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Biotin and Breakouts: A Perfect Storm

Biotin is often a go-to supplement for those looking for longer and healthier hair, stronger nails, and glowing skin. But far too many of my clients (and soon-to-be clients) are discovering that Biotin can be a bitch. While it may give you luminous hair and perfect nails, it can also wreak havoc on your skin. How can this be? Let’s learn more about vitamin B7 and how to avoid the downsides of this supplement

What is Biotin and Why Do People Take It?

Biotin (AKA vitamin B7)  is a water-soluble vitamin that is an essential nutrient we normally obtain through our regular diets. Foods such as broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, nuts/seeds, beef and dairy are rich in B7. Biotin helps with many essential functions within our bodies, primarily our gene regulation, cell communication, and metabolism. Touted as a wonderdrug for hair, skin, and nails, research only supports biotin improving the keratin infrastructure in these areas. The jury is still out on it actually helping your hair and nails grow or your skin to glow. So the supplements are kind of a scam.

Why Does Biotin Lead to Breakouts?

The body is extremely intelligent. No matter how much of something we ingest or apply topically, the body will only take what it needs and immediately discard any excess. With biotin, you’ll need to drink A LOT of fluids to ensure that excess is disposed of in timely fashion. Any excess will be passed through urine). If you are more on the dehydrated side, you probably aren’t urinating as frequently as you should. As the excess biotin is waiting to be released it has the potential to alter insulin levels which we know can play a primary role in developing breakouts.

Secondly, though research is sparse, if we are to believe the claims of vitamin B7 to encourage skin cell growth then that means it likely will exacerbate breakouts. Since most with acne also have a genetic predisposition to retention hyperkeratosis—which causes an overproduction of skin cells and buildup within the pore—this will likely result in more breakouts once biotin is introduced to the body. More skin cell growth means more clogged pores and more breakouts.

So Should I Take Biotin or Not?

When it comes to supplements, I encourage clients to consult with both their doctor and a registered dietician. They may not think you need any supplements and/or suggest a better diet to get you the nutrients you need.

If professional medical care is not an option, you need to test B7 supplements just like you would any other skin care product. With ingestible supplements, your testing period can be much longer. You will have to be consistent with your doses for at least 2 months to determine if it makes your breakouts worse. During this time, I’d also suggest keeping a very minimal skin care routine and don’t introduce any new products until you’ve been able to determine if biotin is for you.