Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Acne is recognised as an inflammatory condition and evidence is mounting that
essential fatty acid deficiency, or imbalance, may play a key role in its development.
Excess consumption of omega 6 fatty acids is common in typical western diets and is a
factor known to promote inflammation. Adequate omega 3 fatty acids are important in
promoting balance and inhibiting the inflammatory response associated with omega 6
excess. Essential fatty acids in the correct balance (approximately 1:1) also promote
skin cell health in general terms and are therefore important in improving the skin’s
integrity and resistance to general skin problems, including acne.
Zinc is vital for general skin health, but is especially crucial in acne. High levels of
testosterone are associated with the development of acne with a strong correlation
existing between testosterone levels and risk of acne development, even in women.
Specifically it appears that enzymatic action by the skin converts testosterone to a more
active form known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and it is this hormone that promotes
abnormal growth of the hair follicles and stimulates the sebaceous glands. Zinc is
known to inhibit the enzyme, 5-alpha reductase, which causes testosterone to convert
to DHT. Zinc deficiency is especially common amongst teenagers, the group most
likely to be affected by acne.
Vitamin E is crucial to skin health and integrity and may be helpful in acne. Vitamin E
status is directly related to vitamin A status, so a deficiency of vitamin E ensures low
vitamin A levels, regardless of dietary intake. Both nutrients are important in skin
health and help to control factors such as sebum production in acne. Vitamin E
supplementation may therefore be the best way of boosting vitamin A levels and
ensuring optimal skin health.
Selenium is an important mineral in the production of glutathione peroxidase, an
antioxidant enzyme that is known to be deficient in many acne sufferers. Low
glutathione peroxidase status is associated with increased inflammation, making
selenium an important consideration in acne.
One of the most important dietary factors in acne is to minimise refined carbohydrates.
It appears that those with acne may have blood sugar control issues, specifically, their
skin cells seem resistant to insulin. Chromium may help to improve blood sugar control
and cellular sensitivity to insulin, and may therefore be relevant in acne.
Nutrient/Herb Typical intake range
Omega 3 fatty acids1 2400 – 4800mg fish oil per day
Zinc (as picolinate)2 15 - 30mg per day
Vitamin E3 400 – 600IU per day
Selenium4 100 – 200ug per day
Chromium5 100 – 200ug three times per day
Complex carbohydrates and low
glycaemic load foods
Nuts and seeds
Avoid use of medications that cause acne (e.g. corticosteroids, oral contraceptives)
Avoid greasy creams and cosmetics
Wash face regularly to remove excess sebum and oil from skin
Minimise impact of stress (use stress management techniques)
1. Do not take in conjunction with anticoagulant medication
2. May cause nausea on an empty stomach. High doses (>100mg per day) may suppress the immune
system. Ensure sufficient copper and iron intake with zinc supplementation.
3. Avoid concurrent use of high dose vitamin E supplements with Warfarin and other anticoagulant
medication. May reduce insulin requirement in insulin-dependent diabetes and should therefore
be used under supervision by diabetics.
4. Yeast-bound selenium should not be used concurrently with MAO anti-depressant medication.
Yeast-free supplements can be used as an alternative.
5. May reduce insulin requirement in insulin-dependent diabetes and should therefore be used under
supervision by diabetics.