Alternative medicine

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Some studies suggest that taking the following supplements may help treat acne:

  • 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. Tea tree oil may cause a skin reaction known as contact dermatitis. There's also some concern that topical products containing tea tree oil might cause breast development in young boys. Don't use tea tree oil if you have acne rosacea because it can worsen symptoms.
  • Alpha hydroxy acids. These natural acids — found in foods such as citrus fruits, sugar cane, apples and grapes — help remove dead skin cells and unclog pores when applied topically. Alpha hydroxy acids may also improve the appearance of acne scars. Adverse reactions to alpha hydroxy acids include redness, mild stinging and skin irritation.
  • Azelaic acid. This naturally occurring acid is found in whole-grain cereals and animal products and has antibacterial properties. A 20 percent azelaic acid cream seems to be as effective as many other conventional acne treatments, including 5 percent benzoyl peroxide and oral tetracycline.
  • Zinc supplements. The mineral zinc plays a role in wound healing and reduces inflammation, which could help improve acne. Taking a zinc supplement with food may reduce side effects, including a bad taste in your mouth and nausea. Zinc can also be added to lotions or creams and may reduce acne breakouts.
  • Brewer's yeast. A specific strain of brewer's yeast, called CBS 5926, seems to help decrease acne. Brewer's yeast may cause migraines in susceptible people and may cause intestinal upset.

More research is needed to understand the potential role of these and other dietary supplements in the treatment of acne.

Always talk with your doctor before trying a natural remedy. Dietary supplements can cause side effects and may alter the safety and effectiveness of certain medications.

Oct. 21, 2011