Does Vitamin B12 Cause Acne?

B12 and Acne

Usually, the worst of acne goes away on its own, or can be treated with simple medications. But in some cases, it can cause scarring, and it’s undeniably the cause of self-esteem problems.

There are three main forms of acne – comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads), inflammatory acne (a blackhead or whitehead that becomes inflamed and red), and cystic acne (actual infection in the outbreak area). We know a lot about what causes acne, but don’t fully understand all the mechanisms behind it. Here are a few things that play a role:

  • The bacteria on facial skin
  • Sebum, a wax-like substance produced on the skin
  • Changes in the cells that surround hair follicles
  • Inflammation of facial skin
  • Hormonal influences

For many years, doctors have said that there isn’t a link between diet and acne.  Recently, however, there has been increasing evidence that certain foods or supplements can lead to increased acne. This has become a hot topic in the scientific literature over the last decade with multiple studies looking for associations. There is good evidence that eating a low glycemic index diet (or eating foods low in sugar or processed carbohydrates) can improve acne. Other studies are looking at how skim milk consumption may be associated with worsening acne in some individuals. Other foods and supplements are being investigated as well, including the effect of vitamin B12 on acne.   

A recent study co-authored by Hyiying Li at UCLA found a link between vitamin B12 and acne. Dr. Li and her team found that taking vitamin B12 increases the amount of that vitamin on facial skin. This, in turn, causes a certain facial bacteria (propionibacterium acnes) to produce more of something called porphyrins, which results in inflammation. And this could lead to acne.

It’s important to remember that these findings are very preliminary, and the sample sizes in the study were small. The study is very interesting, but for now, consult your dermatologist to combat acne problems. Normal treatment for acne includes keeping the skin clean, applying topical creams, or taking antibiotics to kill bacteria that cause inflammation around pores.