Risk of birth defects from vitamin a “acne supplements” sold online

Dina H. Zamil, Emily K. Burns, Ariadna Perez-Sanchez, Milbrey A. Parke, Rajani Katta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Dietary supplements are popular among US consumers and claim to address a variety ABSTRACT of conditions, including acne. Acne supplements containing vitamin A are of particular interest, due to the potentially teratogenic effects of vitamin A doses over 10,000 IU. Objective: This study examined dosage, pregnancy risks, and labeling of vitamin A-containing acne supplements available online. Methods: An Internet search of acne supplements sold online was conducted between March and May 2020. Supplement labels and websites were analyzed for vitamin A content and pregnancy warnings, and then divided into categories based on dosage and teratogenic risk. Results: A total of 49 acne supplements was found, and of these 26 (53%) contain vitamin A. Three supplements are likely teratogenic, 4 contain vitamin A doses exceeding the daily level of intake that meets the nutritional needs of most people, and 15 have an unknown teratogenic risk. Among the 6 supplements with over 10,000 IU vitamin A, 2 have no pregnancy warning at all, including the supplement with the highest vitamin A dose found in this study. Conclusions: Dietary supplements are not subject to the same stringent regulations as drugs, and as such, consumers may be unaware of pregnancy risks. Furthermore, FDA requirements on labeling of vitamin A supplements may lead to consumer confusion regarding dosage. As such, we encourage stricter labeling requirements for vitamin A-containing supplements, including pregnancy warnings for high-dose supplements and clearer dosage labeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021075
JournalDermatology Practical and Conceptual
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Acne supplements
  • Labeling
  • Pregnancy
  • Teratogenicity
  • Vitamin A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Dermatology


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