You cannot ignore the basic vitamins and minerals such as zinc, vitamin C and selenium. There’s a reason why they’re called essential nutrients.
Not getting your zinc requirements through meat, fish, eggs or a supplement can be the root cause of all the pimples which bother you. It can be as simple as eating cereal rather than boiled eggs for breakfast every day.
That’s why this article on the top 6 vitamins and minerals for acne is recommended reading for all. But what about all the other herbs, plants and isolated nutritional compounds on the market?
Few are essential; after all, why would a guy from the mountains of Norway ever need a powdered herb from the arid plains of India just to have healthy looking skin? But what these supplements can be is a way to bolster your body’s defences, to shield yourself against chlorine in a swimming pool, unhealthy tap water, or other unavoidable circumstances. They can be a way to take your skin to the next level of health and glow, or to finally eliminate the last few irritating pimples.
Without further ado, here are the top 5 supplements an acne-clearing enthusiast can take which don’t fall under the category of essential nutrients.
Best product – this Kala Health Distilled MSM.
Methylsulfonylmethane is one of the cheapest acne supplements around, and by a great stroke of luck, one of the most effective. MSM is a molecular combination of methyl, oxygen, and sulfur which is found in minute quantities in human skin, nails and hair.
It’s popular as a supplement for treating arthritis, so why are we discussing it with respect to acne? Because the way MSM heals the joints is by massively lowering bodily levels of inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is the number one internal cause of acne; it’s when your immune system becomes constantly overactive, churning out too many inflammatory chemicals in response to all sorts of minor threats. One of those minor threats is p.acnes bacteria, and when the insanely active immune system delivers the all-out assault, your pores redden and swell.
To cure acne permanently, chronic inflammation must be dealt with, and MSM is one of the best supplements for doing so.
Then there’s the second way in which MSM gained its reputation, through enhancing collagen formation. Collagen is the main connective tissue in the human body. It keeps joints supple, but also prevents acne by keeping your outer layers of skin (epidermis) strong. Collagen forms the first cell structures for healing a newly formed wound, so what is another result of more? Significantly faster healing of pimples.
The magic lies in the sulphur portion of MSM, 34% of the total, because sulphur is one of collagen’s main ingredients. Through an unknown mechanism, MSM even enhances your body’s utilisation of its existing sulphur supplies, producing yet more collagen.
MSM has long been a godsend for racehorse doctors who want to give their animals superhuman strength legally. They’re been using MSM to relieve joint inflammation and strengthen their hooves since the 1980s. People are even feeding it to their pet dogs which have grown stiff and old, with the intention of giving them a new burst of life. Some old fashioned farmers like to feed their cattle MSM, to improve their quality of life as they age.
All this works thanks to anti-inflammatory and collagen-boosting powers, and those powers are why MSM is excellent for acne.
Are there any side effects? Since it’s a natural component of the human body, not at normal levels. Take more than 2000mg a day and you might experience nausea, fatigue, and insomnia, but those intakes are pointless anyway.
I recommend the Kala Health distilled MSM brand. The single most important thing to consider when buying MSM is that it is distilled rather than crystallised. Crystallisation is a cheaper process where the raw DMSO (the precursor to MSM) is spun in a centrifuge repeatedly, and eventually evaporated, but this leaves any impurities in the tap water in the MSM crystals. If the country of origin was the highly polluted China, that would be a nightmare. Distillation is a more time-consuming process, but produces a much cleaner product.
Another advantage of MSM is its cheapness, because it’s so common in nature. It forms when dimethyl sulphide produced by marine life reacts with the atmosphere as it leaves the ocean, and gets delivered into a wide variety of plants and root systems through rainfall. If you can’t afford the more expensive solutions for acne (like organic food) then MSM is excellent.
Strategy – take 1000mg per day.
Best product – Thorne Research N-Acetylcysteine (links to Nutri Advanced for UK readers).
NAC is similar to MSM in that NAC is dead cheap. But NAC is different to MSM in that it has just one significant power, and a monstrous one – to massively increase your production of the antioxidant glutathione.
If you’re a regular reader here then you’ll know about glutathione. It’s an antioxidant manufactured in the liver using the amino acids cysteine, glycine and glutamine, with some sulphur, zinc, magnesium and selenium to help. Your body makes several of its own antioxidants, like catalase and superoxide dismutase.
Glutathione however, is the most abundant and most effective at deactivating the free radicals that cause acne. In fact, acne-prone skin has been shown to have 20% less glutathione in it than average.
If there’s one factor in acne which I would say the vast majority of acne patients overlook, it would be glutathione supplies. Even the people with nutritional knowledge of the root causes tend to focus on vitamin E and vitamin C and dietary antioxidants. Almost everybody very foolishly ignores the homemade ones.
All n-acetyl-cysteine does is supply the cysteine component of the production line, but the results are like a nuclear bomb. Doctors everywhere rest easy knowing that thanks to NAC, few teenage binge drinkers will die on their watch. Why? The catastrophic effects of alcohol overdoses are largely down to glutathione depletion from the liver. By getting an NAC pill down their throat in rapid time, the liver’s defences can be restored in no time. The glutathione increase is that fast, even though it only supplies cysteine. Doctors everywhere have this pill.
Not only can NAC build your defences against acne but it’s also a great way to mitigate the pimples that alcohol causes, whether you’re enjoying two glasses of wine or having a full night on the town.
Countless studies show that NAC can reduce blood levels of mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and more. How? The same reason; glutathione has a dual function as a detoxification agent, meaning that heightened levels gives more fuel to the relentless operation of hunting down all the unwanted toxins in the bloodstream. Many of the chemicals above cause acne. Arsenic even causes clogged skin pores by increasing dead skin cell turnover.
All this fascinating information culminated in a classic study from 2012. In it, scientists tested three antioxidant substances: milk thistle (a powerful but risky supplement), selenium (top notch), NAC, and a placebo.
Selenium caused a near 40% reduction in total acne lesions after the 8 week period had passed. But NAC? Measurements were taken after 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks, and 8 weeks. NAC supplementation reduced acne by 15% after two weeks, 25% after four weeks, 40% after six weeks, and finally, by 50% after eight weeks.
If you are lacking in the money to dish out on expensive supplements or are maybe just obsessed with saving money anyway, then NAC is one of the best supplements around bar none. The best product is this Thorne Research N-Acetylcysteine (NAC), which is powerful, yet free from any suspicious additives like magnesium stearate. That link will take UK readers to Nutri Advanced, which is also free from the likes of magnesium stearate.
Strategy – take the recommended daily serving, 500mg. Side effects are uncommon, but itching, red rashes, and flushes occasionally occur.
Powers – stress reduction, sleep enhancement, and reduced inflammation.
Best product – this pure, contaminant-free, Korean Panax Ginseng Supplement.
Korean ginseng, also known as Panax ginseng, is an herbal supplement which has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. There are several other species including American ginseng and the misnamed (really a different species) Siberian ginseng.
Korea itself (probably South Korea) is now raking in over $1 billion dollars a year from sales of Panax ginseng, and the worldwide market has now hit $2 billion annually. But why?
Ginseng is possibly the most powerful member of the adaptogenic herb family. Adaptogens are plants or compounds which downregulate the human stress response.
Adaptogens can soothe all physiological problems triggered by anxiety, whether it’s the hormone cortisol, the digestive discomfort, or the messed up neurotransmitters. One of the most visible results of the stressed response is, you guessed it, acne.
Ginseng can control the response to anxiety and control the outbreaks of your skin. Other useful adaptogens exist, such as rhodiola rosea, used as a performance enhancer by the Soviet Olympic teams…
…but ginseng goes above and beyond with a bunch of extra powers. Not only are the modern South Korean Olympic team using red Korean ginseng (three of the victorious 2008 swimmers were users), but ginseng is one the most potent sleep aids around.
This study fed three daily doses of Korean ginseng to 15 volunteers. Just seven days of ginseng consumption was enough for the total amount of time sleeping as a percentage of time in bed to increase significantly. Getting enough sleep and getting high quality sleep is critical for acne in a variety of ways, which is why there’s a full chapter on the subject in my eBook.
How does it work? It’s believed that ginseng activates the brain’s GABA receptors, which inhibits the neurotransmitters responsible for keeping us awake. Studies have also detected alterations in alpha brain waves after consumption of ginseng.
The reduction in stress and sleep enhancement would be enough, but several studies show that ginseng can lower inflammation as well. The ginseng plant is rich in compounds called saponins, and a specific one known as Ginsenoside-Rb1 is very potent. The ginseng plant when tested as a supplement can inhibit a wide variety of the inflammatory chemicals behind acne, including IL-8, IL-6, and TNF-a.
Ginseng is a booming product among athletes, hopefully threatening to put the steroid dealers out of business, and hence, availability keeps going up and up. For acne-clearing purposes, you want a product which is full strength; 25% of products on the market were once concluded to be below the advertised strength.
Ginseng is an excellent supplement to take if you are stressed out or suffering from sleep deficiency, and luckily, those two conditions tend to coincide with each other. This Korean Panax Ginseng Supplement is the best product to buy.
The bonus benefit? Ginseng also reduces the risk of the common cold and flu, so you can stay immune from illness no matter how sick everyone else is.
Strategy – simply take the recommend dosage on the bottle. Also, ginseng can interfere with certain drugs such as diabetes medication, morphine, anti-psychotics, blood-thinning medications, and MAOI anti-depressants. Cycling is very important to avoid resistance build-up; you can alternate between one week on ginseng and another week off, for example.
Best product – Great Lakes Pasture-Raised Gelatin.
A jelly loaded with strawberry and sugar for a desert at Christmas. The gelatin found on the outside of fine quality tinned ham. The jelly lining on the inside of a pork pie. What do they all have in common? A secret ability to clear acne.
Gelatin as you might know is little more than spare animal connective tissues ground down into a paste. The source of animal varies from pigs to cows, the tissue varies from cartilage to skin.
The reason why gelatin is so vital for acne is the specific amino acids it contains, namely glycine. If you look at cultures all around the world, they differ from the west hugely in the sections of animals they eat. Stroll into a Himalayan butcher and you might find tongues, brains, ligaments, hearts, and so on. The people are used to making the most of all the animals they have. In the west we have rump steaks, sirloin steaks, and rib eye steaks, but at the end of day, they’re all muscle meats, and with it they have the same amino acids.
Consequently, the average person, and acne patient, eats way too much of the amino acid methionine, and not enough glycine. Vegetarians have the highest markers for glycine deficiency, but tests on the average omnivore also reveal a deficiency. Protein from skin is three times richer in glycine than muscle meat. Protein from bone is six times richer in glycine.
The relevance for acne? Glycine is one of the main ingredients of the antioxidant glutathione.
If you eat a standard protein diet of steak, chicken, and burgers, you may be lacking the ingredients for one of the most important acne-preventing antioxidants around.
It happens that gelatin of all kinds is one of the best sources of glycine, making the supplement one of the best ever for clear and healthy skin.
Gelatin is nothing more than the most glycine-rich parts of an animal concentrated into an easy to take paste. If you want more glutathione, just add grass-fed gelatin to your diet (feasting on strawberry jelly won’t work).
What’s more, as a non-essential amino acid glycine itself has bonus benefits; it’s used to manufacture neurotransmitters involved with sleep. Somehow, a ton of studies show that glycine has anti-inflammatory effects. A few people with depression even report that glycine has cured them, which makes sense given that it might increase serotonin. That means that any pimples triggered by stress will be no more once you get some gelatin inside you.
To cure acne, in one way or another, you need to get glycine. Eggs are OK, as is chicken skin, but for higher doses, grass-fed gelatin is the easiest way to do it if the idea if eating ox heart or chilled monkey brains isn’t appealing.
Standard gelatin has the issue of poor animal feed and diets; gelatin from grain-fed animals must be avoided. Grass-fed gelatin is the ultimate choice, and hence, the best brand is this Great Lakes Pasture-Raised Gelatin.
Strategy – take the recommended dosage. Side effects almost never happen unless you take massive doses.
Best product – Organic India Ashwagandha Root.
Last but not least, we have probably the most advanced supplement on this list. Ashwagandha is a woody shrub from Asia which translates from Sanskrit into “smell of a horse”. It all began when Ancient Indians realised that the plant actually does smell like a horse. Eventually though the legend became that consuming ashwagandha would give you the strength and endurance of a horse.
Is there any truth to it? Maybe, because like Korean ginseng, ashwagandha is an adaptogen. Like ginseng, it has thus been used by basketball players and Olympians alike for suppressing the negative effects of the stress response. In fact, ashwagandha is often dubbed “Indian ginseng”, despite having no relation. In the ancient Indian school of Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha was dubbed a “rasayana”. That was their term for a compound that releases emotional tension and physical discomfort.
Extremely interesting, and then there’s the studies; this one fed human volunteers a 300mg supplement of ashwagandha daily. After 60 days, they experienced a reduction in every measurement in the scientists’ stress measurement index scale, compared to a placebo. The best reduction was in the stress hormone cortisol; levels fell by 27%.
More brilliant studies can be found in this article. What’s more, ashwagandha differentiates itself from ginseng with a bonus power – inhibiting lipid peroxides, or fat soluble free radicals.
The pure evil of free radicals is the reason why increasing antioxidants is so vital for acne. Free radicals destabilise the skin cells on your face en masse, in their frantic hunt for electrons to steal. Lipid peroxides are particularly deadly, as they 1) oxidise the sebum on your face, producing a potent pore-clogging compound called squalene peroxide, and 2) deplete nutrients like vitamin E and A.
The fact that ashwagandha can reduce lipid peroxides is therefore a power which is even stronger for acne than its flagship stress-busting power. This study, this study, this study, and this study all demonstrated the power.
The strategy – the only downside with ashwagandha is that compared to the previous four supplements, you need to take more care in the product you purchase plus the manner in which you take it.
Read the full article here for more details, but the gist is that Ayurvedic medicine has a crazy fixation with shoving toxic heavy metals into their products. The old textbooks claim that mercury is healthy and to maintain respect for the practise a lot of products coming out of India have mercury added to them. It’s complete insanity, and that’s why you must buy an organic ashwagandha product without exception.
Why do I say that ashwagandha is an advanced supplement? Because it’s also important to cycle ashwagandha, like with ginseng. Alternating weekly between Korean ginseng and ashwagandha is a very smart move to prevent bodily resistance to the benefits. Again, see the full article.
Once you’re through those hurdles, however, ashwagandha is an excellent supplement. What’s the best product? My favoured option, due to the complete control over the dosage, is these top quality Organic India Ashwagandha Root capsules.
Side effect disclaimer – drowsiness, vomiting and stomach upset have occurred in a small number of people taking ashwagandha. Always stick within the recommended dosage, more is unnecessary with ashwagandha. If you notice side effects then cease supplementation immediately. Naturally, you should always consult your doctor before taking such a supplement, especially if you have a medical condition.
There you have it, the five best supplements which aren’t utterly vital. The five listed have fairly different attributes, so you have a superb new choice of ways to clear your skin.
They’re not the only great acne supplements of course. Burdock root is a good one for the prebiotics, resveratrol has potent antioxidant properties, and guggul gum was shown to lower acne by 70%. There’s also the plant compound berberine, which prevents oily skin by enhancing insulin sensitivity.
Likewise, don’t get sucked into the money-draining black hole of false supplements. Chlorophyll is the classic one. Some marketing masterminds spread the theory that it can act as human blood replacement. With its miraculous reputation firmly in place, they sold the idea that chlorophyll can cure cancer, acne, and tons more, and laughed all the way to the bank.
Then you have the supplements which only work on women, including saw palmetto and vitex chaste berry. Last but not least there’s the supplements like DIM which are acne’s arch enemy if you believe the testimonials, but according to the science remain shrouded in mystery, possibly forever.
Thanks for reading!