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What Antioxidants You Should Use If You Have Acne-Prone Skin

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Most experts agree that antioxidants in skincare are as important as sunscreen. Without proper defense against free radicals, these wreak havoc on the skin, causing premature skin aging and discoloration. But do you also know antioxidants help acne too? And that people with acne often have low levels of antioxidants in the skin?

So yes, antioxidants are great for acne-prone skin since an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants disturbs the skin’s function and triggers inflammations, often leading to breakouts.[1] Besides protection, antioxidants carry many other perks that can benefit acne-pone skin, including antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and hydrating properties. Just that some are better at doing it than others.

Hence, we decided to round up the best antioxidants for acne that, in addition to defense against oxidative stress, possess many other properties that can prevent and speed up acne healing. 

How do antioxidants help treat acne?

Do antioxidants help acne? It’s a question most people who have tried endless treatments most likely have, and it’s about time you have an answer for it. Antioxidants are among the best actives for acne if chosen in harmony with breakout-prone skin’s needs. Since oxidative stress plays a major role in acne formation as it triggers inflammation, the answer is crystal clear: antioxidants help prevent and minimize breakouts.[2]

With low antioxidant defense, proteins break down, and the skin becomes more susceptible to bacteria formation while the chances of acne healing decrease. This happens because collagen and elastin (proteins depleted by free radicals) are needed for healing pimples and reducing scarring. At the same time, as free radicals break down proteins required for maintaining skin moisture, using antioxidants helps preserve moistness and hydration. When skin is dehydrated, the sebaceous glands go into overdrive, producing more sebum, so more chances of blemishes. 

For these and a few more reasons, antioxidants represent an ally in your battle against acne, and each benefits the skin in its way of preventing and tackling breakouts. 

The best antioxidants for acne

Antioxidants with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties like green tea are the best antioxidants for acne-prone skin. However, there are quite a few antioxidants that help acne, but this natural antioxidant for acne — green tea — is our favorite.

Green tea

As a gentle, nature-derived element, green tea suits even the most reactive skin types — unless you are sensitive to it. Green tea is chocked full of polyphenols, compounds that give it antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory benefits.[3] Due to green tea’s ability to calm skin and reduce redness, it’s the best antioxidant for acne-prone skin, which is also easily reactive. One more way green tea reduces acne is by regulating excess sebum, the primary cause of acne.[4]

Related: 13 Best Green Tea Skincare Products for Healthy Skin

Vitamin C

As one of the most potent antioxidants, vitamin C shields the skin against damage caused by free radicals. Additionally, vitamin C also has anti-inflammatory properties, making it excellent at decreasing inflamed pimples. Plus, due to its collagen-boosting effects, vitamin C speeds up acne healing and brightens post-acne marks thanks to its ability to interfere with melanin production.[5] Of all forms of vitamin C, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, the one with a salt molecule attached that penetrates skin easier, has been found to be effective in acne treatment due to its strong antimicrobial effects.[6]

Related: 7 Vitamin C Serums That Work Great on Acne-Prone Skin

Vitamin A

Retinol, a form of vitamin A, is one of the most lauded actives for acne. Just that, unlike all antioxidants, retinol should be used at night because it makes skin sensitive to sunlight. As such, retinol works synergistically with the skin’s repairing process while sleeping to heal breakouts by inducing collagen and encouraging cell turnover. Moreover, retinol reduces excess sebum, a common cause of acne.[7]

Niacinamide

Also called vitamin B3, niacinamide is one of the best antioxidants for acne for a few reasons. First of all, niacinamide defends against oxidative stress, which you know can trigger pimples by now. Secondly, niacinamide has strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. Actually, a study shows that niacinamide-containing formula can boost skin’s antimicrobial properties and provide protection from bacteria 6 hours after application. The research concluded that 4% niacinamide is effective and safe in alleviating mild to moderate acne.[8]

Another reason niacinamide is a great antioxidant for acne-prone skin is due to its capacity to increase proteins, keratin, and ceramides in the skin, all of which contribute to the proper function of the protective barrier. A weakened barrier is often a host for breakouts. Lastly, niacinamide balances sebum production, so there are fewer chances for pores to clog and pimples to arise. It’s been shown that 2% niacinamide reduces excess sebum within two weeks of daily application.[9]

Zinc 

As a mineral with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, zinc is excellent for helping diminish acne. These two properties of zinc, plus its role in collagen production, enhance skin’s repair function, accelerate acne healing, and helps diminish scarring.[10] Also, zinc is a sebum regulator, meaning it helps prevent pore clogging and pimples formation.[11]


Sources

Women’s Concepts uses reliable sources, including dermatologists’ insights, clinical trials, and scientific journals, to find accurate information and support all the facts shared in our articles. All statements and claims have clear and legit references. Read our editorial policy to learn more about our sources of information, our process of researching and fact-checking the content, and how our team strives to keep all articles updated, completed, and trustworthy.

References
  1. Mills OH, Criscito MC, Schlesinger TE, Verdicchio R, Szoke E. Addressing Free Radical Oxidation in Acne Vulgaris. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2016 Jan, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4756869/
  2. Al-Shobaili HA. Oxidants and antioxidants status in acne vulgaris patients with varying severity. Ann Clin Lab Sci. 2014 Spring, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24795060/
  3. Kim S, Park TH, Kim WI, Park S, Kim JH, Cho MK. The effects of green tea on acne vulgaris: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Phytother Res. 2021 Jan, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32812270/
  4. Mahmood T, Akhtar N, Moldovan C. A comparison of the effects of topical green tea and lotus on facial sebum control in healthy humans. Hippokratia. 2013 Jan, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23935347/
  5. Oregon State University, Vitamin C and Skin Health
  6. Klock J, Ikeno H, Ohmori K, Nishikawa T, Vollhardt J, Schehlmann V. Sodium ascorbyl phosphate shows in vitro and in vivo efficacy in the prevention and treatment of acne vulgaris. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2005 Jun, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18492184/
  7. Sacchidanand SA, Lahiri K, Godse K, Patwardhan NG, Ganjoo A, Kharkar R, Narayanan V, Borade D, D’souza L. Synchronizing Pharmacotherapy in Acne with Review of Clinical Care. Indian J Dermatol. 2017 Jul-Aug, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5527713/
  8. Yeşim Kaymak,1* MD, Meltem Önder, MD, Journal of the Turkish Academy of Dermatology, An Investigation of Efficacy of Topical Niacinamide for the Treatment of Mild and Moderate Acne Vulgaris
  9. Draelos ZD, Matsubara A, Smiles K. The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2006 Jun, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16766489/
  10. Lin PH, Sermersheim M, Li H, Lee PHU, Steinberg SM, Ma J. Zinc in Wound Healing Modulation. Nutrients. 2017 Dec 24, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793244/
  11. Brandt S. The clinical effects of zinc as a topical or oral agent on the clinical response and pathophysiologic mechanisms of acne: a systematic review of the literature. J Drugs Dermatol. 2013 May, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23652948/
Who wrote this?
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana is a sociologist and feminist with a shared passion for literature, psychology, and skincare, the combo that made her determined to start Women's Concepts. With over five years of experience in dermatological research, she has now become a certified skincare consultant keen to convince others of the importance of a diligent routine. Her close relationships with dermatologists around the globe, along with years of researching, analyzing studies, and hand-testing products on a daily basis, made Ana one of the best persons you can get advice from.
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Women's Concepts relies on the latest scientific research to provide accurate, complete, and fact-based information in skincare, on which we're willing to stake our reputation. Our team includes skincare experts who are highly regarded in their fields and committed to upholding the best standards of research. We spend quality time vetting every single product we recommend and double-checking all the facts shared on Women's Concepts. We always stand on the side of inclusivity, and our mission is to help everyone fix their skin issues as they arise and leverage the products they buy to achieve their goals. You can view our expert review board and everything about our editorial guidelines here.
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