Nutritional Supplements In The Treatment Of Acne
Scientific evidence suggests that nutritional supplements may be useful treatments for acne, a common and embarrassing skin condition that afflicts both adults and teenagers. Increased stimulation of the skin and bacterial infections appear to play major roles in the development of acne. Conventional treatments include drying agents, topical anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics and, in severe cases, steroids. While prescription medications may be effective, many of these substances have side effects that limit the duration of use. Some studies suggest that certain natural oral and topical treatments may work as well as prescription medications, with fewer reported side effects.
Several studies have shown that taking zinc may reduce the severity of acne.1 2 Most of the studies used 50 mg of zinc three times per day. However, with the development of better absorbed forms of zinc, many doctors now recommend 30 mg two or three times per day initially, and lower amounts after the first 12 weeks. One study found that zinc may be as effective as oral antibiotic therapy.3 It is recommended to take zinc with food to avoid getting an upset stomach. Long-term use of zinc may require adding 1 to 2 mg per day of copper to prevent copper deficiency.
The results of another study suggest that vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) may also be useful in treating acne.4 However, participants in the study took 10 grams per day orally, which is an extremely large amount, and also used a 20% topical cream of vitamin B5 daily. Although no significant side effects occurred, the long-term safety of such large amounts taken orally has not been studied. Mild cases cleared in a couple of months and more severe cases took up to six months to clear. It is unknown whether lower amounts would produce the same results.
In another study, high amounts of vitamin A were used to treat severe acne in teenagers.5 Girls took up to 300,000 IU per day and boys took up to 500,000 IU per day. Although the acne was lessened, the benefit seemed to diminish once the oral vitamin A therapy was discontinued. Such high intake is potentially toxic and should only be done under the supervision of a physician.
Women with premenstrual acne may find benefit with vitamin B6. One small trial found 50 mg per day of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) alleviated flare-ups of acne before the onset of their menstrual cycles.6
Using topical formulations may help with acne as well. One study showed that a 4% niacinamide gel used twice daily for two months significantly reduced acne lesions.7 Other trials have demonstrated that a 20% azelaic acid cream worked as well as benzoyl peroxide, oral tetracycline and retinoic acid.8 9 Although these topical formulas are natural substances, they are available only by prescription.
For more information on herbal therapies for acne, see today’s related Newswire article.
1. Hillstr?m L, Petterson L, Hellbe L, et al. Comparison of oral treatment with zinc sulfate and placebo in acne vulgaris. Br J Dermatol 1977;97:681–4.
2. Verma KC, Saini AS, Dhamija SK. Oral zinc sulphate therapy in acne vulgaris: a double-blind trial. Acta Derm Venereol 1980;60:337–40.
3. Michaelsson G, Juhlin L, Ljunghall K. A double blind study on the effect of zinc and oxytetracycline in acne vulgaris. Br J Dermatol 1977;97:561–6.
4. Leung LH. Pantothenic acid deficiency as the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris. Med Hypotheses 1995;44:490–2.
5. Kligman AM, Mills OH Jr., Leyden JJ, et al. Oral vitamin A in acne vulgaris. Preliminary report. Int J Dermatol 1981;20:278–85.
6. Snider B, Dietman DF. Pyridoxine therapy for premenstrual acne flare. Arch Dermatol 1974;110:130–1[letter].
7. Shalita AR, Smith JR, Parish LC, et al. Topical nicotinamide compared with clindamycin gel in the treatment of inflammatory acne vulgaris. Int J Dermatol 1995;34:434–7.
8. Nazzaro-Porro M. Azelaic acid. J Am Acad Dermatol 1987;17:1033–41.
9. Norris J. Azelaic acid really does work in acne—a double blind national and international study. Br J Dermatol 1987;32(Suppl):34.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of Garlic and Cholesterol: Everything You Need to Know (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice in Westport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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