Some studies suggest that using the following supplements may help treat acne. More research is needed to establish the potential effectiveness and long-term safety of these and other natural acne treatments, traditional Chinese medicine, and ayurvedic herbs.
Talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of specific treatments before you try them.
Jan. 20, 2015
- Tea tree oil. Gels containing 5 percent tea tree oil may be as effective as are lotions containing 5 percent benzoyl peroxide, although tea tree oil might work more slowly. Possible side effects include contact dermatitis and, if you have rosacea, a worsening of those symptoms. One study reported that a young boy experienced breast development after using a combination lavender and tea tree oil hair product. Tea tree oil should be used only topically.
- Alpha hydroxy acid. This natural acid is found in citrus fruit and other foods. When applied to your skin, it helps remove dead skin cells and unclog pores. It may also improve the appearance of acne scars. Side effects include increased sensitivity to the sun, redness, mild stinging and skin irritation.
- Azelaic acid. This natural acid is found in whole-grain cereals and animal products. It has antibacterial properties. A 20 percent azelaic acid cream seems to be as effective as many other conventional acne treatments when used twice a day for at least four weeks. It is even more effective when used in combination with erythromycin. Prescription azelaic acid (Azelex, Finacea) is an option during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
- Bovine cartilage. Creams containing 5 percent bovine cartilage, applied to the affected skin twice a day, may be effective in reducing acne.
- Zinc. Zinc in lotions and creams may reduce acne breakouts.
- Green tea extract. A lotion of 2 percent green tea extract helped reduce acne in two studies of adolescents and young adults with mild to moderate acne.
- Aloe vera. A 50 percent aloe vera gel was combined with a conventional acne drug (tretinoin) and tested for 8 weeks on 60 people with moderate acne. The combination approach was significantly more effective than tretinoin alone.
- Brewer's yeast. A specific strain of brewer's yeast, called CBS 5926, seems to help decrease acne. Brewer's yeast is the only item in this list that's taken orally. It may cause flatulence.
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- Alpha hydroxy acids. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed June 24, 2014.
- Zinc. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed June 24, 2014.
- Bovine cartilage. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed June 24, 2014.
- Saccharomyces boulardii. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed June 24, 2014.
- Pizzorno JE, ed. Textbook of Natural Medicine. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier; 2013.
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- Eichenfield LF, et al. Evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric acne. Pediatrics. 2013;131:s163.
- Questions and answers about acne. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Acne/default.asp. Accessed June 24, 2014.
- Thiboutot D, et al. Pathogenesis, clinical manifestations and diagnosis of acne vulgaris. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 24, 2014.
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- Garner SE, et al. Minocycline for acne vulgaris: Efficacy and safety. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://ovidsp.tx.ovid.com/sp-3.12.0b/ovidweb.cgi. Accessed June 24, 2014.
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- Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/book.aspx?bookId=392. Accessed June 24, 2014.
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- Caperton C, et al. Double-blind, placebo-controlled study assessing the effect of chocolate consumption in subjects with a history of acne vulgaris. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2014;7:19
- Han Song B, et al. Photodynamic therapy using chlorophyll-a in the treatment of acne vulgaris: A randomized, single-blind, split-face study. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. In press. Accessed June 24, 2014.
- Wheeland R, et al. Safety and effectiveness of a handheld blue light device for self-treatment of mild to moderate acne. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2012;66(suppl):AB18.
- England Owen C. Treating acne with high-dose isotretinoin. JAMA. 2014;311:2121.
- Murase JE, et al. Safety of dermatologic medications in pregnancy and lactation. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2014;70:401.e1
- Lam C, et al. Contraceptive use in acne. Clinics in Dermatology. In press. Accessed June 24, 2014.
- Brown MM, et al. Quality of life in pediatric dermatology. Dermatologic Clinics. 2013;31:211.
- Williams HC, et al. Acne vulgaris. Lancet. 2012;379:361.
- FDA drug safety communication: FDA warns of rare but serious hypersensitivity reactions with certain over-the-counter topical acne products. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm400923.htm. Accessed June 26, 2014.
- Brent A. Bauer, M.D. (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 2, 2014.
- Tetracycline. Micromedex 2.0 Healthcare Series. http://www.micromedexsolutions.com. Accessed Sept. 30, 2014.
- Filling in wrinkles safely. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm049349.htm. Accessed Sept. 9, 2014.
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