A reader writes:
I suffered from moderate acne as a teen, which continued well into my adult years. In my early forties, I sought help from a dermatologist, hoping that progress had been made since my teenage experience which included tetracycline and sunlamp therapy to induce drying and peeling. I was disappointed to have this doctor recommend basically the same treatment twenty five years later. I declined.
Fortunately, a friend recommended drinking lots of water, and I began doing so, attempting to drink eight glasses a day. This was in December. The acne actually got worse . . . but I received a Brita water filter pitcher for Christmas and began drinking filtered water. Within a week my skin was totally clear, and remained so with minimal exception thereafter, even when my water consumption waned over the years. I was delighted and grateful to have found such a simple and healthy solution, and annoyed that no doctor had even suggested it.
But about 15 years later — about a year ago — I began to experience significant breakouts again, this time confined largely to my nose. I assumed that I needed to simply up my water intake again. This time it didn’t help. Maybe the filter was overdue for a change, I thought (we’d long since upgraded to a reverse osmosis filter), so I had it changed but still no improvement in my skin.
I began cutting out various foods, eggs, coconut oil, whey protein, things I was eating lots of, thinking maybe I’d developed a sensitivity. Nothing worked, although I did see immediate improvement when visiting family in the states, which made me wonder if it was the change in the water. So back home I tried to drink bottled water or club soda exclusively and it seemed to help maybe slightly.
I continued to search for a more complete solution. While perusing several online blogs devoted to acne treatment, I read a comment from a self-described longtime sufferer who claimed to have recently discovered a cure for his acne — milk thistle and NAC [n-acetyl-cysteine]. I got some milk thistle, took a few capsules a day for maybe three days, and voila, clear skin again. I never had reason to add NAC since the milk thistle worked so well.
I have reduced water consumption to normal levels (meaning I try to drink several glasses daily but don’t bother to track), take a few milk thistle capsules a week (don’t track that either), and only start to get breakouts if I happen to miss taking any for about a month, which I did just recently over the holidays. I still don’t know what causes the acne, and I don’t know why the milk thistle “cures” it, but it works wonderfully for me.
Here is more evidence for the effectiveness of milk thistle for acne.