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Vitamin B12: What are its benefits for the skin?

Less popular than Vitamin B3 (niacinamide), Vitamin B12 is an intriguing cosmetic ingredient whose use offers several advantages for the skin. Continue reading to learn more about the skin benefits of this lesser-known vitamin.

Summary
Published June 18, 2024, updated on June 24, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 6 min read

Vitamin B12 has anti-inflammatory effects.

Used both in the formulation of cosmetics and dermatological creams, the main interest of vitamin B12 in topical application lies in its ability to soothe the skin. Studies in vitro have indeed shown that this active ingredient can reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. As a reminder, cytokines are proteins involved in intercellular communication but also in the onset of skin irritations (redness, itching...). They are notably produced by T lymphocytes, cells of the immune system.

It is also hypothesised that vitamin B12 has an inhibitory effect on the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO), a molecule involved in the pathogenesis of eczema and psoriasis. This compound is produced under the influence of the enzyme nitric oxide synthase (NOS), whose overactivity is implicated in both of the aforementioned dermatoses. Indeed, an excess of nitric oxide in skin cells triggers the stimulation of keratinocyte differentiation and promotes the dilation of blood vessels, a phenomenon leading to redness and swelling. These anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin B12, first observed in vitro, were subsequently highlighted during clinical trials. Some of these are presented below.

StudyParticipantsProgression of the StudyResults
ALTMEYER & al. (2001)13 individuals suffering from psoriasisApplication of a vitamin B12-based cream twice daily for twelve weeksAverage improvement of 91% in the PASI, a score assessing the severity of psoriasis
ALTMEYER & al. (2004)48 individuals suffering from eczemaApplication of a vitamin B12-based cream and a placebo cream twice daily for eight weeksAn average improvement of 45% in the SASSAD, a score assessing the severity of eczema, was observed for the cream containing Vitamin B12, compared to 30% for the placebo cream
JANUCHOWSKI & al. (2009)26 children suffering from eczemaApplication of a vitamin B12-based cream and a placebo cream twice daily for four weeksAn average improvement of 34% in the SCORAD, a score assessing the severity of eczema, was observed for the cream containing Vitamin B12, compared to 12% for the placebo cream
NISTICO & al. (2017)24 individuals suffering from psoriasisApplication of a vitamin B12-based cream and a standard moisturising cream twice daily for twelve weeksAn average improvement of 86% in the PASI was observed for the cream containing Vitamin B12, compared to 15.7% for the conventional cream
Études cliniques rapportant les propriétés anti-inflammatoires de la vitamine B12.

The soothing properties of Vitamin B12 make it a valuable asset for weakened or irritated skin.

Vitamin B12 has antioxidant benefits.

Beyond its anti-inflammatory effects, vitamin B12 possesses antioxidant activity, enabling it to counteract the damage caused by free radicals. These reactive molecules, generated following prolonged exposure to UV rays, pollution or tobacco, contribute to the alteration of protein structures and lipid membranes and damage DNA. This compromises skin integrity and can cause pigmentation spots and accelerate the appearance of wrinkles and skin sagging.

In vitro studies have shown that vitamin B12, thanks to its chemical structure rich in double bonds, can stabilise free radicals through an electron donation. Furthermore, this active ingredient works by activating certain molecules that play a key role in maintaining the redox potential of cells, such as glutathione. These various effects allow vitamin B12 to protect the skin from oxidative stress and help to prevent skin ageing.

Vitamin B12 is believed to have regenerative properties.

Finally, some studies in vitro have shown that vitamin B12 could potentially play a role in the skin regeneration process. It appears that this vitamin may stimulate the proliferation of fibroblasts, the cells that synthesise collagen and elastin. These structural proteins are essential for the skin, particularly in wound healing situations, when a wound is closing.

Furthermore, according to these studies in vitro, vitamin B12 appears to be heavily involved in angiogenesis and could therefore contribute to the formation of granulation tissue, a transitional tissue rich in vessels and cells whose production corresponds to one of the important phases of healing. In light of these initial results, we can cautiously assume that vitamin B12 could play a regenerative role for the skin. It would be interesting for researchers to verify this hypothesis in future clinical trials.

Sources

  • ALTMEYER P. & al. Vitamin B12 Cream Infused with Avocado Oil for the Treatment of Plaque Psoriasis. Dermatology (2001).

  • ALTMEYER P. & al. Topical Vitamin B12 - A Novel Treatment Approach in Atopic Dermatitis - Assessment of Efficacy and Tolerance in a Randomised, Placebo-Controlled, Multicentre Clinical Trial. British Journal of Dermatology (2004).

  • JANUCHOWSKI R. & al. Assessment of Topical Vitamin B12 for the Treatment of Childhood Eczema. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2009).

  • DAVLUY S. & al. A Review of Vitamin B12 in Dermatology. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology (2015).

  • NISTICO S. & al. Superiority of an emollient containing vitamin B12 over a standard emollient in the maintenance treatment of mild-to-moderate plaque psoriasis. International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology (2017).

  • VAN DEN HEUVEL E. & al. Vitamin B12 in Relation to Oxidative Stress: A Systematic Review. Nutrients (2019).

  • SHEKARCHI B. & al. Vitamin B12-infused polycaprolactone/gelatin nanofibrous scaffold as a potential wound care material. Biomedical Engineering Letters (2020).

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