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MSM and Acne

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MSM is an effective, safe and natural acne remedy.

Acne is a common skin disease that is characterized by the appearance of lesions such as blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, and papules as well as nodules, cysts, and scars. It always presents with seborrhea which is observed as scaly red skin.

Acne is commonly found in adolescents especially at the onset of puberty. It could, however, last long into adulthood. This skin condition is believed to be caused by the increased production of androgens such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone.

These hormones change the nature of the hair follicles and the sebaceous glands feeding them.

Therefore, acne is usually found in the parts of the body where the sebaceous follicles are very dense. These sites include the face, back, and upper part of the chest. Nodules and cysts can also be found in the groin area, the armpit, and the buttocks.

The lesions associated with acne are a direct result of the stimulation of the sebaceous follicles by androgens. This hormonal interference leads to the blockage of skin pores with a mixture of sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells.

Besides hormones, there are other known causes of acne. These include hereditary, diets rich in sugar and/or milk and the bacterium, Propionibacterium acnes.

There are different treatment options for acne. Some treatment options target the androgens; some kill off the bacterium involved; while others improve skin health and reduce the skin inflammation caused by acne.

What is MSM?

MSM or Methylsulfonylmethane is an organosulfur compound related to the more popular food addictive, DMSO. MSM has one oxygen atom more than DMSO and it is currently sold as a dietary supplement.

It is a stable, safe compound that is chemically inert although it has some biological activities. Its industrial use is as a solvent capable of withstanding high temperatures.

It is a naturally occurring compound that can be found in human hair, skin, tissues, and joints. It is also found in high concentrations in breast milk as well as in some fresh fruits and vegetables.

The health benefits of MSM were first reported in 1982. However, not enough scientific studies have been done on the compound to justify the many therapeutic benefits ascribed to it. This is the main reason it is marketed as a dietary supplement instead of as a drug.

However, definitive proofs have been established by large-scale studies about the usefulness of MSM in treating certain medical conditions. For example, this organosulfur compound is approved for treating osteoarthritis.

Some MSM is produced in the body from the metabolism of DMSO, and some of the clinical benefits of DMSO are believed to be due to MSM.

MSM has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory property. Oral doses of MSM are well absorbed into the blood and the compound can cross the blood-brain barrier.


While the clinical benefits of MSM and DMSO overlap, they do have different therapeutic profiles.

Since DMSO is converted to MSM in the body, the former may be suggested for treating acne instead. However, MSM is a better compound than DMSO for acne therapy for many reasons.

First, the conversion of DMSO to MSM may not be extensive enough to provide adequate levels of MSM to improve the symptoms of acne.

Secondly, DMSO has a strong sulfur smell that some people may find repellant. It also causes some unpleasant side effects such as red, itchy skin, breathing difficulties, nasal congestion, and flatulence.

These skin and respiratory side effects are caused by allergic reactions to DMSO. By causing the reddening and itching of the skin, DMSO can actually worsen acne in some people.

In contrast, MSM is odorless, safe, and non-reactive when applied topically.

It is sold both as oral and topical formulations while DMSO is usually sold for industrial and veterinary uses because of the potential damage to the skin and other mucosal membranes that it can cause in humans.

MSM in Acne Treatment

MSM is useful in the treatment of acne for several reasons. It improves the symptoms of acne by these two mechanisms:

MSM for Acne

Skin Health

MSM is known to help soften the skin. It improves the permeability of the skin and so helps clear the pores and expel toxins while keeping the skin well aerated and nourished.

It also contributes sulfur to the syntheses of sulfur-containing amino acids. These amino acids are known to provide the strength and elasticity of the skin and hair. They give the hair it's sheen and the skin its glow.

They also help prevent the breakout of acne by controlling the rate of keratin production and inhibiting the effect of androgens, such as dihydrotestosterone, on the sebaceous follicles.

Allergies and Inflammation

MSM breaks the chain of biochemical responses that produce allergic reactions. Its anti-allergic properties extend beyond the skin. It is also involved in preventing respiratory symptoms that characterize allergic reactions.

MSM flushes out mediators of allergic reactions from the cells and prevents the absorption of allergens in the gastrointestinal tract.

Since it also has anti-inflammatory properties, MSM is effective in the treatment of the inflammatory components of acne. It can be used to reduce the sizes of nodules and cysts in acne sufferers.

How to Take MSM for Acne

MSM is sold in different dosage forms including powder, flakes, gel, capsule, and topical forms.

High doses of MSM are generally well-tolerated. However, a small dose should be taken at the beginning of treatment to avoid any unwanted side effects.

Usually, 500 – 1000 mg of MSM per day should be the starting dose. This should be taken with lots of water and with meals to avoid heartburn. Subsequently, the daily dose can be increased to 2,000 – 6,000 mg. These daily doses should be divided and taken 2 to 3 times every day.

It may take a few weeks or months before the first signs of improvement are observed with MSM therapy.

No serious side effects are reported from taking MSM. However, taking high doses of the drug at the beginning of treatment can cause mild cramps, diarrhea, and headaches. These side effects are soon resolved by lowering the dose and then slowly increasing it.

Next Article: Aloe for Acne Treatment