Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They also help your metabolism and cellular activity.

According to the University of Arizona, there are a total of 20 amino acids. Your body naturally makes 10 of them. The other 10 are derived from your diet.

There are advantages to some of these amino acids at the cellular level. Lysine is one of those amino acids. It’s been studied for its possible role in the prevention of inflammatory acne.

Acne occurs when a combination of bacteria, oil (sebum), and dead skin cells get trapped in hair follicles, clogging pores. While there are numerous factors that contribute to acne breakouts, there’s some nutrients may help control acne.

Read on to learn more about the effects of lysine on acne and your overall skin health.

For adults, the recommended daily allowance of lysine is 38 milligrams (mg) per kilogram of body weight per day. Depending on age, children may need 40 to 62 mg per kilogram of body weight per day.

Lysine works in the body with other nutrients as a “building block.” It helps form muscles with dietary protein and also helps your body better absorb calcium for bone health.

It may also treat cold sores. There’s evidence that lysine helps build collagen in the skin as well. Collagen is the structure responsible for skin elasticity and firmness.

Given these benefits, it’s natural to wonder what lysine could do for your acne. However, there’s no current scientific evidence that people who take lysine have improved acne.

Instead of taking supplements to treat acne, the better bet is to make sure you’re eating a healthy and varied diet. Getting adequate intakes of amino acids, including lysine, along with other healthy nutrients may contribute to overall skin health.

It’s also important to reflect on any online claims that lysine can help “cure” acne or help treat breakouts within a short amount of time. It takes most skin cells at least 10 to 30 days to turn over. This means that any dietary changes may not show the full effects in your skin for about a month or longer.

Lysine has been safely used in clinical studies for other skin conditions, mostly cold sores. These studies used doses between 1,000 and 3,000 mg. The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that toxicity of lysine is rare.

In the studies evaluating lysine’s benefits for cold sores, the most common side effects reported were stomach upset and pain and diarrhea.

While lysine is available in supplemental forms, the best sources of this amino acid come from foods, such as:

  • red meat
  • avocados
  • chicken
  • fish
  • cottage cheese
  • pork
  • wheat germ

Even if you do eat a lot of lysine-rich foods, absorption is dependent on other nutrients, such as iron, vitamin C, and B vitamins. If you’re deficient in these nutrients, then you might also lack the amount of lysine your body needs, too. Although uncommon, this could lead to protein deficiencies and even anxiety in some people.

Other considerations

Lysine, when taken in the recommended daily amounts, may contribute to overall healthier and more resilient skin. But there’s no evidence this amino acid will treat acne, though.

Even people who have healthy diets can sometimes get acne based on other factors, such as:

  • having oily skin with more sebum in sebaceous glands
  • heredity
  • lack of regular exfoliation (removal of dead skin cells)
  • hormone fluctuations
  • stress

Talk to your doctor if you suspect any of the above factors might be contributing to your acne breakouts. It’s also possible that an anti-inflammatory diet may help.

Aside from making sure you’re eating a healthy and varied diet, you may also need help from other acne treatments to get rid of any breakouts more effectively.

The exact treatment depends on the type of acne you have. Blackheads and whiteheads, which are common types of noninflammatory acne, can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) products containing salicylic acid to get rid of dead skin cells. Weekly exfoliation can also help this form of acne. OTC benzoyl peroxide may help clear up occasional pimples.

Inflammatory acne — including pustules, cysts, and acne vulgaris — may require more aggressive treatment from your dermatologist. Talk to your dermatologist about whether you need prescription medications for your acne and whether dietary adjustments might help.

Antibiotics and retinoids are also possible treatments for severe acne.