Can Iron Deficiency Cause Acne?

can low iron affect your skin

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Iron has a crucial role in the sustenance of the human body. The reason is that iron is one of the essential elements the body needs to survive. It is used to synthesize hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that helps in transporting oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body.

By implication, when there is low iron in the body, you won’t have enough oxygen supply to body parts, which can cause weaker organs and muscles, and a host of other problems. But the question of this article is – can iron deficiency cause acne?

Can Iron Deficiency Cause Acne?

Put simply; iron deficiency does not cause acne. Before we go into how and why of that, it would help to know what exactly is it that iron does in our body? What does it do, and how does it do it?

See, iron is essential for the production of hemoglobin. Without hemoglobin, you would not have oxygen transport from the lungs to your body parts. Oxygen is like fuel for the body parts. Without oxygen, your organs won’t function effectively. Without oxygen, you will experience shortness of breath, tiredness, and weakness.

Now, you need iron to make hemoglobin. Iron is naturally available in many foods like red meat, beans, and green leafy vegetables. If you happen to be not eating iron-rich foods, or eating them in inadequate amounts, you become iron-deficient.

When this happens, your doctor can prescribe supplements to treat this condition, and you should feel better. Interestingly, mild iron deficiency is not often noticeable.

Iron-deficiency, also called anemia, is the commonest form of anemia and can be caused by different reasons. For example, it can be from restrictive or poor diets, heavy blood loss during menstruation, inflammatory bowel disease, and internal bleeding. Whatever the cause is, iron-deficiency can cause poor health and affect your productivity.

When it gets severe, iron-deficiency symptoms can include shortness of breath, dizziness, yellow or pale skin, fatigue, headaches, and chest pain. It is also known to cause hair loss, cold hands and feet, irregular heartbeats, swollen tongue, and restless leg symptoms.

When you understand iron deficiency symptoms, you will understand why we said it could not cause acne.

More than half of deficient people experience tiredness and weakness. The heart also works harder than it should since less oxygen is reaching the tissues. As a result, it can cause paleness. Many people confuse paleness with acne; however, they are not the same. Hemoglobin present in red blood cells gives your blood its color. Hence, low levels will affect your healthy skin color.

For iron deficiency to cause acne, it must directly or indirectly affect the body’s hormones. Acne is primarily caused when the oil glands produce oil in excess, and the oil mixes with dead skin cells. When this happens, the mixture can clog the hair follicle and restrict movement and oil flow to the surface.

The scene gets messier when bacteria invade the clog and feeds on it to increase rapidly. The irritation caused by the bacteria will cause the site to be inflamed and manifest as acne. Although this seems pretty straightforward, these three factors, namely – oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria, are major reasons for acne, in various ways.

Hence, anything that can affect how much oil is produced, the rate at which the skin sheds dead skin, or influences bacteria activities in the body can cause acne.

That said, low iron deficiency cannot cause acne since it does not affect the three crucial acne-causing factors. Is this simple enough? You bet. In contrast, excess iron can cause life-threatening consequences and influence acne breakout. Keep reading…

Can Excess Iron Cause Acne?

The possibilities of consuming iron are higher in today’s world than it was in the past. Excess iron in your system allows pathogens to grow and increase in number until they cause an infection. Apart from this, iron forms free radicals in the blood and can damage the tissues and organs.

As a result, the body deals with iron by locking it in ferritin and hemoglobin, in order to limit the damage it can do to the body. Unfortunately, this is not always effective.

When there is too much iron in your body, it is deposited on the skin since the body won’t have enough space to accommodate it. Pathogens need iron to survive; hence, a large collection means more iron to feed bad bacteria.

The pathogens release lipopolysaccharide, a toxin that weakens the gut and causes a leak. As a result, it will be considerably easy for particles and pathogens to enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation. When it disturbs the digestive system, it can cause acne.

In essence, excess iron in either diet or supplements serves as food for pathogenic gut bacteria and causes inflammation. The toxins created by the excess iron trigger gut inflammation and cause inflammation in other parts of the body.

Excess iron also leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition when body organs do not respond to insulin. As a result, the pancreas makes more insulin to make glucose enter the cells. When there is excess insulin, it causes the production of more oil and dead skin cells.

As a result, there is a higher risk of clogging the pores. The higher the iron levels, the more insulin resistance you’ll have. It also makes it difficult for the body to reduce blood sugar, and both can cause an increase in oil production.

Apart from this, the body sometimes tries to remove excess iron by storing it in the liver. However, in doing so – it can damage the liver. And when the capacity of the liver is reached too, iron finds its way to the skin, where it becomes fodder for bacteria, paving the way for a breakout.

Plus, excess iron can feed the Candida fungi that occur in yeast. This fungus is known to cause a number of skin problems that can spiral into acne.

Hence, contrary to what you might have heard, low iron deficiency does not cause acne. Instead, excess iron is a more likely culprit for acne.

What Are The Safety Issues With Iron?

General Health

Iron taken orally has the least side effects but can cause mild effects like pain, vomiting, constipation, and stomach upset. Some take it further and use iron supplements with food to reduce the side effects.

However, this practice reduces the potency of how fast the body will absorb it. Although you can take it on an empty stomach, you can use it with food to avoid the side effects.

However, you shouldn’t use it with foods containing coffee, tea, dairy products, or cereals. Liquid iron supplements may also blacken the teeth. Iron given by IV is safe for most people, provided it is administered in the right amount.

Pregnant And Lactating Mothers

If administered in the appropriate amount, iron is safe for breastfeeding and pregnant women if the levels stored in their body are below the tolerable upper intake levels.

However, it is unsafe if you take it orally in high doses. Higher doses often cause preterm birth in pregnant women and higher hemoglobin levels in the blood.

If you think you have low iron deficiency, you shouldn’t try to treat yourself. Don’t use iron pills without first seeing your doctor since it can be in excess or cause iron poisoning in the worst case.


High doses of iron are also not safe for children. Since it is known for causing poisoning deaths in kids, doses below 60mg/kg can cause iron poisoning. If you are lucky, it will stop at the stomach and intestinal distress. However, it can dangerously reduce blood pressure and cause liver failure and death in the worst case.

Women with type 2 diabetes should not increase their iron intake without consulting their healthcare provider. Iron can also cause iron overload if you have hemoglobin disease. Since it can cause bowel irritation, people with inflammatory bowel disease should use iron with care. More importantly, don’t give iron to a premature infant with low blood vitamins. It can also irritate if you have an intestinal or stomach ulcer or make it worse.

Some medications interact with iron. Hence, you should be careful about how you combine iron with other medications. As a result, you should only use it under direct prescription and supervision by medical personnel.

Can Iron Supplements Affect Your Skin?

Iron supplements can darken your skin to an extent. Although iron is essential for survival, excess iron will accumulate in the liver and skin and cause hyper melanosis or melanin’s excess production. However, when used in the right quantity, iron can make your skin glow.

Apart from this, it strengthens the nails. Foods rich in iron like cashews, oysters, and spinach are ideal iron sources for skin glow.

Besides, what iron deficiency does is to make the red blood cells appear smaller and paler. When there are insufficient red blood cells, your skin can look pale and dull.

So, Can Iron Deficiency Cause Acne?

Iron deficiency is bad for the body. But as far as acne is concerned, iron deficiency does not cause acne. However, excess iron can spell worse consequences for the skin, and body too. Not only can it cause acne, but it can also lead to severe body conditions, and is also known to cause death.

Iron overload puts you at the risk of acne in several ways. Good news, though, there are ways to regulate your iron intake to avoid both deficient and excess iron in the body. The solution, in essence, is to take optimal iron consumption backed by medical supervision and verification.

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