Vitamin B Complex

Vitamin B Complex and acne

Vitamin B Complex is a term that describes dietary supplements which contain all 8 types of Vitamin B. The eight distinct forms of Vitamin B are:

  • B1 (Thiamine)
  • B2 (Riboflavin)
  • B3 (Niacin)
  • B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
  • B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • B7 (Biotin)
  • B9 (Folic Acid)
  • B12 (Cobalamin)

Each form of Vitamin B has a different function in the body but they are all important for cellular metabolism. B Vitamins are popular nutritional supplements and are purported to help increase metabolism and boost energy levels. B Vitamins are rarely used as a direct treatment for acne, but they are frequently incorporated into comprehensive acne treatment regimens as part of the nutritional plan.

Bananas are a rich source of B Vitamins, such as Vitamin B6
Bananas are a rich source of B Vitamins, such as Vitamin B6

B vitamins primarily function as coenzymes. Coenzymes are molecules that are essential for the structure and function of certain enzymes and other proteins. B vitamins occur naturally in many foods and processed foods are often fortified with additional B Vitamins. B Vitamin deficiencies are rare in most regions of the world. People who have B Vitamin deficiencies can experience a range of health problems, including skin problems. In particular, deficiencies in Vitamins B2, B5 and B6 are known to cause acne or acne-like symptoms.

Some people have reported that their acne symptoms improved after starting daily Vitamin B complex supplements. Vitamin B supplements are known to significantly improve skin health in people who have Vitamin B deficiencies. However, there has been little scientific research into whether Vitamin B supplements are effective acne treatments in people that do not have Vitamin B deficiencies. There are also conflicting reports on how Vitamin B supplements affect the bacteria (eg. Propionibacterium acnes) that contribute to acne symptoms. Currently, there is no robust scientific evidence to indicate Vitamin B supplementation can significantly reduce the frequency or severity of acne symptoms for most people.

B Complex Vitamins
B Complex Vitamins

All forms of Vitamin B are water soluble and excess Vitamin B is readily eliminated by the body in urine. Therefore to get a benefit from Vitamin B it should be taken daily. When consumed at the recommended dosages, Vitamin B complex supplements are generally quite safe. However, very high doses of B Vitamins can cause side effects. Vitamin B toxicities are more likely to occur in individuals who are having Vitamin B cocktails injected intravenously. Interestingly, there have been reports that very high doses of Vitamin B12 can trigger acne symptoms in some individuals.

Overall, Vitamin B supplements are healthy additions to almost any dietary program, when used at recommended dosages. Although Vitamin B supplementation is unlikely to dramatically improve acne symptoms for most individuals, it may be helpful for some people. If you would like to experiment with high dose Vitamin B therapy, it is best to avoid Vitamin B Complex (and Vitamin B12 specifically) and focus on Vitamins B2 (Riboflavin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid) and B6 (Pyridoxine).


Vitamin B Complex Images


B Vitamins @ Wikipedia
Acneiform eruption due to” megadose” vitamins B6 and B12. Sherertz. 1991.
Rosacea fulminans triggered by high‐dose vitamins B6 and B12. Jansen, et al. 2001.
Vitamin B12 modulates the transcriptome of the skin microbiota in acne pathogenesis. Kang, et al. 2015.
The problem of vitamin B6/B12 acne. A contribution on acne medicamentosa. Braun-Falco, et al. 1976.
The Effects of Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) on Persistent Adolescent Acne. Jolliffe, et al. 1942.
Topical vitamin B12—a new therapeutic approach in atopic dermatitis—evaluation of efficacy and tolerability in a randomized placebo-controlled multicentre clinical trial. Stucker, et al. 2004.
A review of vitamin B12 in dermatology. Brescoll, et al. 2015.
The effects of a daily facial lotion containing vitamins B3 and E and provitamin B5 on the facial skin of Indian women: a randomized, double-blind trial. Jerajani, et al. 2010.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A Supplement

Vitamin A a fat-soluble nutrient that is essential for a wide range of biological functions. It is necessary for normal growth and development, a healthy immune system, eyesight and much more. It is found in many foods, especially green, leafy vegetables. Vitamin A supplementation is frequently used as a Naturopathic treatment for acne.

Dark green vegetables like broccoli are a natural source of Vitamin A
Dark green vegetables like broccoli are a natural source of Vitamin A

Vitamin A plays and important role in regulating the development of skin cells and the sebaceous glands. Vitamin A was widely researched in the mid-20th century as a treatment for acne. Overall, these studies found that normal dosages of oral Vitamin A supplements were largely ineffective as acne treatments. Topical application of Vitamin A was also found to mildly effective, at best. However, oral supplementation with high-dose Vitamin A was reported to significantly reduce acne symptoms in some people.

Clinical Response to High Dose Vitamin A Therapy for Acne (Kligman)
Clinical Response to High Dose Vitamin A Therapy for Acne (Kligman)

The observation that high doses of Vitamin A could cause reduction of sebum production and an improvement in acne symptoms helped to spur the development of a class of Vitiman A derivatives called Retinoids. Retinoids are a group of of Pharmaceutical Medications that are widely used for the treatment of acne, and other skin conditions. Retinoids are structurally similar to Vitamin A and include medications like Isotretinoin (Accutane), Tretinoin (Retin-A), Adapalene (Differin) and Tazarotene Tazorac). These medications work by decreasing the growth and activity of sebaceous glands and the production of sebum. Because Retinoids tend to be more effective and require lower dosages than Vitamin A, direct supplementation with high-dose Vitamin A is not a common acne treatment. Retinoids are available in forms that can be consumed orally (eg. Accutane) or applied topically (eg. Retin-A).

Relationship of Acne Severity and Blood Levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin E and Zinc (Ozuguz)
Relationship of Acne Severity and Blood Levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin E and Zinc (Ozuguz)

Because Vitamin A is fat-soluble the body cannot easily remove excess Vitamin A and consuming very large amounts of Vitamin A can be toxic. There are some disagreements about specific toxicities and overall risk associated with high-dose Vitamin A treatments. But some side effects of Vitamin A toxicitiy include hair loss, dry skin and (potentially) liver damage. Overall, it appears that consuming normal dosages of Vitamin A is unlikely to dramatically improve acne symptoms for most people. Most people are not Vitamin A deficient, although there have been reports that individuals with moderate to severe acne symptoms tend to have lower concentrations of Vitamin A in their blood. High-dose Vitamin A therapy may be a useful acne treatment, but it might be unsafe. Pharmaceutical Retinoids are a viable alternative to high-dose Vitamin A therapy and may be more effective and have lower risk of side effects.

Vitamin A Images


Vitamin A @ Wikipedia
Effects of oral zinc and vitamin A in acne. Michaelsson, et al. 1977.
Topical vitamin A acid in acne vulgaris. Kligman, et al. 1969.
Oral vitamin A in acne vulgaris Preliminary report. Kligman, et al. 1981.
Studies on the mechanism of action of topical benzoyl peroxide and vitamin A acid in acne vulgaris. Fulton, et al. 1974.
Acne vulgaris: oral therapy with tetracycline and topical therapy with vitamin A. Mills, et al. 1972.
High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne. Adebamowo, et al. 2005.
Vitamin A in skin and serum—studies of acne vulgaris, atopic dermatitis, ichthyosis vulgaris and lichen planus. Rollman, et al. 1985.
Propionibacterium acnes induces an IL-17 response in acne vulgaris that is regulated by vitamin A and vitamin D. Agak, et al. 2014.
Topical tretinoin, vitamin A acid (Airol®) in acne vulgaris. Christiansen, et al. 1974.
Isotretinoin treatment of severe acne affects the endogenous concentration of vitamin A in sebaceous glands. Vahlquist, et al. 1990.
Ultrastructure of human sebaceous follicles and comedones following treatment with vitamin A acid. Wolff, et al. 1974.
Topical vitamins. Burgess. 2008.
Does the plasma level of vitamins A and E affect acne condition? El‐akawi, et al. 2006.
The acute and chronic toxic effects of vitamin A. Penniston, et al. 2006.