I’m frequently asked, “What are the best supplements and vitamins for keeping acne and blemishes away?” I believe foods, vitamins, and supplements might give an inside defense against breakouts for achieving clearer skin. While there may be many others, these are the go-tos that I use myself and recommend to my clients.
The best supplements and vitamins for clearing acne (and for prevention!)
Since acne can be caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, probiotics can address this internally. In a supplement form, probiotics contain Bifidobacterium and/or Lactobacilli that help to create “healthy” bacteria in the gut. Some forms of breakout activity are thought to be due to “unhealthy” bacteria and inflammation from toxins released into the bloodstream. The thought is that when your body’s “good” bacteria is thriving, your skin will, too.
In the photo, you’ll see I like Green Vibrance by Vibrant Health, which comes in a powder form. The reason why I recommend this is because it also contains beta glucans, which are another beneficial supplement for acne. (More on that below.) However, many people like to intake probiotics through food or in a pill form. Those work well, too.
Foods to eat that contain probiotics: Yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso soup, and pickles. These are some of my favorites, but the list goes on. Be careful with pickles and miso soup as they have a ton of sodium that can lead to under eye puffiness. I know this all too well because I love drinking pickle juice, but there’s a price to be paid for it with my eyes! Also, there are certainly many more foods with probiotics but these are my go-to’s.
Note about yogurt: Not all yogurt contains probiotics, so choose one that lists having active or live cultures. However, for some people, eating dairy can cause acne.
This may help the body manufacture neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which aids in the body’s ability to cope with stress, since stress is known to exacerbate acne. Overall, B vitamins (especially niacinamide/vitamin B3) may help keep the inflammatory process related to acne under control.
I recommend a B-50 complex as I think these are all good vitamins for clearing acne. They contain niacin (niacinamide), vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and more. You’ll get all the additional benefits by taking vitamin B-50.
Foods to eat that contain vitamin B: Salmon, tuna, meat, poultry, broccoli, bananas, beans, and brown rice. These are some of my favorites, but the list goes on.
Zinc is a mineral thought to help with acne by regulating oil gland activity, reducing inflammation caused by acne, and balancing androgenic hormonal effects on skin that contribute to acne breakouts. It has been referred to as “Mother Nature’s antibiotic” and is something I have recommended to my acne clients for years. Zinc may also help keep a strong immune system which in turn may help keep the skin clear.
Your body doesn’t store zinc, so it’s helpful to eat enough every day to ensure you’re getting your daily requirements.
Foods that contain zinc: Shellfish (shrimp, mussels), seeds (squash, pumpkin), eggs, meat and legumes (chickpeas, lentils). These are some of my favorites, but the list goes on.
Beta glucan is a sugar that is found in the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, algae, oats, and barley. They are used in HIV/AIDs medicine to help strengthen the immune system, as well as medicines to help lower cholesterol. The role it might play in helping clear acne is in its ability to improve immune function. Since the skin is the body’s largest organ and acts as the primary immunological barrier to the external environment, acne may be more likely to appear when the immune cells are compromised.
There are supplements with exclusively beta glucan, but it can be found in the Green Vibrance powder so I just get it in that way.
Foods to eat that contain beta glucan: Oatmeal, seaweed, barley, and mushrooms (shiitake, reishi).
Skincare product for acne-prone skin that contains beta glucan: Skin Correcting Serum
Magnesium is a mineral that might help with protein synthesis and possible initiation of inflammatory responses. It can help reduce inflammation caused by any type of injury, including those created by acne-causing bacteria invading the skin. Magnesium also offers benefits by reducing levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Lastly, it can encourage healthy sleep by increasing levels of both melatonin and serotonin.
I like the Natural Vitality Natural Calm powder. They promote it as “the anti-stress drink,” and stress-induced problem skin can always benefit from that!
Foods to eat that contain magnesium: Legumes (black beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans), Vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, green beans, artichokes, asparagus, brussels sprouts) and fruit (figs, avocado, and bananas). These are some of my favorites, but the list goes on.
Vitamin C with Citrus Bioflavonoids
These are not for acne per se, but vitamin C with bioflavonoids may help with a condition related to acne known as PIE (post-Inflammatory erythema). A blemish will initiate a healing response (small proteins called cytokines will trigger the inflammation) and white blood cells that come to fight the infection can’t fit into smaller capillaries so they dilate and potentially break. This leads to vascular damage that causes redness from a blemish. (Read more about fading blemish marks.) Additionally, vitamin C aids in wound healing by increasing the production of collagen. It can help visibly repair the skin after a serious breakout.
To help keep capillaries strong so they may not be as fragile and get as damaged when a blemish forms, I recommend vitamin C with bioflavonoids. In its own way, C are great vitamins for clearing acne.
Foods to eat that contain bioflavonoids: all citrus fruits.
Elderberry (and black elderberry) is a great antioxidant that also offers immune-enhancing benefits. When the body’s immune system is strong, the thought is that it will do a good job of fighting off anything that comes its way—like acne. Elderberry is also packed with vitamins A, B and C. This means acne-prone skin types will benefit from delivering antioxidant protection from the inside to encourage healthy skin aging.
I recommend elderberry in a supplement form because elderberries are hard to come by.
Skincare product for sensitive, acne-prone skin that contains elderberry: Elderberry Soothing Toner
Lastly, a few facts about acne
- Topical skincare products (prescription or non-prescription) are by far the most effective way to treat and prevent acne. However, a lot of the time you have to experiment with various products before you find the right combination that gives your unique type of acne the desired result. We have made it easy by creating skincare routines for nine different skin types—many of which address breakouts.
- Just because a skincare product worked well to clear your friend’s skin, doesn’t mean it is guaranteed to work for your type of acne. Read why you get breakouts and how to treat them
- Foods (whether it’s adding in or eliminating certain ones) may give some improvement. However, it’s important to know that there are many people who eat a very healthy diet but still get breakouts. Conversely, there are many people who eat tons of junk food and never get breakouts.
- Taking vitamins and supplements can play a supporting role in the quest for clearer skin, however, can you pop a few vitamins and expect your acne to vanish? No. They are used as an effective combination therapy with prescription medications or over-the-counter topical treatments.
- Many people get acne in certain areas such as their chin. Read 8 tips to prevent chin and jawline breakouts.
- You never want to over-dry and further inflame your skin. This hormonal acne mask is really effective for calming, healing and hydrating.
- There is no known cure for acne—especially with a one size fits all approach. Acne is incredibly complicated and every case is unique to the individual. It can be controlled, but is there anything that can make you never break out again? No.
- The true underlying causes for blemishes, while still mysterious, likely involves genetics…or simply a case of bad luck.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These product recommendations are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”