As many of you FTMs may already have discovered, testosterone supplementation can cause or exacerbate acne, acne like you never thought possible this side of a fifteen-year-old boy. Most conventional medical treatments for acne are relatively ineffective at best, and have dangerous or unpleasant side effects at worst.
However, a little known study, which is quietly making the rounds amongst acne sufferers, suggests a different treatment. In this study, it was hypothesized that the basic pathology of acne vulgaris was related to a deficiency in pantothenic acid (aka vitamin B5). Patients with extensive acne were treated with megadoses (up to 10 grams per day) of vitamin B5. This treatment worked as well as or dramatically better than any other treatment attempted, and with far fewer side effects. The study author suggested that B5 supplementation effected a “complete cure” of acne vulgaris.
In practice, acne sufferers use smaller doses than those used in the study. Generally the upper limit of dosing is 5 grams daily in divided doses. Most people opt for somewhere around 1-2 grams daily. Smaller doses as low as 500 mg daily appear to be effective, although the smaller the dose, the longer it takes for the effects to kick in. As a cautious supplementer myself, I would advise beginning with a smaller dose and working up if desired, over a period of weeks.
Side effects of megadosing with B5 include diarrhea and a possible thiamin (B1) deficiency, which can be alleviated with thiamin supplementation, if desired. A severe deficiency of thiamin can be signified with GI disturbances, fatigue, nervousness, and a general strung-out feeling. However, if B5 dose is kept moderate, this should not be a concern, since thiamin is readily available in carnivorous North American diets. If you’re worried, munch some red meat or nuts on a regular basis (insert rude joke here).
Since I generally don’t recommend any supplements I haven’t tried myself except for injectable testosterone), you’ll be happy to know that I have gone the extra mile for you and tried this stuff out myself. I found out about B5 after I had suffered an allergic reaction to a cold medication I was given in Paris. I broke out in this completely bizarre rash of acne all over my upper body, even under my hair. It was pretty dang unattractive. No OTC remedy worked, not even washing several times daily with Head ‘n’ Shoulders shampoo (the topical zinc pyrithione is said to work, so maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance, although I did enjoy the minty fresh feeling). The doctor said, “Well, I don’t know what to do,” and gave me some pharmaceutical sample stuff she had lying around. Which, again, didn’t do anything besides necessitate my avoidance of sunlight (aaahhh! the light burns us, my precioussss!) and make my already pissed off skin feel like someone had taken a power sander to it.
In desperation I started searching online for something weird and experimental; that’s what the Internet is for, right? That’s when I found the study on B5, plus a very extensive and diverse community of satisfied users. I ran out to my local health food store, picked up a bottle, threw down 2 grams a day, and within a few days, buhbye zits! Since I have naturally oily skin which is prone to breakouts during the summer as well as if I don’t dunk my head in an autoclave after every workout, I thought I might as well continue with regular supplementation. I cut my dose to 500 mg a day, and whaddaya know, my skin stayed as clear as an airbrushed supermodel’s!
Being the unethical Dr. Mengele type that I am, I started suggesting this to willing guinea pigs. One woman I suggested it to had a teenage daughter who was suffering greatly, both from the self-esteem blow of pubertal acne, and from the awful side effects of all the prescription medications she had tried. Within a few weeks of moderate B5 intake, the daughter was happy and zit-free, with no side effects. This has been the case for every subject in my small unscientific sample.
As with all supplements, make an informed choice, I’m not a doctor (not that mine had a clue), blah blah blah. However, taking all things into consideration, B5 supplementation is something to investigate as a relatively safe, effective acne treatment.
One other point I should mention: be wary of any additional supplementation if you are using oral testosterone (instead of injectables). Oral testosterone puts a greater load on the liver and as such, other supplementation should be minimal. Switch to injectables if you can, people!
Leung, L.H. “Pantothenic Acid Deficiency as the Pathogenesis of Acne Vulgaris”. Medical Hypotheses. Vol. 44, No.6 (June 1995), pp. 490-492.
Abstract: For years, the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris has been known to be strongly influenced by hormonal factors. However, the exact role of and the interrelationship among the various hormones in question have not been well elucidated. Here, I wish to suggest a radically different theory for its pathogenesis and relate its basic pathology to a deficiency in pantothenic acid, a vitamin hitherto not known to cause any deficiency syndrome in humans. Hence, the effect of hormonal factors in this disease entity becomes secondary to that of the availability of pantothenic acid. A complete cure of this condition is effected by a very liberal replacement therapy with the vitamin.