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The truth about using DIM supplements for hormonal acne: Do they work?

Curology’s experts explain the science behind taking DIM for acne.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Oct 2, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
Woman Taking a Supplement
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Oct 2, 2023 • 6 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.

When you’re dealing with persistent acne, it’s only natural to wish for a miracle cure—like a pill that could lead your pimples to vanish and never come back. While there’s no replacement for a solid skincare routine, there are additional treatments that can help fight your acne when it seems like few things are working. Many of those treatments—tretinoin, the gold standard for treating acne topically—are available by prescription only. Other potential treatments aren’t found in the usual skincare aisle.

One such treatment is DIM supplements. This natural compound is already found in foods you may eat—like certain veggies—but it’s gotten some buzz online for its supposed ability to help fight hormonal acne. So does it really work? Allow Curology’s team of expert dermatology providers to explain what you need to know, and how you can best treat your hormonal breakouts.

What is DIM? 

DIM is a natural compound, also known by its scientific name, 3,3'-Diindolylmethane. Certain vegetables, like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts, are rich in this compound. DIM comes from another related active agent, indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which is also present in these vegetables.¹ When I3C-rich foods are consumed, this compound chemically changes to DIM. This reaction is spontaneous and happens because of the acidity of the stomach.² 

Does DIM help with acne?

Some reports claim that DIM helps treat acne by balancing hormones and fighting certain skin bacteria. Unfortunately, this claim lacks enough supporting scientific evidence. 

Acne typically develops from hair follicles and oil glands on human skin. But this process is linked to several underlying factors and complicates treatment for the nearly 50 million people who manage this condition in the U.S. yearly.³

Researchers have observed that DIM can influence sex hormones.⁴ Hormones like androgens, estrogen, and progesterone are important for regulating sebum production on the skin.⁵ When the delicate balance of these hormones is upset, the skin glands may overproduce sebum, causing clogged pores and breakouts.⁶ 

Another way that DIM may work against acne is through its potential antibacterial properties. Studies show that DIM may slow the growth of the acne-causing bacteriaCutibacterium acnes. This compound may also prevent certain microorganisms from forming a film on the skin, which could possibly help address acne.⁷ That said, more research is needed to fully understand its potential benefits.

Does DIM cause side effects? 

Researchers who studied the effects of DIM on rats found that it causes no severe adverse reactions, even at ten times the dose used for treatment. This result led to the conclusion that it's relatively safe for use.⁸

In another study, a few participants experienced common side effects after using DIM, such as nausea and headaches. One person with atopic dermatitis also developed some unusual skin redness. Overall, they were found to be mild cases.⁹

If you have an existing medical condition or are taking prescribed medications, don't rush to use DIM supplements for acne. It can influence liver enzymes that help your body break down specific drugs, which may impact your other medications’ performance. You may experience adverse drug interactions as a result.¹⁰ Speak with a qualified health professional before using DIM or any other supplement.

If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, always consult a medical professional before using DIM supplements or any other new supplement or medication to see if they are safe for you.

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Exercise caution with DIM supplements

DIM supplements are generally available online and in stores. However, certain supplements can be put on the market without FDA approval. Additionally, as they haven’t been proven effective for treating acne, we generally don’t recommend the use of DIM supplements.

If you decide to use DIM supplements, exercise caution. Look for quality standards by verifying that it's made in an FDA-approved or good manufacturing practice (GMP-compliant) facility. Such products typically have a badge on the label or company website. Also, see that the brand has undergone testing at an independent lab. Some companies share these results to reassure buyers that the supplement has no toxins or contaminants.

Before turning to products with no proven benefits for acne like DIM supplements, remember there are proven treatments available that can help treat your breakouts and other skin concerns! Schedule a consultation with one of our licensed dermatology providers at Curology* to help you get on the right treatment course for your condition.

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Although DIM is a popular remedy for hormonal acne, there isn’t enough scientific evidence that it works—but you have plenty of other options that can help treat this condition. Curology connects you to licensed dermatology providers who can help address your skin concerns with personalized prescription formulas that contain clinically proven ingredients. Unlock your offer* today to start your journey to healthier and clearer skin. 

FAQs

How long does it take for DIM to work on acne?

There isn’t a definite time frame before you start seeing results from DIM supplements. It’s not a proven way to treat acne, so results vary from one person to the next. Consult with your healthcare provider for proven treatments for acne.

How much DIM should I take for acne?

Since there isn’t enough research backing the use of DIM for acne, there are no established guidelines. Consult with your healthcare provider for additional guidance.

• • •

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

  1. PubChem. Compound Summary 3,3'-Diindolylmethane. National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2023, June 24).

  2. Bradlow, H.L. and Zeligs, M.A. Diindolylmethane (DIM) Spontaneously Forms from Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) During Cell Culture Experiments. In Vivo. (July 2010).

  3. Ogé, L.K., et al. Acne Vulgaris: Diagnosis and Treatment. Am Fam Physician. (2019, October 15). 

  4. Zhang, W.W., et al. Multiple therapeutic and preventive effects of 3,3’-diindolylmethane on cancers including prostate cancer and high grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia. J Biomed Res. (September 2014).

  5. Elsaie, M.L. Hormonal treatment of acne vulgaris: an update. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. (2016, September 2). 

  6. Zhang, R., et al. The Relevant of Sex Hormone Levels and Acne Grades in Patients with Acne Vulgaris: A Cross-Sectional Study in Beijing. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. (2022, October 18).

  7. Kim, Y.-G., et al. The Anticancer Agent 3,3'-Diindolylmethane Inhibits Multispecies Biofilm Formation by Acne-Causing Bacteria and Candida albicans. Microbiol Spectr. (2022 February 23).

  8. Elackattu, A.P., et al. A CONTROLLED SAFETY STUDY OF DIINDOLYLMETHANE IN THE IMMATURE RAT MODEL. Laryngoscope. (September 2009).

  9. Yerushalmi, R., et al. 3,3-Diindolylmethane (DIM): a nutritional intervention and its impact on breast density in healthy BRCA carriers. A prospective clinical trial. Carcinogenesis. (2020, October 15). 

  10. Pondugula, S.R., et al. Diindolylmethane, a naturally occurring compound, induces CYP3A4 and MDR1 gene expression by activating human PXR. Toxicol Lett. (2015, February 3).

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.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

• • •
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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