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Can Multivitamins Cause Acne?
Everything You Need to Know

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: May 26, 2021

Over 50 million people in the USA are affected by acne, and some reports claim that multivitamins can cause acne or make acne worse if you're already prone to them.

I checked what the scientific studies say and consulted with a dermatologist to bring you the complete list of multivitamin ingredients that cause acne and ingredients that can help you battle this annoying issue.

Do Multivitamins Cause Acne?

A person with an acne

Yes, multivitamins may cause acne.

This is because they contain vitamins and minerals that can cause acne or make matters worse if you have acne-prone skin.

Multivitamins can have nutrient amounts that are too high, such as vitamin B12, vitamin C, biotin, whey protein, and others.

“Those with a history of acne are more prone, but I’ve seen certain vitamin Bs causing acne in those without a history, too.” -Leslie Baumann, board-certified dermatologist, author of a skin health bible, The Skin Type Solution

That’s not all. Dietary supplements also have artificial forms or essential nutrients.

What makes matters worse is that not only can vitamin and mineral supplements have too many of the nutrients that can cause acne, but they don't have enough of the nutrients that prevent acne.

Here’s the complete list of all the acne-causing and fighting multivitamin ingredients.

Multivitamins That May Cause Acne

Different multivitamins on a person's hand

While these are common ingredients in most multivitamin and are generally considered safe, anything in excess might trigger acne.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B, especially vitamin B12, is a standard multivitamin ingredient.

A study found that Vitamin B12 causes acne in people who take this supplement.

Excess of B12  causes disruption in the skin bacteria, which is known as Propionibacterium acnes. (1)

Because this bacteria keeps skin happy and healthy, its disruption causes inflammation and inflammatory acne. This means a harmless acne infection can turn into an angry, red pimple.

Another study found that Vitamin B12 altered a skin gene expression and made it more likely to break out in inflammation. (2)

The recommended daily intake of B12 is about 2.4mg per day, but a typical multivitamin has 5, 10, or even 20 times this amount.

This excessive intake may worsen existing acne and trigger inflammation.

Biotin

Biotin pills on a table

Biotin is another popular multivitamin ingredient. It’s also popular on its own as a hair and nail supplement.

Unfortunately, it can cause acne because it’s found in many places, even your hair products.

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) regulates the skin barrier and decreases oil production.

Biotin affects how much B5 your body can absorb, and less B5 may lead to acne flares and acne scars.

Because the body absorbs both of these through the same receptors, biotin and B5 compete.

Problems happen when you have too much biotin and not enough B5.

Multivitamins usually have 100 to 3000% of the daily recommended biotin intake, especially if the multivitamin is oriented more for women’s use.

Whey Protein

One of the most popular protein supplements is whey protein, especially for people who do strength training and bodybuilding.

Whey is cow’s milk protein, and dietary milk consumption has been proven to cause acne. It’s especially problematic for women, as it aggravates hormonal acne.

Go for a multivitamin without a whey protein, or choose plant-based dietary supplements, such as hemp, pea, or bone broth protein, which nourishes skin cells.

Multivitamins That Help Fight Acne

A man pouring a vitamins on his hand

Vitamins and minerals can help with balancing hormone levels, cure acne and help you have clear skin.

But, they’re not a substitute for a healthy diet. Talk with a nutritional therapist, and see what food they recommend for acne-free skin.

You could be surprised what natural remedies can do — from helping skin issues to fighting serious health problems such as skin cancer.

I’ve talked about acne triggers, now let’s check other supplements that, together with proper nutrition, can help you fight acne.

Vitamin D

A study found that 95% of people who suffer from acne had vitamin D deficiency. (3)

Did you know? Every root cause of acne is in some way connected to vitamin D. People who don’t or can’t get enough sun exposure can use vitamin D supplements.

Pro tip: use multivitamins that contain vitamin D3, as this is the body’s preferred form of vitamin D.

Note: If you suffer from hormonal acne, don’t overdo vitamin D intake, as it’s the primary hormone that stimulates testosterone, which causes hormonal flares up.

Zinc

Zinc supplement on hand

Zinc is a mineral that’s a great addition to the skincare routine.

It decreases oil glands production and helps with:

  • Preventing dead skin cells from clogging up the pores
  • Transporting vitamin A to skin
  • Reducing inflammatory acne

Here’s what scientific evidence says:

  • Zinc reduced acne and pimples by 33% after 6 weeks (4)
  • Zinc reduced mean acne score from 100% to 15% after 12 weeks (5)

It also helps if you ingest too much iodine. Because iodine is a common multivitamin ingredient, you may start to notice acne breaking out. Zinc can help clear acne.

Because it’s difficult to get zinc through diet, you can supplement with oral antibiotics or topical treatment.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Having too many omega-6 fatty acid supplements and not enough omega-3 can create an imbalance on your immune system.

What happens is that the body can see acne infection as a major threat, which makes the area swell and become red.

The problem happens because it’s easy to get omega-6 fatty acids through foods, but it’s not easy to get omega-3, which is mainly found in wild fish such as salmon and mackerel. 

Experts who provide medical advice say that fish oil supplements are a good thing to use, as they help to have skin cleared of inflammation and acne.

Do Multivitamins Make You Break Out in Acne?

I've covered all the multivitamin ingredients that cause a breakout, as well as great skincare ingredients that can help you fight them.

Acne breakouts can affect mental health as well, but there are several things you can do to help the issue. First, consider your diet and digestive system health. Eating healthy is the first step towards having clear skin.

Also, you can cut out the multivitamin from use for several weeks and see how this affects your acne.

What has been your experience with multivitamins and acne? If you have any other ideas on how to deal with acne, let me know in the comments below.


References:

  1. https://stm.sciencemag.org/content/7/293/293ra103
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6049814/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26413187/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/82356/
  5. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/article-abstract/536705

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