A consistent skincare routine appropriate for your skin type is your first defense against breakouts. But often, what's happening on the inside of our body is just as impactful as what's happening on the outside.
The truth is, the best skincare regimen in the world can only do so much if you don’t keep yourself healthy from the inside out. And often, clients will ask me what foods or supplements I recommend when it comes to managing acne-prone skin.
What follows are my best suggestions for building an internal defense against breakouts–especially if a faithful skincare routine alone isn’t doing the trick.
Probiotics introduce “healthy” bacteria into the gut. They help to balance bad bacteria, reducing inflammation and moving toxins more quickly through the body. This means they’re less likely to show up on your skin, and as a bonus, you’ll feel less bloated and sluggish.
You can take a probiotic supplement or eat foods that contain probiotic strains like yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi.
Just be careful with the yogurt, as sometimes dairy can make acne worse.
B vitamins help the body cope with stress and keep inflammation at bay. Niacinamide (AKA vitamin B3) can even help regulate oil production in the skin, which can mean fewer clogged pores.
Look for a “Vitamin B complex” or load your plate with B-rich foods such as salmon, tuna, poultry, broccoli, bananas, beans, and brown rice.
Zinc is a mineral that helps regulate oil gland activity, reduces inflammation, and mediates the effects of androgen on the skin. It’s probably best known for supporting the immune system–and a strong immune system can better defend against breakouts.
Sometimes acne is simply a result of a zinc deficiency. Here’s hoping that adding some zinc to your day is the only thing standing between you and clear, calm skin!
If getting zinc through your diet is the goal, go for shellfish, pumpkin seeds, eggs, chicken, beef, and legumes.
Beta-glucan is a type of sugar found in the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, yeast, algae, and oats. They’re used in HIV/AIDs medicine for their ability to strengthen the immune system and in medications that help lower cholesterol.
You may have noticed that most of the supplements mentioned so far have the effect of strengthening the immune system. Since the skin is our primary immunological barrier, fortifying the immune system fortifies the skin itself–making it better able to defend against bacteria and toxins that can cause blemishes.
Beta-glucans can be found in supplement form or by eating foods like oatmeal, seaweed, or mushrooms.
Magnesium is an important mineral that’s essential for managing inflammation and reducing cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and stress is a major culprit in acne.
Magnesium also helps regulate melatonin and serotonin for more restful sleep. More sleep and less stress are reasons enough to get plenty of magnesium, not to mention how good the combo is for your complexion!
A diet that provides plenty of magnesium includes foods like legumes, green vegetables, avocados, and bananas. But there are lots of magnesium supplements on the market too. Most people are magnesium deficient and the benefits go way beyond your skin!
Vitamin C is essential for collagen production and aids in wound healing. So when breakouts wreak havoc on your complexion, Vitamin C is integral to the healing and repair process.
Getting plenty of C also makes for stronger capillaries, which means you’ll be less likely to end up with redness/broken blood vessels as a result of acne.
And you probably already know that Vitamin C is a must for a strong immune system.
You can get your daily dose by eating any type of citrus fruit or look for a C supplement with “bioflavonoids,” which help boost the effects of Vitamin C.
Loaded with antioxidants, Elderberry fosters a more resilient immune system and fends off free radicals that can cause premature aging of the skin.
For loads of Vitamin A, B, and C, (and the gorgeous skin that comes with it), I suggest taking an elderberry supplement or drinking elderberry tea.
Acne is a complex process that’s usually related to what’s happening on the inside as much as on the outside. To make matters more complicated, the causes can be different for everyone. Genetics, stress, hormones, and sometimes diet all play a role–and finding what works is often a process of trial and error.
So, while getting the proper nutrients is vital to healthy skin, taking supplements isn't likely to mean you’ll never break out again. It will, however, bolster the health of your skin, making it less reactive and quicker to heal.
If breakouts have got you down, a consistent routine of cleansing and gentle topical treatments is the most effective place to start. It’s also a good idea to consult with a skincare professional to ensure you’re choosing the best products for your skin type.
From there, you can think of supplementation as playing a supporting role in clearing your skin. Tackling blemishes from a few different angles is likely to have the greatest effect.
Finally, I usually recommend adding one supplement at a time so you can gauge the results. (If you just start taking a few at once, you won’t know which is or isn’t working.)