N Acetyl Cysteine and Acne:
Much like Nicotinamide Riboside, N-Acetyl Cysteine is a supplement that is near to my ♥️.
The bacteria that causes acne, Propionibacterium acnes, causes the release of inflammatory cytokines (basically just proteins, or messenger molecules).
What does this mean? Imagine you have angry one cell surrounded by many cells. The angry cell is literally radiating angry energy, and is releasing angry molecules. These molecules then hit the surrounding cells, making those cells angry. This reaction then cascades throughout your skin leading to inflammatory lesions and pimples.
One of these angry molecules that is released is Interleukin-8, or IL-8.
It has been well studied that NAC can limit activation of the inflammatory NF-kB pathway from other “angry” molecules like IL-1, IL-8, TNFa, and H2O2. These effects are seen throughout the body, from the liver to the brain, and conceivably the skin.
These participants were given 1200mg of NAC per day, but I only take one pill daily at 600mg.
Alanbari, Haidar, et al. “Effects of Silymarin, N-Acetylcysteine and Selenium in the Treatment of Papulopustular Acne.” Oxidants and Antioxidants in Medical Science, vol. 1, no. 3, 2012, p. 201., doi:10.5455/oams.290912.or.019.
NAC has also been theorized to reduce sebum production, which would decrease the amount and severity of comodones in acne patients.
Toroser, Dikran, and Rajindar S. Sohal. “Age-Associated Perturbations in Glutathione Synthesis in Mouse Liver.” Biochemical Journal, vol. 405, no. 3, 2007, pp. 583–589., doi:10.1042/bj20061868.
NAC has antimicrobial properties against biofilm phenotypes of both gram positive and gram negative bacteria. This includes antimicrobial effects on P. acnes, and Staphylococcus aureus (staph), which are two species that populate the skin of those suffering from acne or inflammation.
One group of researchers found that NAC inhibits the growth of P. Acnes and S. Aureus, which could alter the composition of the bacterial flora on the skin. The implications of a compound that can inhibit the growth of bacteria, without being an antibiotic, are huge for those of us who suffer from acne.
Eroshenko, Daria, et al. “N-Acetylcysteine Inhibits Growth, Adhesion and Biofilm Formation of Gram-Positive Skin Pathogens.” Microbial Pathogenesis, vol. 105, 2017, pp. 145–152., doi:10.1016/j.micpath.2017.02.030.
One study examined the molecules that were frequently found within acne inflammation. The paper stated that:
“skin biopsies demonstrated an increase in perifollicular and papillary der- mal CD3+, CD4+ T cells, the proinflammatory cytokine IL-1, and the vascular markers VCAM and E-selectin.”
Guess what NAC acts on? Yes, VCAM and E-selectin, showing another way that it can reduce acne. VCAM and E-Selectin are both endothelial adhesion molecules that are receptors, or targets, for circulating leukocytes. I have a theory that these circulating leukocytes interact with higher levels of VCAM and E-selectin starting the inflammatory cascade, but that is a very rough theory.
I believe that there is huge evidence in support of N-Acetyl Cysteine supplementation for those who suffer with acne. As with anything if you decide to take NAC then consult your doctor first, and stay within reasonable doses.
Here is the brand that I use:
Let me know if you have any questions, comments or suggestions!