Maca root, also known as Peruvian Maca, is a turnip shaped plant originally found high in the Peruvian Andes. For a long time it was only used by a tiny amount of locals in Peru, but these days Maca is one of the premier “magic herbs” on the market.
Its claim to fame is that it can balance your hormones; people deduced this as they witnessed its powerful effects on their libido and fertility.
Consequently a lot of acne patients have theorised that Maca root might help their condition. Acne is due in large part to out of control hormones, so it’s only logical that a plant which controls hormones could work wonders.
But does it really? Is it yet another mystical herb from the jungle that fails to deliver the goods? Read on and find out…
What is Maca supposed to do for acne?
First let’s assess the aphrodisiac effects that people have noticed with Maca, because they are undoubtedly real. Originally Maca was used by only a select group of locals in the Peruvian Andes. The Maca root only grows naturally in the Andes, and even then only in a very narrow zone of altitude.
Those indigenous people were the only people to use it, and they were the first to use it as an aphrodisiac. In the 17th century the Spanish invaded South America and discovered Maca; they then began using it to boost sex drive too. Finally, the worldwide supplement companies discovered Maca and began selling it to people around the world.
Tons of women have been taking it for sexual problems, and the internet is now full of stories about how well it worked. Men as well as women have reported benefits such as increased sex drive and improved ability to conceive. The benefits are also backed up by studies; this one tested Maca on humans and found that it caused a moderate increase in libido.
In other words, the evidence that Maca root functions as an aphrodisiac is very strong and while it may not work for some people, it is not a scam and has a proven track record.
However its track record on hormones is far less clear. Libido and other aspects of reproductive health are intricately linked to your hormones, so the basic assumption would be that Maca does its work by altering them.
However most studies have not supported this; this one found that Maca root increases libido yet has no effect on testosterone. This one also found similar results. One of the studies also found that a particular compound in Maca, called P-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, was actually responsible for the libido boosting activity.
Studies on estrogen have also been inconclusive. This one found that Maca root had a general hormone balancing affect, while this one found that Maca root had no effect on estrogen at all. Like the study above, it claimed that the libido enhancing effect was due to other compounds in the Maca.
This study, on the other hand, found that Maca can regulate unbalanced estrogen levels.
What these studies tell us is that just because Maca affects fertility, doesn’t mean that it alters your hormones in any meaningful way related to acne. However it can affect them if they are particularly messed up…
Maca regulates estrogen in a minority of people
We cannot tell from the studies whether Maca has a noticeable effect on estrogen levels, but there are plenty of testimonials to suggest that it does.
First let’s go over how estrogen affects the skin. Many internet testimonials misunderstand the effect that estrogen has on acne; high estrogen doesn’t cause acne by itself, but rather it allows DHT to increase. Having excessively high estrogen reduces progesterone, and that allows DHT to rise because progesterone keeps limits on its production. DHT is an androgenic hormone that causes acne and oily skin in women especially.
This is important because a ton of women have reported that the symptoms of estrogen dominance – which is when your estrogen is too high and your progesterone is low – have been relieved by taking Maca. Women have noticed a big improvement in their mood and that’s a very common effect when estrogen dominance is resolved.
Women have even reported that their breasts get bigger with Maca, which clearly suggests that estrogen levels are at least changing. The women could all be imagining it of course, but such stories are very common.
The studies that were negative may have also been done on people that had fairly normal hormones; that’s why they noticed no effect. Therefore the likely explanation is that Maca only balances your hormones when they are particularly out of whack. We can thus also say that Maca could improve your acne if you have estrogen dominance or other estrogenic problems.
What do the acne testimonials say?
As with any other super-herb, the internet is full of stories about its effects on acne. The results are just as mixed as the studies. Some women reported that Maca caused great improvements in their acne, some noticed no effect at all, some noticed a worsening in acne, and some did notice decreased acne but only after many weeks.
The increased happiness and reduced anxiety reported in by many woman is a good sign. After many years of denial by dermatologists, science has now proven that stress does cause acne after all.
But like with acne itself, many women found that maca did nothing for stress.
There’s no clear trend in the acne testimonials and therefore we cannot judge anything from them either.
In fact, if the reviews on acne websites average around somewhere in the middle then it’s more likely you should disregard them; a portion of online reviews for products are nearly always fake or written by overly hopeful people who simply imagined the effects. There are also reports that Maca gave people horrific depression after just a few days of usage, as well as other side effects. Then you have online studies which suggest that Maca has a beneficial effect on depression.
Those reports fit in well with the science; they show how Maca root will only work if your estrogen levels are out of control. Anyone else that attempts to take it will get no results at all and may even experience side effects. That’s why only a few people report advantages.
Therefore if you’re a woman and believe that you have high DHT levels, Maca will not necessarily benefit your acne. It will only work if the excessive DHT is due to low progesterone.
Most acne-prone women will do a lot better taking saw palmetto, a plant that has been proven to inhibit DHT again and again regardless of its effect on other hormones. The acne testimonials for saw palmetto are a lot more consistent than for Maca and there are few reported side effects. You can read more about saw palmetto in this article or you can buy some right now from amazon here.
What results should you expect for acne?
If you are estrogen dominant and you take Maca, then this is what will happen: at first, your progesterone levels will increase. That will then inhibit DHT production in your body, and then there will be less DHT to cause high sebum production. Your pores will then be less blocked and there will be less acne.
As long as there are no complications you could notice a good improvement in acne from Maca; the key is to know whether you are estrogen dominant in the first place. Symptoms include mood swings, tender breasts, and cramps.
You could of course try maca root for acne, and then if you notice a reduction in sebum production you’ll know that you were indeed estrogen dominant.
Any other benefits for acne?
Maca root is actually a very nutritious plant; it contains plenty of calcium and numerous other minerals. It also has extremely high amounts of vitamin C, approximately 95% of the RDA per 20 grams of powder. Vitamin C is undeniably good for clearing acne; it’s great for accelerating the healing of your acne scars by increasing collagen formation.
However that’s no reason to take Maca for acne. You don’t want to take such a powerful substance just to get acne nutrients you can easily obtain from elsewhere.
It’s also possible that Maca root affects your acne through some unknown compounds. We know that Maca root gives men an increase in libido due to a specific compound rather than increasing testosterone; therefore it’s possible that another hidden compound could clear your acne and skin in some way.
However there is no evidence of that at this time. For now, Maca is only the best acne supplement for you if you are a woman that suffers from estrogen dominance.
Furthermore, it’s just one supplement anyway. Aside from the greatest acne nutrients like vitamin D and zinc, very few acne supplements are true secret weapons (organic gelatin comes closest). You’d do better to spend the money on my 167 page eBook Annihilate Your Acne, so that you can learn the complete dietary and lifestyle strategy.
It is possible that Maca root improves your acne; the stories swirling around the acne-sphere about it correcting estrogen dominance mean that it could potentially reduce DHT.
However the testimonials about acne itself are a lot less clear. The stories that were in favour said that Maca root takes weeks to work. If you go down that road you’ll be constantly waiting for results, thinking to yourself “it’ll just be another week!” again and again.
Maca root will only be useful for acne if you have a serious problem with estrogen dominance. If you’re female and have elevated androgens (like DHT) which aren’t a consequence of excessive estrogen, Maca will not clear your acne at all. A far more effective option in that case is a direct DHT inhibitor like this Oregon’s Wild Harvest Organic Saw Palmetto. DHT is extremely important for female hormonal acne, so if you want to know more, then read this article.
Finally, don’t forget that Maca has been shown again and again to boost fertility, so if that’s what you need then give it a go!
You might decide to supplement with Maca root anyway if you have tried everything (which is unlikely) or if you are particularly experimental. If so, then you should follow these guidelines:
Do not take Maca during pregnancy. It’s likely that Maca does not have a big effect on hormones and such. However its effects on all sorts of reproductive functions are clearly strong, so I do not advise that you take Maca during any stage of pregnancy.
Its effects if you do so are completely unknown. Pregnant women are prone to acne so the temptation is high but the luckily there are far more effective solutions than Maca anyway.
Take a gelatinised version. Gelatinisation is a process of making the Maca more concentrated and thus more powerful for acne. Maca root is a starchy root tuber similar to potato. A typical Maca supplement is a powder, which is basically a ground-down version of a normal Maca plant. The starch in this powder has been known to cause digestive problems for people and that’s a typical side effect of Maca.
However with gelatinisation, water is introduced in a way that massively reduces the starch content, making the supplement far easier to digest. Therefore if you have to take one type for acne, make it gelatinised Maca.
After scouring through the various versions on sale, I believe that the supplement which best meets those requirements and more is Navitas Naturals Organic Maca Gelatinized Powder. I’m a big fan of this supplement brand, particularly their camu camu powder which I find to be excellent for acne.
Thanks for reading!