I am frequently asked if there are any pills or supplements that can assist with getting rid of acne or helping your skin become glowing and flawlessness.
In short, the answer is yes.
A study published in July 2013 by The University of Afyon Kocatepe in Turkey reported a correlation between acne and low serum (blood) levels of vitamin A, vitamin E, and zinc.¹ Fascinating, right? Furthermore, there are several studies (including this really awesome one) linking oxidative stress to acne, which means that counteracting oxidation (via antioxidants) would be part of the logical course of treatment.
Inflammation and oxidative stress are the beginning of the acne cycle, so if we eliminate those, we break the cycle and thus eliminate acne.
FIRST, MAKE NO MISTAKE – YOUR FOOD MATTERS.
I’m not going to willy-nilly recommend supplements without first reminding you of this important fact. Your food matters. Cheetos and bagels do not create healthy tissues. You can take all the supplements you want, but if you’re chowing down on fast food and ice cream several times per week, your skin (and most importantly, your internal organs) are not going to be healthy.
This is not about becoming a strict, stressed out food nut. This is about making wise choices that will nourish and support you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Since you want clear skin, strictly avoid the following for the next 4–6 weeks (you can always sneak them in later and enjoy once in a while if you feel like it):
- Gluten. This means bread, bagels, pastries, cereals, and other processed foods that use wheat or gluten. Wheat and gluten are inflammatory and irritate the gut lining. You might think it’s a fad because everyone has been jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon lately, but I have been recommending this step for years because it makes a difference. See how your body feels and your skin looks without it.
- Dairy. This means milk, yogurt (yes, even yogurt for now), ice cream, butter, cream, and any other animal-created milk products. We want to avoid the intake of hormones that exist naturally in dairy products. Some people do just fine with all dairy, and others must limit their dairy to certain types like goat yogurt or kefir, whereas others must avoid it altogether. See what suits you best.
- Soy. This means tofu, soy sauce, tempeh, natto, and processed soy-based “food” products. Miso is fine, but it’s best if you use a soy-free miso for now. Soy contains phytoestrogens – plant estrogen – that can adversely effect our skin. Again, some people do fine with fermented soy like miso, and others do best by avoiding all soy.
- Nuts and seeds. None for now. Let’s get you back in balance first before throwing in some potentially inflammatory omega 6.
Eat and enjoy the following:
- Seafood. Preferably wild-caught fish, scallops, and oysters.
- Beef, lamb, and chicken. Preferably grass-fed and/or pastured and/or organic. Do NOT buy conventional factory-farmed meat. It is loaded with antibiotics, steroids, medications, toxins, and other junk that goes straight into your own body. Look for the best possible quality you can buy.
- Vegetables. Go crazy. Buy local and/or organic if you can.
- Fruit. Enjoy lower sugar fruits for now, like berries. Any berries will do, like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Green apples, cucumber, tomato, lemons, and limes are also super low sugar fruits that are great to enjoy. If you want a higher sugar fruit like a banana, pineapple, melon, etc. enjoy a smaller quantity.
- Sweet potato. Eat in moderation. A great source of carbohydrates (you need carbs, especially if you’re a woman or if you train regularly) and vitamin A (beta-carotene).
THE BEST SUPPLEMENTS FOR CLEAR SKIN.
Vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc, and antioxidants such as vitamin C, EGCG (from green tea), astaxanthin, B vitamins, turmeric, silymarin (from milk thistle), and glutathione (you won’t get much benefit from taking pre-formed glutathione, so take a precursor like N-acetyl cysteine) are all beneficial for treating acne.
During the study, however, only three supplements were tested. All groups were treated with one supplement each plus a nightly topical application of a rose antioxidant cream. Cream Recommendations: Dr. Alkaitis Organic Night Crème, MUN No.1 Aknari Nighttime Dream Youth Serum, or Weleda Wild Rose Smoothing Night Cream. The groups were not given all three acne supplements at once, yet every group had significant reduction in acne lesions and improvement in blood markers (glutathione, IL-8, etc.). Keep this in mind when you supplement. You don’t need to load yourself up with lots of stuff – try one thing at a time and give it 4–6 weeks to show results.
Group two received 1,200 mg of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) daily (one 600 mg tablet twice daily). NAC Recommendations: NOW Foods Nac-Acetyl Cysteine 600mg (also contains 25 mcg selenium), Pure Encapsulations NAC 600 mg (my favorite brand).
Group three received 200 mcg of selenium daily (one 100 mcg tablet twice daily). Selenium Recommendations: NOW Foods Selenium.
DIM Detox. An amazing supplement for helping the body eliminate xenoestrogens and assist with hormone metabolism and elimination. People who get cystic acne (the type that forms hard red bumps under the skin that do not always surface) and who get blemishes around the jawline and chin are usually suffering from hormone imbalance and may find this supplement to be particularly effective. It may take 2–4 weeks to start to notice a change, but that depends on the individual. There is another DIM supplement called EstroBlock which many people find effective, though I prefer the well-rounded ingredients in DIM Detox and I trust the manufacturer. EstroBlock has a higher amount of DIM, which might be better for severe hormone imbalance, so you may wish to have your hormone levels evaluated and experiment to see which DIM supplement works best for you.
EXAMPLE SUPPLEMENT ROUTINE.
Like I said before, don’t go crazy and buy every supplement in the store. Try a few things at a time and see what works best for you.
My personal supplement regimen is pretty simple and inexpensive:
- DIM Detox. Pure Encapsulations DIM Detox (2 capsules with a snack during the afternoon)
- MSM. Paradise Herbs OptiMSM (1 or 2 capsules per day with food)
- B Vitamins. Pure Encapsulations B Complex Plus (2 capsules with breakfast or lunch)
- N-Acetyl Cysteine. Pure Encapsulations NAC 600 mg (1 capsule in the morning before I eat breakfast)
¹Evaluation of serum vitamins A and E and zinc levels according to the severity of acne vulgaris, Ozuguz P, et al.
I hope you found this helpful! In case you want more information on diet and supplements for acne and other skin conditions, feel free to look at my other posts or enjoy my book.