Vitamin B Complex is a term that describes dietary supplements which contain all 8 types of Vitamin B. The eight distinct forms of Vitamin B are:
- B1 (Thiamine)
- B2 (Riboflavin)
- B3 (Niacin)
- B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
- B6 (Pyridoxine)
- B7 (Biotin)
- B9 (Folic Acid)
- B12 (Cobalamin)
Each form of Vitamin B has a different function in the body but they are all important for cellular metabolism. B Vitamins are popular nutritional supplements and are purported to help increase metabolism and boost energy levels.
Vitamin B and Acne
B Vitamins are rarely used as a direct treatment for acne, but they are frequently incorporated into comprehensive acne treatment regimens as part of the nutritional plan. Some people have reported that their acne symptoms improved after starting daily Vitamin B complex supplements. Vitamin B supplements are known to significantly improve skin health in people who have Vitamin B deficiencies.
However, there has been little scientific research into whether Vitamin B supplements are effective acne treatments in people that do not have Vitamin B deficiencies. There are also conflicting reports on how Vitamin B supplements affect the bacteria (eg. Propionibacterium acnes) that contribute to acne symptoms. Currently, there is no robust scientific evidence to indicate Vitamin B supplementation can significantly reduce the frequency or severity of acne symptoms for most people.
Overall, Vitamin B supplements are healthy additions to almost any dietary program, when used at recommended dosages. Although Vitamin B supplementation is unlikely to dramatically improve acne symptoms for most individuals, it may be helpful for some people. If you would like to experiment with high dose Vitamin B therapy, it is best to avoid Vitamin B Complex (and Vitamin B12 specifically) and focus on Vitamins B2 (Riboflavin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid) and B6 (Pyridoxine).
How Do the B Vitamins Work?
B vitamins primarily function as coenzymes. Coenzymes are molecules that are essential for the structure and function of certain enzymes and other proteins.
B vitamins occur naturally in many foods and processed foods are often fortified with additional B Vitamins. B Vitamin deficiencies are rare in most regions of the world. People who have B Vitamin deficiencies can experience a range of health problems, including skin problems. In particular, deficiencies in Vitamins B2, B5 and B6 are known to cause acne or acne-like symptoms.
All forms of Vitamin B are water soluble and excess Vitamin B is readily eliminated by the body in urine. Therefore to get a benefit from Vitamin B it should be taken daily.
Vitamin B Side Effects
When consumed at the recommended dosages, Vitamin B complex supplements are generally quite safe. However, very high doses of B Vitamins can cause side effects. Vitamin B toxicities are more likely to occur in individuals who are having Vitamin B cocktails injected intravenously. Interestingly, there have been reports that very high doses of Vitamin B12 can trigger acne symptoms in some individuals.
Acneiform eruption due to megadose vitamins B6 and B12. Sherertz. 1991.
Rosacea fulminans triggered by high-dose vitamins B6 and B12. Jansen, et al. 2001.
Vitamin B12 modulates the transcriptome of the skin microbiota in acne pathogenesis. Kang, et al. 2015.
The problem of vitamin B6/B12 acne. A contribution on acne medicamentosa. Braun-Falco, et al. 1976.
The Effects of Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) on Persistent Adolescent Acne. Jolliffe, et al. 1942.
Topical vitamin B12: A new therapeutic approach in atopic dermatitis evaluation of efficacy and tolerability in a randomized placebo-controlled multicentre clinical trial. Stucker, et al. 2004.
A review of vitamin B12 in dermatology. Brescoll, et al. 2015.
The effects of a daily facial lotion containing vitamins B3 and E and provitamin B5 on the facial skin of Indian women: a randomized, double-blind trial. Jerajani, et al. 2010.