What are amino acids?

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 come from your diet.

Some of these amino acids provide advantages 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. Many factors can contribute to acne breakouts, but there are also some nutrients that 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 their 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. It also helps your body better absorb calcium for bone health.

Lysine may also treat cold sores. Studies show that Lysine helps build collagen in the skin. Collagen is the structure responsible for your skin’s elasticity and firmness.

Given these benefits, it’s natural to wonder what lysine could do for your acne. However, there’s currently little evidence that suggests taking lysine helps improve acne.

Making sure you’re eating a healthy and varied diet may be more important than taking supplements to treat acne. Getting adequate amounts of amino acids, including lysine, along with other healthy nutrients may contribute to overall skin health.

It’s also important to carefully examine 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 lysine toxicity is rare.

While lysine is available as a supplement, the best source of this amino acid is food, such as:

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

Even if you 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, you might also lack the amount of lysine your body needs.

Although uncommon, when your body lacks the necessary amount of lysine, it could lead to protein deficiencies and even anxiety.

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.

Even people who have healthy eating habits 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.

In addition to eating a healthy and varied diet, you may need use 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. These products can help get rid of dead skin cells.

Weekly exfoliation can also help with this form of acne. OTC benzoyl peroxide may help clear up occasional pimples.

Inflammatory acne — including pustules, cysts, and steroid acne (acne vulgaris) — may require your dermatologist to use more aggressive treatments. Talk to your dermatologist about prescription- medication options and dietary adjustments that might help.

Antibiotics and retinoids are also possible treatments for severe acne.