamins aren’t the enemy—they nourish, hydrate and protect your skin’s outermost layer (6).
However, you’ve probably heard the saying, “too much of a good thing is a bad thing,” and this applies to B vitamins, too. Meaning: if you aren’t truly deficient in B12, adding extra B12 to your diet could actually aggravate your skin and cause blemishes. Let’s take a look at why this can happen.
We all have a strain of acne-causing facial bacteria on our skin called Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes for short. Under normal circumstances, P. acnes does no harm—it simply hangs out on the skin and minds its own business. The only time p. acnes becomes a problem is when it’s triggered by certain factors, such as fluctuating hormones (7). When its activity is changed on the skin, it can cause an inflammatory response, leading to breakouts (8).
All right, all right: so what does B12 have to do with any of this?
According to a recent study published in Science Translational Medicine, B12 supplements have also been shown to alter P. acnes growth on the skin. And not only for those who are acne prone, but also for those who otherwise have clear skin (9)(10). Vitamin B12 supplements can alter bacteria growth on skin, causing breakouts.
The study continues to explain that the altered expression of p. acnes caused by B12 supplements encourages the growth of a pigment called porphyrins, which further contributes to the inflammation associated with acne (11).
Now, this study fails to mention the exact dosage of B12 administered to patients, and whether the B12 supplements were injections or capsules. But one of the speculations as to why B12 supplements may cause breakouts is due to the fact that the supplements on store shelves contain unusually high amounts of B12.
For example, the average female adult requires 2.4-2.8 mcg per day, but if you take a peek at the label of any given isolated B12 supplement, many contain upwards of 2,000 mcg per dose (12).
As mentioned above, an excess of B12 is what can change p. acnes activity on the skin and lead to breakouts—so these unusually high amounts don’t seem to work in our favor when we aren’t truly deficient in B12. B12 supplements typically contain unusually high amounts of the vitamin.
Now, being a water-soluble vitamin, high amounts of B12 are considered “safe” to take in supplements because your body will excrete whatever you don’t need through your urine. But as you can see, these high supplement doses may be aggravating (skin-wise) for the average person who receives B12 from dietary sources, such as red meat, chicken, eggs and fish.
Another reason B12 supplements may trigger acne is because many versions found on store shelves are synthetic. Most B12 supplements are formulated with cyanocobalamin, which is a synthetic version of B12 made from cyanide and cobalt (13). When we take this version of Vitamin B12, our bodies must convert cyanocobalamin to a “usable” or “preferred” form of B12, which is methylcobalamin (14). During this conversion, our bodies are left with cyanide as a byproduct, which must be detoxified and eliminated by the liver (15).
If you already have acne-prone skin, the last thing you want to do is create more work for your liver. In fact, from a holistic perspective, the health of your skin is a reflection of the health of your internal organs (in particular, your digestive system and liver). But one thing to remember is your skin is also an organ of detoxification (it’s your largest one). Therefore, when your liver is overburdened with toxins to filter out of your system, toxins may also start coming out through your skin, which can clog your pores and lead to breakouts (16).
Do Food Sources of B12 Cause Acne?
Food sources of B12 aren’t as much of a concern for triggering breakouts.
Not only do food sources contain the natural form of B12, methylcobalamin, which the liver doesn’t have to detoxify—but they’re also much lower in B12 than the supplements on store shelves. For example, one of the richest sources of B12 is liver, which contains approximately 85.9 mcg per 100 gram serving (17). As you can see, this is a small fraction of the higher dose synthetic B12 supplements. Beef liver is a much better source of Vitamin B12 than supplements.
Since animal products are the richest sources of B12, B12 supplements are more commonly recommended for those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, as opposed to a Paleo diet.
The Bottom Line
If you’re truly deficient or eat a diet low in animal products, Vitamin B12 supplements may not be a threat to your skin. It’s only when your body’s receiving an abundance of this vitamin that the bacteria on your skin can change, and trigger the inflammation related to breakouts.
(Read This Next: 7 Foods to Help Clear Away Adult Acne)
Have Awful Adult Acne? This Vitamin You’re Eating Every Day May Be to Blame
If you were one of the (many) unlucky teens in your high school who dealt with acne, you sure were in good company. And while you weren’t happy about it back then, we know just how frustrating it is to have the same skin problem decades later. You’ve tried every beauty product out there, and perhaps even seen a dermatologist for prescription-strength medication. But despite all your best efforts, the acne probably persists — and you have no idea why.
Acne is a stubborn beast, so when you’ve exhausted all other options, it’s time to think outside the box. And many bad-skin sufferers are finding this particular vitamin (for the reveal, check out Page 5) is the source of their problems.
The acne you have now is a lot different than teen acne
Teen acne is a lot different from adult acne. |LightFieldStudios/ iStock
Gone are the days of smearing as much benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid on your face as possible. While you probably have fond memories of accidentally staining your clothes, sheets, and towels with these products, adult acne usually can’t be solely treated using topical antibacterials.
Murad explains your teen acne was caused by oily skin, and it was likely all over your face. Adult acne, however, is more often across the jaw and chin region and caused by your cells renewing too slowly. When you grow out of your teen years, you’re also more likely to have breakouts that are tender, red, and sensitive, rather than blackheads or whiteheads.
Out-of-whack hormones are a problem for most
Hormones may be the culprit of your acne woes. | lenanet/Getty Images
There’s a reason most women notice a pre-period breakout or two — and that’s due to fluctuating hormones. While this is totally normal, persistent acne, particularly around the jawline, is a sign of a bigger problem. Aside from menstruation and menopause, excess male sex hormones (like testosterone) in women are also a common culprit.
Healthline explains fluctuations in hormones can cause skin inflammation, more oil production, and slower cell turnover that causes clogged pores. And while it’s nice to think expensive creams and masks may work, you’re better off asking your doctor about oral contraceptives or medications that lower testosterone levels if your acne is severe.
Certain conditions and family history can also predispose you
Your genetics may predispose you to adult acne. | iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz
Verywell explains genetics play a strong role in who develops acne and who doesn’t. And some studies show if your mother had skin problems, you’re more likely to have them yourself. This suggests the “acne gene” passes through the X chromosome.
If you’re a woman with adult acne and it doesn’t tend to run in your family, you may want to ask your doctor about whether or not you may have polycystic ovarian syndrome. WebMD explains one of the most common symptoms of PCOS is acne, along with weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles, and thinning hair.
And what you eat certainly has an impact
Hold off on all the sugar. | iStock.com/Dezarae_B
So, does the food you eat have an impact on your skin? As one of the longest-running acne debates rages on, the current thought is yes. One review finds Western diets that are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids are to blame, as populations eating non-Western diets generally had an absence of the skin condition. Also, any sugary, high-glycemic foods that spike your blood sugar are likely to lead to breakouts.
And don’t forget the importance of keeping hydrated, WebMD reminds us. Many people with adult acne have severely dehydrated skin, which can actually increase oil production.
The vitamin to avoid: B12
An excess of vitamin B12 may cause acne. | iStock.com/diego_cervo
Here’s the thing about the bacteria that causes acne — every single person has it on their skin. But some strains cause breakouts, and others don’t. It seems an excess of vitamin B12, which is vital for brain function and healthy nerves and blood cells, may actually alter this bacteria in a way that promotes the growth of acne lesions.
According to Live Science, a study shows acne-promoting bacteria found on the skin produces inflammatory molecules when this vitamin is present. This, in turn, is likely to create acne lesions, especially in those who are already prone to the condition. More research is needed to confirm these findings.
Foods high in vitamin B12
Do you break out after eating dairy? | iStock.com
Even if you don’t take a multivitamin, you could be getting way more B12 than you realize. Health says B12 is only found naturally in animal sources — so meat, fish, and dairy lovers, you’re most likely consuming quite a lot.
Shellfish like clams, oysters, mussels, and crabs are among some of the highest sources of the vitamin. Beef, chicken, eggs, and milk also contain quite a lot. If you notice you’re breaking out after eating these foods, perhaps consider switching to beans, quinoa, nuts and seeds, and soy as your main protein sources.
The best way to take care of adult acne
Whole-grain is the way to go. | iStock.com
There are a number of other things you can do to keep breakouts at bay. The first rule to live by (for your skin and overall health) is to always go for whole grains when possible, and skip refined carbs. And Prevention says dairy may be particularly aggravating for acne-prone skin, so switch to almond, soy, or coconut milk products instead.
If you visit a dermatologist, inquire about topical retinoids. They work differently than the products you used in your youth, as they penetrate deeper into the skin to increase cell turnover. Because of how they work, they’re also great for preventing fine lines and wrinkles.
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Why Vitamin E Can Impact Acne and Skin Health
As a human being, probably one of life’s most common yet complex issues is fighting acne from the age of puberty through adulthood.
Statistics show that more than 50 million Americans have acne problems. Count yourself very fortunate if you have never had any real issue with acne.
If you have severe acne issues, then finding a cure to get rid of it is your everyday mission.
There is scientifically no cure for acne. However, there are steps you can take to prevent acne from being a problem.
Another word commonly used for acne is pimples. Pimples are red bumps filled with pus. They are usually sore and irritated.
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Normally they are seen during puberty ages, however, they can appear at any time.
When you see small, round solid bumps, these are known as papules.
f these round bumps become infected and fill with pus, they are known as pustules.
When you have a large papule deep in the skin, it is called a nodule.
If the nodule is visible on the skin and filled with pus it is known as a cyst. Both cysts and nodules can be very painful.
How Does Vitamin E Help Fight Acne?
Acne is a long-lasting, inflammatory condition of the skin. Statistics show that 15% of the 50 million Americans with acne also deal with acne scars. Most times acne is thought of as just a chronic issue of unwanted bumps and zits popping up on the face.
In fact, acne can also cause spots, zits, and bumps to pop up on the skin. These are commonly seen on the face, neck, back, shoulders, chest, and arms. These bumps can be in different forms, such as whiteheads, blackheads, cysts, and nodules.
Whiteheads are small, white round bumps visible on the surface of the skin. They occur because of clogged pores. Pores become clogged with dead skin cells, dirt, makeup, and oils. Therefore, your cleansing ritual or lifestyle may be to blame. The other causing factor may be your genetic make-up.
If your skin type is very oily, then this adds to the higher possibility of having clogged pores and developing whiteheads.
Blackheads are small dark or black bumps visible on the skin’s surface.
This is due to clogged hair follicles. The gland that produces oil in the follicle is called the sebaceous gland and the oil it produces is referred to as sebum. When the follicle is clogged and the skin remains closed over the bump, then it is a white head.
When the skin opens over the clog, the oxygen turns the clog dark or black and this is when it becomes a blackhead.
Naturally, your skin produces its own oil to keep moisturized. The oil-producing glands, sebaceous glands, are very small glands that create the oil, sebum. The sebum moisturizes the skin and hair. These glands are located throughout the body within the skin’s pores.
There are 2 places in which sebaceous glands are not found, the hands and soles of the feet. Most of the sebaceous glands are located in the face and scalp areas. Your body constantly sheds dead skin, but sometimes the dead skin does not shed. This causes the dead skins thus get stuck in the pore and along with the sebum, they cause pore blockage.
Sometimes clogged pores become infected. When the pore is clogged, a bacterium known as Propionibacterium acnes grows. This bacterium is already in the skin, but given the dead skin cell and sebum, it can grow much faster. The bacterium feeds off the sebum and makes a substance that affects the skin causing it to be inflamed and spotted.
It is possible there may be 2 strains of the bacterium in the skin pores. According to the Washington University School of Medicine, their research shows there may be a good strain and a bad strain. The scientists were studying why some people have problems with pimples and others do not (https://source.wustl.edu/2013/02/study-may-explain-why-some-people-get-pimples/).
It was found that not all strains of bacterium result in acne. In fact, there may be a good strain that protects the skin.
Over the years, you may have heard that Vitamin E for acne is the way to fight.
What is it about Vitamin E that would be great against acne? Vitamin E is made up of four tycopherol proteins and four tocotreinol proteins. These are fat-soluble compounds.
It is known to contain antioxidants. Antioxidants fight against free radicals in the body. Free radicals are known to damage body cells. Therefore, vitamin E is good for protecting the body’s skin cells from being damaged while at the same time positively contributing to a healthier immune system.
One of the first signs of vitamin E deficiency is dry irritated skin. Healthy skin is key to preventing acne, whether acne is caused by genetics or lifestyle. One of the loved attributes of vitamin E is that it moisturizes the skin.
Your skin can get easily irritated and inflamed when it is dry. Keeping it moisturized is important and with vitamin E, a protective oil barrier is formed locking in moisture. Another great attribute is that it may also improve blood flow, which in turn improves scalp and hair health.
Vitamin E oil is absorbed into the skin quickly because it is fat-soluble. This leads to faster healing of acne and acne scars. It controls the production of collagen and elastin in the skin.
The collagen strengthens the skin and may help with the skin’s elasticity and hydration. It can reduce skin wrinkles and dryness as well.
Although there can be many factors contributing to hormonal imbalance, keeping your hormones in check can help fight against acne. Studies have shown that acne may be initiated by an increase in androgen levels.
When androgen increases, it results in larger sebaceous glands, which in turn yields more oil being produced. Too much sebum can damage skin cell walls allowing for growth of bacteria. In women, the androgen hormone turns into estrogen.
To help keep your hormones in balance naturally, start with getting adequate sleep and maintaining low-stress levels. Practice healthy eating, exercise regularly and spend time in the sun.
How Do You Use Vitamin E for Acne?
After discovering vitamin E, you may have asked how do you use vitamin E for acne.
There are 2 ways to get vitamin E into your body. You can eat it or apply it directly to the skin.
Studies show that consuming vitamin E aids in balancing cholesterol. In its natural state, cholesterol is in good balance. When the cholesterol is oxidized, it becomes bad.
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Vitamin E fights to prevent this oxidization from occurring.
Eating foods with vitamin E may also help fight Alzheimer’s disease, may improve vision, lower risk of cancer, increase physical energy, may relieve menstruation symptoms, help to thicken hair and repair damaged skin.
The best foods to consume for vitamin E include:
- Sunflower Seeds
- Wheat Germ
- Butternut Squash
When eating these foods, you will want to keep in mind the amount of the food you are consuming to reach the daily value amount.
Eating 1 cup of sunflower seeds or almonds will provide 220% and 218% daily value, respectively.
Hazelnuts and wheat germ provide 133% and 118%, respectively, the daily value in 1 cup.
An entire raw mango weighing approximately 3 milligrams will give you 20% daily value while 1 whole raw avocado weighing about 2.7 milligrams will give you 18% daily value.
Eating the recommended daily amount is especially important for infants, children, pregnant and nursing mothers and the elderly. The reason is that of its ability to protect critical fatty acids and controlling inflammation.
In some cases, vitamin E must be consumed along with other elements to improve specific areas of health; such as in the case of vision improvement. You must consume vitamin C, beta-carotene, and zinc while consuming vitamin E in order to be effective for vision.
These vitamins together help fight macular degeneration, which is known to cause blindness. Consuming selenium with vitamin E may lessen your chances of getting cancer. Also, consuming vitamin E with vitamin C may decrease the risk of dementia.
Research shows that tocotrienols in vitamin E protect against Alzheimer’s and may slow down memory loss.
Did you know that you could prevent your body from absorbing vitamin E? Just because you consume vitamin E does not mean your body is absorbing it. You have to be careful not to consume the foods that cause the body to not absorb the vitamin E.
One of the main common causes of vitamin E malabsorption is the leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut happens when foods you are intolerant to, mainly foods that contain gluten, eat away at your intestinal walls allowing bacteria and toxins to leak through the walls of the intestines.
Also, the little hairs within the intestines freeze up and are unable to do their job of pulling nutrients out of the food and passing it along into the body as needed.
When this is severe, holes begin to develop in the intestines, which leads to food elements literally getting into the bloodstream.
Another cause of vitamin E not being absorbed is simply aging. The amount of hydrochloric acid and enzymes decreases after the age of 40. Naturally enzymes break down the food you eat. When the food is broken down, then the enzymes can absorb the nutrients.
The one enzyme that is needed to absorb vitamin E and A is lipase. Lipase digests the fats consumed.
All hope of optimal vitamin E absorption is not lost. There are things you can do to improve your absorption of vitamin E. This is especially important if you have a disease that prevents vitamin absorption.
It is suggested to take a water-soluble form of vitamin E. This allows it to be absorbed from the intestines via water surrounding the cells. You can also take vitamin E supplements.
Although the food may be the preferred way to absorb vitamin E, you also have the option of applying it directly to the skin. Applying vitamin E to the skin may repair and improve the damaged tissue. Vitamin E oil should be applied cautiously, especially if applying on the face.
The oil is heavy and because of this weight, it could clog the pores and provoke further breakout. Skin application of oil could also cause an allergic reaction.
If you are applying vitamin E oil directly to the skin, it is best to apply it prior to bedtime at night. The reason is that the oil is thick.
As with investing, it would be good to apply vitamin E to the skin with vitamin C. Together these will create a great sunblock, protecting the skin from free radicals and harmful sun rays. The result is the slowing down of aging and wrinkles in the skin.
If you are putting the oil on your face, use a cotton ball with a few drops of vitamin E on it and wipe over your face. In addition to moisturizing skin, it may improve dry chapped lips, in which it would be better than your everyday chapstick.
You may decide to apply the oil only on the extremely dry skin areas, rather than all over the body. Because vitamin E provides hydration and may increase blood circulation, applying to a targeted area of the body or scalp may improve the skin health for that area of skin.
You can apply your vitamin E moisturizer around the eyes at night to help get rid of dark circles.
Sometimes it is best to use the vitamin E oil by itself. Other times it is good to mix with other products, such as night cream or lotion. The first step to fighting acne is to know your skin type and be aware of your body’s changes. Your skin will thank you.