If you've got acne, acne-prone skin or moderate acne, you'll have searched high and low for ways to improve your skin.
While many factors can cause acne, there are just as many ways to treat acne, including prescription medication, natural remedies, topical treatments and eating a healthy diet.
But sometimes, consuming a varied and healthy diet may not be enough to attain skin healthy skin. So what's the best acne treatment?
Over the past few decades, various studies have investigated whether taking vitamin and mineral supplements can improve acne. Read on for the top vitamins and supplements that may improve your acne.
What causes acne?
One of the most frustrating things about acne is that many factors can cause it.
A 2017 journal article in The Medical Journal of Australia notes that the exact way the chronic inflammatory disease of acne interacts with bacteria and hormonal imbalance is still not known.
Acne symptoms vary from person to person. Dermnet NZ states, "acne is due to a combination of factors, the exact mechanisms are not fully understood" and can include:
- Acne bacteria
- Distension and occlusion of the hair follicles
- Familial tendency
- Endogenous and exogenous androgenic hormones
- Innate immune activation with inflammatory mediators
- Distension and occlusion of the hair follicles
When your skin is prone to acne, there are a lot of factors outside of your control that can exacerbate it. But one element that's in your control is what you eat.
Eating a varied diet high in vitamins and minerals that nourish your skin can make a difference and even reduce acne symptoms.
However, if you feel like you need extra help, taking vitamin and mineral supplements can help improve your acne and may even decrease oil production.
Can supplements improve acne?
There's so much information available about what to do to improve acne. From topical vitamin treatments that claim to reduce inflammation to products that promise to improve skin cell turnover and regulate sebum production.
But what role can supplements play in acne and do they actually work?
A 2016 study focused on the link between acne, diet and dietary supplements where researchers found, "that milk and dairy products, high glycaemic load, and a diet low in omega-3 fatty acids can aggravate acne.
"On the other hand, there is also a hypothesis that oral supplementation can benefit. Supplements cited as beneficial are products containing omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and probiotics."
A 2020 study of nearly 25,000 participants supports the hypothesis that "consumption of milk, sugary beverages, and fatty and sugary products appeared to be associated with current acne in adults."
So what does this mean for you? You've got some control over your acne development and immune health by paying attention to what you eat and which supplements you use to treat your acne.
How do supplements treat hormonal acne?
Another 2016 study aimed to determine whether eating specific foods and taking certain oral supplements could treat hormonal acne (also called adult acne).
While the potential link between diet and acne has been controversial, it can no longer be dismissed.
"Compelling evidence shows that high glycemic load diets may exacerbate acne. Dairy ingestion appears to be weakly associated with acne, and the roles of omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fibre, antioxidants, vitamin A, zinc and iodine remain to be elucidated."
So what does this mean if you've got acne? There's now an understanding that there's an association between diet and acne and that supplements may be beneficial in treating acne.
Acne and oral supplementation
External factors like a diet rich in highly processed foods, environmental factors, and incorrect skincare can impact your skin. So what oral supplements can help reduce acne breakouts?
There's so much information online about how to treat more severe acne, and acne-causing bacteria, that it can be really challenging to figure out what to do. Should you drink more orange juice to get your vitamin C intake? Or maybe you should do what your nanna did and smother on vitamin E cream?
A 2021 study into acne and oral supplementation aimed to determine the role of individual nutrients, and their role played in treating acne. It discovered that diet can determine your skin condition and that oral supplements can help prevent, treat, and reduce acne lesions.
The oral supplementation examined included:
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamins and minerals with antioxidant properties
- Green tea extract
- Prebiotics and probiotics
What are the best vitamins and minerals for treating acne?
A wide range of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription treatments can effectively treat acne. However, some vitamins and minerals may also benefit people with acne.
Read on to find out which vitamins and minerals may help treat acne and consider the evidence supporting their use.
The anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin D are now being used as an alternative way of treating red and inflamed acne.
A 2021 study found vitamin D supplements can help improve acne by:
- Inhibiting cell division,
- Decreasing sebum secretion,
- Preventing skin pore blockage and
- Inhibiting the growth of acne bacteria.
Good sources of vitamin D are present in foods like fatty fish, fish oil, yeast, liver and eggs. If you've got low vitamin D levels, you may get benefits by taking natural supplements every day.
Over the last few years, there's been an increasing interest in the role of omega-3 fatty acids in treating various dermatological conditions like acne. As an omega-3 fatty acid, fish oil supplementation has become a popular way to improve some skin disorders. But does it work?
In 2018, a study focused on whether fish oil could help reduce the severity of skin disorders like acne that involve inflammation and trauma to the skin.
It found that "the fatty acids in fish oil can improve skin barrier function, inhibit UV-induced inflammation and hyperpigmentation, attenuate dry skin and pruritus elicited by dermatitis, accelerate skin wound healing, and prevent skin cancer development.
"All the benefits can be achieved by different administration routes, including oral supplementation, topical application, and intravenous injection."
A 2020 study found, "given its high safety profile, low cost, and ease of supplementation, omega-3 fatty acids is a reasonable supplement that may benefit patients wishing to improve inflammatory skin conditions through diet."
This study also found that it can reduce acne's inflammatory lesion count and the severity of "mucocutaneous side effects associated with isotretinoin use."
The eight types of B vitamins help nearly every process of your body and may help you get clear skin. They allow you to turn food into energy, so your hair, muscles, skin, nervous system, organs and metabolism remain healthy.
Unfortunately, the human 'storage tank' for B vitamins is pretty tiny, so you need to keep filling up on them every day.
If you're deficient in vitamin B, you may be more prone to:
- Cracked lips
- Flaky and dry skin
- Sunlight sensitivity
- Red and irritated skin.
Vitamin B is also important for reducing your stress and improving the renewal of your cells. Here's the low down on the role of each of the B vitamins.
It aids in wound healing and helps to convert glucose into energy, and is essential for proper nerve functions.
B1 is sometimes called the "anti-stress vitamin" because it soothes the nervous system and boosts the immune system which helps prevent stress-related breakouts.
It helps with mucus secretion in the skin to prevent dryness that can lead to oil production (and sometimes acne).
B2 also helps cell turnover and collagen maintenance, which reduces inflammation, speeds up wound healing and protects the structural integrity of your skin.
Known as a skin-conditioning powerhouse, B3 treats various skin conditions and irritations, including acne, dermatitis, eczema, rosacea, eczema, hyperpigmentation, and dry sun-damaged skin.
Vitamin B3 also features many skincare products where it's known as niacinamide. It can:
- Help combat the signs of ageing,
- Increase skin brightness and elasticity, and
- Reduce wrinkles and fine lines.
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Vitamin B5's role is to preserve moisture in your skin. It can help improve your skin elasticity and hydration, which can help prevent the occurrence of acne.
Known as another major stress-buster, vitamin B6 helps to regulate your sleep and mood by producing melatonin (the sleep hormone), serotonin (the "happy hormone"), and norepinephrine (a stress hormone), among others.
Stress and inadequate sleep can reduce cell regeneration, raise inflammation levels in your body, and contribute to dryness.
All these factors can lead to skin breakouts and dead skin cells accumulating.
Vitamin B7 metabolises fatty acids and protects your cells from damage and water loss. It keeps your skin plump and moist. B7 can also help your body fight inflammation, rashes, fungal infections and acne.
B9 (Folic Acid)
B9 works to fight free radical damage and promotes cell turnover. Usually recommended as a prenatal vitamin, it can help prevent congenital disabilities.
B12 is necessary for cell reproduction, and when applied topically to your skin, it can reduce acne, inflammation and dryness.
Over the last few years, there's been more evidence that zinc supplementation can help improve acne by decreasing oil production in the skin and protecting against bacterial infection and inflammation.
Zinc is an essential mineral with anti-inflammatory properties that contributes to cellular functions that include:
- Cell division
- Enzyme activity
- Immune system functioning
- Protein and DNA synthesis
- Wound healing.
A 2013 study found that oral and topical forms of zinc supplements can help treat acne. It also discovered that zinc levels in people with acne were lower than in those without acne.
Foods with a good source of zinc include:
- Beans, whole grains, and nuts
- Breakfast cereals fortified with additional vitamins and minerals
- Dairy products
- Poultry and red meat
- Seafood like crab, lobster, and oysters
Zinc as a dietary supplement is available at most chemists and supermarkets. It can be taken as part of a multivitamin tablet or on its own.
Over the last few years, the medical use of probiotics has become common in managing disease and immune modification. Probiotics act as immune modulators and are now used to treat inflammatory skin conditions and acne.
They are "live micro-organisms that, when orally administered, may confer a health benefit on the host. They have been widely reported to be helpful in gastrointestinal disorders."
A 2015 study investigated the role of probiotics in how the immune system develops, protection against photodamage and ageing and the treatment of acne and rosacea.
It notes that calming inflammation while repairing the skin barrier and keeping it hydrated was of primary importance when treating acne.
"Oral and topical probiotics hold potential in the treatment of acne and photoprotection and slowing the signs of ageing skin."
The use of barberry (also known as berberis vulgaris) as a supplement dates back more than 2,500 years. Traditionally, barberry is used to improve appetite, reduce fever, treat diarrhea, relieve an upset stomach and enhance a sense of wellbeing.
In Iran, barberry is used for medicinal purposes to treat heartburn and biliary disorders like gallbladder disease.
Over the last few years, barberry has reduced sebum production in the skin. In 2012, a study in Iran used barberry to treat acne in adolescents between 12 and 17 years.
The group, who took 600mg of dried barberry daily for four weeks, showed an improvement in non-inflamed, inflamed and total acne lesions. This study concluded that "oral aqueous extract of dried barberry is a safe, well-tolerated, and effective choice in teenagers with moderate to severe acne vulgaris."
Green tea extract
While it may be your favourite afternoon pick me up, green tea can also help treat your acne. In 2017, a study investigated how green tea and other tea polyphenols could improve acne.
It found, "based on this review, there is some evidence that tea polyphenols used orally and topically may be beneficial for skin health and more specifically, for reducing sebum production by the sebaceous glands and for the prevention and treatment of acne."
With so many options available to treat acne and prevent acne, it can be hard to determine which one will suit you and what products to include in your skincare routine.
It can be helpful to talk to a healthcare provider who specialises in acne treatments. Software offers prescription treatments for acne that our local health practitioners tailor to your personal goals and skin needs.
They can also advise which vitamins and minerals would be helpful.
Start your skincare journey today, and say goodbye to acne for good!
Image credit: Artem Podrez via Pexels
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