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The role of inositol in acne treatment

This ingredient shows promise as a potential breakout-fighting remedy, but it may not work for everyone

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Sep 1, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
inositol application for acne
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Sep 1, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-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.

Here at Curology, we currently focus on the diagnosis and treatment of acne, rosacea, and anti-aging concerns. We do not treat some of the conditions mentioned in this article. This article is for information purposes.

The search for safe acne treatments has led to increased interest in natural remedies, and one such compound that has gained attention is inositol. But can inositol truly help clear acne?

While inositol shows promise as a potential acne-fighting remedy, it’s important to approach it with realistic expectations. Acne is a multifaceted condition influenced by various factors and often, no single treatment can be considered a cure-all. 

A holistic approach that combines lifestyle modifications, skincare practices, and, if necessary, other medical interventions may be necessary for effective acne management.

Yet, inositol has proved beneficial for some. Here, we’ll unpack its potential benefits for acne management and share what you need to know about how it works.

What is inositol?

Inositol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that was once considered a part of the vitamin B family. It is now known that inositol is produced in the body by our liver and kidneys from glucose, so it is thought of as a pseudovitamin.¹ It is found in various foods such as fruits, grains, and beans.²

Myo-inositols are the most common isoform of inositol and are crucial in cellular processes, supporting physiological functions such as cell growth, survival, and nervous system development.³ It’s also known for its ability to regulate hormones, which can benefit women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder commonly associated with acne.⁴

How inositol works to reduce acne

To comprehend the potential acne-clearing benefits of inositol, we need to examine its mechanisms. Inositol plays a vital role in hormonal regulation and insulin signaling pathways. Hormonal imbalances, particularly those involving androgens, contribute to the development of acne.⁵

In female patients with moderate acne, inositol treatment improved the clinical condition of the skin by reducing hyperandrogenism. Results suggest a positive effect of inositol in reducing serum concentrations of testosterone as well.⁶ Thus, inositol may be helpful as an adjunct therapy in treating female patients with acne.

The available studies have primarily focused on women with PCOS and have shown positive results in reducing acne lesions in these cases.⁷ However, further studies are needed to gain more conclusive evidence.

Additionally, myo-inositol may help normalize ovarian function in women with PCOS.⁸ Myo-inositol is a safe and effective treatment that can improve the overall metabolic health of patients with PCOS, reducing acne and hirsutism (excessive facial hair growth).⁹

Acne in women with PCOS

Acne is a common concern among women with PCOS.¹⁰ PCOS is a hormonal disorder characterized by imbalances in sex hormones, particularly elevated levels of androgens (male hormones) like testosterone. These hormonal imbalances can contribute to the development of acne in women with PCOS. Here’s a closer look at how PCOS relates to acne:

Excessive and altered sebum production. Our skin naturally produces an oily substance called sebum to keep it moisturized. In patients with PCOS, the increase in androgens causes excess sebum production which is one factor that contributes to acne lesions appearing.¹¹

Insulin resistance. Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) may play a role in acne in individuals with PCOS. Elevated levels of IGF-1, stimulated by high insulin levels and insulin resistance, can increase androgen production, leading to excess sebum production, hirsutism, and acne breakouts.¹²

Managing acne in women with PCOS

Managing acne in women with PCOS typically involves a combination of medical and lifestyle interventions. Here are some approaches that can help:

Adopt a healthy diet

Adopting a balanced diet can promote overall skin health. Focus on consuming whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit the intake of processed foods, sugary snacks, and high-glycemic-index foods, as these may exacerbate acne.¹³

Follow a proper skincare routine

To maintain healthy skin, following a proper skincare routine is essential. In the morning, start by cleansing your face to remove excess oil, dirt, and other impurities. Follow up with a moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated and protected. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to shield your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

Cleanse your face again in the evening to remove makeup and the day’s buildup. After cleansing, apply any targeted treatments or serums to address specific skin concerns. Finish by moisturizing your skin to promote overnight repair and rejuvenation.

Avoid triggering factors

To prevent clogged pores and potential acne breakouts, choose non-comedogenic products. These products are specifically designed to minimize pore blockage. You can check for pore-clogging ingredients here.  Avoid touching or picking at acne lesions to prevent scarring.¹⁴

Medical interventions

Prescription medications, like oral contraceptives and spironolactone, are commonly used to manage acne. Oral contraceptives contain estrogen and progestin, which help regulate hormones and reduce acne. They work by suppressing androgen production which then limits the development of acne and hirsutism that PCOS may cause.¹⁵

Oral spironolactone is also effective in managing acne, particularly in women with hormonal acne. It blocks the effects of androgens on the skin, reducing sebum production which can thereby help to prevent acne formation.¹⁶ A prescription from a licensed medical provider, such as your Curology dermatology provider, is required to obtain spironolactone.

Regular follow-ups

It’s necessary to have regular check-ups with healthcare professionals to track progress, adjust treatments if necessary, and address any concerns or side effects. Remember, managing acne in women with PCOS is a multi-faceted approach. Finding the right combination of strategies that work for you may take time, so be patient and consistent.

Inositol may help women with PCOS, but it isn't a cure-all for acne

As previously mentioned, inositol supplementation, specifically myo-inositol, may help reduce acne lesions and improve overall skin health in women with PCOS.

However, while inositol can benefit some women with PCOS, it isn’t a cure-all for acne. Acne is a multifactorial condition influenced by various factors, including genetics, hormones, lifestyle, and improper skin care practices.¹⁷ Inositol may help address hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS and subsequently improve acne symptoms in some cases. Still, it may not be effective for everyone or address other underlying causes of acne.

It’s best to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a gynecologist, endocrinologist, or dermatologist, to determine the most appropriate and comprehensive treatment plan for managing acne in women with PCOS. They can provide personalized recommendations based on individual needs and consider various treatment options, including inositol, in conjunction with other interventions for optimal results.

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What are the potential adverse effects of inositol supplementation?

While inositol is generally considered safe for most individuals, potential side effects can occur. In high doses, inositol supplementation may lead to mild gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea, flatulence, and diarrhea.¹⁸

Can inositol be used alone, or should it be combined with other acne treatments?

Inositol can be used alone or in combination with other acne treatments. Depending on the severity of acne and your skin’s specific needs, a healthcare professional may recommend a multi-faceted approach that includes skincare, lifestyle modifications, and other acne medications or treatments.

Can individuals without PCOS use inositol to treat acne?

While inositol has shown potential in managing acne in women with PCOS, its effectiveness in individuals without PCOS is less clear. Inositol’s potential benefits for acne are primarily attributed to its role in regulating insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, which may indirectly affect acne development.

However, acne can have various causes, and it’s best to consult a dermatology or healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment options for your situation.

Which types of skin care products may contain inositol?

While we can provide some examples of skincare products containing inositol, it’s important to note that current research on the topical application of this ingredient is limited. However, this ingredient has been found in certain products such as moisturizers or serums. That said, it is not currently common practice to be used topically.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Willis, F and Peters, S. Myo-inositol: A critical glycaemic regulator. Journal of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society. (2019).

  2. Corrado, F., et al. Pre-Diabetes in Health and Disease: Prevention and Treatment. Glucose Intake and Utilization in Pre-Diabetes and Diabetes. (2015).

  3. Chatree, S., et al. Role of Inositols and Inositol Phosphates in Energy Metabolism. Molecules. (November 2020).

  4. Unfer, V., et al. Myo-Inositol Effects in Women with PCOS: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Endocrine Connections. (November 2017).

  5. Bagatin, E., et al. Adult Female Acne: A Guide to Clinical Practice. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. (February 2019).

  6. Pezza, M., and Carlomagno, V. Inositol in women suffering from acne and PCOS: a randomized study. Global Dermatology. (2017).

  7. Pezza, M., and Carlomagno, V. Inositol in women suffering from acne and PCOS: a randomized study. Global Dermatology. Ibid.

  8. Merviel, P., et al. Impact of Myo-Inositol Treatment in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Assisted Reproductive Technologies.  Reproductive Health. (2021, January 19).

  9. Zacchè, M.M., et al. Efficacy of Myo-Inositol in the Treatment of Cutaneous Disorders in Young Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Gynecological Endocrinology. (August 2009).

  10. Tehrani, F.R., et al. Prevalence of Acne Vulgaris among Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis. Gynecological Endocrinology. (May 2021).

  11. Carmina, E., et al. Female Adult Acne and Androgen Excess: A Report From the Multidisciplinary Androgen Excess and PCOS Committee. Journal of the Endocrine Society. (2022, February 6).

  12. Gainder, S., and Sharma, B. Update on Management of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome for Dermatologists. Indian Dermatology Online Journal. (April 2019).

  13. American Academy of Dermatology. Can the Right Diet Get Rid of Acne? (n.d.).

  14. Tan, J.K.L., et al. Evidence Review for Risk Factors for Scarring Due to Acne Vulgaris. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (June 2021). 

  15. Gainder, S., and Sharma, B. Update on Management of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome for Dermatologists. Indian Dermatology Online Journal. Ibid.

  16. Carmina, E., et al. Female Adult Acne and Androgen Excess: A Report From the Multidisciplinary Androgen Excess and PCOS Committee. Journal of the Endocrine Society. Ibid.

  17. Yang, J., et al. A Review of Advancement on Influencing Factors of Acne: An Emphasis on Environment Characteristics. Frontiers in Public Health. (2020, September 17).

  18. Caputo, M., et al. Inositols and metabolic disorders: From farm to bedside. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. (May 2020). 

Erin Pate is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL.

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Erin Pate Nurse Practitioner, NP-C

Erin Pate, NP-C

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