I get it. Having acne is frustrating AF. What to include in your skincare routine is overwhelming. Especially what supplements to take.
And I wish I could tell you there was a magic pill that will fix it all. But there isn’t one (yes I’m saying it – not even Accutane will “cure” your acne). In order to manage acne, it requires a 2-pronged, whole-body approach: 1.) supporting it with an external skincare routine for acne and then 2.) supporting your body’s internal environment. Which includes introducing the right vitamins and minerals (in the correct dosages) so you can have the clear skin you deserve.
We’ve narrowed down the supplements that could be causing your acne, but let’s talk through the ones that are actually GOOD for your acne.
The Acne Savers
The top four are my go-tos in supporting acne. But every person is individual (especially when it comes to hormonal imbalances), so it’s important to work with a practitioner to see what specific vitamins you need (there’s no point in taking things you don’t need).
Vitamin A (in the form of Retinyl Palmitate) is a bioavailable form that has been shown to improve cellular turnover, causing the skin to shed faster and prevent those clogged pores that cause acne. It’s also been shown to increase healing of acne scars, and help reduce inflammatory acne . In fact, studies are showing that people with acne are usually vitamin A deficient – meaning that when we have low vitamin A levels in our body it can actually be causing more breakouts. So supplementing with vitamin A can be highly beneficial for reducing acne.
Dosage: dosage for this one is so important. It’s fat soluble – which means it can store up in your organs (instead of being flushed out through fluid) and high levels of vitamin A can cause liver toxicity over time. The recommended daily dose is 900 mcg RAE for men (3,000 IU) and 700 mcg RAE for women (2,333 IU), but you want to add a little bit more than this, to get those amazing acne-reducing benefits . Having 3,000 mcg RAE (10,000 IU) is considered a tolerable upper level intake to give you a decent buffer before you reach the toxicity upper limit (especially if you’re already consuming foods high in vitamin A) . The true toxic upper limit for Vitamin A is a maximal dose of 25,000 IU/day or 7500 mcg RE before it has the potential to cause damage over time [4,5]:
Side Note: Accutane or isotretinoin is a man-made Vitamin A derivative which basically shuts down your sebaceous glands (oil glands) ALL over your body – I’m talking your scalp, lips, eyes even your vagina. Shutting down these glands mean it can’t produce oil, stops your skin cells from clumping together and suppresses your immune system [6,7] It has extremely high, toxic levels of vitamin A, teratogenicity (birth defects) and an immense range of side-effects. To me the natural form of vitamin A is a no brainer.
Vitamin B5 (aka pantothenic acid) is an acne reducing powerhouse. Just like vitamin A, a lack of this vitamin has been shown to increase the likelihood of getting acne, so supplementing with a moderate dose of B5 has been shown to reduce the amount of acne lesions . Here’s why: it’s has been shown to reduce inflammation and control oil production of the skin’s sebaceous glands (remember too much oil = more clogged pores and breakouts). It also assists in digestion and nutrient absorption as well as regulate stress – all of which are important factors in keeping your skin clear .
Also, it’s a water soluble vitamin so that means no risk of toxicity with high dosages unlike vitamin A.
DIM (diindolylmethane) – the hormonal acne healer. A compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and kale, can work via two mechanisms to help clear acne: 1.) it helps support the liver with metabolising estrogen to be cleared from your body which is a great supplement if you are estrogen dominant . When there’s an excess of estrogen compared to other hormones (aka estrogen dominance) it can cause acne. So being able to remove it effectively from the body is key.
2.) It blocks androgens (male hormones) from attaching to receptors in the skin and prevents them from overproducing oil, clogging pores and causing acne .
Note that DIM is helpful especially in the cases of estrogen dominance. But it is important to work out what your unique hormonal balances are before you start supplementing with DIM.
When the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut is out of wack, it can wreak havoc on the skin and show up as persistent acne. Including a broad-spectrum probiotic in your diet can be helpful in rebalancing your gut microbiome and has been suggested to benefit acne patients by reducing systemic inflammation, increasing nutrient absorption, and directly altering the bacteria of the skin .
Skin Tip: if you’ve got other symptoms like bloating, gas, digestive pain, constipation or diarrhea, it’s important to get your gut tested to find out what bacteria is really in there. Only then can you use the right probiotics for your unique gut (otherwise you can possibly make it worse).
Other supplements that can be great for considering the holistic treatment of acne. But again, it’s so important it is to work with a practitioner to work out what your unique body needs. There’s no point in taking a range of supplements if your body doesn’t need them.
- Digestive enzymes and HCL – to help breakdown food and absorb your nutrients more efficiently.
- Cod Liver oil – helps reduce inflammation
- Liver Support: herbs and supplements that can include things like glutathione, broccoli sprout, milk thistle, dandelion root, globe artichoke.
- Gut Support: slippery elm, marshmallow root, aloe-vera, L-glutamate, quercetin, or combination gut powders that include a variety of these. My favourites are GI revive and CytoPro Repair.
You deserve clear skin. 100% – no questions asked. Supporting yourself with a wholefood diet will give you a range of vitamins and minerals needed for clear skin. Let food by your medicine, but supplement therapeutically as you need. Because sometimes our body’s just need that little bit of an extra oomph.
Let me know in the comments, what supplements you’ve found helpful for acne?
References (all the research so you don’t have to)
- The use of oral vitamin A in acne management: https://escholarship.org/content/qt85h7m531/qt85h7m531_noSplash_20b6a0e4c5231e930e26eb20ad425862.pdf
- Vitamin A: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-a/
- Vitamin A and Carotenoids: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/
- Safety of <7500 RE ( <25000 IU) vitamin A daily in adults with retinitis pigmentosa: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10197566/
- Vitamin A Toxicity: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532916/
- The effect of oral retinoid therapy on the normal human immune system:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2972309/
- Systemic isotretinoin therapy normalizes exaggerated TLR-2-mediated innate immune responses in acne patients: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614089/
- A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of a Novel Pantothenic Acid-Based Dietary Supplement in Subjects with Mild to Moderate Facial Acne: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4065280/
- Pantothenic Acid – Vitamin B5: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/pantothenic-acid-vitamin-b5/
- 3,3′Diindolylmethane Modulates Estrogen Metabolism in Patients with Thyroid Proliferative Disease: A Pilot Study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3048776/
- Plant-derived 3,3′-Diindolylmethane is a strong androgen antagonist in human prostate cancer cells: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12665522/
- Edible Plants and Their Influence on the Gut Microbiome and Acne: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5454980/