Feb 09, 2021 · 5 min read
Welcome to Ask Curology, penned by one of our in-house medical providers in response to your questions about all things skincare. This week: can you treat acne by taking the right multivitamin? We’re here to clear a few things up about the potential skin benefits from dietary supplements.
I’m about to go to the supplement store. Can you tell me which vitamins will cure my hormonal acne?
Good question! I’ve written before about how diet can impact signs of aging in the skin, but I’m happy to share what I know about the relationship between vitamins and acne. I will say that it’s hard to give advice over the internet since how vitamins will impact you depends on many factors unique to you.
As far as supplements for your skin, it’s often best to obtain vitamins and minerals from a healthy diet — that may be easier said than done, of course. Getting a boost from supplements may be helpful for you! Talk to your in-person doctor to see what makes sense for you.
For now, I figured it might be helpful for me to go over the basics of nutritional supplements and how they could benefit our skin (or not).
High doses of vitamin A will help acne; isotretinoin (aka Accutane) is a vitamin A derivative, but this treatment should be prescribed and monitored by an in-person dermatologist. Most adults are instead advised to get vitamin A from foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, red peppers, and tuna. Taking too many oral vitamin A supplements can result in serious side effects, so it’s generally better to use topical vitamin A derivatives (retinoids) for your skin.¹
There are a lot of different kinds of B vitamins — and when it comes to our skin, some of them may be good while others are not. Vitamins B3,² B5,³ and B9⁴ may have skin benefits, including improving skin tone, texture, and inflammation (including acne).
Vitamin C is an antioxidant and can help fight free radical damage. We need vitamin C to maintain our general health, but more research is still needed to determine if oral vitamin C supplements can help with acne. Topical vitamin C is often used for other skin benefits, such as UV protection, fading hyperpigmentation, and boosting collagen production.⁵
More research is still needed to determine if oral vitamin D supplements have an impact on acne. There is, however, some preliminary research, so we look forward to more studies in the years to come.
Like vitamin D, the jury’s still out on vitamin E supplements — more research is needed! Topical vitamin E, however, seems to be an effective mechanism for both delivery to the skin and providing photoprotection. Additional anti-inflammatory effects of topical vitamin E have been seen in the skin, although more studies are needed.⁶
Although not proven, there is some reason to believe that taking zinc supplements may help. Some studies have shown lower zinc levels in the serum (blood) of acne patients, especially those with more severe acne, although studies assessing improvement with zinc supplementation give conflicting results.⁷
We don’t have enough research to make a firm call as to whether or not collagen supplements have any skin benefits. There is some promising evidence, though. In 2018, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study on edible collagen found that it can potentially be used to improve “skin hydration, elasticity, and wrinkling.”⁸ So, we look forward to more studies! In the meantime, you don’t need to buy a special supplement to get the benefits of oral collagen. You can get collagen simply by eating protein-rich foods — think meats, cheese, eggs, and beans.
More research is needed before we can make the official call on probiotic skincare. But, so far, what we do know looks promising. There’s evidence that certain types of probiotic bacteria can help in soothing skin and treating acne.
So that’s what I know as your friendly local expert. Feel free to sound off in the comments if you have more questions, or reach out to your Curology provider. If you’re not already a Curology member, you can get your first month of custom prescription skincare for free (just pay $4.95 to cover shipping/handling). Until next time…!
All my best,
Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions
We did our research so you don’t have to.
University of Michigan Health Services. Acne. (2021).
Josefina Navarrete-Solís. A Double-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial of Niacinamide 4% versus Hydroquinone 4% in the Treatment of Melasma. Dermatology Research and Practice. (2011, July 21).
Michael Yang, et al. A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of a Novel Pantothenic Acid-Based Dietary Supplement in Subjects with Mild to Moderate Facial Acne. Dermatology and Therapy. (2014, May 16).
Frank Fischer, et al. Folic acid and creatine improve the firmness of human skin in vivo. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. (March 2011).
Juliet M. Pullar. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients. (August 2017).
Linus Pauling Institute. Vitamin E and Skin Health. Oregon State University. (2021).
Mrinal Gupta, et al. Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review. Dermatology Research and Practice. (2014).
Du-Un Kim, et al. Oral Intake of Low-Molecular-Weight Collagen Peptide Improves Hydration, Elasticity, and Wrinkling in Human Skin: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Nutrients. (July 2018).