Vitamin B12 and Acne

I was hoping this day would never come – the day that I had to admit there might be some potential side effects to vitamin B12 supplements!

I have heard from a few people over the years that they had a reaction to vitamin B12 supplements. In those cases, it was not clear whether it was the actual vitamin B12 or possibly another chemical that was included in the supplement preparation.

But in June of 2010, someone wrote me saying that there had been some discussion on a German Blog that several people started getting “bad” skin after taking b12 supplements. As I am not a reader of German, I noted it but did not research further.

Then, on October 27, someone commented on the Will a Multivitamin Cover B12 Needs? post, saying they had developed acne after supplementing with vitamin B12.

I did some more research and found some cases in the scientific literature in which vitamin B6 and/or vitamin B12 was thought to be the cause of acne and rosacea. I have added the page Side Effects of B12 Supplements to Vitamin B12: Are You Getting It? in order to alert people to this possibility.

It would be good to know what sort of dose could typically cause this problem, how much of a culprit vitamin B12 is compared to vitamin B6, and if all forms of vitamin B12 are implicated. I found very little on it and the most recent report was from 2001, so it is not an area of much study at this point.

Of course, if you suspect high doses of vitamin B12 to be causing a problem for you, opt for smaller doses more often (see Recommendations).

132 Responses to “Vitamin B12 and Acne”

  1. Allie Says:

    Thanks Vicky for sharing your similar experience. The anti-biotics my daughter is on are having no affect at all on the acne and I have tried every topical treatment available with little or no positive affect. Very reluctant to start the isotretinoin as the side effects are reported to be quite dramatic, even though the so called health professionals are telling me it’s fine. I agree with you about ‘never again’ for b12 shots but will look for natural ways to maintain her levels. What is the Epiduo cream comprised of? Is it available over the counter?
    Many thanks,
    Allie

  2. Anna Says:

    Hey Allie

    [I appreciate all the time Anna took to help you out, Allie, so I’m putting this comment through, but please talk to your physician before taking any of Anna’s suggestions. I can’t be responsible for anything you (or anyone else) decides to do based on what you read on this page. – Jack Norris, RD]

    I am really sorry about your daughter’s skin condition as I have gone through almost the same experience after getting 5 shots of b12 and about 10 (1000-mcg) pills of b12 supplements. When my situation was at its peak I read this article and was assured that b12 was the culprit. I even wrote earlier to someone who commented here to know how long does it take for my skin to get back to normal – which is actually all that matters to those plagued by this condition. I got no answer back then. This is why I am writing this comment which is based on my personal experience with b12 acne. I just want to ease your daughter’s mind and yours and to give you a heads up of what to expect for the next 10 to 12 months as she is unlikely to get better before then (of course each body is different and it also depends on the dose – I had 5 shots and supplements while she had only 3 shots so that’s a fortunate thing in her case).

    The only thing that does actually help in this condition is to be patient; there will be times when her body might give her skin a break only to shock her with more and more breakouts later on (though I hope she doesn’t go through that – but she needs to be emotionally prepared). Picture it like this; she was sentenced to almost a year of acne and she has no other choice but to serve. Acceptance is the key, because if she resists the idea she will get stressed and stress along with acne is like adding insult to injury.

    Once the psychological and time factors are understood by a patient who is plagued by such a condition, the rest that they could do is as follows;

    1- Topical antiseptic sprays (Hexomedine) and soothing creams that contain antibiotics (Fucidin) are the only medication your daughter really needs. I am not a supporter of Accutane or any oral or injection treatment as you could never tell how each body responds to their side effects (if history is any indication the problem in the first place was caused by the side effects of a previous treatment that irritated your daughter’s liver – B12 shots) thus, you could never tell what body organ isotretinoin could irritate this time. So, my advice is to keep her body healthy and to fight acne through natural stuff.

    2- Make sure she follows a healthy diet and don’t worry about b12 levels as she could have her intake of b12 from natural food.

    3- Avoid shampoos or soap that contains synthetic vitamin b12 or Keratin.

    4- Drink a lot of water.

    5- Another thing that did really help in my case surprisingly was popping whiteheads; (Let’s hope she doesn’t), but if your daughter goes through the phase of whiteheads, popping isn’t always a bad thing if done correctly – though there will always be casualties.

    Speaking of whiteheads phase I will record the phases that my skin went through so that your daughter might make an analogy as well as know what she could expect had her body responded the same way to b12 side effects:

    Phase 1: greasy skin and aggressive lesions (month 1-2)

    Phase 2: patches of continuously formed whiteheads and random pustules (month 3-4-5-6)

    Phase 3: decrease in the number of newly formed whiteheads especially if old ones are removed as well as occasional acne breakouts that heighten around menstruation and ovulation (month 7-8-9)

    Phase 4: pimples get smaller in shape and there is a gradual decrease in the number of pimples until the skin starts to regain its previous glowing and natural tone (month 10-11-12)

    P.S. In addition to facial acne I also had upper body acne especially on my back which was even more aggressive than the facial one.

    Also, I suggest she take photos of her face regularly and to keep them in a personal file as this helps her tolerate setbacks and celebrate improvements. This helps her keep track of how the treatment is going as well (it gives the illusion that she has control over the situation – emotionally it helps as acne could be very depressing). Plus, no matter how much she goes on and on about her acne try to be as considerate as possible. Let her vent out her feelings as she must be feeling terribly vulnerable.

    As for picking; if she suffers from whiteheads (I hope not) and she takes care of those whiteheads before they become fully-fledged pimples she wins. However, let me be clear about this; each (whitehead picking wave) is likely to give her one or two big pimples that take no less than a month to fully heal – (since the whiteheads are so close to each other and she might miss one or two that could get inflamed after the attack) but the upside is that she gets rid of so many whiteheads per attack. The best advice really for picking is to clean the area with water and soap and to wear doctor gloves while picking and to try her best to get all the sebum out of the whitehead. If you or she does not feel good about this whole picking thing, forget it and let her skin take care of it on its own.

    Finally, as for the scarring, it depends on the area and type of skin your daughter has; if she is lucky she will be left with no scarring or acne marks whatsoever even if she picks them. However, if she is not lucky, even if she does not touch her skin she will get scars.

    Disclaimer: I repeat this is all from my personal experience and the amount of reading I did while going through that condition. I am not well-versed in medicine or dermatology and I don’t claim to be 100 percent right about what I said here. I am merely sympathetic and trying to help.

    I hope your daughter makes the quickest full recovery as I could feel exactly what she must be going through right now.

    Be safe.

    Anna

  3. Allie Says:

    Dear Anna, thank you so much for your comprehensive recount of your own experience with b12 and the phases that you observed before recovery. I have carefully read it and shared it with my daughter. It is heartening to read that there may be some light at the end of the tunnel and we are prepared to be patient rather than starting an aggressive form of treatment. I acknowledge the comments about everyone may respond differently and the recovery rate can also vary, but your information has provided us with a good idea of what we can expect. I estimate we are probably in about month 5-6 so will see what the next few months may bring. Much appreciated for the time you have spent sharing your experience it helps to know others have had a good outcome. Warmest regards, Allie

  4. Matevž Jeran Says:

    Some new studies on that topic are out there now:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=b12+acne

    “One of the 10 subjects studied developed acne 1 week after vitamin B12 supplementation.”

    Kang, D., Shi, B., Erfe, M.C., Craft, N. & Li, H. 2015. Vitamin B12 modulates the transcriptome of the skin microbiota in acne pathogenesis. Science Translational Medicine, 7(293): 293ra103-293ra103.
    http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/7/293/293ra103.short

    Review:

    Brescoll, J. & Daveluy, S. 2015. A Review of Vitamin B12 in Dermatology. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 16(1): 27–33.
    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40257-014-0107-3

  5. Essere Says:

    Seems like the Vaccine issue with all the man made toxic molecules added to it.

    Sadly many MSDS B12 injection papers found online do not list all the ingredients found in these injections however they do indicate that someone should wash their hands if they come into contact with it because it contains a skin irritant.. yet it is fine injecting it? The irony.

    My suggestion would be to drink water to hydrate and therefore flush out whatever other ingredient is in these injections that has become trapped between the cells and is causing inflammation.

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