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Many people assume that the only way to treat acne is by using prescribed acne treatments that are either applied to the skin or taken as a daily tablet.
Topical acne treatments include benzoyl peroxide, Aczone and azelaic acid. Oral treatments for acne include the combined oral contraceptive pill, antibiotics, isotretinoin (also known as Accutane) and antiandrogen agents such as spironolactone.
Whilst these are effective acne treatments, many people like to take supplements alongside their conventional acne treatments to support their skin as much as possible. Here’s some of the best supplements for acne prone skin.
Retinol and a drug called Accutane are conventional drug treatments for acne that are derived from vitamin A. Vitamin A is therefore one of the best vitamins for acne and acne scars. It’s effective at supporting the health of the skin and helps the skin cells to regenerate quickly, and most importantly, heal more quickly.
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that the body can store. If there’s too much vitamin A stored in the body, it can become toxic.
Pregnant women should not take vitamin A supplements especially if they eat plenty of vitamin A rich foods such as carrots, butternut squash and broccoli. Beta carotene is also turned into vitamin A by the body, and is abundant in foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes and melons.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin that we need for a healthy immune system and to help protect the cells of the body. It’s also crucial for healthy skin - vitamin C helps the body produce collagen, a protein which forms a ‘scaffold’ for the skin to sit on, making it appear plump, supple and youthful. Vitamin C is also important for normal wound healing.
In terms of what supplements are good for acne prone skin, vitamin C comes to the rescue here, too. It helps to reduce redness and inflammation, helping to calm the irritation associated with acne.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, which, as opposed to a fat soluble vitamin, the body does not store. Any excess that we don’t use, leaves the body in our urine. However, taking more than 1,000mg of vitamin C per day can lead to stomach upsets and excess wind.
Like vitamin A, vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, but it doesn’t have the same toxicity risks associated with taking too much. It’s an antioxidant vitamin, like vitamin C, and helps to protect the health of the eyes and the skin as well as the immune system.
Vitamin E helps the skin produce collagen and elastin; another protein that helps the skin remain healthy, elastic and hydrated. It’s also one of the best supplements for acne prone skin.
Having healthy skin alone cannot guarantee that you won’t develop or have acne, as acne is down to a lot of other factors including hormones and genetics. But it can help to make the skin as robust to the effects of acne as possible.
Vitamin E will also ensure the skin remains hydrated, by helping to form a protective barrier to avoid moisture loss.
Zinc is a mineral that we need for a healthy immune system and to support the activity of various enzymes.
Aside from this, zinc also helps to keep the skin healthy by helping to keep the production of sebum (a natural skin oil that can lead to acne spots if it’s produced excessively) under control. Zinc also helps the body fight bacterial infections and inflammation, both of which can lead to acne flare ups.
Due to these anti-inflammatory properties, zinc supplements for acne prone skin can help to reduce the redness and inflamed skin so often associated with acne. It can be especially useful in cases of acne rosacea.
Zinc can also be beneficial for helping to reduce the appearance of scarring from severe outbreaks of acne.
Taking more than 40mg of zinc a day can cause stomach problems such as pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and a loss of appetite.
Our guts are home to trillions of friendly bacteria collectively called our microbiome, which are essential for our health. If we take antibiotics, either due to having acne, or an infection elsewhere, they’re often ‘broad spectrum’ meaning that they kill the bad bacteria as well as the good.
Probiotic supplements contain so-called good bacteria that benefit our guts, digestion, immune system and overall health.
If you’ve recently taken a course of antibiotics for acne over a number of months, your microbiome could be compromised, so taking a daily probiotic supplement could be a good idea. Probiotic supplements help support the health of our microbiome, which in turn looks after our skin. They also help to reduce the healing time taken for acne scars to clear up.
Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil supplements are often associated with benefits to joint health, but they’re also thought to help people with acne prone skin too. This is because cod liver oil is high in vitamin A, which as we discussed above is good for the health of the skin.
Vitamin A helps to reduce ‘keratinisation’, which is the shedding of dead skin cells. Acne prone skin is known to shed dead skin cells faster than normal skin. This excess shedding contributes to the blocking of pores, which leads to acne spots.
Because of the high vitamin A content, pregnant women should avoid taking cod liver oil supplements.
Antioxidants and Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Antioxidants help to neutralise nasty unstable molecules of oxygen called free radicals. They’re typically found in fresh fruits and vegetables, and there are various different types. Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of healthy fat that are present in foods such as oily fish and walnuts.
Together, antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids can help to reduce inflammation in the body that can lead to inflamed, stressed out skin and acne.
Green Tea Extract
Green tea is well-known for its rich antioxidant status as well as its ability to act as an anti-inflammatory.
This double benefit of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory prowess supports those with acne prone skin and can significantly reduce the appearance of acne breakouts.
Green tea itself is great, so aim to drink at least one cup daily, but green tea extract, available from health food shops as a supplement, is even more concentrated.
Selenium is a mineral that helps the body fight infections and balance the hormones. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and works best when taken as a supplement along with vitamin E and zinc.
The Benefits of Liposomal Supplements
As well as thinking about taking a supplement to help support your acne prone skin, thinking about the ‘bioavailability’ of the supplement is also important - that is, how well the nutrients within a supplement can be absorbed and assimilated by the body.
Some nutrients have a low bioavailability such as vitamin C, which is a water soluble vitamin. As you may know, oil and water don’t mix well, and water soluble vitamin C will struggle to absorb into the cell membranes as they’re made from fat soluble fatty acids. So this is where liposomal supplements are helpful.
A liposome is a nanometre-sized, ball-shaped structure with a water-based, hollow centre and an outer shell made from phospholipids (lipid is the chemical name for fat).
Discovered in the 1960s, liposomal encapsulation technology was a breakthrough in the problem of getting certain oral medicines and supplements through the gut and into the bloodstream. The hollow centre can be filled with medicine or a nutritional supplement such as vitamin C - and the result is the most bioavailable type of supplement.
Liposomal supplements have an outer membrane that’s chemically similar to that of our own cellular membranes. This means that liposomal supplements can move across cell membranes more efficiently to ultimately deliver their nutrients to the cells where they’re needed.
This clever outer membrane also protects the nutrients inside the liposomal supplement as it passes through the acidic conditions of the stomach and the digestive enzymes produced by the liver so that it can arrive at the cells via the bloodstream, intact.
Choosing Skincare to Work in Harmony with Acne Supplements
You might be using conventional drug treatments for acne, such as antiandrogen agents, isotretinoin or the combined oral contraceptive pill.
Or you might be making the most of natural supplements to help manage your acne, or a mix of the two.
Either way, using the right skincare can also help to keep your skin under control. At Sönd, we speak from experience when we say we understand acne and have developed an effective range of alkalising skincare products that support acne prone skin.
Could Sönd skincare help support your skin too?
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.