What Exactly Is DIM?
If you’ve had hormonal acne, you know that there’s no easy way to get rid of it. And yet, there is a supplement that is starting to get attention because of how well it seems to work. Diindolylmethane, or DIM supplements for acne, is a compound that comes from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc. If you can’t get enough of it through your diet, you can also take it as a supplement.
Even though it might seem too good to be true that a compound from green vegetables could heal hormonal acne, some research shows that it could even work as well as prescription drugs. In fact, Morgan Rabach, MD, a dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical in New York City, says that it may work like Spironolactone, a prescription drug that dermatologists often recommend to treat hormonal acne.
Cheung says that taking DIM supplements for acne is good for you in more ways than just helping with acne caused by hormones.
Hormonal acne usually shows up on your chin and jawline, but it can also show up on the sides of your face and down your neck.
Cheung says that DIM supplements for acne can help, even though there is no scientific proof that they fix or cure hormonal acne. “When estrogen and testosterone are out of balance, it can cause acne. “DIM and I3C help keep this delicate balance, and higher levels of DIM for acne will block androgen pathways to reduce sebum production and acne,” she tells you.
May stop cancers caused by estrogen: More and more studies show that I3C, when taken as a supplement, may help stop the growth of cancers caused by estrogen.
Cheung says that DIM may help prevent breast, uterine, cervical, and prostate cancers because it helps keep estrogen metabolism and receptor activity in balance and speeds up cellular detoxification.
Cheung says that estrogen dominance can be caused by a liver that doesn’t get rid of toxins well or by being overweight, since fat tissue turns testosterone into estrogen. Estrogen dominance and its symptoms can also be caused by things like birth control, too much meat and dairy, plastics, and other toxins.
Cheung says that too much estrogen can cause irregular and heavy periods, weight gain, trouble sleeping, tiredness, depression or irritability, and a low libido. “DIM slows down the process of turning testosterone into estrogen, so you’ll have fewer symptoms of estrogen dominance.”
How Do You Choose The Right DIM Supplement?
If you search for DIM, you’ll get a lot of results. How do you know which one to put in your shopping cart? Jardim says it’s important to buy supplements from “companies that find the best ingredients and make sure the final products are high-quality by getting third-party certification.” Designs for Health DIM-Evail and Pure Encapsulations DIM Pro are a few of her favorites.
How to Use DIM Supplements for Acne
I’ve been taking oral birth control (microgestrin 1.5/30) for three years to help with the pain of endometriosis, which is caused by large cysts on my ovaries called endometriomas. I take birth control pills right after each other and skip the placebo weeks so that my endometrial lining doesn’t shed. This keeps me from getting my period. It’s a quick fix that has helped me with a very painful long-term problem.
I take two DIM vitamins every day, once in the morning and once at night. Since I started this routine, I haven’t had a single hormonal breakout. Cheung says to take 150mg every day and that the supplements should be taken for a long time because hormone imbalance will get worse with age and acne may come back if DIM’s effect of balancing hormones is stopped.
As for how long it takes to see results, Cheung says that you might see less oil and active cysts within a few weeks, but you’ll see the best results after a few months, when your skin goes through its natural cycles.
DIM Supplements vs. Prescription Acne Medications
Dermatologists often recommend spironolactone, which is a blood pressure medicine that is used off-label to treat hormonal acne in women, and isotretinoin as the best treatments for adult acne (you may know it by its brand name, Accutane). If you want to know how DIM supplements for acne stack up, it’s not easy to compare them. Angela Lamb, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, says, “They are very different.”
She says that Accutane is a pill that is made from vitamin A and shrinks oil glands, while spironolactone is a pill that blocks androgens. Some people think of DIM for acne as a more natural alternative to spironolactone. Anecdotal reports show that it works to reduce breakouts, but it does so more slowly. Unlike spironolactone, which usually works in six to eight weeks, DIM supplements may take up to four months to work.
“The research is not very strong,” says Dr. Lamb, “but it seems that DIM for acne has a bigger effect on estrogen.” So, she “would not” compare it to a real androgen blocker (like spironolactone), but she does explain the reasoning: “Androgens do cause acne, so the idea is that the less potent form would cause less acne.”
Also, it’s important to know that a DIM supplements for acne won’t help much with comedonal acne (i.e., whiteheads or blackheads). Instead, this over-the-counter supplement tends to work best on papules, pustules, and acne that is caused by hormones. “In higher doses, DIM can block androgen receptors like those for testosterone by saturating the body’s tissues and stopping protein synthesis,” explains Dr. Engelman.
This stops the anabolic effects of testosterone on the body. When androgens and hormone receptors come together, it can cause imbalances in the skin that can lead to acne. By stopping that binding, the imbalances that can lead to acne are less likely to happen.
Even though there are no official scientific studies that look at the effects of I3C or DIM for acne, there are many medical journals, including the ones listed here, that talk about how I3C and DIM for acne can control estrogen. Also, the Internet is full of articles and testimonies from women who swear that I3C/DIM cured their hormonal acne, and now I’m one of them.
Not only has it helped me with my hormonal breakouts, but it has also helped dozens of my friends, and many of them have said that all of their PMS symptoms, like sore breasts and bloating, have gone away as well.