Ask the Pharmacist: Are B vitamins useful for treating acne?

Suzy Cohen
It is likely that a balanced supply of the B vitamins (B12, biotin and niacin) are worth a try if acne is persistent.

Consuming a healthy diet is getting more difficult for everyone lately. So, taking supplements to fill in the nutritional gap is a good idea. Today, my focus is on B vitamins because those formulas are very useful to people, not only for energy, but also to control nerve pain and to help beautify the hair, skin and nails.

Most of you associate biotin as the beauty B vitamin, and that is true, however it’s not alone in its ability to support attractiveness. We know that a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anemia, and therefore also lead to hair loss, pale skin and brittle nails. If you have bluish-black or dark-colored streaks on your fingernails, it might be a sign of B12 deficiency. A deficiency in natural folate can also change the color of your nails and make them rigid and crack. Vitamin B5 reduces sebum oil production.

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Biotin is made by you, you know. It’s manufactured by the probiotics in your gut. A little-known fact is that B12 will not work without enough biotin in your body. Most people don’t know that. So, if you want to make more of your own B vitamins, you could start by thinking about gut health, dietary changes and/or a good probiotic. In as little as 3 months, you could see changes in your looks, maybe even sooner.

But are B vitamins useful for treating acne? Yes, if you take them in biologically active forms and you keep them in good balance. Biotin and pantothenic acid supplements are useful in treating acne. But B12 is 100 percent dependent on you to have enough biotin.

I saw this a lot when I was in clinical practice. People would test low serum B12. Their doctor would give them shots of B12 for that, to raise their levels quickly.  But high doses of B12 when you’ve been in short supply for years, is not a great idea at all if biotin is low. First, you’d want to prime the body with biotin.

It is likely that a balanced supply of the B vitamins (B12, biotin and niacin) are worth a try if acne is persistent. There are other natural approaches you can take for acne such as saw palmetto, DIM and zinc. I like all those options much better than the drug that teenagers take (that if taken during pregnancy is associated with cleft lip, congenital heart problems and other birth defects). The B vitamins are so important for your life, and unfortunately, they are so terribly misunderstood. What’s worse, millions of people are buying supplements of B complex that do not contain any biologically active ingredients whatsoever!

If you’re interested in more about acne, B vitamins, skin health and natural approaches to more attractive skin, I can email you the more comprehensive version of this article. Just sign up for my free newsletter at

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit