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Can Brown Algae Cure Acne?

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There are thousands of acne products, all with varying success rates. A new study from the University of Stirling has indicated that supplementing with brown algae could help fight acne bacteria from the source. Learn more below.

Acne is an unsightly affliction that affects over 17 million people, according to the National Institute of Health. In fact, the National Institute of Health estimates that 80 percent of people between the ages of 11 and 30 have experienced at least one acne breakout. Because acne is so common, the medical industry always looks for new treatment methods and ways to stop acne at the source, and once acne blisters have broken through the skin.

A new study conducted by the University of Stirling has uncovered a new potential treatment for acne- marine algae. Read on to find out how algae could help heal and prevent breakouts.

Acne Causes

Acne has several causes. According to the National Institute of health, there are three main causes of acne. These causes include:

General Causes for Acne
  • Genetic preposition toward acne (which usually means an increase of p. acne bacteria in the stomach and on the face)
  • Hormonal changes
  • Excess oil and clogged pores

Individuals with chronic acne typically have a greater amount of p. acne bacteria on the skin and in the intestines. P. acne bacteria is present on all skin, but researchers are not sure why individuals with acne have more of the bacteria. Genetics and intestinal health could have some role in the amount of bacteria present on the face. Many prescription treatments for acne kill the bacteria with antibiotics.

Topical vs Oral Remedies

In general, there are two main types of acne treatments- topical and oral. Over-the-counter treatments for acne generally include Benzoyl peroxide sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid. Prescription topical treatments can include benzoyl peroxide and erythromycin, benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin, and a variety of others. Some treatments also include high doses of vitamin A to help dry the skin and clear acne. Natural topical treatments range from honey to tomato juice, to witch hazel. All of these treatment methods are designed to reduce inflammation, dry the pimple, and clear the infection.

Oral remedies vary and can include both herbal supplements and antibiotics. There are currently four approved antibiotic products for acne; which include oxytetracycline, tetracycline, doxycycline, and lymecycline. Most antibiotic treatments are not approved for long-term use. Herbal supplements may also help improve the symptoms of acne. Many herbal supplements are taken orally.

According to Web MD, some of the most effective oral supplements for acne include Vitex (a mixture of fruit extracts used to treat PMS-related acne in Germany), Brewer’s yeast, and nightshade. Other supplements that show promise are vitamin A, zinc, Gum Guggul extract, vitamin E, and selenium (more on these supplements below). And now, after the research by the University of Stirling, algae may be an effective oral and topical supplement for reducing acne.

Algae for Acne

The cosmetic benefits of algae have been known for thousands of years. Algae is used in many creams, masks, facials, and other cosmetic products. Because of the history of algae as a facial product, the researchers at the University of Stirling decided to investigate the potential of algae as a treatment for acne.

Over the course of the study, the researchers found that algae is quite effective at reducing the amount of p. acne bacteria on the skin. The fatty acids produced by the algae were responsible for the reduction in bacteria on the skin. The fatty acids were able to inhibit the growth of the bacteria similar to common acne treatments salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

According to the researchers, it was known that fatty acids can kill bacteria in the past, but this is one of the first studies to look at their effects on p. acne bacteria. In fact, fatty acid production is part of the skin’s natural defense against acne and other bacteria. According to the study researchers, “Fatty acids are present naturally on our skin to defend us against unwanted bacteria so the application of additional fatty acids will augment our existing defenses."

Researchers identified 6 fatty acids contained in the algae that were helpful in fighting against acne bacteria. All of these acids were Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) and contained EPA and DGLA, which also provide anti-inflammatory benefits. EPA is actually originally from a variety of algae types and is why so many fish have high levels of EPA in their meat. DGLA is mainly produced by brown algae. According to the researchers, eating the algae (or the oils produced by the algae) is one way of providing the anti-acne benefits, as is applying the algae or oils directly to the face.

Potential Outcomes

Since research into algae for acne is so new, all uses for algae against acne are speculative at this point. According to the researchers, supplementing with fatty acids is one effective way to control acne bacteria. The researchers are also investigating the ability to turn the algae into a topical treatment, but no studies have been conducted on any algae products for the face as of yet.

Supplementing with brown algae capsules that contain DGLA and EPA could also provide benefit against acne outbreaks. Applying the algae directly to the face may also provide benefits.

Supplement Dosage

Typically, brown algae is sold as an antioxidant supplement. Web MD states that brown algae can be used as a supplement for antioxidant effects, high cholesterol, stress, joint pain, and a variety of other conditions. The typical dosage amount ranges between 50 and 100 mg per day. You can experiment with the dosage level for acne. Since brown algae is a sea plant, it is unlikely to have side effects, even at higher doses, but if you are concerned, speak with a health professional about any potential interactions with your current health conditions or any medications that you might be taking.

Complementary Treatments

Supplementing with brown algae may reduce the number of p. acne bacteria on the skin, but in all likelihood, other steps will also be necessary to completely free your skin from acne. You can boost the effectiveness of the algae treatment by also using these complementary methods:


You are what you eat, as the saying goes, and if you are eating foods that inflame and irritate acne bacteria, it is likely that you will see more acne blisters pop up on your face and over your entire body. The book, “The Clear Skin Diet” by Alan C. Logan and Valori Treloar outlines several beneficial foods that will help keep acne away. These foods include:

Acne-Fighting Foods 
  • Whole grains: wheat, barley, oats, quinoa
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty fish, fish oil supplements, flaxseed, some nuts, and seeds
  • Green tea: Can take in tea or supplement form
  • Antioxidants: Red grapes, plums, berries, cherries
  • Fiber: Brown rice, wheat germ, oats, barley
  • Zinc: Cow liver, lamb, beef, oats, scallops
  • Water: Drink plenty of water daily to eliminate excess bacteria and toxins from the skin

Foods to Avoid 
  • Fried foods
  • Processed foods
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol


Supplements can also be highly effective at fighting acne from the inside out. Consider adding the following supplements in addition to brown algae to help clear acne away:

Probiotics: In a 2013 study conducted by the University of Alberta, supplementing with probiotics in addition to the acne medication minocycline showed significant improvement in skin condition over patients taking minocycline alone.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve a variety of conditions, including acne. In one review of multiple studies published in Lipids Health Dis. Journal in 2008, after supplementing with omega-3 oil supplements for two months, patients showed a reduction in the number of acne blisters from 20.8 to 6.8.

Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Zinc: A 2013 study from the University of Afyon Kocatepe in Turkey showed that study participants with acne had lower levels of vitamin A, zinc, and vitamin E in their blood. In fact, the study showed that the lower the levels of these three nutrients, the worse the acne of the person was. Supplementing with vitamin A has long been known to benefit acne, and the prescription acne medication Accutane contains mainly high doses of vitamin A. A 1989 study from France showed that supplementing with zinc could reduce the amount of inflammation seen in acne patients, although this study showed no improvement in the actual number of breakouts.

Selenium: A 1984 study published in the journal Acta Dermato-Venereologica showed that supplementing with selenium along with 10 mg of tocopherol succinate per day. Study participants taking selenium along with the medication showed a greater improvement in symptoms than those taking the medication alone.

Gum Guggul Extract: In a 1994 study from India comparing the antibacterial acne medication tetracycline with gum guggul extract, after three months of supplementation, patients taking gum guggul extract showed a 68 percent improvement in acne symptoms compared with 62 percent taking tetracycline.

Bitter Nightshade: Bitter nightshade is proven to be effective as an acne treatment in Europe. The treatment power of nightshade is so well-known in Europe, that a formulation of nightshade is sold as a medical treatment for acne in Germany. A 2010 study from the University Medical Center Freiburg in Germany approved nightshade as a supplement for acne.

Topical Treatments

In addition to internal supplements, applying natural topical treatments to acne blisters can also be beneficial.

Tea Tree Oil: In a 2007 study conducted by Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, it was shown that a topical ointment containing 5 percent tea tree oil was five times more effective in treating acne breakouts than the placebo ointment. The study concluded that tea tree oil is an effective topical treatment for acne.

Witch Hazel: According to Web MD, witch hazel contains antibacterial properties that will help prevent the spread of acne bacteria on the skin and can help clear acne outbreaks.

Coconut Oil and Turmeric: According to a 2013 study conducted by Chang Gung University, a mixture of curcumin (a component of turmeric) and lauric acid was effective at removing p. acne bacteria from the skin. Lauric acid is present in coconut oil. A mixture of turmeric powder and coconut oil applied to the skin can help eliminate acne breakouts.

Exploring New Treatments for Acne

As science continues to study the reason and methods behind certain conditions like acne, and the treatments that are effective in curing these problems, more solutions emerge. Although acne has been studied for over 100 years, there is still much that is unknown about the condition. However, as more studies are uncovered, like the brown algae study, it becomes possible to fight the condition better than ever. If you suffer from acne, you don’t have to live with the uncomfortable and embarrassing blisters.

Supplementing with algae and other complementing supplements and applying natural topical treatments to the skin can help heal your skin from the inside and outside at the same time. Within two months, you should see clearer, brighter, healthier skin without the potentially dangerous side effects of conventional acne treatments. For greater effectiveness, try taking supplements that offer multiple acne-fighting ingredients in the same pill. They will be easier to take and are friendlier on the wallet than purchasing several supplements individually.





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