Updated 08/22/23. Clients frequently ask me, “Renée, what are the best supplements and vitamins for acne and blemishes?”
In addition to a consistent routine that caters to your skin type, I believe foods, vitamins, and supplements might give additional defense against breakouts from the inside out. While this list of supplements and vitamins is by no means comprehensive, these are the go-to’s that I use myself and recommend to my acne-prone clients.
The Best Supplements and Vitamins for Clearing (and Preventing!) Acne
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 are thriving, your skin will, too. Learn more about the role the microbiome plays in our skin.
As you can see from the photo above, I like Green Vibrance by Vibrant Health, which comes in a powder form. The reason I recommend this is that it also contains beta-glucans, another beneficial supplement for acne (more on this below.) However, many people like to get their 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! 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. Also be aware that, for some people, eating dairy can cause acne.
And while this isn’t technically a probiotic, the KOR Wellness Shots are great for keeping my immune system strong through my busy travel schedule. After all, a healthy immune system means hydrated and healthy skin! I drink one of these a day and the taste is delicious– and since I’m not a coffee drinker, it also provides a boost of energy when I’m tired!
Vitamin B may help the body manufacture neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. This aids in the body’s ability to cope with stress and 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. Most 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, and balancing the effects of androgenic hormones on the skin. 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.
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 in medicines to help lower cholesterol. The role beta-glucan can 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 beta-glucan supplements, but it can also be found in the Green Vibrance powder mentioned above, so I just get it in that way.
Foods to eat that contain beta-glucan
Oatmeal, seaweed, barley, and mushrooms (shiitake, reishi)
Magnesium is a mineral that helps with protein synthesis and possibly with the initiation of anti-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 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
This isn’t for acne per se, but vitamin C with bioflavonoids may help with a condition known as PIE (post-inflammatory erythema), which can be an after-effect of acne.
When you get an infected blemish, white blood cells rush to the site as part of your body’s natural healing response. They are delivered to the site via capillaries, which are basically tiny blood vessels. Sometimes there are too many white blood cells at once to fit through the capillaries, which makes them dilate and potentially break. This is part of what causes the redness that is sometimes left over even after a blemish heals and goes away. (Read more about fading post-blemish marks.)
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. Vitamin C also aids in wound healing by increasing the production of collagen and can help visibly repair the skin after a serious breakout.
I take this Vitamin C supplement everyday to prevent pesky little red dilated capillaries that can show up on the face with age.
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 out in order to encourage healthy skin aging.
I recommend elderberry in a supplement form because elderberries are hard to come by.
Topical skincare products (prescription or non-prescription) are by far the most effective way to treat and prevent acne. However, bolstering your skin’s health through diet and supplements can help give you an edge when it comes to treating and preventing acne. Everyone is different, so you may want to add in one supplement at a time and stick with it for a few weeks to gauge possible improvement.
It’s also important to manage expectations and know what to expect. 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. And the same goes for good! While adding or eliminating certain foods may improve your skin, there are many people who eat a very healthy diet and still get breakouts. Conversely, there are many people who eat tons of junk food and never get breakouts.
There is no known cure for acne, least of all a one-size-fits-all approach. As I said, everyone is unique, and it’s all about finding the specific combination of factors that helps reduce and control your acne.
Want to know more about treating acne? Read 8 tips to prevent chin and jawline breakouts and 11 common causes of adult acne. Finally, if you do have a blemish, here’s how to get rid of a blemish—fast.
*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. Her hands-on experience as an esthetician and trusted skin care expert has created a real-world solution — products that are formulated for nine different types of skin so your face will get exactly what it needs to look and feel its best. 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.”