Hey hey! Want to help your skin? Seems only natural to snag those “Hair, Skin, and Nails” vitamins you’ve seen at CVS. Please don’t- if you have acne-prone skin this will make things go south very quickly for you.
How? WHY? Glad you asked - here’s the deal. Acne is inherently linked (if not directly caused by) a genetic predisposition called “Hyper-Keratosis.” Keratin is the outermost layer of your skin (it’s those white flakes that come off when you scratch). “Hyper” means “excessive amount.” “Keratosis” is the term used to denote the keratin-production cycle. Put it together, acneic skin is fundamentally linked to an excessive amount of keratin already present in our skin.
Those of us who are prone to acne have a genetically high abundance of this surface protein which makes it naturally more difficult for our sweet pores to remain free of clogs. We produce up to 5X more than those lucky bastards who never break out. People who have acne generally also possess a higher level of oil, but the hyper-keratosis is the driver when we speak on aggressive, cystic, or inflamed acne.
Biotin makes this abundance shoot into massive overdrive even more, which will make any clogs become buried further into your skin, likely leading to cystic acne very quickly. Biotin is like adding gasoline to a fire, except it’s so counterintuitive that we don’t make that connection (until a few weeks later after we start to see keratosis-pilaris bumps pop up on our arms.) Same thing can happen when taking collagen supplements, just be aware!
Here is why biotin causes acne: biotin increases the amount of skin protein we produce, specifically keratin. This is why it makes your hair and nails grow, as those are made of keratin. This excessive amount of keratin physically clogs the pores and mixes with your natural oil to create a sticky plug.
This leads to blackheads, comedones, and visible acne. Biotin often causes cystic acne because that clog then gets further buried by the fast-growing skin around it. If you’ve ever had a cyst you know the experience of knowing that there is a clog buried under the skin that cannot even be seen. Cystic acne like this is terrible because it’s painful and is extremely hard to treat.
PRO TIP: Ice pack to reduce swelling and grab a sulfur spot treatment!
Biotin is a water-soluble B-vitamin, it’s B7 to be specific. Thankfully it’s water-soluble so we can flush out the abundance fairly quickly, unlike excessive Vitamin D which gets stored in our fat cells and takes a bit longer to excrete.
The devil is in the dosage, as with everything, but standard Biotin supplements can have as much as 10,000 mcg. The RDI (normal daily amount a human should consume) is only 30 mcg. See what we mean by “the devil is in the dosage”? 10,000 vs. 30. That’s insane, and it will accelerate your acne VERY quickly, often leading to cystic lesions that leave aggressive scars and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (“PIH” / dark marks).
It’s critical to note that supplements have side effects too; the additional side effect of taking a supplement like this is that it competes with and distorts the receptor activity for other B-vitamins, like B5 (Pantothenic acid) which is crucial for skin and adrenal health.
There is ALWAYS a side effect with supplements, please remember this and instead focus on getting your nutrients from your food. Eggs are a natural source of Biotin, and the amount with not backfire on you the same way a supplement will.
What to do if you’ve been taking Biotin and are seeing more acne? Stop taking immediately and begin a daily exfoliation regimen to account for the excessive skin; we recommend the Antioxidant Scrub and a polyhydroxy or mandelic acid serum to physically uncover the pores and clear out the material clogging the follicle.
The Scrub helps with the excess skin, the acid serum helps dissolve oils and sebum. It’s a one-two punch that is extremely therapeutic for skin that has been bombarded with more material that it can reasonably shed!
Hydration is also key; an aloe-based moisturizer can help restore tranquility as it’s rebounding while our stem cell serum will restore proper barrier health, halt inflammation, and reverse scar tissue. Aim for a gallon (4 liters) a day of water to speed up healing exponentially.
If you are acne prone, here is what you can take instead of Biotin:
The sad truth is that biotin supplements and acne just don’t mix. If there is more than 150% of the RDI for biotin in your vitamins, it is extremely likely that it’s contributing to your acne breakouts. Here’s what you can do instead- silica!
Silica is the best biotin replacement for acne-prone skin because it doesn’t tell your skin to hyper-produce keratin, it actually supports the strength and quality of the proteins being made by increasing the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients to the skin.
So instead of having excess skin protein that piles up, you naturally make better quality skin protein that is healthier and better looking. We love the liquid versions that can be found at health food stores- you can add it to water or tea and know that you are helping your skin be healthier and stronger!
You got this, and we got you. Cheers from CLEARSTEM and San Diego Acne Clinic.