Acne can strike at any age. Although it is more common in teenagers and sometimes in women who are going through menopause, acne affects an estimated 50 million people in the United States each year.
Acne occurs in times of hormonal imbalance. When glands produce more oil than normal, the pores of the skin clog, causing bacteria (and pimples) to grow.
Pimples come in many different shapes and depths, including blackheads, cysts and nodules. To banish them, research has long pointed to topical medications such as benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics such as tetracycline, and oral medications containing vitamin A, such as isotretinoin, which is a moderate to severe acne condition.
Alternatively, some more natural treatments like oral vitamin and mineral supplements are looking for. Do natural remedies work as well? And if so, which one? Find it out below.
Vitamin A is a potential remedy for acne, but you need to make sure you get it right.
Vitamin A oral supplements do not work like topical vitamin A, according to University of Michigan clinicians. In fact, they warn against supplementation, as it can do more harm than good.
Because the vitamin is fat-soluble, it builds up in your body and a high intake of more than 10,000 international units (IU) can be toxic. This is especially true during pregnancy, so women planning to become pregnant should talk to their doctors before starting any supplements.
But as a topical medication, vitamin A can help with your acne. Most topical medications chemically alter the vitamin into a retinoid that you can apply to the skin. According to the Mayo Clinic, retinoids are the most effective treatment for acne because of their ability to quickly regenerate and heal the skin, giving you quick, fresh skin.
Popular retinoid brands – in order of least side effects – include Tazaroten (Tazorac) and Adapalen (Differin). You can only get them with a prescription.
Pregnant women should not take retinoids. The substance also weakens the natural UV protection of your skin, so people who use retinoids should be careful that they are not exposed to the sun for long and use sunscreen.
Zinc is a mineral that can also help with acne. You can take it as an oral supplement or as a topical treatment.
A recent review of previous studies on this topic found that zinc can reduce oil production in the skin and protect it from bacterial infections and inflammation.
You only need low levels of zinc in your body. The Office of Nutritional Supplements recommends a daily dose for adults of 8-11 milligrams (mg). There is some evidence that a relatively safe dose of 30mg can help treat acne. Higher amounts of zinc can be harmful. Some people have reported being sick by too much zinc, and excessive zinc intake can lead to copper depletion.
Topical lotions that contain zinc can also help with acne. One study found that applying a lotion of 1.2% zinc acetate and 4% erythromycin significantly clarified the skin.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) plays a key role in collagen synthesis or in the formation of collagen. Collagen is a protein found in almost every part of our body, mainly in our muscles, bones, blood vessels, digestive system and skin. We tend to lose collagen as we age, so our skin loosens with less elasticity. Recently, vitamin C has been used as an acne treatment solution instead of antibiotics. “In the medical field, it is well known that vitamin C has strong anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to safely treat a variety of skin conditions,” says Ron Choi, Global Business Manager for Vitabrid C². “When vitamin C is delivered directly to the skin, it promotes collagen synthesis, inhibits the production of melanin, and traps free radicals, restoring and brightening damaged skin left behind by acne breakouts.”
The “b” in “B complex vitamins” might as well stand for beauty because several of them, especially B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin) and B6 (pyridoxine) play a general role in physiological function, Dr Scalise. B vitamins support enzyme activation, but also have several functions in the body – for hormone production and balance. When it comes to your skin, B vitamins help reduce the dryness and flakiness associated with acne, which is why they are found in many topical moisturizers. You can also use them in a supplement form.
This fat-soluble vitamin is also an antioxidant, which means that it prevents fats in the body from oxidizing. This is especially important when it comes to your skin, as the oxidation of sebum (the oily substance that emanates from your whiteheads and blackheads when you popping them) is known to spread bacteria across your face and lead to acne. Vitamin E helps to prevent this spread of bacteria and also ensures that vitamin A works properly on the skin. Vitamin E is a popular ingredient in skin care products and is also found naturally in delicious healthy foods such as almonds, avocados, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, spinach and more.
This nutrient not only holds the bones, but also plays an important role in the health of the skin. Most of us receive this nutrient from exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, so if you live in northern areas of the country that do not see much warm sunlight, especially in winter, you might be deficient in vitamin D. In fact, according to the journal Nutrition Research, just under half of all US adults lack vitamin D. Another study, published in PLOS One, analyzes the effects of vitamin D on patients with acne, finding that those who are more likely to get acne also suffer from a vitamin D deficiency.
This nutrient is known to fight diseases like heart disease and cancer, but one thing less well known about is its ability to ward off acne. In a study published in the journal “Acta Dermato-Venereologica”, it was found that among acne sufferers, even those with the most severe cases had significantly lower selenium values. To give your skin a chance against acne, charge selenium-rich foods such as Brazil nuts, yellowfin, halibut, sardines, and grass-fed beef.
Myths and truths
We talked about how vitamin A and zinc can help with your acne, but you’ve probably also heard about vitamin E as a possible remedy. Acne’s relationship with vitamin E is not as well studied as with vitamin A or zinc. However, in a recent study, people with acne have been shown to lack vitamin E, A and zinc. So it would not hurt to make sure you get your daily recommended intake of 15 mg of vitamin E.
Tea tree oil can also help with your acne. In one study, 30 people used tea tree oil gel for 45 days and another 30 placebo. Those who used the gel saw major improvements in their acne.
Tea tree oil is a great alternative to benzoyl peroxide, a well-known ingredient in acne creams. It has similar effects by strangulating bacteria and reducing oil production. Both are available over the counter, but tea tree oil seems to cause fewer side effects such as itching, burning and peeling.