Anyone of any age can get acne. Acne affects about 50 million people in the United States every year. Teenagers and women going through menopause are more likely to get it, but it can happen to anyone.
When hormones are out of balance, acne shows up. When glands make more oil than usual, the pores in the skin get clogged. This lets bacteria grow, which leads to pimples.
Blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, and nodules are all types of pimples that look different and have different sizes and depths. Researchers have known for a long time that topical medications like benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics like tetracycline, and oral drugs with vitamin A, like isotretinoin, are the best ways to get rid of them.
Some people instead try more natural OTC acne treatments, like taking vitamins and minerals for acne supplements by mouth. Do natural cures work, too? Which ones, if so? Read on to find out.
Acne could be treated with vitamin A, but you need to make sure you get it the right way.
Clinicians at the University of Michigan say that vitamin A pills don’t work the same way as vitamin A creams. In fact, they warn against taking the supplement because it can hurt more than help.
Since the vitamin dissolves in fat, it builds up in your body, and more than 10,000 international units (IU) can be harmful. This is especially true during pregnancy, so women who want to get pregnant should talk to their doctors before starting any supplements.
But putting vitamin A on your skin can help clear up your acne. Most topical medicines change the vitamin chemically to make a retinoid that can be put on the skin. The Mayo Clinic says that retinoids are the best way to treat acne because they help the skin heal and regenerate quickly, so you can get fresh skin quickly.
In order of least side effects, popular retinoid brands include tazarotene (Tazorac) and adapalene (Differin). You need a prescription to get them.
Women who are pregnant should not take retinoids. The substance also makes your skin less resistant to UV rays, so people who use retinoids should be careful not to stay in the sun for too long and use sunscreen.
A mineral called zinc can also help with acne. You can put it on your skin or take it by mouth as a supplement.
A recent review of past research on the subject found that zinc can stop the skin from making too much oil and protect against bacterial infections and inflammation.
Your body only needs small amounts of zinc. The Office of Dietary Supplements says that adults should get between 8 and 11 milligrams a day (mg). There is some evidence that 30 mg can help treat acne in a safe way. Too much zinc could be bad for you. Some people have said that taking too much zinc made them sick, and taking too much zinc can cause a copper deficiency.
Acne can also be helped by lotions that have zinc in them. In one study, it was found that a lotion with 1.2% zinc acetate and 4% erythromycin helped clear the skin a lot.
Vitamin D is important for bone health because it helps the body take in calcium. It is also an important part of how nerve cells talk to each other and how the body fights off germs.
In 2016, researchers found that people with acne have less vitamin D than people without acne. This deficiency could be a reason why someone gets acne.
A 2014 study found that Vitamin D also stops P. acnes from making skin cells sick. Acne happens in large part because of these bacteria.
Based on the results of these studies, vitamin D may help treat or prevent acne, but more research is needed to fully understand these results.
When ultraviolet light from the sun hits the skin, vitamin D is made by the body. But there are also foods that contain vitamin D, such as:
- fish with a lot of fat, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel
- beef liver cheese eggs
- milk, fruit juices, and breakfast cereals are some examples of fortified foods
Vitamin D supplements are sold in most health food stores and pharmacies. You can also buy these supplements on the internet.
Dr. Scalise says that the “b” in “B-complex vitamins” could just as well stand for “beauty,” since several of them, especially B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and B6 (pyridoxine), play a role in how the body works as a whole. B vitamins help turn on enzymes, but they also do other things in the body, like make hormones and keep them in balance.
When it comes to your skin, B vitamins help reduce the dryness and flakiness that come with acne. This is why many moisturizers contain them. But you can also take them in the form of supplements. Here are some signs that you might not have enough vitamin B.
This vitamin can be stored in fat and is also an antioxidant. This means that it helps keep fats from turning rancid in the body. This is especially important for your skin, since the oxidation of sebum (the oily stuff that comes out of your whiteheads and blackheads when you pop them) is known to spread bacteria across your face and cause acne.
Vitamin E stops bacteria from spreading and also makes sure that vitamin A works well on the skin. Vitamin E is a common ingredient in skin-care products and can also be found naturally in foods like almonds, avocados, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, spinach, and more.
This nutrient is known to help fight diseases like heart disease and cancer, but its ability to prevent acne is less well-known. In fact, a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Acta Dermato-Venereologica found that people with the worst acne also had much lower levels of selenium in their bodies.
Load up on selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts, Yellowfin tuna, halibut, sardines, and grass-fed beef to give your skin a chance against acne.
Myths and realities
We’ve talked about how vitamin A and zinc can help acne, but you may also have heard that vitamin E can help. Vitamin E and acne haven’t been looked at as much as vitamin A or zinc. A recent study, on the other hand, found that people with acne were short on vitamin E, vitamin A, and zinc. So it wouldn’t hurt to make sure you get the 15 mg of vitamin E that the government says you need every day.
Acne is a common skin problem that often starts when a person is going through puberty. Acne can be treated with many different over-the-counter and prescription medicines, but getting enough vitamins and minerals for acne may also help the skin.
Zinc and vitamins A and D may help treat acne and keep it from coming back. Meat, fish, vegetables, and dairy products are all natural sources of these nutrients.
Foods that have been added to, like breakfast cereals, milk, and fruit juices, are also a great source.
People can also take supplements, such as multivitamins, to make sure they get enough of these important vitamins and minerals.