Acne may look simple, but as the saying goes: looks can be deceiving. Its underlying causes are often deep and systemic, manifesting on the surface as a build-up of oil (sebum), bacteria and dead skin cells. The oily sebum becomes trapped in hair follicles, which creates the optimal environment for the anaerobic bacteria to thrive and multiply. Protected from the oxygen and nurtured by the sebum, the bacteria clog up the pores - making for one hot and itchy acne inflammation.
While acne breakouts can be tracked down to a wide variety of causes, there are also factors that can help control this process, and some of these come in the form of nutrients. Today, we’re going to cover one such key nutrient: the amino acid L-Lysine (chemical name Lysine monohydrochloride), also conventionally known as lysine.
While it’s true that our bodies are made up of mostly water, it’s important to remember that all this water is held together by a rich and well-maintained frame of protein. But what holds all that protein glued together? Well, it’s the small army of amino acids. Besides serving as the basic building blocks in the structures of protein that form our bodies, amino acids also perform a number of important metabolic functions and regulate cellular activity.
L-Lysine is one of the 20 amino acids known to man, but it also belongs to the ‘precious’ subset of the so-called essential amino acids. There are ten of these and they’re called essential because, unlike the non-essential amino acids, these cannot be produced by the human body. Instead, we need to supplement each of the ten essential amino acids through our diet.
As we already mentioned, some amino acids regulate our bodies down to the cellular level. L-Lysine is one of those essential amino acids because it aids the production of carnitine, a key substance which plays a role in converting the body’s fatty acids into energy, while also absorbing calcium. Additionally, L-Lysine aids the production of collagen in the body, and collagen (as you probably already know) plays a crucial role in skin health, contributing to a smooth, youthful appearance. Both of these functions - the regulation of fatty acids at the cellular level and the regulation of collagen - have made L-Lysine an interesting essential amino acid when it comes to the treatment of acne.
That is not all, however. Since L-Lysine is so dutiful in delivering collagen to skin cells, it also helps prevent (and even sometimes revert) conventional signs of aging, such as wrinkles, dark spots or fine lines. Collagen, after all, is what makes skin so firm, smooth and elastic. So more L-Lysine means more collagen, which means healthier skin. Simple, right?
Sadly, science has yet to give us a precise answer as to the exact amount of L-Lysine that should be taken to treat acne. But anecdotal data can provide us with some awareness as to the effectiveness of L-Lysine and its prescribed doses. According to WebMD, for example, the recommended daily intake for treating a bout of herpes is 1,000 milligrams of lysine for 12 months. On the other hand, taking anywhere between 500 and 4,000 milligrams of L-Lysine is recommended in the prevention of cankers and canker sores. But again, those prescriptions aren’t intended for treating acne. It goes without saying that if you intend to take L-Lysine supplements for an acne problem, you will need to consult with your MD and dermatologist first.
To circumvent the dosage conundrum, however, we have a better route: the natural way. Why take L-Lysine supplements when there are so many tasty, mouth-watering foods that contain this essential amino acid? Here is a list of some of the best natural sources for L-Lysine.
A couple of important caveats here, however. Even if you gorge on lysine-rich foods, the actual intake and absorption of the essential amino acid will depend on the accompanying nutrients, such as Vitamin C, Vitamins B12 and B5, as well as iron, zinc and other minerals. That’s why it’s just as important to follow a varied diet, and not just a lysine-rich one, since when it comes to food and nutrients, diversity is strength. Another thing to remember is that it takes anywhere from 10-30 days until a healthy skin cell goes through its lifecycle. This means that the effects of L-Lysine intake won’t be immediately necessary - nurturing your body takes time. Give it a couple of months. Nature works slowly, but she’s very thorough.
While there is no hard scientific data that confirms L-Lysine always helps with the treatment of acne, the well-known properties of this amino acid make it a necessary component for establishing good skin care. However, we need to remember that acne can be caused by a multitude of factors, and in a lot of cases, merely increasing the amount of L-Lysine won’t change much.
This is because even people who eat the best diets and have more than enough L-Lysine in their bodies often suffer from other factors that promote the appearance of acne. These acne-aiding factors include:
If you have one or more of these factors contributing to your acne problem, consult your dermatologist.
Can any amino acid really be harmful? Not really, but science always follows the golden rule of “trust, but verify.” According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, the existing literature and clinical studies (which studied doses of 1,000-3,000 milligrams per day prescribed for treating cold sores) show that L-Lysine toxicity is pretty rare. The most severe side-effects that were reported were the occasional upset stomach and some cases of diarrhea.
Acne or not, a healthy and varied diet is important for our health, and not only for ensuring healthy skin. L-Lysine remains one of the best allies we have when it comes to improving our skin health naturally, and besides, it comes packaged in some of the tastiest foods. However, if you would still prefer to take additional L-Lysine in the form of supplements, please consult with a medical professional.
This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.