Is Vitamin B12 Causing Your Adult Acne?

Updated 09/23/19
A woman looking into the mirror while squeezing a pimple on her face.
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Over the years, vitamins and supplements have found themselves at the center of a hotly debated conversation about whether they're actually necessary for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In fact, a 2017 ConsumerLab vitamin review found that 46% of the multivitamins it tested didn't even do what their labels claim.

While the jury is still out on which vitamin and mineral supplements are truly effective and those best left at the drugstore, adult acne sufferers (between 40 and 55 percent of the adult population aged 20 to 40) might want to take a closer look at their vitamin B12 intake. In fact, a certain study on the relationship between acne and B12 might make you want to steer clear of the popular supplement altogether.

The Lowdown on Vitamin B12

B12 is a water-soluble vitamin important for healthy nerve tissue function and for the normal formation of red blood cells. And since vitamin B12 is naturally found in meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products, it's also often taken as a supplement by those who shun those foods. People found to be deficient in vitamin B12 (between 1.5 and 15 percent of the US population) can experience anemia and neurological difficulties, such as depression, confusion, and memory problems. The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults should consume 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 per day, which shouldn't be a problem for people who maintain healthy diets). And thankfully, the medical news site Medical News Today says that ingesting more than this amount shouldn't cause harm.

Vitamin B12 and Adult Acne: The Study

The 2015 study was authored by a doctor who had, over the years, heard multiple reports that people who take B12 develop acne. She and her team of researchers eventually found that the vitamin actually altered naturally-occurring facial bacteria, or microbiota, to promote inflammation, and thus, acne flare-ups. In essence, the team compared the molecular pathway that produces vitamin B12 in the skin of adults without acne to that of those prone to breakouts. They then tested the effects of increased amounts of B12 in participants with clear skin by giving them a B12 injection.

The Findings

The study revealed that B12 does, in fact, play a role in altering the skin's microbiota by messing with the way the genes within our facial bacteria work, again, promoting inflammation. Simply put, taking B12 supplements may cause skin's microbiota to slow their natural production of the vitamin, making the skin more susceptible to acne.

The Bottom Line

Basically, if you're already prone to acne flare-ups and breakouts and you're also taking B12 supplements, the results of this study seem very apropos. But don't toss your supplements out the window or swear off meat and dairy. Instead, discuss the possible link between B12 and adult acne with your healthcare professional to talk about your options.

To further your education into the relationship between vitamin B12 and adult acne, this handy reading list is a great place to start.

The Natural Health Approach

Dr. Colbert's Guide to Vitamins & Supplements book cover with green, orange, and yellow writing.
Don Colbert, MD Dr. Colbert's Guide to Vitamin's and Supplements $13
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An Examination of B12 Deficiency

Could It Be B12? book cover with red and blue writing.
Sally M. Pacholok and Jeffrey J. Stuart Could It Be B12? $13
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A Nutritionist's Take

Earl Mindell's New Vitamin Bible book cover with orange and blue writing.
Earl Mindell Earl Mindell's New Vitamin Bible $9
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An A To Z Reference

The Complete Guide To Nutrients book cover with green and blue writing.
Dr. Michael Sharon The Complete Guide to Nutrients $14
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For Prevention and Treatment of B12 Deficiency

The B12 Deficiency Survival Handbook book cover with aqua and orange writing.
Dr. Aqsa Ghazanfar and Regev Elya The B12 Deficiency Survival Handbook $15
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