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Biotin for Acne

Does Biotin cause or prevent acne. Read on to find out.
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What is Biotin?

Biotin is a member of the B vitamins. This water-soluble vitamin is also called vitamin B7, vitamin H or Coenzyme R.

Biotin is needed for cellular growth and the synthesis of amino acids such as valine and isoleucine. It is important for the production fatty acids, the metabolism of fats as well as the conversion of glycogen to glucose. This vitamin is also useful for maintaining blood sugar levels.

Biotin can be obtained from a number of food sources. However, excellent dietary sources of the vitamin include peanuts, raw egg yolk, liver, vegetables, corn and Swiss chard.

Biotin is found in food either as biocytin or bound with proteins. Free biotin is released in the intestine just before absorption.

Most countries do not have recommended dietary intake values for biotin because it can be easily obtained. It is even produced by intestinal bacteria and at levels exceeding the body’s requirement.

Still the National Academy of Science recommends 30 micrograms per day for adults. The daily adequate intake values for children vary from 5 – 8 micrograms/day for infants to 12 – 25 micrograms/day for children.

Biotin Deficiency, Toxicity and Supplementation

Biotin is also sold as a supplement. Even though biotin deficiency is rare, it still exists and can have serious side effects.

Sometimes, the production of biotin in the body falls. This is observed in athletes, the elderly, epileptics, burn patients and those just had part of their stomachs surgically removed. In women, biotin can be excreted or metabolized at increasing rates because of pregnancy, lactation or smoking.

Biotin deficiency can be caused by the ingestion of raw egg whites for a few months. This is because raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin which binds to biotin and makes it unavailable.

The major symptoms of biotin deficiency are hair loss; conjunctivitis; neurological symptoms such as depression, hallucination and numbness; and dermatological symptoms such as seborrhea and acneiform dermatitis.

Biotin supplements are used to lower glucose levels and improve blood glucose control in diabetics; to treat seborrheic dermatitis; and to treat hair and nail problems.

Toxicity is largely unreported even with high doses of biotin.

Some drugs may affect the absorption and bioavailability of biotin. For example, oral antibiotics may lower the absorption of biotin because they attack the gut bacteria which synthesize the vitamin.

Furthermore, high doses of vitamin B5 may compete with biotin in the body. Also, isotretinion or Accutane, a popular retinoid acne medication, interferes with the functioning of biotinidase, the enzyme responsible for processing biotin.

Biotin: For or Against Acne?

There is very little scientific evidence to suggest that biotin works for acne or causes acne. However, it is possible that biotin may produce some positive and/or negative effects on acne breakouts in some people and especially at high doses.

It is true that biotin deficiency causes rashes and even acne-like symptoms especially in infants. However, biotin deficiency is rare given that it is natively synthesized by bacteria in the human digestive tract and also easily obtained from food sources.

Biotin deficiency or low levels of biotin may contribute to acne breakout through the impairment of fat metabolism.

When fat metabolism becomes inefficient, some of the excess lipid moves up to the surface and clogs the skin pores. This not only directly causes comedones such as whiteheads and blackheads to appear but also creates the ideal environment for the colonization of the skin by acne-causing baceteria.

Still, a situational deficiency can occur especially in people placed on oral antibiotics. Broad-spectrum antibiotics, including those used in acne treatment, can kill off the intestinal bacterial flora.

This means that both bad and good bacteria are wiped out. The indiscriminate bactericidal action will also reduce the population of the beneficial bacteria such as the ones responsible for synthesizing biotin in the body.

The result will be an acute biotin deficiency which can cause rashes and acneiform eruptions. In acne patients, such deficiency will worsen acne outbreaks. To reverse this effect, biotin supplements must be taken to make up for the low levels of the vitamin.

Some other acne medications can also cause biotin deficiency. Accutane or isotretinoin reduces the activity of biotinidase, an enzyme responsible for the use and recycling of biotin in the body. This causes the equivalent of biotin deficiency.

In this way, it is possible for biotin to provide some benefits for acne sufferers as long as their acne breakouts are caused by biotin deficiency.

In addition, since biotin is needed to strengthen the nails and hair, it may also provide some benefits for the skin. Such benefits are, however, only cosmetic and cannot clearly be regarded as anti-acne.

On the other hand, normal doses of biotin supplements are not sufficient to trigger acne outbreaks. But high doses can worsen acne for a number of reasons.

Biotin & Pantothenic Acid

Biotin competes with vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid. High doses of one of the two vitamins can lead to low levels of the other.

Therefore, while high doses of pantothenic acid can cause biotin deficiency and the appearance of acne-like lesions, the results of high doses of biotin is even worse.

When high doses of biotin suppress the absorption of pantothenic acid, it produces an acute vitamin B5 deficiency. One of the major symptoms of vitamin B5 deficiency is acne.

To “cure” acne caused by biotin suppressing pantothenic acid, the biotin supplementation must be lowered or withdrawn while more pantothenic acid given.

Taking Biotin for Acne

Even though there is precious little scientific evidence for the use of biotin in acne treatment, the supplements do improve acne in some people.

To get the best out of biotin, it is important to take a biotin-only supplement instead of a multivitamin supplement containing biotin. This is because the combination of vitamins B6 and B12 as well as high doses of each of these vitamins are known to trigger acne outbreaks.

Therefore, a biotin-only supplement will provide a more accurate result in acne treatment. To prevent biotin deficiency, 30 – 100 micrograms of biotin per day is recommended for adults and adolescents.

Biotin supplements should not be taken along with drugs for lowering cholesterol, epilepsy medications, some antibiotics or raw egg whites.

It is a safe and well-tolerated supplement because it is water-soluble and is easily removed from the body via urine. Still, high doses of the biotin should be avoided not because of toxicity concerns but because it might trigger the appearance of acne lesions.

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