If you understand the causes of acne and the type of treatments available, then it makes sense why taking an acne vitamin supplement is beneficial.
The good news is that when acne vitamins are taken in conjunction with the other acne products and treatments that your dermatologist recommends, you’ll see better results.
That’s because acne vitamin supplements help boost your skin’s health. Read below to learn why acne vitamins should be part of your acne treatment plan and how their daily usage will bring back that glow you love.
What Causes Acne?
Acne develops in a structure of the skin called the pilosebaceous unit. The central canal of this unit is called the follicle, which includes a hair shaft and an opening to the skin or a pore. In the follicle are small sacs called sebaceous glands which secrete sebum, a skin and hair lubricant.
The adrenal hormone testosterone stimulates the production of sebum as well as keratin, a fibrous protein that lines the follicle. In acne, these skin cells shed excessively and stick together. When combined with excess sebum, an enlarged follicle or microcomedo is formed. The result? A non-inflammatory comeodome that when partially blocked is called a blackhead (the lipids or sebum involved oxidize and turn black); or when completely closed, is referred to as a whitehead.
In this ideal environment, Propionibacterium acnes or P. acnes, a bacterium that normally reside on the skin, proliferate. Their overgrowth causes a destruction of the pore lining and cellular debris enters the surrounding area, leading to inflammation.
What are Common Acne Treatments?
Common acne treatments include the use of topical retinoids and in the case of severe cystic acne, Accutane.
Prescription topical retinoids (Retin-A Micro, Tazorac, Differin). These medications treat abnormal keratinization and inflammation, but with different types of retinoids available in different strengths, assessment is difficult. Retinoids are known to cause local reactions, increase sensitivity to UV light, and should not be used by pregnant women.
Oral isotretinoin (Accutane). Prescribed for severe nodulocystic scarring acne and acne that has not responded to other treatments, and when taken for more than four months, it has an approximately 85% success rate. Unknown whether it would be an effective option for moderate acne. Side-effects include lip inflammation, dry skin, nose bleeds, additional infection, sensitivity to light, as well as initial worsening of lesions. In addition, further study is needed to examine a potential correlation between isotretinoin use and depression. Accutane is available only under a special program called iPLEDGE.
Why Acne Vitamin Supplements?
Acne vitamin supplements are ideal because they tend to be milder, safer and far less likely to cause negative reactions than medications. These natural acne supplements support healthy-looking skin from the inside-out. Remember what you put into your body is just as important as what you put on your skin!
What Acne Treatment Vitamins are Best?
Studies have demonstrated that several vitamins play an important role in the treatment of acne: vitamin A and the carotenoids, pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin E, vitamin C and bioflavonoids. When combined with topical retinoids, these acne vitamins help support the development and maintenance of blemish free, healthy-looking skin.
Vitamin A – Helps the Skin Renew Itself
- Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a key role in skin health by reducing sebum production and the buildup of keratin in the follicle. A strong relationship exists between decreased blood levels of vitamin A and an increase in the severity of acne.
- Vitamin A stimulates growth of the base layer of the skin cells allowing healthy skin cells to form.
- Vitamin A helps cells to differentiate normally and gives them their structural integrity.
- Vitamin A comes in two forms: retinyl palmitate and carotenoids. Understanding the difference is important so you know what to look for in acne vitamins.
- Vitamin A in its pure form is called retinyl palmitate. It is found in foods of animal origin and the body converts this compound into three active forms: retinol, retinal and retinoic acid.
- Carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds that are found in many fruits and vegetables. You’re probably familiar with beta-carotene, a carotenoid found in carrots but other carotenoids include lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene.
- Carotenoids convert into vitamin A only as the body requires. The conversion to vitamin A decreases when stores of vitamin A are full. For this reason, carotenoids can be taken in high doses with no adverse side-effects. However, not all carotenoids convert into vitamin A. Since beta-carotene converts the most readily to vitamin A, this carotenoid is often used in acne vitamin supplements.
- To balance safety and efficacy, look for acne vitamin supplements that are formulated with both retinyl palmitate and a natural, mixed carotenoid blend like Betatene®. This well-researched ingredient is better absorbed than synthetic forms of carotenoids.
- Aim to take a daily dosage of 5,000 IUs of vitamin A (from retinyl palmitate) and 7,500 IUs of vitamin A (from a carotenoid source), for total of 12,500 IUs.
Pantothenic Acid and Vitamin B6 – B-Vitamins Ensure Healthy Skin
- Pantothenic Acid, also referred to as vitamin B5, is part of the B-complex family of vitamins. If you want to have healthy hair, skin or nails, you’ll want to be sure to take pantothenic acid. Some researchers believe that acne is caused by a deficiency in B5 and supplementing in high doses can reduce acne flare-ups. If you take the birth control pill, your body’s requirements for this vitamin are increased. Aim for 75-100 mg of B5 per day.
- Vitamin B6, also referred to as pyridoxine, is part of the B-complex family of vitamins. Some studies indicate that this vitamin is beneficial in improving PMS symptoms. A small study showed that vitamin B6 alleviates acne flare-ups in women around their menstrual cycle. Topical creams that contain this vitamin are used to treat inflammatory skin conditions like acne, eczema and seborrheic dermatitis. Aim for 50-75 mg of B6 per day.
Vitamin C – Supports Wound Healing and the Development of Collagen
- Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for the development of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen provides structural support to the skin. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant that works in concert with vitamin E to protect cells from free-radical damage.
- Research published in 2006 found that reactive oxygen species can damage skin and increase inflammation and scarring related to acne. Ingesting or applying vitamin C may help ward off these damaging free-radicals.
- Bioflavonoids are required for absorption of vitamin C and both work together in the body.
- Smokers, those under stress and women taking the birth control pill have a greater need for this vitamin.
- Aim to take a daily dosage of 300 mg of vitamin C and 100 mg of bioflavonoids.
Vitamin E – An Important Antioxidant
- Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that prevents the oxidation of fats in the body. The oxidation of sebum, damaged by bacterial growth, may be responsible for the inflammatory aspects of acne. Vitamin E prevents irritating oxidation of sebum.
- Vitamin E is important for the proper functioning of vitamin A, a key acne vitamin.
- Vitamin E is not just one compound; it refers to a family of eight chemical forms – four tocopherols (alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocopherols) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocotrienols).
- The type of vitamin E supplied – natural or synthetic – determines how readily the form converts into vitamin E activity. The natural form is more biologically available than the synthetic form.
- Aim to take a daily dosage of 100 IUs of vitamin E (natural mixed tocopherols) and 5-10 mg of vitamin E (from natural mixed tocotrienols).
- Take a supplement that is formulated with vitamin E from a natural mixed blend of tocopherols and tocotrienols.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.