The typical blemish-fighting regimen is acne medicine only—prescription creams, washes, and spot treatments. And in severe cases, prescription oral medication. But supplements are a natural remedy that can mount an effective defense against acne. Dermatologist Carl Thornfeldt, MD, founder of the skincare brand Epionce, has studied the effects of supplements on acne for decades and now incorporates them into his patients’ treatment plans. Here, five of his favorite supplements for acne.
Zinc is a enjoying a sort of renaissance as an acne treatment. It’s been studied for decades, and was once deemed too disruptive to the GI tract for regular use. Enter zinc picolinate, a particularly bio-available version of the mineral that’s gentler on the stomach. It’s also the most effective form, according Dr. Thornfeldt. Zinc’s acne-fighting power is three-fold: It’s anti-inflammatory, anti-microbal, and it kills problematic yeast. “For a long time we didn’t know why it worked because we didn’t know yeast played a role in acne,” Dr. Thornfeldt says. “But it’s been shown that in adult acne 68 percent of females will have yeast in the pore.” Zinc helps destroy that yeast and helps the skin heal after a blemish.
Dosage: 25mg three times a day (preferably with meals)
What to look for: Make sure you’re getting zinc picolinate—it’s easier for your body to process than plain zinc.
Also known as Vitamin B3, niacinamide shrinks the sebaceous glands, curbing overproduction of sebum, which can cause blemishes. According to Dr. Thornfeldt, long-term acne patients also have chronic inflammation, and niacinamide addresses that too. But don’t expect a magic bullet. “I tell my patients to be patient with supplements,” Dr. Thornfeldt says. “They’re not going to work immediately. It may take one or two months to see the effects.”
Dosage: 500 to 1,000 mg per day
What to look for: Pure Encapsulations Niacinamide
Spearmint tea also has anti-microbal powers, so it kills the yeast that causes acne. But it’s also been shown to reduce androgens, which are hormones that cause acne breakouts around your period. “Spearmint tea has very solid data behind it,” says Dr. Thornfeldt. “One study found that a cup or two a day reduced acne lesions by 51 percent after three months.” One study done in the U.K. compared spearmint to 100mg of minocycline (a tetracycline antibiotic that fights bacteria in the body and is often prescribed for acne) per day, and found they had the same reduction in acne. (Read up on the foods that make acne worse.)
Dosage: One or two cups per day
What to look for: Organic spearmint tea
So many of us are vitamin D deficient, even in the spring. But did you know that low levels of the sunshine vitamin can make you break out? “If you’re deficient or on the low end of the normal range, your body won’t able to fight off the causes of acne,” said Dr. Thornfeldt. But he cautions: “Vitamin D is toxic at high doses. Take no more than 5,000 IU per day.”
Dosage: If you’re deficient 2,000 to 5,000 IU per day
What to look for: NOW Foods Vitamin D3
Probiotics balance the gut microbiome, the community of friendly gut bugs that support immune function. When you take them, your body is better prepared to fight acne-causing bacteria. But more is definitely not better, so stick to a single daily dose.
Dosage: 2.5 billion colonies per day
What to look for: Supplements with the two most studied bacterial strains, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium