During my college acne breakout phase, I tried a variety of “natural” ways to prevent and heal my acne prior to being prescribed Retin A cream. These at home acne remedies included using Apple Cider Vinegar as a toner, oil cleansing, using Vitamin E as a moisturizer, rubbing my face with lemon juice, and leaving toothpaste on my pimples overnight. I was also recommended by health blogs to consume foods with high antioxidant concentrations as well as supplementing with anti-inflammatory oils, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, but after my face looked like a stucco ceiling from oil cleansing with coconut oil, I did not have the heart to continue my DIY acne treatments. Albeit Retin A cream has been amazing for my skin’s clarity and texture, I have always wondered if I should replace this treatment for a non-medicated alternative to preventing my acne. Today, I will discuss two popular “dietary acne treatments”: consuming sunflower seeds and supplementing with Omega-3 fatty acids.

Study 1:

This study entitled “Sunflower Seeds and Acne Vulgaris” was a randomized controlled trial conducted in Ardabil, Iran. The goal of the study was to determine the effect of consuming sunflower seeds on the severity of acne and acne lesions, and researchers believed sunflower seeds would improve acne severity because of its high levels of omega 6 fatty acids (which have anti-inflammatory properties. There were 50 teen and young adult subjects (between the ages of 15-30) in the study who were patients in a dermatology clinic in the city. The subjects were divided into a control group and an intervention group, and the intervention group was required to consume 25 g of sunflower seed containing food for a period of 7 days. During the study, the control group was not allowed to consume sunflower seeds. Acne severity was assessed by dermatologists who used ASI (acne severity index) as well as GAGS (global acne grading score) at baseline and on the follow up day. The results of the study were that the mean ASI in the intervention group increased from baseline, and the ASI means of the intervention group were significantly higher compared to the control group’s mean ASI. However, the GAGS did not show any significant changes in acne severity between the intervention group and the control group. While the study provides significant results on the negative effects of sunflower seed consumption, it has its limitations, including the small sample size, the short intervention period, the conflicting results between the mean ASI and GAGS, and a possible genetic component to acne severity because over half of the patients reported a family history of acne vulgaris.

Study 2:

The second study entitled, “Effect of Dietary Supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Gamma-linolenic Acid on Acne Vulgaris”, was randomized, control study conducted on 45 participants who had mild to moderate acne. The rationale for the study was omega-3 fatty acids and gamma-linoleic acids are anti-inflammatory agents and could inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory agents that cause acne. The participants were divided into 3 groups, a control group, an omega-3 supplemented group, and a gamma- linoleic acid (GLA) group, and they consumed either supplements or a placebo over a 10-week period. Histological analyses were conducted on 7 patients from each group, and researchers counted the number of acne lesions each participant had during several periods of the study. The results showed that there were significant decreases inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesion counts in the omega-3 group and the GLA group compared to the control group. But, there was not a significant difference in the number of acne lesions between the omega-3 group and the GLA group. The limitations of the study are the small sample size, the lack of blood samples from each participant in order to determine the bioavailbility of omega-3 and GLA, and the lack of information on whether there were differences in the number of acne lesions based on gender and age.

The next blog post will conclude all of the studies from blogs 12-14, so check back on my website soon!


  1. Mohebbipour, Alireza, Homayoun Sadeghi-Bazargani, and Mona Mansouri. “Sunflower Seed and Acne Vulgaris.” Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal Iran Red Crescent Med J9 (2015): n. pag. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. 
  2. Jung, J., H. Kwon, J. Hong, J. Yoon, M. Park, M. Jang, and D. Suh. “Effect of Dietary Supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Gamma-linolenic Acid on Acne Vulgaris: A Randomised, Double-blind, Controlled Trial.” Acta Dermato Venereologica Acta Derm Venerol5 (2014): 521-25. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.
  1. Sanders, Helen. “The Best Foods to Clear Acne.” Health Ambition The Best Foods to Clear Acne Comments. Health Ambition, 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.