L-Lysine for Acne

It may come as a surprise and a rather desperate move to start using a drug meant to treat herpes simplex virus-caused cold sores as a cure for acne.

The sound of its name doesn’t help either: L-Lysine sounds a bit too chemical to my ears and definitely lacks a reassuring ring to it. As it turns out though, lysine is not only a very natural substance part of the human body’s genetic code but also a necessary one for that matter. Upping your L-Lysine intake has a direct positive impact on your skin and can help prevent and reduce acne breakouts.

What is L-Lysine?

L-Lysine is a type of essential amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins. The body uses them to form protein, and in a range of other vital processes, such as metabolism.  

There are 20 amino acids in the human body, out of which 9 are essential. When we say “essential” amino acids, we mean those that our body isn’t capable of producing on its own. Nonessential amino acids can be produced in the body, while semi-essential amino acids can be produced only under certain conditions. This means that, as an essential amino acid, L-Lysine must be taken in from the food we consume or as a supplement.

Is L-Lysine Effective for Acne?

So, can lysine supplementation be effective in preventing and treating acne? The answer is yes and there are several reasons why this is so.

L-Lysine is essential in the synthesis of collagen

First of all, let me ask you what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about healthy, juvenile skin and fighting wrinkles. You have heard of collagen, right? Well, the point is that collagen is, in fact, a protein. It’s also found in the joints, ligaments, muscles and internal organs, but, above all, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human skin and hair. It gives the skin firmness and supports it in all of its functions. L-lysine is essential in the production of collagen. More collagen synthesis in the body means healthier, clearer, young looking, less acne-prone skin.

L-Lysine has a role in reducing pores blockage from excess skin oil

The second reason for L-Lysine’s benefits for acne has to do with another, less known substance: L-Carnitine. You might have never heard of it, but L-Carnitine is about as essential for healthy skin as collagen is. By its composition, this is an amino acid compound produced in the body. L-Carnitine participates in the metabolism of fats and oils, such as sebum – the natural skin oil. Specifically, L-Carnitine aids the transport of fatty acids to the cell membrane where they can be oxidized. So, sufficient quantities of this substance in the skin allow for fast and balanced oil production. This prevents the build-up of excess sebum – one of the main causes of acne breakouts. You probably guessed it L-Lysine is necessary for the production of L-Carnitine.

L-Lysine may be related to androgens (male hormones) regulation

However, the extent to which L-Lysine supplementation will be effective for acne also depends on the type of acne. Usually, hormonally-induced acne responds well to L-Lysine intake. Hormonal acne refers to acne in adults, caused by hormonal changes. They occur more often in women, in periods of hormonal fluctuations such as for example, menopause or certain stages of the monthly menstrual cycle. Acne is also common in the period after coming off hormonal birth control. This type is known as post-pill acne. It usually occurs because some birth controls drastically reduce the skin’s sebum production, leading your skin to overcompensate sebum production after you stop using it. L-Lysine can help normalize sebum production in such cases, and it may also reduce the production of androgen (male sex hormone).

How is L-Lysine Used for Acne?

You can take L-Lysine to normalize your skin’s condition and fight acne either orally or topically. The benefits lie mainly with oral supplementation. However, some anecdotal evidence exists of the effectiveness of topical application to acne-affected skin areas.

L-Lysine supplements can be found in a pill, tablet or powder forms. Primarily, over-the-counter L-Lysine supplement pills are used as a treatment for the herpes simplex virus, which causes the uncomfortable cold sores, also known as fever blisters.

Make sure you choose a high-quality, medical-grade L-Lysine supplement. The prices fall within a wholly affordable range.


Different sources suggest a different daily dosage for L-Lysine supplements. Existing studies done on lysine were based on doses ranging from 500 to 3000 mg (milligrams) a day. However, consider that you will be getting some of it from the food you’re consuming. All in all, anything from 1000 to 1500 mg taken in smaller doses throughout the day should do the trick.

Some doctors caution that you shouldn’t be taking lysine supplements every day. Consider a three-times-a-week regimen for a side effects-free experience.

The most common unwanted symptoms of L-Lysine supplements include diarrhea and stomach pain. There’s a low risk of L-Lysine toxicity. However, L-Lysine can meddle with kidney function. If you have a history of kidney-related health problems you should stay away from taking these supplements. Moreover, L-lysine has been linked to increased calcium absorption. Therefore, be careful not to increase calcium intake, while you’re supplementing with L-Lysine.

Although L-Lysine is generally a safe supplement, it’s best to consult your doctor before you embark on a regimen. This is especially important if you have a history of certain health conditions, such as any related to the liver.

Topical use of L-Lysine for Acne

You can apply L-Lysine powder on acne-affected skin in the same way it is applied topically on cold sores to a visible effect. The best way to use it is in the form of a paste, which you can prepare at home.

1 part pharmaceutical-grade L-Lysine powder

2 parts filtered water

Mix the two components until well combined. Adjust the dose to the size of the affected area that you want to treat. Usually, for face acne, 1 teaspoon of powder mixed with 2 teaspoons of water forms a sufficient amount of paste. Use a cotton swab or a cotton ball to apply the paste to the acne lesions on previously cleaned skin. It’s good to do this before bed, so you can leave on the paste to act throughout the night. Rinse and clean in the morning.

Natural Sources of L-Lysine

If you feel like you’re lacking some stronger evidence before starting to feed your gut with a synthetic pill, then you should consider increasing your L-lysine intake through food. L-lysine occurs naturally in many protein-rich foods such as red meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and cheese. Parmesan is especially high in lysine content from the cheeses, while cod and sardines are the most lysine-rich fish.

If you avoid animal products and dairy products (dairy products are considered to be one of the foods that can cause acne), there are plenty of lysine plant sources. The amino acid can be found in abundance in yeast and legumes, such as lentils and beans. Certain quantities are also found in nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds, as well as in soy and soy products, such as tofu and tempeh.

Add more of these wholesome foods to your diet and you’re hitting the problem right at its heart. Completely naturally.  


L-lysine deficiency can have a far-reaching impact on your overall health. It’s worth supplementing with it to give your body an overall health boost. Most of all though, you will help your skin clear and keep itself acne-free. It helps in the synthesis of collagen and helps balance oil metabolism in skin cells. In these ways, L-Lysine can prevent new acne from forming and support your skin in overcoming current breakouts. While there are no scientific studies yet that link lysine supplementation to acne improvement directly, many have reported evident results, including both doctors and patients. That being said, L-lysine is safe to try, but it doesn’t come with a success guarantee for everyone. Hopefully, more scientific research studies into L-Lysine as an acne treatment will be done in the upcoming years.