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10 Vitamins for Acne

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Vitamin supplements are safe and effective acne remedies. They correct nutritional deficiencies and promote skin health. Here are the 10 most important vitamins used in acne treatment.

Vitamins and Dietary Changes for Acne

Supplements and dietary changes can go a long way toward reducing acne pimples and clearing the skin. Read on to discover how vitamins for Acne and other simple lifestyle changes can improve the skin without dangerous side effects.

How Can Vitamins Heal Acne?

Vitamins are essential to every biochemical process in the body. When they are supplied in low amounts in our diets, a state of deficiency occurs. Vitamin deficiencies can produce serious complications, and for some, acne or acne-like dermatitis is one of the symptoms.

Given that vitamins are essential for the normal functioning of enzymes, cells, organs, tissues, and systems, they can clearly provide some benefits for acne sufferers. Vitamins can regulate certain aspects of the immune system to help reverse the biochemical processes that culminate in acne eruptions on the skin. Some of the unique properties of vitamins which make them useful in acne treatment are their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti comedogenic, antibacterial and exfoliating properties.

One of the most important vitamins for acne is vitamin A. Vitamin A is absolutely essential for the health of the skin. Deficiencies in vitamin A can cause problems like dry skin, dry hair, weak nails, and patches on the skin.

Vitamin D also plays a big role in affecting keratinocyte biology (biology of the skin). Vitamin D is a hormone that not only affects the muscles but has also been shown to affect the overall appearance and health of the skin.

No less important for skin health is vitamin E. This vitamin is delivered directly to the skin through the sebaceous gland. A reduced amount of vitamin E in the gland can increase the risk of inflammation, redness, acne, and other skin problems.

Other studies have suggested that B vitamins, selenium, and zinc also play a big part in the presence of acne on the skin. Discussed below are some of the vitamins used in acne treatment, and how they affect the development of acne lesions.

1. Vitamin A and Acne

There are five major compounds that are referred to as vitamin A. There is retinol and 4 provitamins called carotene. Of all carotenoids in nature, only 4 have vitamin A activities. These are alpha, beta, and gamma carotene as well as beta-cryptoxanthin. The carotenes are usually obtained from plant sources while retinol is found in animals.

Retinal is the biologically active form of vitamin A. It is synthesized from retinol. It is also the form of vitamin A that absorbs light in the retina of the eyes and known to be responsible for color vision and low-light accommodation.

How Does Vitamin A Help Acne?

One way in which vitamin A is used for treating acne is in rejuvenating the skin. It does this by exfoliating the top layer of the skin and increasing skin turnover by promoting the maturation of new epithelial cells. Vitamin A is also needed in acne treatment for reducing the inflammatory response of immune cells and for promoting hormonal balance.

By these mechanisms, the vitamin prevents the production of excess sebum and the formation of inflammatory acne lesions. However, the major anti-acne benefit of vitamin A is its antioxidant activity. It protects the skin by removing reactive oxygen species and other harmful free radicals from the skin.

This effect is further improved in the presence of other antioxidants such as vitamin E and selenium. While vitamin A is available as oral supplements and in topical acne preparations, the oral form of the vitamin provides the most benefits for acne patients.

Signs of Vitamin A Deficiency

If you are low in vitamin A, the symptoms are often difficult to spot. Even a blood test has trouble identifying if you are low in vitamin A.

However, if you have any of the following signs, you might just need to boost the vitamin A content of your diet:

  • Night blindness
  • Skin that is easily infected
  • Rough, dry skin
  • Bumps on the backs of your arms
  • Low zinc intake
  • A diet high in polyunsaturated fats (like vegetable oil, peanut oil, and corn oil)
  • Chronic inflammation

2. Vitamin B5 and Acne

Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid is needed for the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. However, its most important biological role is in the production of Coenzyme A, an important cofactor in many biological processes in the body.

The active form of vitamin B5 is D-pantothenic acid. This vitamin can be obtained from meat, whole grains, cereals, legumes, yogurt, and eggs. Vitamin B5 deficiency is rare but when it does occur, one of its symptoms is acneiform dermatitis.

How Does Vitamin B5 Help Acne?

The usefulness of vitamin B5 in acne treatment was discovered in 1995 and well-documented by 3 papers published by Dr. Lit-Hung Leung who was looking for the benefits of using the vitamin to treat obesity. There are 2 mechanisms by which vitamin B5 helps to prevent and relieve acne symptoms.

First, it reduces the size of skin pores. This astringent-like constriction of the pores is unlike that produced by regular acne medications since it does not have the side effect of skin dryness. When these pores are constricted, the buildup of sebum is pushed out to the skin surface where it can be sloughed off. Furthermore, the constriction reduces the chances that the pores will be clogged by dead skin cells, bacteria, and excess sebum.

The second means by which vitamin B5 improves acne symptoms involve Coenzyme A. Pantothenic acid increases the production of Coenzyme A which then speeds up fat metabolism. This means that there is far less fat pushed to the sebaceous glands. Therefore, sebum production is reduced.

Because excess sebum on the skin provides the ideal environment for the growth of acne-causing bacteria, this effect of vitamin B5 is enough to starve these bacteria and reduce acne breakouts.

Signs of Vitamin B5 Deficiency

It is rare for a person who eats a normal or healthy diet to be deficient in vitamin B5. However, it can happen. Symptoms of a B5 deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Burning feet
  • Frequent upper respiratory infections
  • Depression
  • Stomach pains

3. Vitamin B6 and Acne

 Vitamin B6 refers to a group of 7 related compounds, six of which can be interconverted. Two of these are pyridoxine (which is the general name given to the vitamin) and pyridoxal phosphate or PLP (which is the active form of the vitamin).

Vitamin B6 is required for a number of processes in the body including gene expression, histamine, and neurotransmitter synthesis, lipid metabolism, conversion of glycogen to glucose, and hemoglobin formation. Vitamin B6 can be found in meat, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains.

Vitamin B6 deficiency is not common but when it occurs, it affects the skin and the nervous system. Dermatological symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include seborrhea, dermatitis, and skin ulceration.

How Does Vitamin B6 Help Acne?

Vitamin B6 works for acne by regulating hormonal levels and prostaglandin release. Therefore, the vitamin may reduce the production of male sex hormones such as testosterone and its metabolites (for example, dihydrotestosterone or DHT) which are known to cause acne. It can also reduce the inflammatory response mediated by prostaglandin to skin injuries.

On the flip side, vitamin B6 can also trigger acne breakouts especially when taken in high doses. Therefore, those who wish to get more out of vitamin B6 with megadoses of supplementation may experience quite the opposite effect. The exact mechanism by which high doses of vitamin B6 trigger acne is unknown. However, this effect is even amplified when vitamin B12 is combined with vitamin B6.

Signs of Vitamin B6 Deficiency

  • Anemia
  • Weakness
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion and forgetfulness
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Low energy

4. Vitamin B7 and Acne

What is Vitamin B7? Vitamin B7 is also known as biotin, vitamin H, or Coenzyme R. It is found in raw egg yolk, livers, Swiss chards, peanuts, vegetables, and corn. The biological functions of biotin include its roles in fat metabolism, regulation of blood glucose levels, cellular growth, and the syntheses of the amino acids, valine, and isoleucine. Large doses of vitamin B7 can be safely ingested.

However, some drugs do interfere with biotin absorption and functioning. For example, broad-spectrum oral antibiotics kill off the biotin-producing bacteria in the gut; isotretinoin, a retinoid acne medication reduces the activity of biotin; and high doses of vitamin B5 compete with biotin.

How Does Vitamin B7 Help Acne?

There are very few scientific pieces of evidence to show that biotin is useful in acne treatment. However, since it is involved in important biochemical processes, it may produce some indirect positive effects on the skin. Because biotin deficiency can produce acne-like symptoms, vitamin B7 supplements may improve acne symptoms especially in people with this deficiency. This is important since vitamin B7 deficiency can be caused by isotretinoin, oral antibiotics, and vitamin B5, all of which are used in acne treatment.

For the same reasons, high doses of biotin may cause acne breakouts. This happens because biotin gains the upper hand in competing against vitamin B5. Megadoses of biotin may cause acute vitamin B5 deficiency and acne which is one of the symptoms of the deficiency.

Signs of Vitamin B7 Deficiency

Biotin is easily obtained from dietary sources, and it is even produced by bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, vitamin B7 deficiency is rare but when it occurs, it causes hair loss, conjunctivitis, depression, hallucination, seborrhea, and acne-like dermatitis.

5. Vitamin B12 and Acne

What is Vitamin B12? Vitamin B12 is also called Cobalamin. It is produced by bacteria even in the plant and animal sources where humans get it. Bacteria produce hydroxocobalamin. This form of vitamin B12 is converted to cyanocobalamin during manufacturing although it is also sometimes sold as injectable vitamin B12.

Cyanocobalamin is converted back to hydroxocobalamin and then to the two active forms of vitamin B12, methylcobalamin, and adenosylcobalamin in the liver. This is why the richest dietary sources of vitamin B12 are livers.

Other dietary sources of vitamin B12 include eggs, milk, milk products, fish, shellfish, poultry, and fortified foods.

How Does Vitamin B12 Help Acne?

Vitamin B12 has no direct effect on acne. However, since it is involved in cellular metabolism, fatty acid synthesis, and DNA production, it may have a regulatory role in the immune system and endocrine system. Therefore, it is possible that the vitamin may help promote hormonal balance and reduce the inflammatory response of the immune system at the skin.

However, high doses of vitamin B12 are reported to cause acne. Hydroxocobalamin is the form of the vitamin that is implicated the most although all commercial forms of vitamin B12 produce this side effect. There are different theories about why vitamin B12 may cause acne.

Some researchers suggest that high doses of the vitamin overstimulate some of the biochemical processes it oversees to cause hormonal imbalance, increased sebum production, and local inflammatory reactions. Increased excretion of the vitamins via the skin pores is another suggested mechanism for this acne-promoting effect.

It is possible that excess vitamin B12 coming out of the skins irritates the epithelium to trigger an inflammatory response on the skin. Yet another theory suggests that the acne breakouts are caused by impurities such as iodine and sorbitol (which are known to cause acne) found in injectable hydroxocobalamin.

Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

  • Numbness in the hands and feet
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Poor balance

6. Vitamin C and Acne

Vitamin C is also called ascorbic acid. The active form of the vitamin is L-ascorbate. Dietary sources of vitamin C include fruits, vegetables, raw liver, milk, and oysters. This water-soluble vitamin is a potent antioxidant, it is involved in the synthesis of collagen, and it is also a cofactor for many enzymes. Vitamin C can be safely taken in large doses.

It is difficult to achieve vitamin C toxicity and even then it causes mild symptoms such as diarrhea, headache, vomiting, nausea, and fatigue.

How Does Vitamin C Help Acne?

Vitamin C is used as an antioxidant in acne treatment. Although it is a reversible antioxidant, ascorbic acid has a unique antioxidant profile because it does not produce reactive oxygen species when it is regenerated to be reused. As an antioxidant, vitamin C protects the skin from damage from free radicals that can set off a chain reaction that leads to acne breakouts.

Another way in which vitamin C protects the skin is through the production of stable collagen. By doing this, vitamin C prevents the skin’s protective barrier from breaking down as toxins come up to the surface. It also prevents skin pigmentation and can help remove acne scars. The protective effect produced by vitamin C on the skin is especially useful in acne treatment when oral antibiotics are used to clear acne breakouts.

The most commonly prescribed oral antibiotics for acne are the ones in the tetracycline family. However, these antibiotics make the skin photosensitive and cause the staining of the skin, teeth, and bones.

Therefore, vitamin C is often prescribed not only to improve the anti-acne effects of these antibiotics but also to help reduce the hyperpigmentation they cause and protect the skin against damage from sunlight.

Signs of Vitamin C Deficiency

The chief symptom of vitamin C deficiency is scurvy, which is caused by the production of unstable collagen in the skin.

7. Vitamin D and Acne

Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because it is synthesized in the skin from cholesterol on exposure to sunlight. There are five fat-soluble secosteroids in this vitamin family but only Cholecalciferol (or vitamin D3) and Ergocalciferol (or vitamin D2) are used in supplementation. Dietary sources of vitamin D2 are mushrooms and alfalfa. Vitamin D3 can be obtained from eggs, beef livers, and fatty fish.

These forms of vitamin D are converted to calcidiol in the liver. Then the prohormone is converted to calcitriol, the biologically active form of vitamin D, in the kidneys. The main biological role of calcitriol is in the regulation of calcium and phosphate levels in the body in order to promote bone health.

Calcitriol is also produced by the macrophages of the immune system, and the hormone produced at this site is mostly used to fight off infections.

How Does Vitamin D Help Acne?

Vitamin D has a number of benefits for acne treatment. First, it suppresses cell proliferation in the sebaceous glands. In this way, it prevents the enlargement of the sebaceous glands and reduces the production of sebum. Therefore, it prevents the appearance of acne comedones such as whiteheads and blackheads.

Secondly, vitamin D can become an anti-inflammatory agent at the right doses. While it may also cause inflammation, studies have shown that some vitamin D analogs can tilt the balance towards an anti-inflammatory effect useful in acne treatment.

Thirdly, vitamin D produces an antimicrobial effect through a group of natural antibacterial agents called cathelicidins. Cathelicidins are antimicrobial peptides produced by the leukocytes in epithelial cells.

Therefore, they can attack acne-causing bacteria. Lastly, vitamin D is also an antioxidant and it can protect the skin from oxidative stress.

Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency

If you are low in vitamin D, your immune system will be reduced. In extreme cases, vitamin D deficiency will show in weakened bones and muscles. However, most people do not have such low levels of vitamin D.

Common signs of a vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Your muscles are weak
  • You get sick often
  • You have trouble sleeping
  • You are often in a low mood or depressed

8. Vitamin E and Acne

Vitamin E refers to a group of eight related compounds, tocopherols and tocotrienols. The most active form of the vitamin is alpha-tocopherol. Vitamin E is a highly efficient antioxidant responsible for mopping up reactive oxygen species produced from fat metabolism. It is also involved in tissue regeneration which is needed to repair wounds.

Dietary sources of vitamin E include sunflower oil, safflower oil and wheat germ, green leafy vegetables, almonds, hazelnut, and palm oil.

How Does Vitamin E Help Acne?

The antioxidant effect of vitamin E is its major contribution to acne treatment. There are different ways in which this antioxidant effect can help reduce acne breakouts.

Antioxidant Effects of Vitamin E

Prevent the oil secreted from the sebaceous gland from going rancid and turning hard; this prevents the clogging of the pores by hardened sebum

Protect the skin from damage by ultraviolet rays of sunlight Remove toxins and free radicals from the skin

Stabilize the protective barrier of the skin Repair damage to the skin and, therefore, prevent an inflammatory response from immune cells

Different studies have proven that vitamin E works best in acne treatment when used along with other antioxidants such as vitamin A and selenium.

Signs of Vitamin E Deficiency

  • Loss of coordination
  • Age spots
  • Anemia
  • Cataracts
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Neurological deficiencies
  • Reproductive problems

9. Zinc and Acne

Zinc is a mineral, and not really a vitamin, but it can greatly benefit acne sufferers. Zinc is responsible for correct growth and development, immune function, brain health, reproduction, and the health of the skin. Zinc is commonly found in meat, fish, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and beans.

How Does Zinc Help Acne?

Zinc helps metabolize omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to benefit many individuals with stubborn acne. Zinc can also act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, which helps prevent the bacteria that cause acne from spreading. Zinc also helps transport vitamin A which causes a reduction in sebum production on the skin. Many studies have found that individuals with low zinc levels are more prone to acne.

Signs of Zinc Deficiency

  • Weak immune system
  • Unstable neurological function
  • Acne
  • Skin rashes

10. Selenium and Acne

Selenium is a mineral and antioxidant that is useful for fighting acne. It is found in grains, seafood, nuts, and root vegetables. Selenium is a trace mineral, but it plays an important role in the body and has been linked with improving heart health, reducing anemia, and boosting the immune system.

How Does Selenium Help Acne?

Selenium works with other antioxidants like vitamin C and zinc to produce peroxidase, which reduces the inflammation that causes and worsens acne. Studies have found that individuals who are low in selenium are often more likely to have acne, and in some cases, supplementing with selenium reduces acne flare-ups in just a few weeks.

Signs of a Selenium Deficiency

  • Unhealthy immune system
  • Frequent fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Brain fog
  • Sluggish thyroid
  • Reproductive problems

Vitamins Can Heal Acne

If you have tried every topical and prescription treatment under the sun and still suffer from acne breakouts, upping your vitamin intake might just be what your skin needs to get clear from the inside out. Acne is a problem that affects millions well into adulthood, but there is no reason to continue to suffer.

By adding extra acne-fighting vitamins to your diet through food and supplements, combined with other acne-fighting lifestyle changes and gentle skin cleansers, your acne should soon become a thing of the past.





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