Turmeric for Acne: Does Eating Turmeric Really Help Acne?

Can turmeric help acne? If so, what's the best form to use?

Can turmeric help acne? If so, what’s the best form to use?

Good grief.

Turmeric teas. Turmeric sauces. Turmeric pills. Turmeric pastes. Turmeric masks??

Seems like the Web is chock-a-block with turmeric remedies for just about everything. If you can think of an ailment, the Web says (in its best Greek dad voice): “Put some turmeric on it!”

What gives?

Well, people have been eating turmeric as a spice, especially in India, and using it in Ayurvedic medicine, for thousands of years.

Give people a few millennia and they’ll figure out a thing or two.

And one of the really interesting historical uses for turmeric?

Skin disorders.


That puts turmeric squarely on Clear Skin Forever’s radar, since we’re all about curing acne naturally, from the inside-out. We want to know more about this spice! Is it everything it’s cracked up to be?

As always, let’s see what the research has to say.

And there’s a ton of it.

Like a lot of herbs and spices in traditional medicine, turmeric is gaining growing recognition by researchers in the West. It’s so clinically successful, even compared to pharmaceuticals, it can no longer be dismissed as quack or “alternative” medicine.

This stuff really seems to work.

First off, let’s take a look at what turmeric is, then we’ll delve into some of the latest studies that show how it can help your acne.

Master your acne, in 4 weeks or less

Join 10,000+ readers. Detox your diet and lifestyle and get rid of acne for good, with Clear Skin Forever.

Tell Me More!

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a herbaceous root related to ginger, native to southwest India. It can be eaten fresh, or dried and ground to a yellow spice used in curries, condiments, and even dyes. If you’ve ever eaten a yellow curry, chances are you’ve eaten turmeric.

The primary ingredient in turmeric that gives it that distinctive yellow color—and, as we shall see, the healing properties—is curcumin (pronounced ker-KYOO-min).

In fact, since most of the studies we’ll be looking at isolate and study curcumin, that’ll be our focus for now. We’ll have some stuff to say about turmeric as a food source of curcumin afterwards.

The Magic of Curcumin

Okay, we’re letting our nerdiness show here, but… remember healing potions in Zelda? Or the kingsfoil plant in Lord of the Rings?

A panacea is supposed to be a thing of magic or fantasy, but curcumin comes pretty darn close in real life. By one count of the existing literature[1] , curcumin may have over six hundred therapeutic applications.

And that’s just the existing research. There’s probably a lot more coming!

Curcumin has antiseptic, anti-cancer, anti-viral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and even pain-relieving properties. It’s been shown to improve and even reverse brain damage from Alzheimer’s, stroke, and Parkinson’s. It protects against heavy metal toxicity.

It’s one of those substances that seems to do a little bit of everything[2] —a fairy-tale cure-all, taking pain and disease (and acne?) away like a magic “health” potion.

Better Than Pharma!

Just how powerful is curcumin?

Very. Extremely.

A few studies[3] have shown curcumin to be more effective than pharmaceuticals for treating certain ailments. For instance, a common side effect of cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy is radiodermatitis—essentially radiation burns on the skin. One study showed the topical application of a curcumin-based cream was more effective in preventing radiodermatitis than the pharmaceutical counterpart.[4]

So, if you’re one of those people who think natural remedies are “nice” but not as effective as pharmaceuticals, the research on curcumin says: Think again, bub.

Also, a substance that makes the skin stronger and more resistant to inflammation and damage? Sounds promising for us acne-sufferers…

…and it is! Read on.

Curcumin is Anti-inflammatory

We’ve talked about it before: reducing inflammation is a big deal for folks with acne. Acne would be bad enough by itself, but as Devin and Sonia put it in their comprehensive guide to clearing acne: “inflammation pours on gasoline and lights a match.”


Of course, the CSF approach emphasizes reducing your exposure to inflammatory foods in the first place, including dairy, sugar, vegetable oils, and processed foods.

But avoidance only goes so far. There’s no such thing as a damage-free life. Which is okay—the body is designed to handle a certain amount of physical stress. That’s why we have an inflammatory response to begin with – to repair damage. But we’re also keen on helping the body whenever we can by consuming naturally anti-inflammatory foods.

Does curcumin fit the bill?

A study[5] from earlier this year shows orally-administered curcumin leads to a dramatic reversal of arthritis symptoms in rats. Interestingly, the authors of the study believe curcumin works by inhibiting inflammation signals within the gut, suggesting that eating the stuff is the way to go.

Another study[6] showed curcumin to be a far more potent anti-inflammatory than either aspirin or ibuprofen. (Not sure about you, but we found this shocking!) In fact, out of twelve compounds they measured, curcumin (along with resveratrol) was found to be near the most potent, and aspirin and ibuprofen the least (without any of the nasty cardiovascular side effects of either).

(Think about that next time you’re reaching for the Excedrin bottle: you’re opting for one of the least effective anti-inflammatories with the worst side effects. Hmmm…)

Honestly, we could list hundreds of similar studies.[7] [8] Name a part of the body, from the brain[9] , the cardiovascular system[10] , the digestive system[11] , the prostate[12] , even the teeth and gums[13] … if it shows markers for inflammation and oxidative stress, there’s a study showing how curcumin lowers or completely wipes them out.

Promising for sufferers of an inflammatory skin condition, for sure.

Speaking of oxidative stress…

Curcumin Fights Free Radicals Like a Champ

Studies[14] show that acne patients have higher levels of systemic oxidative stress. Researchers now believe it’s not the acne that’s driving the oxidative stress—it’s the reverse.

Oxidative stress occurs when the body is overwhelmed with unstable molecules called free radicals. Again, a certain amount of free radicals are unavoidable, and are even a normal waste product of your body’s metabolic processes. The body is equipped to handle them. But when the body is continually overwhelmed by free radicals, hello oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. And that oxidative stress and inflammation can show up on your skin in the form of acne. If this condition goes on long enough, it leads to cell and tissue damage, altered DNA, tumor growth and proliferation, and hardened arteries.

Not good!

At that point, damaged skin may seem like the least of your concerns, but (and we can’t stress this enough) pay attention to what your skin is telling you. Acne is a valuable indicator of the internal damage being wrought by free radicals.

Damaged skin is like your car’s check engine light coming on: it means there’s trouble under the hood, where you can’t see it.

Again, if you’re following the CSF approach, you’re avoiding the things that overexpose you to free radicals: processed food, vegetable oils, pharmaceuticals, stress, environmental toxins, smoke, etc.

You’re already way better off than most of the population when it comes to oxidative stress.

But why not help the body even further by consuming something naturally antioxidant?

Again, curcumin fits the bill nicely.

Not only does curcumin neutralize free radicals due to its own chemical structure[15] , it also boosts the body’s natural glutathione levels[16] —one of your body’s most powerful antioxidants.

It’s like curcumin’s your big brother, coming to your defense, fighting off the bullies, but also teaching you how to fend for yourself, too. Thanks, bro!

Curcumin Kills Acne Bacteria, Too!

Not to be outdone in anything, curcumin also boasts powerful antimicrobial properties.

(Seriously, curcumin… now you’re just showing off.)

For instance, in one study[17] researchers were able to reduce P. acnes bacteria growth in vitro by anywhere from 50% to 96%, depending on the concentration of curcumin used. (P. acnes bacteria lives on the skin and makes acne more inflamed.)


However, before you run out and start rubbing turmeric paste all over your face, let’s think about a few things first.

Did you know P. acnes bacteria are present even on healthy, acne-free human skin? Just like inflammation and free radicals, they really only become a problem when they overwhelm your skin, like when the underlying conditions of acne (excess sebum and dead skin cells clogging your follicles) make it favorable for the bacteria to flourish and reproduce. When P. acnes flourish they start to produce even more follicle-plugging waste, damaging the protective fat layer of the follicle itself, which leads to even further inflammation… and so on.

Modern dermatology, ever-focused on effects rather than causes, tries to get rid of the problem by making the bacteria go away. This is why dermatologists give you things like benzoyl peroxide, triclosan, and azelaic acid, which yes, might kill off the surface bacteria for a time (as well as damage your skin even further, kill off beneficial bacteria, and compromise your health with side effects).

But why, Doc, did the bacteria flourish in the first place, hmm? What about the underlying causes?

“Never mind what’s under the hood,” your dermatologist says. “We’ll just get that light turned off. This hand grenade should do the trick…”

Hmm. Yeah, no thanks.

Now, turmeric/curcumin might seem like a safer, natural alternative, and we’d agree.

But switching to a natural bacteria-killer still isn’t attacking the root of the problem.

Unless you address the inner health issues that gave rise to the microbial imbalance, killing off the microbes won’t help you. The same symptoms (excess sebum, redness, swelling, inflammation) will just reappear in a few weeks, or even days, and you’ll be right back where you started.

Sound like a familiar cycle?

Having said that, curcumin does address an inner microbial issue: the imbalance of pathogenic versus beneficial bacteria in the gut.[18] [19] In other words, it’s good at killing bad bacteria in your gut, while preserving the good bacteria. And we know gut health is tightly linked to skin health – read more on that and how you can boost your gut health to get clear skin here.

So instead of slathering turmeric paste all over your face, use curcumin internally.

It makes sense, doesn’t it?

Fix problems on the inside before they ever show up on your skin. (Feeling smarter than your dermatologist, yet? It’s okay, go ahead. We do it all the time. :))

Is There Anything Not To Like?

Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial.

Curcumin seems to have all the elements for a combination knockout of acne.

Promising, for sure.

But in the spirit of full scientific honesty, let’s also consider the…

Downsides of Curcumin

1. Curcumin is not very bioavailable.

It takes a ton of curcumin to have any noticeable clinical effect.

A lot of the studies we’ve looked at so far are either in vitro (meaning, using test tubes and petri dishes, not human subjects) or, where humans were used, they took massive clinical doses of isolated curcumin supplements, sometimes as much as 4000 mg at a time.

Just eating turmeric is not going to give you anywhere near these doses. Turmeric is about 2 percent curcumin by weight, so a tablespoon (7 grams) of turmeric contains a wee 136 mg of curcumin.[20] .

Those mega doses are needed to get big results because curcumin is not water soluble. On its own, it doesn’t dissolve in your system very easily. Generally speaking, your body breaks it down and poops it out before most of it can be properly absorbed.

However, there are a few ways to work around this little hitch:

Hack #1: You can slow things down by consuming curcumin with black pepper, which contains piperine. Piperine promotes intestinal absorption for many nutrients, and has been shown to enhance the bioavailability of curcumin by a whopping 2,000%.[21]

For some people, black pepper can irritate the digestive tract – so if that’s you, combine your curcumin with ginger instead. (Gingerols, found in ginger, are considered “bioenhancers” just like piperine.)[22]

Hack #2: Simmer your turmeric. One study[23] showed that the solubility of curcumin can be increased twelve-fold by boiling it in water for ten minutes.

Hack #3: Finally, curcumin is fat-soluble. That means it’s far better absorbed by the body when mixed with healthy fats. You can try dissolving turmeric powder in coconut milk, for example, or in a tablespoon of olive oil, or sprinkling it on an avocado, to boost its absorption.

2. Curcumin supplements… hmm. Maybe, maybe not.

You may be thinking: OK, if curcumin is that hard to absorb just by eating turmeric, then wouldn’t it be easier just to take curcumin supplements?

Well, here we have to be a bit cautious.

When we chemically isolate things and consume them in supplemental form, sometimes bad things follow. Vitamin E, for example, is needed by the body. But when we chemically isolate alpha-tocopherol from vitamin E, and consume it in supplemental form, we get an insane overdose that leads to all kinds of problems: e.g., abdominal cramping, nausea, fatigue, gastric distress, and increased bleeding and hemorrhaging, to name a few.

Some reviews[23] suggest that curcumin seems to be safe even in large, clinical doses. But as a paper entitled “The Dark Side of Curcumin”[24] points out, the fact that no toxicity has been found in short-term studies is not proof that long-term supplementation is good idea. Nor is the fact that many people eat curcumin (as turmeric) as a regular part of their diets a proof of safety of long-term curcumin supplementation. Other dietary staple foods have been found toxic when consumed as isolates in massive supplemental quantities. What is needed is a long-term toxicity study of supplementary curcumin.

This is one of those cases where we should exercise a little healthy skepticism. The research on long-term curcumin supplementation is scant. We just don’t know if it’s safe to consume as an extract yet, and have some reason to believe otherwise.

There’s evidence, for example, that massive quantities of curcumin may lead to gastric irritation, stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea, and (gulp)… allergic skin reaction.[24]

Who wants a rash on top of their acne? Not us, thanks…

If you think about it, the fact that the body is so quick to process curcumin could be a clue: a little is good, too much, bad. Don’t make the all-too-common mistake of thinking that if something is deemed “good for you” in the science and nutrition media then you should start scarfing it down in massive quantities.

As they say, the dose makes the poison.

As a general policy, we think it’s safest to take things in food form, the way nature intended. You can scarf fistfuls of supplements, but you can only eat so much food. The body naturally puts on the brakes when it’s had enough. With food you’re getting things in the right proportions your body can handle, with all of the synergistic nutrients alongside.

Curcumin is fantastic stuff, and has a lot of potential for helping acne, but get it the form it occurs in nature: as turmeric. See below for some recipes and suggestions. Try adding some heat (pepper or ginger) and some oils or fats to increase the bioavailability. Your body can handle this, and it’s consistent with traditional Indian cooking.

If you truly are keen on trying supplemental curcumin, try to find a whole food turmeric supplement (instead of a chemical isolate of curcumin). Here’s one by Organic India: Organic India Turmeric, 90-Count*. We haven’t tried it, so exercise caution. If you experience any stomach upset, don’t force it. Take the clue your body is giving you and back off the curcumin!

*Note: This is an affiliate link, which means we receive compensation if you purchase a product through this link. Visit our disclaimer page for more information.

Where To Find Turmeric, and How To Use It!

If you’re a cloistered Westerner (like me) who grew up eating bland, unspiced food, who hadn’t the faintest idea what a “turmeric” was before reading this article (nor where to find it even if you did)… you’re in the right place.

Should you buy fresh turmeric or powdered? Should you try to make curry (potentially daunting to a someone unversed in Asian cooking), or is there some other way to take it?

Fresh turmeric can be hard to find in some grocery stores. It’s usually found right next to the other “rooty” things like ginger. If you have a Whole Foods in your town they usually have some. You may have to try a natural foods store, or farmer’s market.

If You Have A Juicer…

One great thing we like to do with fresh turmeric is juice it with some ginger and lemon. The ginger gives it some hotness and the lemon adds a flavor punch. You won’t need much of this concoction: pour a shot in a juice glass, pound it back, and wait for the kick. It’s a nasal-cavity-burning, see-your-deity-for-a-brief-second doozy. Experiment with the proportions. We like more ginger in ours, but you might want to tone down the hotness and have more of the smoothness of turmeric. However you take it, it’s a great alternative to coffee for a quick pick me up! (And well worth the tears.)

If You Have a Blender…

Blend some fresh turmeric, ginger, and pepper into your bone broth. (You are regularly drinking bone broth, aren’t you? You should be—the health benefits abound.) This takes an already-nourishing, healthy drink and makes it doubly so. (And we defy you to find anything more delicious and satisfying on a cold winter day!)

Other Options for Using Turmeric

You can pretty much add fresh turmeric to any dish where you would normally use ginger (e.g., a stir fry), either instead of, or in addition to. Just peel it, then mince or grate the turmeric exactly as you would ginger, cook it up, and enjoy the subtle variation on flavor.

Of course, turmeric is much easier to find dried, and that’s fine too. There’s just as much healing power. You can add turmeric powder to all kinds of dishes. We make a pretty regular breakfast dish consisting of ground pork, shallots, mushrooms, avocado, and whatever spices we’re in the mood for. Turmeric makes a great addition, and maybe even steals the show a little bit.

Warning: turmeric will modify the color of your dish (and likely your cooking surface and clothing, too.) The yellow stain is a powerful one. But we’re happy to eat yellow food and walk around with weird, yellow smudges. It’s a badge of healthiness, alright? 😉

Try these easy and delicious recipes featuring turmeric: turmeric chicken drumsticks, Burmese chicken stew, and turmeric-cinnamon roasted cauliflower. (In the two recipes that use ghee, sub coconut oil or red palm oil to avoid the acne-provoking effects of dairy.)

If those recipes don’t whet your appetite for turmeric, nothing will.

And yes, turmeric really shines in a chicken curry.

Try turmeric for a few weeks, see if it makes a difference with your skin. And tell us what you think about all the research behind this seemingly-miraculous spice in the comments below. (We were pretty surprised by a few of the findings!)

And remember, trying one food ingredient in isolation is not going to miraculously solve your skin problems. This is just another small weapon in what should be a massive and growing arsenal in your fight against acne.

For details on the rest of that arsenal (shameless plug warning), be sure to check out Clear Skin Forever, the complete guide to curing acne with simple and powerful diet and lifestyle changes!

Key Takeaways:

  • Turmeric (and its powerful compound, curcumin) is far from “alternative” medicine these days: there are now hundreds of scientific papers and clinical studies on this fascinating spice.
  • The proof is in: curcumin has been shown to have far more potent therapeutic and healing properties than dozens of pharmaceuticals on the market (with none of the side effects). Tell your skeptical, pharma-touting friends to stick that in their pill box!
  • Curcumin has demonstrable and powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. All extremely promising for acne sufferers.
  • The research suggests eating curcumin is the way to go. Topical remedies don’t address the problems giving rise to acne in the first place. Find out what’s going wrong “under the hood” and fix the lifestyle problems that led you there.
  • Use supplemental curcumin with caution: not enough research exists on the long-term toxicity, and we know other chemical isolates lead to overdose symptoms. Better to take your curcumin as turmeric. It’s tastier to do so, anyway!
  • Experiment with juicing or cooking with turmeric, try some of the recipes we linked, and tell us if you notice any difference in your skin. This doesn’t mean forget everything else you should be doing, too: avoiding acne trigger foods, eating nutrient-dense foods that boost your skin health, avoiding toxicity, reducing stress, and getting good sleep. It’s just one more piece of the puzzle in your increasingly healthy lifestyle!
Sources (click to expand)

  1. Available at: [http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/600-reasons-turmeric-may-be-worlds-most-important-herb](http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/600-reasons-turmeric-may-be-worlds-most-important-herb). Accessed January 25, 2016. ^
  2. Nagpal M, Sood S. Role of curcumin in systemic and oral health: An overview. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2013;4(1):3-7. ^
  3. Available at: [http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/science-confirms-turmeric-effective-14-drugs](http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/science-confirms-turmeric-effective-14-drugs). Accessed January 25, 2016. ^
  4. Palatty PL, Azmidah A, Rao S, et al. Topical application of a sandal wood oil and turmeric based cream prevents radiodermatitis in head and neck cancer patients undergoing external beam radiotherapy: a pilot study. Br J Radiol. 2014;87(1038):20130490. ([link](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24694358)) ^
  5. Yang Y, Wu X, Wei Z, et al. Oral curcumin has anti-arthritic efficacy through somatostatin generation via cAMP/PKA and Ca(2+)/CaMKII signaling pathways in the small intestine. Pharmacol Res. 2015;95-96:71-81. ([link](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25836921)) ^
  6. Takada Y, Bhardwaj A, Potdar P, Aggarwal BB. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents differ in their ability to suppress NF-kappaB activation, inhibition of expression of cyclooxygenase-2 and cyclin D1, and abrogation of tumor cell proliferation. Oncogene. 2004;23(57):9247-58. ([link](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15489888)) ^
  7. Aggarwal BB, Sung B. Pharmacological basis for the role of curcumin in chronic diseases: an age-old spice with modern targets. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2009;30(2):85-94. ([link](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19110321)) ^
  8. Chainani-wu N. Safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin: a component of tumeric (Curcuma longa). J Altern Complement Med. 2003;9(1):161-8. ([link](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12676044)) ^
  9. Cox KH, Pipingas A, Scholey AB. Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population. J Psychopharmacol (Oxford). 2015;29(5):642-51. ^
  10. Chen R, Peng X, Du W, et al. Curcumin attenuates cardiomyocyte hypertrophy induced by high glucose and insulin via the PPARγ/Akt/NO signaling pathway. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2015;108(2):235-42. ([link](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25765666)) ^
  11. Prakash UN, Srinivasan K. Fat digestion and absorption in spice-pretreated rats. J Sci Food Agric. 2012;92(3):503-10. ([link](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21918995)) ^
  12. Nonn L, Duong D, Peehl DM. Chemopreventive anti-inflammatory activities of curcumin and other phytochemicals mediated by MAP kinase phosphatase-5 in prostate cells. Carcinogenesis. 2007;28(6):1188-96. ([link](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17151092)) ^
  13. Mali AM, Behal R, Gilda SS. Comparative evaluation of 0.1% turmeric mouthwash with 0.2% chlorhexidine gluconate in prevention of plaque and gingivitis: A clinical and microbiological study. J Indian Soc Periodontol. 2012;16(3):386-91. ^
  14. Available at: [http://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961612P0742X/1](http://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961612P0742X/1). Accessed January 25, 2016. ^
  15. Barclay LR, Vinqvist MR, Mukai K, et al. On the antioxidant mechanism of curcumin: classical methods are needed to determine antioxidant mechanism and activity. Org Lett. 2000;2(18):2841-3. ^
  16. Biswas SK, Mcclure D, Jimenez LA, Megson IL, Rahman I. Curcumin induces glutathione biosynthesis and inhibits NF-kappaB activation and interleukin-8 release in alveolar epithelial cells: mechanism of free radical scavenging activity. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2005;7(1-2):32-41. ([link](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15650394)) ^
  17. Liu CH, Huang HY. In vitro anti-propionibacterium activity by curcumin containing vesicle system. Chem Pharm Bull. 2013;61(4):419-25. ([link](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23546001)) ^
  18. Bereswill S, Muñoz M, Fischer A, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of resveratrol, curcumin and simvastatin in acute small intestinal inflammation. PLoS ONE. 2010;5(12):e15099. ^
  19. Toyoda T, Shi L, Takasu S, et al. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Capsaicin and Piperine on Helicobacter pylori-Induced Chronic Gastritis in Mongolian Gerbils. Helicobacter. 2015; ([link](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26140520)) ^
  20. Available at: [http://www.livestrong.com/article/543411-how-much-curcumin-is-there-in-powdered-turmeric/](http://www.livestrong.com/article/543411-how-much-curcumin-is-there-in-powdered-turmeric/). Accessed January 25, 2016. ^
  21. Shoba G, Joy D, Joseph T, Majeed M, Rajendran R, Srinivas PS. Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med. 1998;64(4):353-6. ([link](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9619120)) ^
  22. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Bioenhancer. Available at: [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioenhancer](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioenhancer). Accessed January 25, 2016. ^
  23. Kurien BT, Scofield RH. Heat-solubilized curcumin should be considered in clinical trials for increasing bioavailability. Clin Cancer Res. 2009;15(2):747. ^
  24. Available at: [http://personal.us.es/mlopezlazaro/2010. Int J Cancer. The dark side of curcumin](http://personal.us.es/mlopezlazaro/2010. Int J Cancer. The dark side of curcumin). Accessed January 25, 2016. ^


  1. Idara says

    Awesome post! I love adding coconut oil to my steamed vegetables and my smoothies. I tried it on my face and found out the hard way that it breaks me out. But I haven’t had that issue with hemp and grapeseed oil.

  2. Idara Hampton says

    Thank you for explaining epigenetics so clearly. It’s very easy to follow. Congrats on clearing your skin. Your story is inspiring.

  3. Idara says

    This is such a well researched and well written article. B5 is great for the skin. I also love B6 and B12 for boosting energy, promoting a healthy luteal phase, and stopping PMS.

  4. Idara says

    Great post! Understanding hormonal imbalances isn’t always easy, so thank you for writing an informative and easy to follow article with helpful tips.

  5. wendy says

    There is no official link between iron and acne in science research but antidotally I believe there is. My daughter used prescription acne creams for a couple of years with only modest improvements to her skin. She recently was prescribed an iron supplement, her iron levels were on the low side of normal, because of her low energy state and, voila, Not only does she feel more energetic, her face is very noticeably improved and much smoother in, just days. She is a big meat eater. Who knew iron can be hard to absorb?

  6. Srey says

    I love this post! I recommend this book “inheritance” by Sharon D Moalem. It talks a lot about genetics, and could be helpful to understand more about epi genetics, and our human genome.

  7. Mike says

    Why do you say that coffee negatively affects muscle since there is like a bunch of evidence that shows the caffeine from the coffee actually helps build muscle and burn fat. Of course this is when you take black coffee without any sweeteners. I have read so many articles that talk about consuming coffee in a fasted state leading to positive muscle gains you can find them easily too

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Mike! Interesting point here. I found this study:


      …Which says that you habituate to the caffeine in a few days’ time, meaning your morning coffee no longer stimulates over-production of cortisol once you adapt to drinking coffee daily. However, the study still found that a 1:00 PM cup of coffee boosted cortisol levels higher than normal (though the study only ran for 5 days of caffeine habituation). My personal experience is that coffee just makes me more stressed out in response to stressful events, which includes cortisol release. But I haven’t read the articles you have about fasted-state coffee drinking leading to muscle gains – I wonder if this is just due to metabolic rate increase from the caffeine? In any case, if coffee floats your boat and treats you well, go for it!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Julie! I’m not totally sure on this. That still sounds like a good range. I was going based on a Dr. Mercola article, which I can no longer find (the link is broken). I am far from an expert on what ideal ferritin levels should be!

    • Rhonda says

      I will interject with a personal anecdote about Ferritin levels. I have a genetic disorder called Hemachromatosis. It causes iron from the food I eat to get into my organs and my body can only release it through phlebotomy (donating blood). My Dr noticed a high ferritin level and high liver enzymes on a blood panel and on a hunch she ordered a DNA test for this. If you are suspicious that your ferritin levels are out of whack, ask for this test. This condition is very common especially if you are of Irish or Scottish descent. It’s a lifelong condition but the remedy is easy because you just have to have your levels checked regularly and donate a pint of blood to balance your levels. I am so grateful my doc was smart enough to call for this test. Having this disorder and not taking care of it can lead to liver damage and heart attack. It’s hereditary and if you do have it, all of your nearest relatives should test for it too. Hoping it’s not the case for you, and wishing you all the best!

      • Devin Mooers says

        Kudos to your doc for finding this!! I’m so glad you know now. I had a genetic test done a few years ago, and ruled out hemachromatosis (at least current knowledge of it). So I guess it was just from my diet. And I do have a fair amount of Irish + Scottish in me. Go figure! Great thing to check for, though, as you just found out!

  8. Katy says

    I’m 25 and I have very irregular periods (which have never been regular) and acne since puberty. I got literally all my hormones checked and everything came out normal. Does anyone have an explanation for this?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Katy! I don’t put much stock in hormonal tests, blood tests, saliva tests, or related “snapshot” health tests. I don’t think they’re a very accurate reflection of long-term reality, and don’t often give very useful information for clearing acne (in my experience). The fact that you have irregular periods right away shows that something’s up with your hormone levels, and/or some basic nutrient levels like vitamin A, utilizable iron (don’t go taking iron pills though!), and/or maybe some toxin overload issues. There are lots of things that feed into having a normal cycle, and a hormone test isn’t going to tell you what needs to be fixed.

      Are you drinking fluoridated water, do you know?

      Also, do you want to give an overview of what your current diet is – the more detail the better! – and any pills/supplements you’re taking? I can see if anything jumps out!

  9. Johnny Cox says

    Hi. Im going to say that Im afraid to eat coconut because of acne. Chocolate of any kind gives me acne too. Even fish oil. All these oils do it to me. I used to suspect leaky gut causing me breakouts. All these oils ruin my skin. Whey concentrate and isolate too! Someone said “keep eating the Extra Virgin Coconut oil, It’s just die-off!! It will stop soon” But it does not stop. I get brutal acne from it. Tempted to try again after reading this, but it scares me. My acne is so painful..

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Johnny! Really sorry to hear about your experience with so many oils/fats giving you acne. Huge bummer! Frustrating not to know whether it’s from die-off or detox, or just an adverse reaction. (I will say that whey isolate/concentrate both give me acne as well!)

      Couple questions… are you using organic coconut oil, or non-organic?

      Also, do you want to post a mini diet overview right here? I can see if any major red flags come up.

      Finally, are you drinking fluoridated tap water? (And/or using fluoride toothpaste?) Wondering if these fats/oils might be causing a detoxification of fluoride, causing transient acne.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Ashley! I think it’s okay in really small amounts as a garnish or flavoring, but it’s very high in PUFA so I wouldn’t make it a main cooking or salad oil. Toasted sesame seed oil is even a bit more risky because of the toasting process damaging more of the PUFA (and the protective vitamin E found in raw sesame oil).

      What are you wanting to use sesame oil for? Maybe I can suggest a skin-friendly alternative!

  10. Kris says

    Hi Devin,
    Great research, thank you for linking the sources. I’ve suffered with back acne for years. I eat a mostly plant based diet, so I’d call myself a flexitarian (95% plants, 5% grass fed-organic animal). Before that I did mostly Paleo, therefore lots of fresh plants, but still a lot of organic meat/poultry.
    From recent testing, I have low iron stores (ferritin), normal iron (since I suppliment), and low iodine (I now supplement—-boyfriend has shellfish allergy…). I take vitamine A and Magnesium as well.
    I’m game to try anything thats humane and organic even if its not a plant based suppliment, but I would be interested in the Frankin-rice you mentioned since I try to avoid dairy due to an intolerance (causes me inflammation and IgG testing shows markers). If the colostrum is derived from cows or colostrum is from humans, wouldn’t in theory the human one be closer to what we need? Albeit odd to consider!!
    I’ve also looked for a non-bovine ferritin supplement, but it seems I may need to take the bovine one as the plant ones are just more iron (leading to excess). I just want to be humane in my choices, with no added hormones from the cows, etc. With all that said—I’m open to anything—as my skin and other health issues are the number one priority! Any product tips would be greatly appreciated. I use Pure Encapsulations too. 😊 Thank you!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Kris! Sorry for the epic delay on this, I haven’t checked blog comments in a long time. My fault!

      How low is your ferritin? Did you get liver enzymes checked? It’s quite possible to have low ferritin, but also have an overload of unusable iron stored up in your liver. Taking additional iron supplements on top of that, if that’s the case, isn’t a very good idea. Liver enzymes (and/or GGT) can help point to iron overload in the liver. (See my iron article for more info on tests.)

      What kind of iron are you supplementing with?

      Doubt you’ll find human-sourced colostrum, though it’s an interesting idea! 🙂

      Are you interested in lactoferrin for reducing your iron levels, or for boosting your ferritin? There are definitely other, more effective ways of modulating ferritin, I think (see the iron article linked above for way more info on all the iron stuff, including why I think many people may have an iron overload problem even if ferritin levels don’t show it). I’d target the iron-utilization-boosting nutrients listed in the iron article, personally.

      Also, how much iodine are you taking? What form?

      Finally, have you thought about A2 milk as a skin-safe dairy option, that would give you some lactoferrin in a whole food form?

  11. Donna says

    I actually test low for iron. My Tibc, Total Iron, Iron Saturation, and Ferritin are all low.
    It was recommended for me to take Lactoferrin with an iron supplement to properly increase my iron.
    I’m confused about your article because it makes me second guess my situation. You don’t believe ANYONE is actually low in iron?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Donna! How low are we talking on these numbers?

      I definitely think there are a small number of people who are actually low in iron, but I think it’s probably a lot fewer people than most doctors think. Often, if you have iron dysregulation, excess iron gets stored up in your liver, which doesn’t show up one these blood tests. If you’re lacking in one of the co-factors necessary to use iron properly (vitamin A, molybdenum, vitamin C, copper, ceruloplasmin, vitamin B12, etc.), you can get excess iron deposits in the liver combined with low circulating iron. When you add a plain iron supplement on top of that, without addressing the deficient co-factors, you can worsen the problem. Did you happen to get your liver enzymes and/or GGT tested? That can sometimes indicate excess iron storage in the liver. But keep in mind I have zero clinical experience in all this and just going based on the all the research I’ve read (and my own iron overload problem).

  12. jay,s says

    hi, suffering from acne for 20 years and a rediculolus amount of money spent on “solutions”i tried a newer supplement that’s called acne block that contains lactoferrin,found it on amazon.. it actually was/is one of the only supplements I have tried that actually helped..

    • Devin Mooers says

      Great to hear you got good results from lactoferrin! The science is sound behind why it works, helping to reduce iron overload. Good stuff.

  13. Sara says

    Would eating liver or taking a dessicated liver supplement cause iron overload? I would like to get more vitamin A, but am concerned about the extra iron I would be getting.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Sara! Wise to be cautious about this. Do you have reason to suspect you have existing iron overload? Curious about that, I’ve suspected that in myself for a while now, and have been avoiding liver for that reason. I’m taking Pure Encapsulations vitamin A instead.

    • Sarah says

      Suggesting vegans/Vegetarians have a greater risk of iron deficiency is incorrect. There are at least as many meat-eaters as vege people deficient in Iron. Meat is not an efficient source of iron for human beings. Cutting out animal products goes along way in clearing up acne.

      • Devin Mooers says

        Hey Sarah! I actually agree with your first point now, but differ in the second. I think many people, vegeterians and meat-eaters, have an iron overload problem. This is pretty new to me, but the research seems sound. Turns out you can have anemia AND iron overload, due to iron getting deposited in your liver, but a lack of nutrients that are required to put iron into hemoglobin, like vitamin C, vitamin A, molybdenum, and copper. I also think the research strongly points to heme iron from meat being an excellent source of iron – much more absorbable than plant iron – but I now think eating too much meat leads to iron overload, because your body can’t shut off absorption from heme iron like it can from plant iron. If you’re curious to learn more, I just posted a huge article on iron and acne two days ago:

        Iron and Acne

        I think this is really an unusual perspective, and the opposite of what most people will tell you! Curious to hear your thoughts! 🙂 (I’m actually eating mostly vegetarian these days, due to trying to reverse my iron overload problem, and, yes, the environmental impact.)

  14. Taylor says

    So if I maintain a Paleo/Whole 30 diet that includes high quality meats and seafoods and I do not eat any of the iron-fortified foods or foods that inhibit lactoferrin – my body should be creating lactoferrin on it’s own in a healthy manner and I likely do not need to supplement it, correct?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Yep, exactly! Historical iron overload can be an issue, less so for menstruating women due to the continual iron dumping outlet. Bloodletting was effective back in the day for many diseases due to iron removal! Men don’t have such a built-in iron removal system (perhaps explaining why men tend to live shorter lives than women – iron buildup!). I’m not 100% sure how effective lactoferrin supplementation is for addressing built-up iron overload. Morley Robbins (gotmag.org) is the guy to read about on all the iron issues.

  15. Christina says

    I’m confused. I was just about to purchase some FCLO for my teen daughter to help her with her acne and now I stumbled across your reply where you state you no longer recommend FCLO! Why the change?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Christina! Sorry about the confusion here – I wish we could keep the same recommendations forever, but our knowledge (and the science, and reader experience, etc.) forces us to change our recommendations now and then, and it’s hard to change everywhere all at once! We changed this recommendation because FCLO is basically pure PUFA (polyunsaturated fat), which is more susceptible to lipid peroxidation than other fats, and this is a major contributor to acne, we now believe (lipid peroxidation). The vitamin A in FCLO tends to be very beneficial, but you can get that vitamin A from eating liver, taking desiccated liver capsules, or taking a vitamin A supplement such as this one by Pure Encapsulations. We now think it’s best to reduce the total body load of PUFA as much as possible, rather than trying to boost omega-3s, for instance. Does this make sense?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Sam! That’s actually a really good idea. We currently do not recommend taking FCLO or cod liver oil – we’ve updated our book but haven’t found the time yet to update our cod liver oil blog post – we’ll do that soon! We recommend taking desiccated liver capsules or eating grass-fed liver regularly, or taking a vitamin A supplement like this one:

      Pure Encapsulations Vitamin A 10,000 IU

      Taking vitamin E is a great PUFA defense strategy when you’re eating out at restaurants or for some reason consume a large amount of PUFA. We’re working on a “PUFA Shield” supplement that incorporates full-spectrum E along with some other lipid peroxidation blockers to make it easier for travelers, folks who eat out a lot, etc. to avoid the worst PUFA effects on acne.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Master your acne, in 4 weeks or less

Get instant access to our comprehensive guide to getting rid of acne permanently, through intelligent diet and lifestyle changes. Learn how to get clear skin ASAP, by getting a copy of our e-book.

Get our complete solution