The vitamin that can give you acne

Taking a vitamin acne

Some B vitamins can give you acne

Just when you thought you were doing something great for your health, it turns out your nutritional supplement might be having an undesirable side effect on your skin.

Leslie Baumann, MD, a renowned dermatologist based in Miami who wrote the skin health bible The Skin Type Solution (Bantam, $15) says taking certain vitamin Bs—specifically vitamin B6 and B12—may be behind bouts of acne. Not dirt or oil.

“Those with a history of acne are more prone, but I’ve seen vitamin Bs causing acne in those without a history, too,” Dr. Baumann says. How or why these B-complex vitamins cause acne isn’t exactly known.

Leslie Baumann dermatologist

Dermatologist Leslie Baumann

According to Baumann, you don’t necessarily need to avoid B vitamins in food—potatoes, bananas, chickpeas have loads of B6; and eggs and fish are swimming with B12. But reconsider your multi-vitamin and intake of energy drinks. Not-so-innocent Red Bull, while giving you wings with caffeine and vitamin B, can be giving you zits, too.

“If you notice any acne flare-ups that coincide with supplements or energy drinks, stop taking them and see if your skin clears up. Give it about a month,” advises Dr. Baumann.

Interestingly, B6 and B12 are not the only vitamins that may have adverse affects on the skin. B3, commonly known as niacin, can cause flushing, and too high doses of selenium and vitamin A can cause hair loss, says Baumann. And you already knew getting vitamin D through sunlight alone isn’t a good idea. —Bora Chang

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22 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. November 18th, 2010 at 11:04 am

    This is interesting, because I’ve read elsewhere that vitamin B is helpful in curing acne because it reduces sebum production. It looks like acne triggers just have to be figured out on a case-by-case basis.

  2. January 4th, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I agree with this article. I was on a B-50 complex supplement for 6 months and wondered why I kept breaking out. I thought it was my face wash because I also changed that around the same time I started the supplements. It wasn’t until after 6 months that I realized it HAD to be the vitamins. Here I am 35 days later still suffering from the horrible marks left on my face and still waiting for my skin to return to normal!!! :(

  3. Well+Good
    January 4th, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Sorry to hear about that, Fay! It can be really hard to know what’s causing a breakout. Glad you figured it out. Sounds likes the worst is behind you.

  4. May 20th, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Amazing! I’ve never had a problem with pimples until I turned 25! That’s when I also started taking B-12 supplements because my B-12 was always so low. I’ve felt better than I ever have but can’t seem to get my acne under control! I’ve gone from only washing my face in the shower to also when I wake-up and go to bed. I started an Acne facial peel treatment, and I’ve even gotten a prescription from my Dr for it. Nothing works! I guess I’d better decide if I want to go back to being tired all the time for the sake of beauty.

  5. October 15th, 2012 at 2:49 am

    My husband has always had a nice facial complexion until he started taking B12 2500 mil vitamins. He began breaking out almost like a rash. He went to a dermatologist and when he asked if it could be the B12 vitamins, he told him no and just prescribed some creams which turned out irritating his face even more. Since the dermatologist confirmed it was not the B12, my husband insists on continuing to take them. I decided to hide his vitamins in hopes that it clears up his skin. We will see the results, but I’m more than sure it is the B12.

  6. November 11th, 2013 at 7:32 am

    I am SO glad I read this!! I eat quite healthily, but I decided to take wellwoman vitamins to help with hormone balance as well as give me the extra vitamins that I don’t get in my diet. Since starting them, I’ve developed such bad acne! I’ve never suffered from bad skin before and I’ve tried everything to clear it! I’ve just looked at the RDAs on the back of the box and the tablets contain 800% of your RDA for vitamin B12 and 714% of your RDA for B6!! It’s such a shame, because the tablets have significantly helped with hormone balance over the last few months. I’m so glad that I found this page though – I definitely won’t be taking the supplements any more.

  7. November 14th, 2013 at 4:53 am

    I am so devastated that I did not see this earlier. I grew up with totally clear skin to the point where my friends would always comment on how clear my skin was. I would only breakout before I got my monthlies.

    I was so stressed at the beginning of this year and I thought taking Vitamin B would help. Shortly after I started regularly taking the tablet, I broke out into some pimples that I had never seen before. They came and never left. I waited and waited and got so upset my entire face was literally covered in pimples. And they weren’t pussy so I couldn’t even try to pop them to get rid of them- there were too many anyway.

    At this point I still did not know the cause. All I knew was that I was starting to get stressed and upset over the pimples more than anything else.

    My friend and I went on a two week holiday- I realised I forgot to pack my Vitamins. Only days later I noticed my skin was getting clearer. I put two and two together and realised that the Vitamins were causing this- I decided to look it up on google and was shocked with what I read.

    I am truly upset that I now am left with scarring and some pimples that simply won’t go away. Its been 15 weeks now and counting. I hope I have not done permanent damage and that my skin returns to how it was in the near future.


  8. November 21st, 2013 at 10:01 am

    I came up on this article just chance but I have been taken b 12 vitamin and I not notice my face and back is breaking out now that I have this fact I will not be taken those b12 anymore they make relax and sleep well at night but all this acne is not worth it

  9. December 9th, 2013 at 7:11 am

    I’ve been so busy with school that I’ve been pulling all-nighters almost 3 days a week for the entire semester. What got me through it is that I’ve been taking 5 Hour energy drinks to keep me going. I’ve dealt with minor acne before, but this time I was getting it much worse to the point where I would literally stay home and scrub my face every hour like 6 times hoping that it would clear up the next day, and it wouldn’t. It wasn’t until I had winter break that I realized my face cleared up instantly within that week. When break ended and I went back to school, I started taking 5 Hours again, and all of a sudden the pimples returned. I was getting extremely aggravated, and I thought it was stress related because I was getting them when I was pulling all-nighters and not when I was on break. Thats when I realized it had to be the 5 Hours causing this. So I went online and looked it up, and I was right.

    The recommended daily intake of B12 is 2.4mcg and B6 is 2mg, while the amount that’s in 5 Hour for B12 is 500mcg and B6 is 40mg. That’s an insane increase. Im not sure how Im going to stay awake now, but Im definitely stopping with the 5 Hours, and Im pretty sure my face will start clearing.

  10. February 21st, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    I am on a special vitamin that has been compounded for me to help with a lot of problems I have. Through taking to my psychiatrist and doctors I cannot stop taking this. I don’t want to either because of the things is helping (mood, energy, hormones,etc.) Unfortunately the vitamin is really effecting my Acne and it is worse than ever. Is there something I can do,I have tried almost all of the acne product lines. Will those work now with the changes? I heard there is a vitamin that can help will it counter react with my compound vitamin?

  11. April 25th, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    i am suffering with acne my acne problem started in April 2013 and its still on my face its April of 2014 i never had acne in my life before 2013 i am 32 years old my doctor gave me epidue for six week and i went to the doctor after eight week now my doc give me oxytetracyline tablets for three monts my problem was and i will must say my biggest mistake in my life was i have been taking multivitamin for ten months and after ten months my face was full with acne and i have read this article its give me alot information thanks alot

  12. May 27th, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Recently I went on a juicing cleanse and I was really looking forward to increased energy and a beautiful glow. After 3 days of juicing and lots of rest I was looking forward to my skin especially because I’ve cleansed in the past and I remember it’s cleanliness and glow after a detox. To aide my cleanse I was told to get on a probiotic to replace all the good bacteria I flushed out and because I wanted to form an even healthier habit I found a multi-vitamin with a probiotic in it. I was recommended to this vitamin because it is completely organic and from what I hear the best of it’s kind. I should also mention that I am 26 years old and I’ve never experienced a breakout like the one I did exactly three days after I begin taking my multivitamin. It also didn’t click to me this could cause a breakout so I’ve continued to take it and my conditioned hasn’t improved one bit but rather gotten worse. It is rash like and extremely noticeable. It happened all over my forehead and to the sides of my eyes. I’ve made no major changes in my diet and no changes to facial products. I am convinced the vitamin is to blame as it contains 250% of b6 and 500% of b12 daily recommended doses. I will update in a week and hope for the best!

  13. June 14th, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Marian S – I started taking supplements a month ago. I had really clear skin at the time but had suffered with acne when I was younger. Well I’ve just realised that my sudden and awful breakout of acne that happened a month ago is due to the supplements!! I have rash like pimples all over my forehead and all down the side of my eyes (and on my chin and around my mouth). I will never take the supplements again – has yours cleared up since stopping? I see you posted a few weeks ago. I just want them to go. I’m so upset about the state of my skin :(

  14. June 24th, 2014 at 5:53 am

    OMG Just seen this, have been taking WELLWOMAN for 2months at an attempt to rebalance my hormones and give me more energy. My skin has never been so bad, I have constant breakouts on my chin and jawline around mouth, horrible cystic acne. I have just checked the RDA for B vitamins and the WELLWOMAN tablets exceed it – shame as I have boxes of the stuff and they were helping with period pain – oh well back to the drawing board I go!

  15. July 9th, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I have pre-menstrual acne and i was considering taking vitamin B6 supplement of about 50mg per day a week before mensuration. Is it a bad idea? I read that it clears up pre-menstrual acne.
    -From India

  16. July 11th, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    I really need help.Im 19 I started taking phentermine and I been taking it for 3 months but for the past two months my face has been breaking out and I haven’t ever have acne or broke out before (even when I took it before it didn’t make me break out) . I feel like it’s the pill but it doesn’t say it’s a side effect and I was wondering if there is any vitimans I can start taking (I heard vitiman b) or any fruits and vegetables I can eat. HELP PLEASSSSE

  17. November 13th, 2014 at 8:44 pm


    I have polycystic ovarian syndrome. I also have sebhorreic dermatitis on my scalp which has caused me to lose at least half of my hair. I also have small bald spots. In attempt to regrow my hair I tried Nioxin and Bosley hair care products which only further irritated my scalp. I have tried hair, skin and nail vitamins and the biotin breaks me out. I have tried B-complex vitamins which break me out. I don’t know what to try anymore!

    Thank you.

  18. January 2nd, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Maybe it depends. I take B complex and zinc and noticed huge improvements. Niacin or Niacinamide helps in curing acne and dark spots. I take Vitamin B complex and zinc daily. I also use tretinoin every evening. My soap is clear glycerine soap. 90% improvement

  19. May 8th, 2015 at 11:34 am

    I too started taking a Vitamin B supplement as my nutritionist said it would help with stress and well-being. I have never experienced such agonizing pain and discomfort, not to mention pure embarrassment from the severe acne that quickly followed. I have tried everything, switched cleaners, make-up, you name it; and I have spent way too much money trying to figure out the cause. I am so thankful that I came across this article! I was really close to going crazy! As a 31 y/o woman, I had no clue why at this stage in my life I had developed the worst acne of my life. Now I have scars and bumps all over my chin and mouth area, but I have hope that if I discontinue my vit. b it will clear up because I do notice that when I miss my supplements for a few days it seems my acne starts to fade and then flares right back up. I never realized that direct correlation between my vit. b doses & acne. Thanks again for your article!!

  20. August 20th, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    OMG! Thanks to this article, I’m going to stop taking those B-Vitamins. I had a glowing clear skin until I started taking those capsules about a month ago. All of a sudden, I developed a rush like small pimples all over my chin, jaw, and forehead. Not worth it! I will drop it immediately.

  21. October 26th, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    This is a really interesting article — I’m a 40’ish guy and had not had a problem with acne since I was 16. A year ago, I started having regular breakouts. I’ve done everything I could think of — different skin cleaning regiments, getting an air purifier, changing my diet, and switching to non hypoallergenic laundry detergent. However, I also regularly take five-hour energy drinks, typically half a bottle a day. I used to only take those once in a blue moon as-needed, but, got hooked on the extra little boost they gave me in the morning. Guess I’ll be dropping this(at least not nearly as frequently as I have been using it) to see what kind of difference it makes.

  22. October 29th, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    I am a 28 y/o woman. I am 5 months pregnant. I realized very quickly into my pregnancy that I sadly cannot take prenatal vitamins as they make my morning sickness worse and cause terrible migraines. In an attempt to stay healthy and still supplement for the baby I went to my local heath food store. They recommended I take folic acid and a B complex to help with the nausea. Within a few days I started breaking out. I assumed it was due to hormones. I tried everything. Everything! I spent $400 in one day in an attempt to fix my face. Not only was it extremely painful but I was embarrassed to be seen in public. My poor husband had to listen to me cry every night about it. Recently I ran out of B complex and haven’t had a chance to get to the store, I figured that since my nausea hadn’t come back it wasn’t the end of the world if I went a few days without them. My face is clearing up. It never even crossed my mind that the vitamins I was taking to keep me and my baby healthy could be the cause of my acne. I am so glad I decided to Google “B complex causing acne” and I am even more grateful to have come across this board. Thank you to everyone who posted. Fingers crossed my skin keeps improving.

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