When I offered a makeup how-to for stressed out skin last week I briefly mentioned that the cause of my face mishap turned out to be Biotin, the supplement I've been taking for months. I was surprised at the number of emails I got from readers telling me their own Biotin horror stories. I had no idea.
If you're not familiar with it, Biotin (link goes out to Wikipedia) is Vitamin B7 (also known as Vitamin H), and common wisdom links increased intake of it to improved hair and nails. Especially the latter. I started taking extra Biotin (there's some in my multi-vitamin and probably also in the Vitamin B supplement I add) last spring and saw results within a couple of weeks. Gone were the brittle nails that split just from looking at them funny. My nails became strong and healthy like never before. I can't report any effect the Biotin may have had on my hair, and that's a good thing. Any more of that and I'd look like Cousin It.
I had six or seven months of uninterrupted nail bliss when some unrelated web browsing lead me to a number of testimonies linking serious skin breakouts with Biotin. At that point I've been climbing up the walls trying to figure out what was turning my happy and healthy skin into this horror show. It only started a few weeks prior, but it was painfully clear that this was not a random thing caused by testing an unsuitable beauty product. I quickly ceased using anything but the most basic skincare, eliminated everything I could from my routines, quit using hair masks and creams and reverted to Head& Shoulders -- it was none of the above. While I managed to keep things more or less under control (salycilic acid in doses I do not recommend to anyone), for every eliminated pimple I got another one almost right away.
Then I quit taking Biotin, and two days later it was all over. Just like that.
None of this is scientific or verified in any way. Wikipedia says that the data regarding Biotin as a hair and nail strengthener is weak, so just as nobody can make medical claims for the vitamin's good works we can't prove it's the culprit in the skinpocalypse I just experienced. All I can say is that I'll take my brittle nails any day over the alternative.
Photo by Edward Steichen, 1934.