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

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.

Acne Summary

Nutrient/Herb Typical intake range

Omega 3 fatty acids (1)

Zinc {as picolinate) (2)

Vitamin E (3)

Selenium (4)

Chromium (5)

2400 – 4800mg fish oil per day

15 – 30mg per day

400 – 600IU per day

1 00 – 200ug per day

1 00 – 200ug three times per day


Refined carbohydrates

Processed foods

Trans fats

Dairy foods

Fried foods


Complex carbohydrates and low

glycaemic load foods

Oily fish

Nuts and seeds



Lifestyle Factors

• 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.