Should You Be Taking Acne Supplements?


Vitamin C and E can help prevent dark spots from forming when applied directly to the skin.

Scores of nutrition experts recommend taking supplements for fighting acne. But are the recommendations for acne supplements honest and unbiased? Let’s look at the most popular acne supplements one by one.


  • The right supplements in the right form can be very helpful in fighting acne.
  • Up to 5,000 IU of vitamin A a day helps rejuvenate the skin and open pores.
  • Vitamin B12 supplements are important if you take Accutane, Retin-A, Tazorac, or Differin. But don’t take too much. Excessive vitamin B12 itself can also make your skin break out.
  • Vitamin C and vitamin E applied directly to the skin can stop the formation of brown spots as acne heals.
  • Selenium and zinc help “calm” the skin. But don’t take too much.
  • Probiotics train the immune system to react to bacteria with a minimum of inflammation. Probiotic supplements, like those offered by Exposed Skin Care, are the most reliable way to get the probiotic bacteria you need.

Vitamin A Is a Useful Supplement for Acne

Vitamin A is the one of the most useful nutritional supplements for acne. Vitamin A in its various forms activate strands of DNA coded to produce proteins that help skin cells mature. Skin cells that live out their normal life cycle constantly migrate to the surface of the skin, where they complete their life cycle and die. Skin cells that aren’t stimulated to mature congregate in the lower layers of the epidermis, keeping the skin tight and bottling up sebum inside pores.

The major downside in taking vitamin A is that it is easy to take too much. About 5,000 IU of vitamin A day has optimal benefits for the skin. More than about 50,000 IU of vitamin A sometimes makes the skin grow so fast that it reddens and flakes. Single doses of vitamin A in excess of 50,000 IU have the potential to cause birth defects, so women who are or who may become pregnant are cautioned to limit their consumption of the vitamin strictly to 5,000 IU a day and no more.

Any kind of vitamin A supplement has to be encapsulated to protect it from oxidation. If you choose to use retinol (another form of vitamin A) creams, they only stay fresh if they are in squeeze tubes. Retinol in products in jars oxidizes as soon as you open the container the first time.

You May Need Vitamin B Supplements, But They Won’t Help Acne

If you use Accutane, Retin-A, Tazorac, or Differin, your body may have problems using vitamin B12. The enzymes that these medications interfere with will work properly if you take supplemental vitamin B12—but you don’t want to take large amounts of vitamin B12 you don’t need. Excess vitamin B12 can make your skin breakout.

Don’t take a stand-alone vitamin B12 or methylcobalamin (the scientific name for vitamin B12) supplement. Vitamin B12 will not work without enough vitamin B6 and folate. Take a “complete B” supplement, and no more than 1000% of the Recommended Daily Intake of any B vitamin. The reason to take a complete B vitamin supplement is that the body uses B vitamins in pairs or triplets, and to use one B vitamin, you always have to have all the others.

Vitamin C Is Great for Preventing Brown Spots on the Skin

Vitamin C is a nutrient you use on your skin. It is not especially helpful for acne care if you take it as an oral supplement, although you may have other health concerns that benefit from oral vitamin C.

The form of this vitamin known as ascorbyl palmitate applied directly to the skin helps prevent the brown spotting that occurs as acne heals, especially on Asian skin. Vitamin C products will not do much for pimples (they don’t affect the aspects of the immune system that are active in pimples) but they will prevent lasting skin damage after acne heals. Be sure to use a product that is squeezed from a tube. Ascorbyl palmitate in a product in a jar will go bad as soon as you open the container.

Vitamin D Supplements Are Necessary If You Use Sun Screen

In the early 1990’s, the Australian national health service waged a campaign on skin cancer. They urged all Australians to slather themselves with sun block every time they went out the door, and it worked. Australians eagerly complied. And skin cancer rates went up, not down.

It turns out that vitamin D protects against many forms of cancer, including skin cancer. The skin makes vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. If you always use sunscreen, take at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D every day for your general health. Taking supplemental vitamin D is also a good idea during winter.

Vitamin E Supplements Are Also Best Directly Applied to the Skin

Vitamin E supplements you take by mouth recharge your body’s vitamin C. They also enter into hundreds of cell-protective processes, especially if you have heart disease or diabetes. But to heal your skin after acne, you need vitamin E applied directly to the skin. Vitamin E on the skin is especially helpful for preventing brown spots on Asian and naturally brown skin as acne heals.

Like vitamin C, vitamin E for skin protection is only useful if it comes in a squeeze tube. Any kind of vitamin E you dip out of a jar will go bad as soon as the container is opened. Look for tocopheryl acetate in the list of ingredients.

Go Nuts for Selenium

Up to 100 micrograms of selenium per day helps to calm acne-prone skin. This trace mineral is used in the making of dozens of different antioxidant compounds in the human body, many of which reduce inflammation in the skin.

You don’t have to take a selenium supplement. If you are not allergic to tree nuts, you can also eat two or three Brazil nuts a day. They will provide your skin with all the selenium it needs to fight acne, along with healthy essential fatty acids that reduce the production of inflammation.

Zinc for Immune Balance

Zinc is another mineral element that is important to the health of the skin. Zinc is not an immune system stimulant. It is actually an immune modulator. The body uses it to make the regulatory hormones that keep inflammation from destroying acne-prone skin.

Zinc is a nutrient you take by mouth. As little as 15 mg a day of any kind of zinc supplement can make a noticeable difference. More, however, is not better. You should never take more than 75 mg of zinc a day for more than 2 days (when you are fighting a cold), and you should not take more than 30 mg of zinc a day on an ongoing basis unless you also take 1 to 3 milligrams of copper per day.

The lozenges you use to fight colds won’t help with acne. Zinc lozenges generate zinc to be spread over the throat with saliva. You need a pill of capsule that your swallow to get zinc into your bloodstream for the health of your skin.

Probiotics Train the Immune System

The probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus acidophilous plays a unique role in fighting acne. Living in the lining of the colon, this bacterium interacts with the immune system to teach it that bacteria aren’t always bad—and it carries this information to the skin where it releases less inflammation against otherwise-harmless acne bacteria.

The most reliable way to get probiotics in your colon is using encapsulated supplements. You can also eat yogurt or mazan or drink kefir in small amounts several times a day to help the healthy bacteria stay in your digestive tract.

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