One of the most popular, and proven, herbal supplements for acne is milk thistle, a spiky, green stemmed plant with purple flowers which originated in Europe.
The plant contains numerous antioxidants and vitamins, but most importantly, milk thistle was the subject of one of the greatest studies on acne of all time. Scientists gave milk thistle’s signature antioxidant, silymarin, to acne patients every day for 8 weeks, comparing it to selenium and N-acetyl-cysteine. Silymarin achieved a 50% reduction in acne after eight weeks, beating selenium, which performed well itself with a 40% reduction.
Milk thistle is excellent as a bonus acne weapon, an ancient secret for taking your skin to the next level. If you live in rural areas of Europe, it’s quite possible that you’re walking past the cure for acne every day, but your shortcut is a well-formulated supplement.
Therefore, here are ten of the best milk thistle brands available.
Firstly, watch out for side effects. Milk thistle can occaisonally cause bloating, nausea, and abdominal pain at high doses. Discontinue supplementation if you notice those symptoms. Stay within the recommended dosages; there’s little benefit in exceeding them anyway.
For a shortcut, Paradise Herbs and NutraBio are the greatest brands here.
Let’s get started:
One – Divine Bounty
Each bottle contains 120 capsules, for a 4 month supply, allowing you to follow the 8 week standard set by the classic acne study. The dosage is powerful, with each Divine Bounty capsule containing 300mg of milk thistle extract. Divine Bounty consists of a 4:1 extract, meaning that the 300mg of nutritional goodness in these concentrated pills is the equivalent of eating 1200mg of whole, unprocessed milk thistle seeds.
Most importantly, Divine Bounty is standardised to 80% silymarin, equivalent to 240mg of silymarin per pill. The silymarin is vital, since it’s the main medicinal compound in the milk thistle plant and the key substance responsible for the 50% reduction in acne.
What is silymarin? It’s a flavonoid antioxidant with many interesting properties. It occurs naturally in milk thistle seeds, divided into subtypes like silybin A and silybin B, but with special extraction techniques, supplement companies can increase the concentration and guarantee the acne-clearing benefits.
The classic study isn’t the only great one for acne; this study found that silymarin had anti-inflammatory properties, by regulating cellular inflammation. Elsewhere, Divine Bounty is pure, with plant cellulose and rice concentrate being the only additives. Divine Bounty is free from magnesium stearate, and common additives like soy and corn are far away.
If pure, focussed milk thistle is what you want, look no further than Divine Bounty.
Amazon link: Divine Bounty Pure Milk Thistle Capsules.
Two – NutraBio
NutraBio is equally pure and equally potent. The dosage here is 300mg of milk thistle extract, featuring 240mg of silymarin. Once more, the extract is standardised to 80% silymarin, easily powerful enough to wipe out acne.
NutraBio also contains a large 120 day supply, with nearly 4 months of acne-clearing goodness. You can take the milk thistle for the recommended 8 weeks and achieve a big reduction in acne, and then solidify the benefits further, building up an armour against the slightest piece of acne from air pollution, harsh sunlight, make-up, or pesticides which have washed into your tap water.
NutraBio’s additive list is short, simply reading cellulose. This brand is also vegan, and free from magnesium stearate. In fact, NutraBio prides itself on its purity. The capsules are also tiny, and easy to swallow. NutraBio is one of the best secret supplement companies and their milk thistle lives up to expectations.
If milk thistle is what your skin needs, NutraBio will easily succeed.
Amazon link: NutraBio Milk Thistle.
Three – PURE CO
Close to the greatest milk thistle product available for purchase anywhere. PURE CO has one advantage which Divine Bounty lacks – containing organic milk thistle. The extract is officially certified organic by Organic Certifiers.
Why is this an advantage? The milk thistle plant’s natural range includes Poland, the UK, and Germany, but ultimately, China now dominates the market. Therefore, contaminated, weaker than advertised, and additive-filled products are all a risk, and organic is your glorious safeguard. Expertly sourced and reliable brands are acceptable too, including every brand listed here. Mostly, you need to avoid bargain basement brands with suspiciously little information mentioned.
PURE CO is also perfect in every other way, with its per capsule dosage being 250mg. The silymarin is standardised to 80%, making the silymarin content 200mg. Then you have the additives list: just the plant capsule (pullulan) and organic rice concentrate, both of which are harmless.
PURE CO is even a super concentrated 24:1 extract; instead of the extract being the equivalent of 1200mg of raw milk thistle seeds, PURE CO is the equivalent of 6000mg. It’s extremely dense and rich in acne-clearing nutrition.
PURE CO is almist unbeatable for an acne-clearing milk thistle brand.
Amazon link: PURE CO Organic Milk Thistle 24:1 Extract.
Four – Nutrigold
A similarly excellent milk thistle, but one with a unique feature. Nutrigold is particularly interesting, since the extract is standardised to 80% silymarin, but broken down into the specific subsets of silymarin too.
Each capsule, with 175mg of milk thistle extract, contains a minimum of 40% silybin A and silybin B. There’s a minimum of 20% silychristin and silydianin, and a minimum of 10% isosilybin A and isosilybin B. The silybins are the major active components of silymarin, but the others also have potential. The precise breakdown of powers is unconfirmed, so with Nutrigold, it’s great to guaranteed levels of each one.
The slight disadvantage compared to Divine Bounty is that the dosage is slightly lower, but it’s still easily enough to clear acne. The additives list is empty, with just rice flour and the vegetable capsule being included. The supply is lengthy enough for you to discover the truth, with 90 capsules per bottle.
Nutrigold is among the greatest milk thistle brands for eliminating acne.
Amazon link: NutriGold Milk Thistle Extract.
Five – Paradise Herbs
Our fifth milk thistle is perhaps the best, being extremely pure compared to your average brand. Paradise Herbs isn’t officially organic, but is confirmed to be naturally grown and “ethically wild crafted” without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or preservatives.
The dosage is standard for here, with 250mg of milk thistle equating to 200mg of silymarin. However, Paradise Herbs contains a potent 75:1 extract, meaning that the 250mg extract equals the nutrition of 18750mg of milk thistle. That’s the strongest ratio out of any product available here. The price is also low and the supply high, at 120 capsules.
Paradise Herbs milk thistle also uses a 100% natural extraction method, “therefore retaining all of its active and synergistic constituents the way nature intended“. The only bonus ingredient is vegetable cellulose, making this product fully vegan.
Paradise Herbs milk thistle has a very strong chance of improving your acne.
Amazon link: Paradise Herbs Milk Thistle 75:1.
Six – Pure Encapsulations
Pure Encapsulations fulfills every requirement for acne, being standardised once more. The overall dosage is lower, with 250mg of milk thistle extract, but the 80% silymarin levels are similar to Divine Bounty.
How does silymarin work? Mostly by increasing glutathione, your body’s main homemade antioxidant. The study where silymarin decreased acne by 50% also observed a massive 271% spike in glutathione levels, while a separate study on whole milk thistle detected a glutathione increase of 35%. Glutathione has numerous benefits; it defends your skin against free radicals, removes toxins like mercury and BPA, and can even recycle old vitamin C and vitamin E molecules.
Interestingly, the precise mechanism of silymarin is unknown. Selenium and cysteine, for example, are two fundamental ingredients in the glutathione molecule, but silymarin is not. Therefore the compound likely enhances your body’s ability to make glutathione, rather than acting as a building block.
Being standardised, Pure Encapsulations is guaranteed to deliver these benefits. Elsewhere, Pure Encapsulations contains only cellulose and water as its additives. The supply is high, with 120 capsules, easily enough to experiment properly. The capsules are averaged sized, at approximately 0.75 inches.
If milk thistle is the supplement for you, you cannot go wrong with Pure Encapsulations.
Amazon link: Pure Encapsulations Milk Thistle Extract.
Seven – Nature’s Way
A brand which is flawed for acne patients but promising for women with hormonal problems. Firstly, the milk thistle dosage per capsule is 175mg. The additives are safe, being just plant derived capsule (hypromellose) and cellulose.
The milk thistle within this brand is standardised to 80% silymarin, with no breakdown of silybins or isosilybins available. At first, it looks like a perfect, but standard milk thistle supplement…
…but if you closely inspect the ingredients label, you’ll also notice that Nature’s Way contains 120mg of blessed thistle. This isn’t a synonym; blessed thistle is another powerful medicinal plant, indigenous to Portugal and France. Also known as cnicus benedictus, blessed thistle is famed for its lactation promoting properties in women, which milk thistle may also have. It’s also rich in antioxidants, complimenting milk thistle’s glutathione-boosting properties nicely.
If pure milk thistle and clear skin is what you’re after, Nutrigold is the way forward, but Nature’s Way is a promising combination if you’re here for milk thistle’s breast milk benefits.
Amazon link: Nature’s Way Milk Thistle.
Eight – aSquared Nutrition
An unusual product which could be rewarding. This milk thistle ticks all the boxes for purity, containing just gelatin and rice flour as its additives. ASquared Nutrition contains a huge 200 day supply, and comes with a 30 day money back guarantee.
The central feature of aSquared Nutrition, however, is its complete lack of standardisation. Each capsule contains 250mg of whole milk thistle powder, a ground, evaporated and condensed form of the naturally occurring seed. Standardised is ideal for acne, since silymarin is the proven compound, but whole milk thistle is advantageous too, because silymarin isn’t the plant’s only compound.
For example, one study on whole milk thistle detected a 35% increase in glutathione. Whole milk thistle is promising for breast milk production, while for acne, the plant has promising anti-inflammatory properties.
Whole milk thistle even reduces harmful estrogen metabolites, shifting the ratio towards the healthy metabolites. Those powers could have been down to silymarin, but could have been a combination too. You could also argue that the Italian and Greek doctors who first discovered milk thistle, thousands of years ago, had no idea of what silymarin even was.
ASquared Nutrition is a great milk thistle brand for an experiment, or purists who want supplements to be as close to nature as possible.
Amazon link: aSquared Nutrition Pure Milk Thistle Supplement.
Nine – Nutricost
Nutricost is pure and healthy, with rice flour and gelatin being the only bonus ingredients. Nutricost is standardised to 80% silymarin, and overall, each capsule of Nutricost contains 250mg of milk thistle. Is this a correct dosage? The brands here vary from 175mg to 300mg and the 50% reduction study on acne used a silymarin dosage of 210mg, taken once daily in combination with a moisturising cream. Meanwhile, a study on silymarin’s anti-inflammatory properties also used 210mg. The dosage in Nutricost is easily enough to clear acne.
Nutricost is also exceedingly good value for money. Despite its high quality, each bottle contains a near 8 month supply of 240 capsules for a strangely low price – and there’s no sacrificing the dosage either. The only slight downside is that Nutricost isn’t vegan, but gelatin has its own advantages, containing the amino acid glycine which is vital for sleep.
Nutricost is optimal as an affordable yet powerful milk thistle.
Amazon link: Nutricost Milk Thistle.
Ten – Superior Labs
Each capsule contains 200mg of silymarin, packaged in 250mg of 80% standardised milk thistle seed powder. Note that the seeds are the beneficial part for acne; the milk thistle’s leaves can be eaten as food, trimmed of prickles and boiled into a spinach-like vegetable, but they lack silymarin.
Superior Labs is also pure, with plant cellulose and rice powder being the only additives. Each bottle contains 120 capsules for a strong testing period; my recommendation is to try milk thistle for at least two weeks before giving up, preferably longer.
Superior Labs is also tested thoroughly for heavy metal contamination, with each fresh milk thistle batch being analysed. Divine Bounty is superior for acne overall, since the dosage is slightly lower here, but Superior Labs is an excellent supplement company overall.
Superior Labs is yet another top quality milk thistle brand, hiding in plain sight.
Amazon link: Superior Labs Milk Thistle.
Regarding glutathione, my recommendation is to focus on the key ingredients and co-factors first. Selenium, magnesium, zinc, dietary sulphur, and glycine are all vital; magnesium and glycine are particularly important since deficiency is so widespread.
However, once that quest is complete, you can experiment with milk thistle, for a further reduction in acne. It’s a particularly promising herb since we have no idea of how silymarin stimulates extra glutathione production – it could achieve something unique.
Overall, the milk thistle market is neither squeaky clean nor riddled with corruption. It’s about normal for a supplement, much easier to navigate compared to lysine or turmeric.
If you choose milk thistle for your next experiment, your mission just become slightly easier.
Thanks for reading!