Proof That Topical Antioxidants Are The Key To Naturally Clear Skin

Proof That Topical Antioxidants Are The Key To Naturally Clear Skin

If you want to clear your skin naturally – and to make sure it stays clear, then you absolutely must learn about topical antioxidants. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that they will be the next breakthrough acne treatment, and in this post I’m going to show you why.

In short, there’s completing evidence to show that inflammation in the skin is the trigger that sets off the acne formation process. And during the last 8 years several high quality studies have come out that show topical antioxidants can perform as well, or even better, than many of the established acne treatments.

The role of inflammation in causing acne

When people talk about causes of acne they usually talk about bacteria, sebum and blocked pores. All those are of course relevant, but science has shown that they are really secondary causes. There’s good evidence to show that inflammation to acne is like a starter gun for 100 meters sprinters. It’s the bang that starts the whole thing, be it a race or a new pimple forming on your face.

At the very beginning a pimple is all about inflammation. Bacteria and sebum enter the picture later, but at the beginning it’s all about inflammation. Studies have shown signs of inflammation at the very earliest stages of a pimple, far before you even become aware of it.

There’s also evidence that inflammatory cytokines (messenger molecules the immune system uses) are a bit like overzealous foremen in a factory, they like to whip the sebum and keratin producing cells into overdrive. Test tube studies have shown that when you expose those cells to inflammatory cytokines they produce more sebum and keratin. Inflammation is also linked to other hyperkeratotic skin conditions.

The consequences of that initial inflammatory damage then drive the pimple formation process. Excess keratin and sebum block the skin pores. Inflammatory damage to squalene (a fatty acid in sebum) consumes oxygen from the blocked pore, which then opens the door for P. Acnes bacteria to colonize it.

This initial ‘inflammatory insult’ can come from many sources. The skin is constantly exposed to potential sources of inflammation; such as UV radiation, ozone in air pollution, irritating chemicals in personal care products, harsh chemicals in acne treatment products, and even shaving.

Not to mention all the potential internal source, including stress, gut issues, improper diet, gluten, and so on. Those internal sources compete for the same antioxidants your skin needs for protection. And without sufficient antioxidants the skin cannot cope with all the ‘inflammatory insults’.

The power of topical antioxidants

Assuming this inflammatory theory of acne is correct; then you could think that topical antioxidants can prevent acne. And there’s good evidence to suggest that’s true.

For example, in 2011 Italian researchers published a study where they put topical clindamycin (antibiotic) head to head with a lotion that contained 4% nicotinamide (vitamin B3) and linoleic acid. Unfortunately the full-text study is behind a pay wall, but in the abstract the authors mention that the nicotinamide lotion was slightly more effective than the topical antibiotic in treating.

There was another topical antibiotic vs. nicotinamide study in 1995. In that study the 4% B3 lotion reduced acne by 60% vs. 43% reduction in the topical clindamycin group. So that study also showed nicotinamide to be more effective than topical antibiotics.

Vitamin B3 is of course an antioxidant, but it’s also been shown to repair the skin barrier function and suppress bacterial growth. So it’s no surprise it has an effect on acne.

Since 2005 there have also been a handful of good quality studies looking into sodium ascorbyl phosphate (SAP), a stable vitamin C derivate. In one study SAP was pitted against BP. Among the SAP treated group 76.9% reported excellent/good efficacy vs. 60.7% among the benzoyl peroxide group. In another study 5% SAP was tested against topical retinoids. SAP treatment reduced inflammatory pimples by 49% in 8 weeks. Interestingly, combining SAP with retinoids didn’t improve efficacy a lot, which just goes to show how well SAP worked. There are a few other SAP studies, all showing good effect, but I’m not going to go over them here.

And let’s not forget green tea. As I’ve written here before, topical green tea has shown good efficacy against acne. A part of that effect is due to DHT blocking effect of green tea, but a part of it due to its antioxidant properties.


Clearly there’s something to be said about using topical antioxidants for acne. There’s good science to show that inflammatory damage to sebum is the trigger that sets off the acne formation process. There’s even better evidence to show that topical antioxidants can be as effective, if not even more so, than the current gold standard topical treatments: benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics and retinoids.

But just because antioxidants show good efficacy doesn’t mean we should throw away benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and other established treatments. I believe in combining their forces. To use antioxidants to prevent acne, but at the same time using BP or salicylic acid to keep the skin pores open and wipe out those pimples that got started. This way you get the best of both worlds.

If this sounds like a smart way to treat your skin, then I recommend you check out Exposed Skin Care. It’s one of the few acne treatment kits on the market that meets this ‘best of both worlds’ approach. Please check out my review of Exposed to learn more.

About Me

Hi, I am Acne Einstein(a.k.a. Seppo Puusa). I'm a bit of a science nerd who is also passionate about health. I enjoy digging through medical journals for acne treatment gems I can share here. You can read more about my journey through acne and how I eventually ended up creating this.

135 thoughts on “Proof That Topical Antioxidants Are The Key To Naturally Clear Skin”

  1. Seppo,
    Let me say how much I appreciate your website. It gives a balanced approach to the subject of acne and appeals to my liking for science.
    I have a question based on reading the various articles in AcneEinstein.
    Is it inflammatory ctyokines that cause the increase in sebum and keratin production or is it increased insulin/IGF-1/Androgen levels that causes this to happen?
    Different articles have “laid the blame” with cytokines and hormones


    • Happy to hear that you like the site, Michael.

      Both. Studies have shown that both hormones and inflammatory cytokines can stimulate sebum and keratin production. Just recently I stumbled on a fairly good quality study that showed about 20% reduction in sebum production from an antioxidant cream.

      I can’t say which has a bigger influence on sebum production thought. I suspect it varies from person to person. But here’s how I currently understand it. Hormones stimulate excessive sebum production, and with more sebum also comes more squalene. Due to oxidative influences squalene gets damaged and turns into squalene peroxide, which is strongly inflammatory and starts the whole acne formation process. The peroxide molecule to acne is what the turbo button is to the bat mobile, if you forgive my horrible analogy 🙂

      • This is a late reply as I just read the article now. Just wanted to add that inflammatory cytokines lead to hyperinsulinemia (increased insulin), which leads to hyperandrogenism (increased androgens). There have been several research studies demonstrating this effect…wish I could find the link now but can’t, sorry. So it looks like inflammatory cytokines both directly and indirectly lead to acne.

  2. Seppo,

    Is there any topical antioxidants you would recommend? Applications used in the clinical trials are obviously not available for general use (not yet anyway). I suppose you could try and make up your own creams but that may be a bit hit and miss and you might not get the right concentrations.


    • It’s true that the products used in clinical trials are sometimes custom made. But that’s mainly because the researchers want to study a specific ingredient and don’t want the othe ingredients to add noise to the data.

      That said, there’s usually nothing special or extraordinary about the products used in those trials. Vitamin C cream available for purchase should be just as effective as the ones used in studies. What matters are ingredients and concentrations.

      You can find a lot of antioxidant creams and face washes online (and offline also). I keep talking about Exposed because it has a lot of antioxidants.

      But you don’t have to use Exposed, there are alternatives. I just ordered these today.

      Bee Naturals, Oil Free Moisturizer
      Avalon Organics, Vitamin C Sun Aging Defense, Refreshing Cleansing Gel

      Both of those have antioxidants, including vitamin C, green tea and vitamin B3. I can’t say that those are effective, but based on label they look pretty good.

      I’ve also used this cream: Madre Labs, Camellia Care, EGCG Green Tea Skin Cream.

      You can also find antioxidant creams and lotions from Amazon. They have some nice looking vitamin B3 creams there. I just prefer to order from because they have much better international shipping options. Amazon doesn’t ship most of their skin care products to Thailand, and even if they do I have to pay 2 times the product price in shipping fees and import duties.

      Unless you know what you are doing, I wouldn’t recommend making your own skin care products.

  3. Hello Seppo!
    Thanks for writing these great articles on how acne forms as well as treatments for acne! I wish i came across these 1 and half year back during my severe outbreak of acne. I recently started drinking green tea ( thanks to your in-dept articles) and it really is producing results! I have two questions!

    1.Because I’m such a late starter in taking care of my skin, i’ve been left with lots of hyper pigmentation and acne scars ( my face literally is covered in it). I’m wondering if there are any treatments you would recommend to treat hyper pigmentation.
    2. I have recently started applying green tea ( brewed) straight to my face with a tea bag after i cleanse in the shower. Can the tiny speckles of green tea leaves potentially block my pores, and if so would it be better if i washed it off after it dries out then apply moisturizer?

    • Glad to hear your skin is doing better Jin!

      1. Depends on what you mean with acne scars. Physical deformations in the skin require more intensive treatment than you can do at home. The only way to treat them, that I know of, is with chemical peels, lasers or skin needling. The skin needs to be broken so it can form again. You have to talk about this with your dermatologist.

      Red marks and discolorations you might be able to treat at home. I haven’t really looked into these in detail, but based on what I know, I would try skin lightening creams with high concentration of vitamin C. Chemical peels with salicylic acid or AHAs can also help.

      2. I wrote about using fresh green tea as toner earlier. It’s unlikely that the tea leaves clog your skin pores. They are too big to get into the skin pores. But I’m also little skeptical that just adding green tea on your face does much good.

  4. Hi Seppo!

    I am so thrilled to find your blog!!!! I have been pouring through the articles. You make a lot of good sense! I was wondering if there is a possibility that your book will be available for Kindle anytime soon? Keep up the great work, I am sure you are helping many people with this very difficult problem!!!!! God Bless You!


    • Glad to hear you like the site Jamie!

      I won’t make any promises, but I’ll try to get the Kindle version out next week. But don’t hold me to that as I’ve never published a book on Kindle and don’t know how much formatting and other hassles I’ll encounter.

  5. You are totally awesome to even look into that! Thanks so much 😀 and if you can not I will just buy the hard copy! Thank you for the prompt reply! Take Care!


  6. I was wondering if the antioxidants had to be in a concentrated form or if, say, I applied olive oil to my face (because olive oil has vitamin E in it) if that is the same. Also, rosehip seed oil has a lot of vitamin C.

    Is there some special way the antioxidants have to be delivered into the skin? Can they be in the form of a spray? I found a Vitamin B3 spray on amazon. Or should they be in a serum or moisturizer?

    • I’m not a cosmetic chemist, so unfortunately this is not my area of expertise. I would think that as long as the antioxidants penetrate the skin barrier it doesn’t matter what form they come in. I just don’t know if olive oil, rosehip seed oil have sufficient concentration of antioxidants to make a difference.

      Spray, lotion or serum, I don’t think it really matters. What matters is the formulation. Will it penetrate the skin barrier so that vitamin B3 is delivered where it’s needed.

  7. Hi Seppo!

    Finally came across your website. What a refreshingly rational, yet somewhat holistic approach to skincare!

    Also, just wanted to say thank you for the iHerb recommendation! I’m also living in Thailand, and though Bangkok is a huge city, I’ve had little luck tracking down health food options, supplements, and skin care. I can already tell I’ll use it a lot. If you have any other Thai recommendations along these lines, I’d be thrilled to hear them.

    My acne got significantly more unmanageable once I moved here, possibly encouraged by stress, too much sun (occasional sunburns), and a dramatically different climate than my hometown (Northern U.S., near Canada). Attempts at seeing a dermatologist here have led to more suggestions of antibiotics and harsh creams – the former I’m not interested in, and the latter has caused a lot of irritation, especially with constant sweating and increased sun sensitivity. Do you have any advice specifically for managing acne in this hot/humid/sunny climate?

    Thank you for all the hard work – I can’t stop reading!


    • As far as supplements and even somewhat non-mainstream skincare products are concerned, you are not going to find anything in BKK. I’ve tried and always come up empty. Or it’s from some specialty store that’s ridiculously expensive. It’s far cheaper to order from iHerb. The only downside is 3 to 4 week delivery time, but you can take that into account so it’s not such a huge problem.

      I’ve also noticed that my skin is much oilier here than in colder climate. I suspect heat and humidity and the main factors, but air pollution could also play a role. I remember a Chinese study that tracked thousands of women and showed that those who lived in areas with higher air pollution (mainly from traffic) had far higher risk of skin problems.

      I’ve sort of accepted these things as one of the costs of living here. I still think that the awesome and healthy food more than offsets the negatives of air pollution and heat.

      My advice would be to go easy with benzoyl peroxide and other harsh chemicals/drugs. Pile on antioxidants in face washes and moisturizing creams. That should help to make your skin less irritated. Depending on your skin, you may need some benzoyl peroxide to manage your acne, but that’s something you have to figure out by trial and error. In my case BP helped to initially clear my skin, but I’ve since dropped it since my skin remains clear with just antioxidants.

  8. Hi Seppo!

    Thank you so much for the thoughts and suggestions! I LOVE the food here, don’t get me wrong, but I sometimes question how healthy it is. Even jumping on vegetable opportunities whenever I see them, I still feel deficient. But as you said, trade-offs for many other great things.

    I’m easing up on benzoyl peroxide and retin-A – replacing them with anti-oxidant options sound good. I’m wondering how the following products you mentioned from iHerb are going for you? Or do you have alternative recommendations?

    – Bee Naturals, Oil Free Moisturizer
    – Avalon Organics, Vitamin C Sun Aging Defense, Refreshing Cleansing Gel
    -Madre Labs, Camellia Care, EGCG Green Tea Skin Cream.

    Thank you for the thoughtful reply! Hope you’re staying cool as we welcome hot season!

    • I just reordered Avalon Organics cleanser and Bee Naturals moisturizer. I’ve been happy with both and my skin looks good, but I can’t say whether that’s due to the products or me just generally finding the right things to do for my skin. The pump system in Bee Naturals moisturizer is quite annoying as the product comes out from a small hole with high velocity. So when I try to squirt some on my hand it tends to spray a bit, but it’s not a big issue.

      There are good and bad options in Thai food – like everywhere else. I don’t mind that the normal fried rice/ kha pau gai style stuff is healthy. With my wife we often eat Esarn-style food, like spicy salads, BBQ meats and those clay pots (mhoo jum). Som tum thai, khor mhuu yang along with some sticky rice is my favorite 🙂

  9. Hi Seppo!

    Ok so I want to get something with antioxidants but I prefer to get it from amazon.. not sure what we are supposed to look for exactly?

    Is there anything in specific you reccemond? ( available on amazon) specific names would be great..

    or if you can guide me on what we are supposed to look for any guidelines or things we should make sure it has.. should be a serum? cleanser? cream? how to antioxidants usually come?

    Also you said you believe we should try everything not like let go of the sacilyic acid or BP.. so I do have pure 5% sacicyl acid.. which I have been told is good to apply to my face directly .. but i kind of feel bad for doing this because i wanted to use all natural things.. is sacilyic acid bad for the face? are there any side effects? .. do you have a post on it?

    for exposed which you reccemoned a lot.. is it the type of thing I would need to purchase over and over again or after one time purchase it will be helpfull? I just cant afford to be purchasing something again and again..

    Currently i take proboitcs.. and one milk thistle a day.. along with joji skin detox tea.. 1 or two cups a day.. as well as a womens multi vitamin from now called EVE

    any advice or feedback would be great.. im in a crisis 🙁 i mostly have tiny itsy bitsy bumpy pimples

    • It’s kinda hard for me to look at products at Amazon or iHerb and say which one is better than the other one. I’m not a cosmetic chemist and my knowledge into skincare formulations is very limited. But I would look at the labels and find something that has one or more of the antioxidants mentioned in this post. Vitamin B3 and vitamin C precursors have the best evidence supporting them. And make sure that the ingredients appear fairly early on the label. The order that the ingredients are listed reflects how much of them you’ll find in the bottle. If you see vitamin B3 (usually listed as niacin or nicotinamide) towards the bottom of the list, then it’s probably not worth it as the concentration is too low to make a difference.

      but i kind of feel bad for doing this because i wanted to use all natural things

      Uhh.. you’ve fallen for the natural fallacy. Natural things aren’t necessarily any safer or better, and there are plenty of natural substances that are really bad for your skin. Many essential oils and natural fragrances are horribly irritating. So whether something is natural or not has no bearing on whether it’s safe and or effective. And salicyclic acid is natural, just so you know.

      For the vast majority of people SA is perfectly safe and causes no side-effects. It’s a very mild treatment to begin with.

      Do you have to keep buying skincare products over and over again? Yes, you probably do. That’s because they can only mitigate the damage on the skin and keep acne under control. It’s the same with diet and lifestyle, they only work as long as you keep working on them.

  10. If acne prone skin needs more antioxidants then what do you think about taking multivitamin supplement and supplements in general? Seems like a good idea?

    • There’s some evidence to show antioxidant supplements are helpful, but I’m not sure you can conclude from that that multivitamin is good for acne. I would rather take a dedicated antioxidant (like N-Acetyl Cysteine).

    • I didn’t actually notice green tea in the ingredients list. It also seemed that the important ingredients (antioxidants) were towards the bottom of the ingredients list, so not sure if they are there in high enough concentrations.

  11. Hi Seppo.

    Bought your book, slowly getting through it. I feel like you are probably the only person in the world that understands what it really feels like to live with persistent acne. I am very grateful for your website and time that you dedicate in conducting and sharing your research. You should look into becoming a professional acne dermatologist 🙂

    I have a question for you, I read allot and all the skin specialists tell me how important it is to use a cleanser on your face. What are your thoughts on cleansers? Any you can recommend? I’ve been using the EGG green tea moisturiser you recommended and it is good gentle moisterizer but I don’t think it helps in fighting acne. I have had extremely bad experiences with BP and Roacc so don’t want to go there again… Just looking for a solid skin care regime but I guess this might be a individual thing depending on what works for different people? … Anyway look forward to your thoughts on it.

    • Happy to help, Ask. And thanks for getting the book. I hope you are finding it useful.

      I answered most of your questions at the topical treatment section of the book. At least I believe I answered them 🙂 Please check that for a detailed answer. But briefly, yes, you should cleanse your skin daily, if for no other reason than to make you feel clean. Studies show minor benefits from cleansers, but it doesn’t matter that much what you use. Perhaps try something with salicylic acid or AHAs. That helps little bit to keep your skin pores open and prepares your skin for the next steps.

      You shouldn’t discount antioxidant moisturizers/creams. Studies show they can be as effective as antibiotic or BP creams. So don’t let the fact that I call them moisturizers confuse you. Are you struggling with finding good products to use? If so, I could sometime later write a members-only posts with specific product recommendations. The topical treatment section also contains quite a few recommendations as well as general guidance on how to build a skincare regimen that suits your skin.

      Yeah, it would be nice to be a dermatologist. Unfortunately one has to be a doctor first… just a minor obstacle 🙂

  12. You said that you started using that Madre labs cream? Did it work just as well as the Moisture complex from exposed?

    What do you use to cleanse/tone?

    • Please see the Quick Start Guide or Clear for Life for specific product recommendations. I could also do a post here with product recommendations and what I’m currently using. The Madle Labs cream worked well for me. As I said, I didn’t notice any negative changes on my skin. When I stopped Exposed, I also stopped using toners.

      • Maybe you should do a product recommendation 🙂 I think people would like that!

        I just ordered Avalon Refreshring Gel, The toner and the Olay cream you listed in clear for life.. I hope it works. 🙂

  13. Actually.. One more question. When you were using Madra labs, did you only use it at that time or did you wash your face? Because.. I’m starting to believe that my face is turning slightly sensitive to certain products after I stopped using exposed.. It gets slightly blotchy after I’ve used a product but I don’t know if that’s me.. So I was just wondering if you used madra labs alone?

      • Yeah.. I dunno. My face turned red after I used the Avalon Cleanser/Toner + madra labs.. I think I should let my skin breath for a week because I’m probably switching skin care products waaaay to quick so my skin is probably freakin’ out.. I hope so at least. The last thing I want to be is to become sensitive to green tea tropically!

        • The Avalon Cleanser contains ingredients from citrus fruits and those can be irritating for some people. Other possibility is that the problem comes from quitting BP. I didn’t quit BP when I stopped Exposed. I just bought a 2.5% BP cream from a pharmacy and used that together with the Madre Labs EGCG cream.

          • That could be it actually.. I used a vitamin C serum once and it did irritate my skin.. Although I did a patch test with the madra labs later and I found out that my skin got red at the areas that I applied it to… I guess I need to leave my skin alone for a week or so and just to let it readjust I guess.

          • Unfortunately I can’t advice you much more than this. You just have to test different things and try to narrow down the ingredients that irritate your skin – if that is what’s happening here. I don’t know any easy way to do this.

  14. Can you provide a link to the study that showed 20% reduction in sebum from the antioxidant cream? I’m curious to know what ingredients they used. Also thanks for the for the Madre Labs EGCg Cream recommendation. I’ve been looking for an alternative green tea product to the Exposed Skin Care line. I tried out the Exposed Clear Pore Serum and the consistency was really unpleasant, plus it only contains 0.5% EGCg.

    By the way, if you want to post an Amazon referral link to the Madre Labs EGCg Cream, I would be happy to buy it through that link so that you get some profit from it. I would click the iHerb link but I buy everything from Amazon and I have an Amazon gift card money that I’m trying to use up haha.

    • I’ll be happy to send you a link as soon as I know which study you are talking about. Here are two posts where I talked about topical treatments that reduce sebum:

      In retrospect, I have to say that I was way too optimisting about the study showing sebum reduction with green tea cream. It was a very small study with no control group and thus not very reliable.

      Here’s an affiliate link to the Madre Labs cream in Amazon. Thank you very much for your support.

      I normally recommend iHerb because I’ve found they have much better product range than Amazon. They also carry more affordable products. And their prices are similar or cheaper than in Amazon. And finally, living outside the US, iHerb is my only option as Amazon doesn’t ship to Thailand. And iHerb gives $5 to $10 discount for new customers. They both pay comparable commissions, which is to say next to nothing, lol.

      • I was referring to your first reply on this page where you said, “Just recently I stumbled on a fairly good quality study that showed about 20% reduction in sebum production from an antioxidant cream.” Sorry, I should I have been more specific about that.

        Thanks for the Amazon link! Yeah while that green tea study isn’t conclusive proof that EGCg can reduce sebum, there have been a couple of other studies indicating the same thing, so it’s still plausible. It’s at least enough to convince me to experiment with green tea cream on my own.

        • I have to admit that I don’t anymore remember which study I was referring to. Perhaps it’s one of those studies I just glanced over but didn’t write about. Regarding green tea, I stumbled across another study that showed reduction in sebum with green tea cream. This study was little bit more rigorous, and thus reliable, than the other one. Here’s the link:

  15. Hello im looking for some good topical green tea product and just wondering has anyone tried this;
    It seems to have a rich content of Polyphenol equivalent to 500 cups of green tea according to their site, not to sure about the caffeine though if it is benefical or not in skincare products. According to a review on Paula it has no proven effect.

    Anyways any thoughts about this product?

    • I was put off by the high price tag. Yes, the product has a lot of green tea, but I don’t think it has ever been established that more green tea is better than enough. The studies on acne have all used 2% or 3%. Maybe higher concentrations work better, but I haven’t seen any evidence either way. I also want to remind you that green tea is not the only antioxidant that can help. In this post I talked about vitamin B3 and the vitamin C derivative SAP. Both of those have stronger evidence supporting them than green tea. Both of those have been tested against BP and topical antibiotics and found to be equally or more effective. No such comparative studies have been done for green tea. It doesn’t mean B3 or SAP would be more effective than green tea, just that we can be more confident of their effectiveness.

  16. Hi,
    I’m very thanksful of your work on this website, really it’s the most serious source and closest to my issue that i found on the internet, you are very clear and helpful.

    I want to buy your book,but i wonder (my english is not very good) if i will learn more than what i’ve already learn trough all your articles.
    I’m looking for a precise routine for my combinate skin with red persistant scar on my cheeks and periodical red papules evolving in white head pustule on my tempes (between hair and eyes) and my fronthead.
    I’m 22 years old and have acne since I’m 17..
    I will buy your book if it can help me with that, with a precise routine (i actually take saw palmetto daily for 1 month now, and use a micellar solution to clean my skin because the tap water is bad to me, and i finally apply a moisturizer for combinate skin)
    Thanks you for your answer

    • Glad to hear you liked the site. Yes, I think you’ll find Clear for Life helpful, even after reading the posts here. It contains quite a bit more information and in an easy to follow format. And yes, I have detailed regiment recommendations. If there’s demand, I can even create an eating-plan and recipe section inside the members’ area. So far I’ve refrained from making detailed dietary recommendations because I don’t want to shoehorn anyone into a diet that may not be suitable or practical for them. But if there’s need for more specific diet and meal-plan section, I’m happy to put something together.

  17. ok thanks , and yea it would be very cool.
    But the 27$ formule does not access to the member section blog right?
    i think i gonna have to spare money in order to buy it, being a student and no money is hard nowaday..

    • I’m not sure whether I’ll make it available for everyone or just for members. Have to see how it goes. I’d love to give eveyrhing away for free, but doing this thing is a full-time job for me and somehow it has to pay the bills.

  18. If the colonization of P.acnes is due to the deoxygenated environment in the pores, why would further reducing oxygen by using antioxidants help?

    • Because oxidative damage is the trigger that starts the whole acne formation process. Preventing the initial oxidative damage means your pores are less likely to get blocked and that low-oxygen environment within the pore wouldn’t happen.

  19. Hi Seppo,
    Before I begin I must tell you your website is one of the best if not the best educational websites about acne that is simple and easy to understand. Every time a new lead comes out on acne or anything I check right away to see what your input on it is, so thanks for you hard work.

    I’m in a bit of a dilemma and I know your not a doctor or face to face with me so it’ll be hard for you to decide. I used to have bad acne as a teenager and tried everything antibiotics, creams, and eventually accutane to which I had a very traumatic experience both physically and mentally. To be honest I still do not understand how that drug is legal. Anyways, after accutane I just let my skin be and I had clear skin for years without putting anything on it.

    Now I am in mid 20s and I have been breaking out again and do not understand why. I have beyond sensitive skin and break out with most products. I tried Azelaic acid and broke out badly and stopped. Then I tried the exposed kit set and it worked but then stopped working eventually.

    My dilemma is, I went to a dermatologist yesterday after doing much research on your website and more online about niacin and sap. My dermatologist told me right away to take a very light dose of retinoids called Stieva-A 0.025% and to take clindamycn for a month prior to try to prevent the initial outbreak. I know retinoids are effective and would take it but do not like the fact that they make you break out badly first. I told my dermatologist about niacin and sap and he didn’t seem too impressed about them saying that there are only very limited studies on them so he could not recommend them.

    I am asking you what your intake about retinoids is and which route do you think is best to go? I honestly kind of want to go in your route with niacin and sap but having a hard time finding a product with both. I found one, Neostrata (what do you think?)
    And my other question was if a pharmacy is willing to make the two compounds together with nothing else in there is that fine too, or better or worse?

    Thanks for your time I know I have many questions, and your time and advice will greatly be appreciated. Thanks again for this site which is helping so many of us.

    • Sorry, I wasn’t working yesterday, so it took little bit longer to check and approve your comment.

      Your deem was right in that there are more studies looking at retinoids and antibiotics than for antioxidants. That said, the studies for SAP and B3 are of high quality (they are randomised, controlled and double-blinded), and, based on what we know of acne formation, topical antioxidants are highly plausible treatment. And they have almost no side-effects.

      I also don’t think there’s any problem using both – retinoids and antioxidants.

      Sounds to me like your skin is quite sensitive. B3 can repair the skin barrier function and shown good efficacy in eczema-like skin problems. So my recommendation would be to at least give them a go.

      I’m currently using this product:

      It’s marketed for fading dark spots and hyperpigmentation, but it should work equally well for acne. It contains both SAP and B3.

      I don’t quite understand your question about intake route for retinoids. Are you asking if they work better topically or as a supplement? Can’t say for sure, but I don’t think that orally taken retinoids (supplements or dietary) make much of a difference in the skin. Or if they do, then you have to take massive doses that can be toxic (as in the case of Accutane). My recommendation would be to use retinoids topically.

      I’m currently using retinol cream in the evening. Retinol is not as effective as the retinoids dermatologists prescribe, but retinols are also much gentler on the skin. Retinol is converted to retinoids in the skin, so it works the same way – just not as aggressively.

      I’m currently using this one:

      I’m using the antioxidant cream in the morning (and sometimes evening also) and retinol in the evening. Perhaps something you can also consider?

      Unfortunately, I’m not a cosmetic chemist. I really have no idea what else you need to put into the creams to make them effective. I know you at least need something to ensure the cream penetrates the skin barrier, but beyond that I don’t know.

  20. Hi Seppo.. I wanted to try exposed to start with but I was worried that if i try that i will get stuck on it and will have to stick to it forever .. so i decided to start with the other recommendations you had.. but now I’m thinking maybe it would have been better to start with exposed to get a jump start.. what do you think? Would i get hooked on it and hard to leave it and would experience more breakouts transitioning from exposed to a normal skin care regime or it would help as a jump start? To not experience that i chose to start with your recommendations other then the exposed system.. do you think I made a good choice? Whats your opinion/experience on this being that you use to use exposed.. when you were stopping did you get more break outs? its also tempting being that they have money back guarantee .. it makes you feel like you will definitely get clear skin.. also I was wondering if you ever wrote the article on product recommendations ( im thinking it might have more then there was in the quick start guide?) .. it would be great if you gave us more product recommendations and reviews.. also want to know how i can access those articles that are for members only?

    * You talk a lot about antioxidants being good.. so i was wondering if its good to take like 2,000 mg of Viamin C vitamins a day? it seems like a good way to get the antioxidants internally ( other then getting it externally).. what do you think of that? isn’t that easier to do then having so much green tea..

    Also my friend is a chemist so he is able to make pure natural things that people use to make these mixture creams etc.. I wanted to know how/is it good.. to apply vitamin C directly to my skin? and also have you written about/can you give me advice on step by step what to apply first.. obviously i know cleanser first.. but what after that , what in between and what last ..

    I am sorry for all my questions!! Hope to hear from you soon 🙂

    • Acne is partially genetic, and, aside from Accutane, there’s nothing that would make those genetic tendencies go away. But you can manage around those with diet, lifestyle, supplements and topical skincare. Unfortunately this means you have to keep doing those things to maintain results. The point is that you have to use some skincare products, but it doesn’t have to be Exposed.

      To be honest, there’s nothing that magical or special about Exposed. I just like that fact that they have a nice mix of ‘drug’ and natural ingredients in the kit. So it’s convenient to use and I’ve been touch with the owner many times and know he’s honest and will honour refund requests.

      But you can just as well combine your own set. In Clear for Life I explained how to do this. The Quick Start Guide has more up to date product recommendations – including the products I use at the moment.

      So did you make a good choice? I don’t think it really matters which way you go. Exposed is convenient and easy, but combining different products from different companies you can build a skincare regiment that’s probably better than Exposed.

      I’m currently working on skincare ingredient/reference section for my website. I’ll look over all the studies on acne, for example, and see which ingredients (in skincare products) are proven to be helpful in acne. Then I make recommendations based on the studies, for example I would say ‘for acne, you should look for these and these ingredients’ and then review products containing those ingredients. That should make it easier to find effective and affordable products that really work. That’s coming somewhat later – I’m currently having my website redesigned and once the new design is life I’ll add the skincare reference section.

      As to what order to use the products. It probably doesn’t matter so much. Here’s what I do: cleanser first, then benzoyl peroxide (on the days I use it, which is rarely), then toner and moisturiser/antioxidant cream last.

      As to making your own products. That’s possible, but I can’t help you much there. I’m not a cosmetic chemist and thus don’t really know what you have to look out for. You have to make sure the ingredients you use are stable in the cream, don’t react badly with one other and penetrate the skin deep enough to make a difference. I really have no experience on any of that and that’s why I just buy ready-made products.

      Vitamin C has never been studied for acne, so it’s hard to say about it. I would stick to supplements for which there is data showing they are effective, like green tea and n-acetylcysteine.

  21. Thank you so much for your detailed response!

    In your quick start guide you gave specific recommendations for supplements.. I would get the blend but I already have a lot of the things so I would rather finish what I have then get the blend but I don’t have NAC and you didn’t give any specific recommendation on brand or what dose to get .. ( i know you said in the study it was 1200mg.. is that how much we should get?)

    I want to find one on amazon that would be good for me to get.. It would have to be veggie capsules. ( Im kosher). Is there a specific brand you recommend ? and what dosage?..

    By green tea supplement do you mean just getting green tea capsules? What dosage?

    Maybe I’ll just get the blend from the Now brand you recommended.. and use the zinc I already have.. but whats Molybdenum? is that another antioxidant? ( its an ingredient in the now brand but now Michael’s) The Michael’s one and now brand seems to be very different meaning Michael’s has more vitamins etc.. and now has some that Michael’s don’t have.. are they both just as good?

    Can’t wait for your post on recommendations.. should be very helpful!

    Sorry for asking so many questions.

    • You don’t have to be too concerned getting every vitamin and mineral. If one supplement has more of this vitamin while another one has more of that mineral, I don’t think it makes any difference. And even if it did, we really have no way to reliable say which is better. There’s just so little science done on this.

      I originally recommended Michael’s skin factors supplement because it combined most nutrients that seemed useful. The problem is that the study I based that on was very low quality – but it was also the only study looking at supplements on acne available at the time. Since then better studies have come out, and I’ve recommended NAC based on those studies.

      It doesn’t mean you have to get all of those nutrients. I would recommend either NAC or some other antioxidant (like sillymarin or selenium or maybe resveratrol) and zinc. You don’t have to take all of them.

      At the moment it’s impossible to say which is a better choice (I suspect it doesn’t matter so much). I’m currently taking NAC and zinc from Now Foods. The dosages I outlined in the Quick Start Guide.

      It’s also nearly impossible to say which is the best NAC supplement out there. The supplement laws are so lax that it’s almost impossible to say what those capsules actually have. The only thing we have to go by is what the manufacturer says, and unfortunately there are several examples showing they may not be that reliable.

      Why not just drink green tea instead of taking it as supplement? That’s what I do. As far as possible, I try to stick to foods since there’s lot of scientific data showing getting nutrients from foods is much better than getting them from supplements.

  22. Also the dosages on how much selenium one has is very different.. and michael has so much less NAC.. do you equally recommend them?

    I would think one would be better then the other… not sure which.

  23. So your saying the blend is not even that important.. as long as we take AN ANTIOXIDANT.. even one? when you say your taking NAC do you mean the one from now foods or only nac.. single.. ( if that exist).. cause the one from now foods has selenium ad other things ( which is good) i would also think that a blend would be better then a single one..

    in the other post you were saying you wouldn’t recommend to take resvertol internally .. just to use it externally.. a little confused ..

    Oh so so the dosages you recommend are based on what the study used? So you would recommend.. ( sorry I’m slow with catching on!)

    milk thistle) (210 mg/day), N-Acetylcystein (NAC) (1200 mg/day) or selenium (200 mcg/day).

    Also I have a question I was reading on somethings that say vitamin A and then another thing says vitamin A as well but one thing says

    Vitamin A ( as Retinyl Acetate)

    compared to another thing saying

    Vitamin A ( as as Beta-carotene)

    What does this mean??? vitamins are so confusing :///

    So I have this right now ..

    if I take one of them it would be 25 mg zinc.. along with a little bit of other good vitamins mixed in.. I was thinking because i have this.. What do you think of this? would this be good in addition to the Now foods supplement?

    • It’s important to take an antioxidant supplement, but I don’t think it makes that much of a difference whether it’s a blend or single nutrient. Perhaps a blend is better, but with so little scientific evidence available, we can’t say that. We simply don’t know yet. So don’t stress too much about it.

      Sorry if I caused confusion about resveratrol. What I want to say is that there’s scientific data to show topical resveratrol can reduce acne, but no such data exists on supplemental resveratrol. That said, there is some data to show resveratrol supplements do have skin benefits, so I would assume they are helpful also in acne. So I’m assuming that you can use resveratrol as your antioxidant supplement, but if you already have an antioxidant supplement then I don’t think it makes sense to spend money on additional resveratrol supplement. Makes sense?

      At the moment it’s still better to go with NAC or sillymarin as your antioxidant supplement (or a blend containing those), and that’s why I wrote ‘maybe resveratrol’.

      I’m taking NAC from Now Foods. What really matters is NAC. If your supplement has additional ingredients, like Now Foods has selenium, that’s ok. But it’s NAC that matters and not the additional nutrients.

      I’m really just trying to give you option here. I don’t want to make you feel that you have to absolutely take this or that supplement and nothing else works. That’s why I say take this, or that, or maybe that one, and it probably doesn’t matter which one you choose.

      Sorry about the ambiguity, but I can only make recommendations based on what the studies say. And if there is ambiguity in the scientific data, like there almost always is, then my recommendations are going to reflect that.

      If you want me to make straightforward recommendation, then it would be to take 1200 mg NAC and 30mg zinc per day. NAC I would start with 600mg just to make sure it don’t cause any adverse reactions for you. It can cause rash in a small number of people. The zinc supplement you already have should be just fine.

      Yes, I make my recommendations based on what studies show. That’s really the only reliable way to know what works and what doesn’t.

      Vitamin A has different forms. Beta-carotene is one of the plant forms whereas retinol is animal form of vitamin A. The body converts vitamin A to different forms and that’s why you see those different names. There’s no need to take vitamin A supplements for acne.

  24. I know you had wrote that we should stay away from regular tea bags from grocery shops and should get quality tea.. any particular brand you recommend for quality green tea? ( an amazon link would be great)

    Also I know this is out of topic but do you have any articles on vitex/ chastberry.. or hormone balancing and acne… ?

    My acne is definitely not genetic ( everyone in my family has good skin.. i am positive its hormonal because I took a hormone test and my ANDROSTENEDIONE, SALIVA was 107 .. when normal is supposed to be 6-69 :(( and my progesterone was low ( thats why im taking vitex chastberry) if you have any posts I can relate to on these matters would love to read them!

    • Green tea sold in bags is usually made from lower quality tea leaves than powdered or loose leaf teas, especially the mass market brands. I’m really not a tea expert, but I browsed Amazon and I wouldn’t hesitate to try either one of these:

      Rishi Tea, Organic Green Tea Sencha, 2.11-Ounce Tin or Extreme Health’s Organically Grown Green Tea, Loose Leaf, 8-Ounce Bag. By the way, those are affiliate links, so Amazon will pay me a small commission if you click through my link and buy – just so you know 🙂

      I have on my to-do list to write an post about herbs for hormonal acne. I found a study reviewing plant-based anti-androgens to base the post on. Expect that in a week or so.

      All acne is hormonal, but that doesn’t exclude the possibility of genetic influence. What genes do is they make your skin more sensitive to androgen hormones. So the same levels of hormones might not have any effect on non-acne prone skin but can make a mess of your skin. It’s very much possible that the genes that cause problems for you were inactive in your parents. So just because no one else in your family has acne does not mean it has no genetic basis.

      Most people with acne have somewhat elevated androgen levels, but those are usually still within the normal range. So it’s not hormones alone that causes acne.

      Did you use saliva test to check hormones?

  25. Thank you so much for that Seppo! I just ordered the extreme health one.. the pricing is a lot better 🙂

    Can not wait for that post! :)))

    Yes I took a salvia test.. I thought it would give me more guidance as to what vitamins/supplements I should specifically take but I feel like it just left me the same place I was.. even though I knew which hormones where unbalanced I was not able to figure out ( through my research) what I’m supposed to take to balance those specific hormones :/

    • Happy to help.

      I’m sorry to tell you but saliva hormone tests are not reliable. Results from saliva hormone tests don’t correlate well with actual blood levels of those hormones. In other words, the tests don’t actually measure what you think they measure. I know many naturopaths recommend them, but there’s just no evidence to show they are useful, and the Endocrine Society (professional association of endocrinologists) specifically states that they shouldn’t be used.

      ‘Balancing’ hormones in female acne is difficult. The best thing I know is to keep your blood sugar and insulin levels low. Other than that, I don’t really know many things that would be effective. I’ll write about the plant-derived anti-androgens soon, but I don’t have very high hopes for those as the evidence for any of them is really weak. But more on that soon.

  26. Seppo.. once again I just want to thank you for everything and i’m looking forward to reading about your hormone post.. I am really struggling and have been implementing a lot of things in your book.. Im becoming desperate to want to go to a derm and just go on antibiotics or birth control or something 🙁 but you and tracy make it seem like its really possible to cure acne naturally..

    waiting for your response on my other post .. thank you for everything

    • I do think it’s possible for people to make a real difference to their skin with natural treatments, but I wouldn’t say that everyone can get completely clear. Genes do affect your skin. I think it’s realistic to say that most people can get their acne to mild/very mild level where they only have 1 or 2 small pimples, but getting rid of all the pimples may not be possible for everyone.

      Sounds like acne is causing a lot of stress on you? In terms of your emotions and quality of life, working on that would be helpful – it would probably also help your skin.

  27. I know acne really takes over my life as I never had to deal with skin issues until about a year ago. I have been working a lot on stress and have improved but until I feel confident about my skin again its hard to get rid of the stress rooting from that.

    • It’s important to realise that acne, by itself, doesn’t make you miserable or stressed. It’s what you believe it means about you that’s making you miserable. And there’s a lot you can do about that.

      One of my readers is a psychology researcher and he recommend something called Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) to me. I’ve been reading a few books about it and it’s been remarkably effective self-help technique for dealing with negative beliefs and emotions. I’m not saying you can be perfectly happy and self-confident when you have moderate acne, but working on your beliefs probably can take stress levels down a few notches.

      So that’s something I’d recommend you look into. Here are the books I have, and I’m happy to recommend both:

      How To Stubbornly Refuse To Make Yourself Miserable About Anything-yes, Anything! That book is written by the person who developed this theory. And another one: How to Accept Yourself (Overcoming Common Problems)

  28. 1 or two small pimples would be great compared to now .. I am really hoping to get there by implementing everything from your book.

    Do you think that no sure ( because of insulin resistant) is very important? What about taking a cinnamon capsule to help with insulin balance?

    • Do you think that no sure ( because of insulin resistant) is very important?

      What do you mean with this?

      Cinnamon has no real effect on insulin resistance. I know alt-med sources hype cinnamon as treatment for diabetes, but studies show its effect on blood sugar and insulin levels is very small – too small to make any real difference.

      • Apologize for my bad communication.. this is what I meant:

        Do you think that not having any sugar is very important? Meaning should I completely cut all sugar .. ( not natural sugar like fruits) but every other kind of sugar.. from my diet?

        Oh wow that is interesting because my father is diabetic and takes cinnamon .. is there something you else you recommend that would be better?

        If there is a few options that would be great..

        • No, I don’t think it’s necessary to cut out all sugar. I don’t think sugar is that different from other carbs, to be honest. So the main thing would be to keep total carbohydrate intake under control.

          Berberine looks promising. There have been a handful of studies showing it can reduce blood sugar levels.

        • Sorry, I was wrong about cinnamon. I was under the impression that the whole ‘cinnamon help with blood sugar levels’ was based on a single bad quality study (quite common in the alt-med industry), but after looking into this more carefully, I have to admit I was wrong. There are some 16 studies on the topic and many of them show positive results. That said, cinnamon is by no means a replacement for diabetes medications.

  29. I am sorry for my separate comments, it didn’t allow me to edit my comments.

    I was just reading the above posts with Sam.. and I wanted to ask what Sap stands for?

    I purchased what you had recommended in your book but the products you were speaking to sam about seem to be great as well.. the bee’s moisture I have doesn’t have sap in it.. do you think it would be better to get something with sap ..?

    This is what I’m referring to:

    Also the one you reccemonded:

    Would you see either of these are better then the bee’s moisture that was recommended in the book?

    It would really be great to have a post or section about topical skin care including recommendations/your opinion and as well as more information on how and order of applying things.. I know you are so busy so in the future hopefully you can put it on your list :))

    My skin care routine currently:

    I wash with the Avalon Organics, Vitamin C Renewal, Refreshing Cleansing Gel
    Then I apply a mixture I have which is 3% Sacilic Acid and 2% Azeliac ( with a cotton pad)
    After that I put my B3 Niacin.. ( its 100% Niacin moisturizer- I got from pharmacy)

    I wash with the Avalon Organics, Vitamin C Renewal, Refreshing Cleansing Gel
    Then I apply 0.1% Retin-A Gel

    What do you think? Does this go by science evidence? Anything you would change?
    When I put the sacilic and azeliac it burns but I was told its supposed to…
    I did purchase all the other things you recommended but my friend has a pharmacy and gave me the retin-A and B3 so I thought that would be a better option for now. scares me how sam says azeliac made him break out more.. I feel like I wouldn’t even know if something is the cause of me breaking out more 🙁

    I would greatly appreciate any advice or feedback… and again I am sorry for bombarding you. Your knowledge means so much to me and everyone who is going through this journey. May G-d bless you for dedicating time to help others.

    • SAP means sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a stable form of vitamin C. That neostrata product looks good. I would use it instead of the Bee Naturals I talked about in the book. In fact, I stopped using Bee’s products after I noticed white flecks in the vitamin B3 moisturiser I had been using. I think they had some formulation problems and it kinda makes it hard to trust them.

      Regarding product recommendations, I have something in the pipeline for that. A section in the site where I review what products and ingredients are likely to be effective for acne and other skin conditions. I’ve already written most of the content, but I have to wait for designers and coders to finish creating my new site. Once that’s done, I’ll put the content online.

      Your skincare routine looks good. You could add an antioxidant cream/moisturizer for evening also.

      Azelaic acid can be effective in acne and likely has some side-effects, but I haven’t looked into it in detail.

  30. HI,
    I have pretty bad acne on my face and back. I’ve just started using BP again as I stopped using it a while ago and the acne has come back worse. I’m also taking acne antibiotics. What topical antioxidants would you recommend I use along with the BP?

    • Please grab the free resource guide ‘5 top skincare products’ I have available. I’ll go over several antioxidant creams that are both affordable and effective.

  31. Great article! Could you please give me advice on how to use retinol cream, i bought the slow release one you recomended, do i just use it with the antioxidant cream once a day? Thank you.

    • I have the same cream, been using it for a couple of months now. I apply it in the evening and use antioxidant cream in the morning. Currently I’m using the ‘dark spot corrector’ cream, not because I want to get rid of dark spots but because it has a good mixture of anti-acne ingredients. Though, I’m going to try to creams I recommended for oily skin next. In the hot and humid climate of Thailand my skin gets ridiculously oily, so want to see if those can help.

  32. Hi Seppo,

    May I ask why you use the commercial vitamin B3 products rather than traditional medicated products such as the below?

    Do the commercial products add anything or would I be just as well off using the above?

    Also, what are your thoughts on the below retinol product, which also contains green tea?

    As you purchased from iherb I assume there is a reason you didn’t choose this product. To me it seems superior to the one who recommended as it (probably) has a higher retinol concentration but I imagine I am missing the point somewhat..

    • Why do I use commercial B3 rather than traditionally medicated products? No reason really. I honestly don’t think there’s that much difference between the products, whether OTC or physician-prescribed. One reason favoring OTC products is wider availability and selection of antioxidants. Most ‘traditional medicated’ products only contain B3, whereas you can find OTC products containing green tea, vitamin C and other useful antioxidants.

      I looked at the retinol cream you mentioned. I didn’t recommend it because of its packaging. Retinol degrades quickly when exposed to oxygen. So putting retinol-containing cream into a jar doesn’t seem very smart to me.

  33. Awesome article. I have been abusing my face with heaps of BP for years now and developed an allergy so I am looking for something new. I found this moisturizer from Elta MD that contains Niacinamide (vitamin B3), Caffeine, Ascorbyl palmitate (vitamin C ester), and a few other ingredients. It is called EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer and you can read more here:


    • It looks decent enough. I’m not sure how well that form of vitamin C works. I’m somewhat clueless in chemistry so it’s hard for me to say how interchangeable different forms are. Anyway, it seems that that product is only available through a physician? It means you likely pay more for it than you would to equal cream available OTC.

  34. I would like to say that this is very true! After eating right, doing yoga, doing my best to sleep well and so on, I still had some pimples, redness and uneven skin. And niacinamide saved me! It makes my skin look flawless. I’m now using the moisturisers Seppo recommends and they are really great. I never thought I could look that good, I really should have tried that earlier. My skin looks good even after sleeping for only 3 hours for two days in a row. Of course, it looks much better when I’ve had enough sleep but now the effects of poor sleep are much less noticeable and with a little makeup to hide the now small blemishes I look quite good. Really, if you are still hesitating, give it a try. You still need to do the other things Seppo recommends but even if you cheat (I have accepted that I can’t always fight insomnia and some nights I will have a poor sleep no matter what, and negative emotions are a part of life and they do make you ugly) the effects are much less pronounced and easier to hide. Seriously, I’m so happy this works, antioxidants also have anti aging effects, help with pigmentation and are inexpensive so you have no reasons not to try them! Seppo, thank you for helping me achieve a look I never thought I could have, you may not be saving lives but you save self esteem.

    • Hi Tree Flower. I’m not sure if you’ll see this, but I was just wondering what specific products you used?

      • I’m using the products Seppo recommends in his free report, the green tea cream and the dark spot corrector (I’m a bit afraid to try retinol), plus benzoyl peroxide and I clean my face with avocado oil mixed with a little bit tea tree oil (which is awesome, btw, but it’s not enough). It works!

  35. Hey Seppo, I’ve purchased an ALA supplement from Life Brand (Canadian) on the bottle it suggests 600mg a day (6 pills). I know you don’t specifically discuss ALA much but would you have any idea what an appropriate dosage would be for acne? Is it the 600mg?

    Also on a complete side note…. I only get acne on my cheeks (and back but facially only cheeks), any chance that sleeping on my side causes irritation? I change my pillow every other night so I don’t believe its a hygiene issue.

    Thanks this site it the best,


    • ALA is not something I’ve looked into before. Apparently it has some antioxidant effects and could help diabetic patients to control blood sugar. I have no idea of the dosage though.

      I don’t buy into the theories that pillowcases would cause acne. I won’t say it’s impossible, stranger things have happened. It’s possible that your skin reacts to laundry detergent residues in the pillowcases, but again, I don’t think this is very likely. Normally that kind of irritation shows as rash.

  36. Hi Seppo,

    I’ve been trying to clear my skin naturally and holistically for the past eight months through diet, exercise, natural skincare, and supplementation. I’ve gotten rid of most of my acne, and at this time I have scars, blackheads, clogged pores, and oily skin.

    I figure that the scars will just fade with time, but I’m really stumped when it comes to what to do about my blackheads and clogged pores. I tried doing a search in your search bar and didn’t come up with anything. Would topical antioxidants get rid of them? And if so, how? Since they aren’t actual pimples.

    As for my oily skin, I was considering giving the Madre Labs green tea cream a try. But, I’m a little nervous. For the past eight months, nothing has touched my face but Manuka honey and oatmeal. I’m scared that introducing a bottled, packaged product would be too much for my skin after going so long without anything of the sort. I’m scared that it’ll be easily irritated, and especially since there are ingredients in the cream that I do not recognize. (or perhaps I am getting myself worked up over nothing, I don’t know.)

    If you could help me out with these questions and concerns, I’d be very grateful.

    Thanks, Seppo.

    • People don’t commonly think of blackheads as pimples, but medically speaking they are formed by the same process. In pimples, as they are commonly understood, the inflammatory process has just gotten much further. This means that the same thing that prevents pimples should also reduce blackheads.

      In your case I would use the green tea cream in the mornings and evenings and additionally apply a retinol cream in the evenings. Green tea cream helps to reduce the oxidative damage that causes blackheads and pimples. Retinol helps to keep the skin pores open. Both are very gentle on the skin, though some find retinol to be too drying.

      I understand that you are hesitant to use bottled creams on your skin. I was (sort of) in the same place as you are now a few years back. So please don’t take what I say next as dismissive.

      It’s just that the people who tell you scary stories of ‘chemicals’ in bottled creams don’t have a clue of what they are talking about. That’s about as nicely as I can put it.

      Yes, some chemicals are irritating and dangerous. No arguments on that point. The problem comes when you are trying to artificially classify chemicals as safe and not safe based on whether they occur in nature. To use your example, you seem to believe that the chemicals that make up honey are safe. Whereas you seem to be hesitant to use bottled creams because they contain chemicals.

      Those bottled creams contain many of the same chemicals that honey does. For example, honey contains the following acids: formic, acetic, butyric, lactic, oxalic, succinic, tartaric, maleic, pyruvic, pyroglutamic, a-ketoglutaric, glycollic, citric, malic, 2- or 3-phosphoglyceric acid, a- or B-glycerophosphate, and glucose 6-phosphate. It also contains naturally occurring preservatives and antibacterials, some of which can be very irritating.

      You probably wouldn’t also apply nettle extracts or bee venom on your skin, even though both are very much natural.

      My point is that the your criteria of separating products and substances as safe and unsafe doesn’t make sense. I understand why you are doing it, but it’s still based on false premise.

      We need to use science to test each chemical, whether natural or manmade, for safety and efficacy. Only then we can say, at least with reasonable certainty, what works and what doesn’t. The products I recommend all contain natural substances that science has shown to be effective against acne and related skin problems. They also should be free from irritating chemicals, but I’m not a cosmetic chemist, so I can’t say this with absolute certainty.

      And finally, I’ve gotten positive comments from quite many people who were in the same situation as you are now. For example, see the comment by Tree Flower above you.

      Hope this helps!

      • Seppo,

        Thanks so much for your reply. It was extremely thorough and informative, and I really appreciate it.

        So you don’t think any other topical antioxidants are necessary along with the green tea cream? Ones with such things as niacinamide, as Tree Flower mentioned above? And with the retinol cream, why would it be desirable to keep the pores open? Wouldn’t that invite in bacteria?

        Assuming the cream works, would it just prevent new blackheads/clogged pores from forming or get rid of my existing ones as well? I’m asking because I’ve had the same ones, in the same places on my face, for the past four months. They haven’t budged. So to think that they might actually go away is pretty exciting.

        I understand what you’re saying, and thanks for taking the time to walk me through that. I suppose my frame of mind is that if I can eat it, I consider it safe. Of course, I “can” eat anything, even something that’s harmful. But if I can consume it and it’s safe IN my body, I consider it to be safe to use ON my body. If that makes sense. It could also be because I have pretty sensitive and reactive skin, so I’m always cautious to try something new.

        Again, thank you so much for taking the time to help!

        • Your pores need to be open. The sebaceous glands constantly push sebum into the pores and it needs to flow out and onto the skin. If the pores get blocked then the hair follicle balloons like a water balloon and eventually ruptures.

          The pores get blocked because skin cells produce too much protein called keratin, which binds the cells together. Retinol and tretinoids reduce keratin formation in skin cells.

          I’m fairly certain you have not had the same blackheads for months. That sounds impossible to me. In 4 months all the cells in your skin have been ‘recycled’ (for the lack of better word) several times over. Not to mention that your skin keeps pumping new sebum into the same pores all the time.

          They may have been formed at the same spot on the skin again and again, this is normal. The cream probably wouldn’t get rid of existing blackheads (those will resolve on their own anyway), but it will make it less likely for new ones to form on the same spot.

          But if I can consume it and it’s safe IN my body, I consider it to be safe to use ON my body.

          This makes more sense, but it still has a few problems. I’m playing a bit of a devil’s advocate here, so don’t take this the wrong way.

          The biggest problem with that idea is it ignores the main law of toxicology – it’s the dose that makes the poison. Many substances are very healthy in low doses but extremely toxic in larger doses. Vitamin A for example. Vital for survival, but will kill you if you consume too much. Same thing with the prominent catechin in green tea, EGCG. Very healthy in moderate doses but causes liver damage and even death in larger doses.

          Some toxic chemicals occur naturally in foods. Take formaldehyde as an example, an extremely toxic chemical by any measure. Yet, it occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables, and your body makes it constantly. It’s found in your blood. But I doubt you would consider creams preserved with formaldehyde as safe to use. And if you would use them, they would probably be quite irritating.

          Again, I understand why you think like that. I just don’t think it’s that helpful and may limit your options unnecessarily.

          It could also be because I have pretty sensitive and reactive skin, so I’m always cautious to try something new.

          In this case I would definitely try some topical antioxidants. Sensitive skin is usually a sign of skin damage and dysfunctional skin barrier. Antioxidants have been shown to repair the skin barrier function and could make your skin less sensitive to irritants.

          • Yes, you’re right, it makes more sense that I constantly get the same blackheads in the same spot, my bad.

            The whole deal with dosages does make sense, and thank you for clearing that up. I agree that my mindset has limited me, but it looks like I’ll need to start branching out to see more positive results with my skin. All this information about topical antioxidants has me really excited, so I’m eager to try them!

            Thanks for all your help!

          • One more thing. I don’t know if this applies to you, but people into natural health often believe that their skin can take care of itself. They often believe that if they just stop whatever destructive health habits they do, and stop messing with their skin, then the skin would naturally balance and heal itself. I know I used to believe something like that.

            It’s of course true that diet and lifestyle can cause acne and that messing with your skin too much is bad. But even if you stop all that there’s no guarantee that your skin gets clear. There are real differences in normal and acne-prone skin. For example, acne prone skin usually has more androgen receptors and is thus far more sensitive to androgen hormones. The sebum producing glands in acne-prone skin are also bigger, and the sebum they produce may be slightly different. Finally, it seems acne-prone skin reacts against the normal bacterial flora in the skin, whereas normal skin isn’t bothered with them.

            Diet and lifestyle has little to no effect on any of these things. This is why I recommend anyone with acne to add topical antioxidants to their skincare regimen.

            Again, I don’t know if this applies to you. I just want to point this out because I know many people into natural health believe this.

  37. I definitely am coming from that mindset, and I guess that’s why I’ve been really frustrated lately that I’ve completely changed my diet and lifestyle over the past eight months and I still am not seeing the results I desire.

    Thank you so much for bringing that to my attention. It’s certainly something I needed to hear.

    • Actually, quick question– Do you think that cleansers with antioxidants in them are worth using? Since they are washed off the skin so quickly, I wonder if you’d get any of the antioxidant benefits.

      • I wouldn’t rely on antioxidants on cleansers. Generally speaking, the cleanser you use doesn’t really matter – assuming it doesn’t contain ingredients that irritate your skin.

    • Glad to hear that it was helpful. You are not the only one who gets frustrated after making changes to their diet and lifestyle. I would say that happens to almost everyone with adult acne. Diet definitely helps but for most people it alone is not enough. They also need to address the genetic issues at the skin level. And because natural health sites usually completely ignore or deny genetics, this issue is never addressed.

  38. I get insomnia from ALA and other antioxidants..have you heard of success for blackheads with selenium? (I working on blackheads) thanks

  39. I have very oily skin. And I have been experiencing moderate acne since my teenage years. In september 2014 I had a severe breakout after using BP for 2 year. Nothing helped to get rid of my severe acne. I tried everything for 5-6 months, I did grain, diary, sugar free diet, candida cleansing, 2 liter water per day, yoga, consulted with Fran (from highnonclearskin) and what she advised me made my acne and period worth, altered my period.

    Now my skin cleared today I have 3 pimples on my skin and acne scars. And do you know what helped me less than a month?; Topical Vitamin b3 gel (niacinamide gel) and vitamin c serum. I also take fermented cod liver oil and berberine (it is almost one month). Actually I don’t feel any effect of berberine.I still follow healthy diet( sometimes I eat birthday cakes 😉 ) Let see what will happen next )

  40. Hi seppo. I was browsing amazon for topical antioxidants and stumbled upon this brand InstaNatural. Their products have wide array of antioxidants and I’m tempted to try their entire range. Plus it seems perfect, with all these glamour reviews…which made me skeptical..maybe it’s too good to be true? what do you think?

    here’s the link:

    • SAP is a stabilized form of ascorbic acid (AA). AA is very unstable and it’s hard to formulate into skin care products. SAP makes formulating with vitamin C easier, but it’s not as effective as AA.

  41. Hi Seppo,
    Im using jojoba mixed with tea tree oil to moisturize but reading your post i m thinking of adding antioxidants to my regime .
    can i directly apply the moisturizer on top of my jojoba oil mix or will they negate the efficiency of each other or also cause a reaction?
    Im posting the ingredients of the moisturizer im planning to use .please review it for me .
    Thanks in advance !
    Paulas Choice Resist Anti-Aging Clear Skin Hydrator:
    Water, Cyclopentasiloxane (silicone slip agent), Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate (thickening/skin-conditioning agent), Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer (silicone texture enhancer), Glycerin (skin-identical/repairing ingredient), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (stabilized vitamin C), Cetyl Alcohol (thickener), Niacinamide (cell-communicating ingredient), Dimethicone (silicone slip agent), Butylene Glycol (slip agent), Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate (thickeners), Polysilicone-11 (film-forming agent), Adenosine (cell-communicating ingredient), Epigallocatechin Gallate (antioxidant), Glucose Oxidase, Lactoperoxidase (skin-clearing agents), Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract (plant extract/antioxidant), Xanthan Gum (binding agent/emulsifier), Glucose (skin-identical/repairing ingredient), Ceteareth-20 (solubilizing agent), Decyl Glucoside (emulsifier), Citric Acid (pH adjuster), Phenoxyethanol (preservative).

    • It’s not possible to predict whether mixing those products will cause a negative reaction in your skin. Most skincare products are very non-reactive so mixing them shouldn’t cause a problem.

      You should add moisturizer before oils. Application order should go in the order of lightness, so the lightest product first and the heaviest last. Applying oil on the skin most likely hinders absorption of the moisturizer.

  42. seppo thanks for the moisturizer application tip . im wondering is i can alternate the application of jojoba oil and moisturizer instead eg morning – moisturizer evening- oil . will my skin get ” confused” and react negatively?

    • Yes, you can do that. And no, your skin won’t get confused. It has no intelligence that could get confused. It will adjust to whatever skincare regimen you use. So if you are constantly switching things around then your skin would have a hard time adapting and thus could be considered as ‘being confused’. But different AM/PM regiments are not a problem.

  43. seppo im taking milk thistle 200 mg , selenium 200 mg .vit e oil 400 iu ,cod liver oil epa- 100 dha -25o all 2x daily but NAC sounds good so should i add it too ? or is my present supplements enough?

    also wanted to ask you whether cinnamon lowers androgen levels . ( i read it somewhere and so i take cinnamon tea 2x daily)

    since i bought CKL in 2013 i have never stopped drinking green tea 2 cups day first thing in the morn but its been a month that im drinking bone broth as the first drink of the day so will drinking green tea later still be considered as ” on empty stomach “?
    thanks again . you are the best!!!!!!

    • yes seppo im all over your posts!
      does this vit c serum has the SAP you recomended?

      Key Ingredients: ferulic acid, acetyl octapeptide-3, glycerin, panthenol, tocopherol, sodium hyaluronate, ascorbic acid
      Product Ingredients:

      Water, Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C/antioxidant), Ethoxydiglycol (slip agent/penetration enhancer), PPG-26 Buteth-26 (emulsifier), PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil (thickener), Tocopherol (vitamin E/antioxidant), Ferulic Acid (antioxidant), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin-repairing ingredient), Acetyl Octapeptide-3 (cell-communicating ingredient), Glycerin (skin-repairing ingredient), Panthenol (skin conditioning agent), Sodium Metabisulfite (stabilizer/antioxidant), Triethanolamine (pH adjuster), Phenoxyethanol (preservative).

    • That’s a lot of supplements. It’s hard to give supplement recommendations since what you need to take depends on the type of acne you have. For someone with hormonal-type acne, NAC and some insulin lowering or anti-androgenic supplements could be helpful. So things like cinnamon and spearmint. DIM could also work but there’s no human scientific data to support it.

      Don’t worry too much about maximizing your benefits from green tea. Just having it ‘like normal people do’ should be enough.

  44. Seppo ,
    My type of acne is tiny clog pore / whiteheads that sometimes turn to pimples or else remain that way till i press it out .
    In feb 2013 i had 2/3 small pimples at a time ( feels like hormonal type) with CFL supplements , tips etc and estroblock my acne was 100% over on dec 2013

    This year on May i took “4LIFE” supplements. for 2 months ( may , june ) nothing happened( i feel that maybe it was coz i was taking Estroblock for many months till the day i began the “4LIFE” and so it was still in my body) but after 2 months maybe Estroblock was no longer in my body so my face started having mild tingling( like cobwebs tickling/ touching my face) and since then by July i have acne . I stopped 4life on end of July after i figured that it may be the culprit

    Do you think my theory is correct ? What type of acne do you think i have ?
    Will Doxycycline help my type of acne? or do you think a birth control pill will be better?
    Im getting desperate coz im following your recommended diet to the T, Supplementing, external care EVERYTHING for 4 months now 🙁

    Can i replace sugar with stevia powder in my green tea?

    PS .when i read your posts i always feel hopeful!

  45. I just found your website while looking for laser treatment for my terrible cystic acne. Mine is so affected by hormonal shifts as I get huge cysts/infection and even lymph nodes that pop out around my jaw line near my ears. Once my period starts it all dries up and starts to heal for about two weeks before it starts all over again. Internist did saliva hormone test (which I saw you said is unreliable, so good info to know!), and she said I have low progesterone. I took natural progesterone for a few months and it made everything worse, and made me super emotional. Anyway, would you recommend I demand hormone testing via blood? I have asked and doctors said no, but clearly I have a hormonal issue. Or would knowing the imbalance even help at this point? I’ve had acne since age 13. Now 31 and I’ve had two babies and now it’s worse. I’ve done every antibiotic, topical, natural treatment, accutane, diet/lifestyle change….Diet did help with general inflammation as I have fibromyalgia and Lupus. Obviously lupus is very inflammatory and gets worse when I eat sugar/dairy/carbs. Reading your posts makes so much sense as I’m just an all around “inflamed” person. The inflammation in my skin totally correlates to the joint pain and inflammation in the rest of my body right?

    • If you have clear signs of hormonal-type acne (like breaking out before periods, sensitivity to sugar and dairy, etc.), there’s probably no need to get tested. I would proceed with the assumption that your acne is, at least partially, hormonally-related and treat it accordingly.

  46. Hi Seppo, I recently purchased your book and have read through most of it and implemented many of your suggestions.

    However, i started using the products that you have recommended for cleansing, toning, and the madrelabs camellia cream, and after a couple days my skin has slowly reacted negatively to it and now my face is full of inflamed skin and breakouts that are dry, itch and occasionally throb. This has happened to me with other products before and I would like your advice on it. Is my skin adapting to the new products and should I continue trying it out for a week or so to see if it gets better? Or should i stop using the products as my skin is reacting negatively to it. The products I have been using before were working alright but I was still getting cystic acne and whitespots (especially near the chin). As well, the previous moisturizer had none of your recommendations in terms of antioxidants. After reading through many of your posts and clear for life I was very hopeful but this setback has me feeling confused and hopeless. Thank you in advance!

    • Please stop using the products immediately. From what you said, it seems you are suffering an allergic reaction to something in the products. Please keep the bottles and take them to a dermatologists. He/she can do a patch test and figure out what you are reacting to.

  47. After using BP from pretty much 16+, I’ve still never had clear skin. I recently started using Tazorac at night combined with 4 percent BP wash in the mornings. I’s been 8 months now and it was going alright, nothing spectacular, but then out of nowhere after I laid off the BP my acne came back strong on my forehead.

    I want to make a switch to antioxidant face wash after reading some of your articles. My question is should I continue with BP and add in a B5 face wash? Or should I just solely use the B5?

    One last thing, would you recommend taking antioxidant supplements?

    • You can use BP together with antioxidants. Though I would for wait 30 minutes after applying BP to apply the antioxidants. This prevents BP from destroying the antioxidants. Antioxidant supplements can be helpful for someone with moderate to severe acne. I doubt people with mild acne benefit from them.

  48. Seppo!

    Thank you so much for this article! I have been following your blog, for the past couple of weeks. I was out of hope, have been dealing with cystic acne for the past 5 years. I had a bad bad bad horrible out break for the past 4 weeks, I have been using Proactive for the past year but did not work anymore. After reading your article about topical antioxidants, I decided to give it a try to the topical Green Tea, I love green tea, I drink a cup every morning, I use the Ceremonial grade green tea matcha powder, so I made a little paste and I put it on my 10 pimples on my washed clean forehead, I rinsed out after 10 minutes and the pimples reduced the redness and the inflammation in about 80%; even a brand new pimple came down visibly! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have hope now :))) I went to the store and I looked for the Green Tea moisturizer! Within 2 days the pimples disappear! thank you again for sharing your knowledge!

    Have a good day!


    • The ingredient mix looks good. I’m somewhat concerned whether you can stuff so many ingredients in such high concentrations into one formulation and still have them working as intended. I know very little about cosmetics formulations, so it’s possible my concern is unfounded and everything works as intended.

    • Thanks. That study looks interesting. Alas, that’s more or less the only study on topical taurine. I’ll keep an eye out for this.

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