Alpha Lipoic Acid (aLA) is a compound that is important for the function of many enzymes involved in aerobic (oxygen) respiration. Alpha Lipoic Acid supplements are widely available and are purported to have antioxidant properties and other effects that are beneficial for overall health.
Alpha Lipoic Acid is rarely used for the direct treatment of acne. When used as an acne treatment, Alpha Lipoic acid may be ingested orally, or incorporated into topical anti-acne formulations.
Most people consume a significant amount of Alpha Lipoic Acid as part of their normal diet and it is unlikely that most people have Alpha Lipoic Acid deficiencies. There are a handful of research studies that indicate that consuming oral Alpha Lipoic Acid supplements can increase levels of Alpha Lipoic Acid in the blood, and that this might have beneficial effects. However, the connection between Alpha Lipoic Acid supplements and improvements in specific health conditions and diseases is largely unproven, and the evidence that does exist tends to be weak. There is no direct evidence that Alpha Lipoic Acid supplements have any effect on acne symptoms.
Perhaps the most important role for Alpha Lipoic Acid in relation to acne is its ability to raise Vitamin E levels. Vitamin E helps maintain skin health via its antioxidant properties. Some acne sufferers like to apply Alpha Lipoic Acid as a way of preventing or treating acne scars and others feel that it can reduce the occurrence of acne breakouts. However, neither oral nor topical Alpha Lipoic Acids are likely to dramatically improve acne symptoms for most individuals.
Alpha Lipoic Acid was first discovered in the 1950’s and became a nutritional supplement shortly thereafter. The biologically active form of Alpha Lipoic Acid, RLA, is an essential cellular anti-oxidant. Unlike many other supplements, oral ingestion of RLA rapidly leads to increased levels of bio-available RLA in the blood. While there is not an abundance of research on the role of Alpha Lipoic Acid in the treatment of acne, the research that does exist indicates that Alpha Lipoic Acid may be helpful in decreasing inflammation and improving the immune response to acne. Alpha Lipoic Acid is also available in topical formulations. Alpha Lipoic Acid is approved for use in Germany as a medical treatment for diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage), although it is unclear how effective it is.
alpha-Lipoic acid treatment decreases serum lactate and pyruvate concentrations and improves glucose effectiveness in lean and obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Konrad, et al. 1999.
Modern approach to topical treatment of aging skin. Puizina-Ivi, et al. 2010.
Stability, Cutaneous Delivery, and Antioxidant Potential of a Lipoic Acid and alpha-Tocopherol Codrug Incorporated in Microemulsions. Thomas, et al. 2014.
Cosmeceuticals: an evolution. Preetha, et al. 2009.
d-chiro-Inositol and alpha lipoic acid treatment of metabolic and menses disorders in women with PCOS. Cianci, et al. 2015.