Selenium is a mineral that is necessary for human health. It is vital for several bodily functions, such as DNA synthesis, reproduction, hormone metabolism, and immune protection. Apart from these benefits, selenium may help improve skin health and reduce acne. While the latter is not debilitating per se, pimples can affect one's quality of life – whether he/she is an adolescent or an adult.
Selenium for Skin Health
Free radicals are brought about by UV exposure, pollution, or smoking. These molecules can contribute to premature skin aging, among many other harmful effects. The more obvious results are fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots. But unbeknownst to many, premature aging can also lead to thin, dry, dull, sagging skin.
With that being said, selenium is one of the best 'natural' options against premature skin aging. That's because it's an antioxidant, meaning it can defend the skin cells from the harmful actions of free radicals. With regular selenium supplementation, you may achieve healthy, youthful-looking skin.
Low Levels of Selenium May Lead to Acne
Acne is a bothersome condition characterized by pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. This often results from pores that are clogged with dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil (sebum). While diet, environmental exposure, and hormonal changes contribute to breakouts, a study by Michaëlsson and Edqvist suggests that a low selenium level may be another culprit.
The researchers supplemented the participants with 400 micrograms of selenium, together with 20 milligrams of Vitamin E. After 12 weeks of therapy, the majority of the subjects logged improved selenium levels. Expectedly, they reported noticeable improvements in terms of appearance.
Selenium for Inflammatory Acne
A lot of people believe that inflammation only occurs in the latter stages of acne. Tanghetti begs to differ though. According to his research, inflammation occurs early on in acne – and it persists throughout.
With that being said, selenium may be a good supplement for acne. As an antioxidant, selenium may help control the substances that promote inflammation in the body.
Apart from reducing inflammation, the antioxidant selenium may help improve immunity as well. This may help curb the growth of Propionibacterium acnes, a microbe that brings about acne.
Normally, P. acnes is part of the skin microbiome. But when the immune system is weakened, P. acnes can populate uncontrollably. The proliferation of the said bacteria can lead to inflammatory acne, among many other skin conditions.
As such, the antioxidant selenium – which can help control inflammation and enhance immunity – may help reduce the severity of acne.
Selenium for Hormonal Acne
As has been mentioned, hormonal changes can lead to pimples. Such can be said in hyperthyroidism, where there is an excess of thyroid hormones. It can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as heat intolerance, tremors, palpitations, and weight loss, to name a few.
As for the skin, an overactive thyroid may lead to increased oil production. As to why this happens, experts are still unsure. Endocrinologist Jason Baker attributes this to the hormones’ effects on the sebaceous glands that produce sebum.
And of course, the more oil there is, the higher the chances of developing acne. This explains why hyperthyroid individuals often complain of pimples. As an antioxidant – and as a vital component for thyroid hormone metabolism – selenium may help control hyperthyroidism. Apart from managing thyroid hormone fluctuations, selenium may help reduce the acne that comes with the disease.
Selenium for Mood Problems and Acne
Mood disorders affect millions of people worldwide. About 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, while more than 16 million are diagnosed with depression. Apart from affecting the mind, these mood problems can bring about hormonal changes that lead to acne.
Such a connection was established in the study of Golchai et al. Results show that 68% of anxious patients had acne. Depression, on the other hand, co-occurred at a lower rate of 25.6%.
So how can Selenium help reduce anxiety or depression-related acne? Well, a study by Benton and Cook has established that selenium may play a role in improving mood. In that study, 50 subjects received a selenium supplementation of 100 micrograms daily for 5 weeks. Results showed that selenium intake helped decrease anxiety in most of the participants.
With its ability to improve mood, selenium may help manage anxiety, depression, and their byproduct that is acne.
Where to Get Selenium
Because of the many benefits that selenium has for the body, supplementation is a must for those who wish to have clearer, better skin. Fortunately, selenium comes in organic and inorganic forms, both of which are good sources of the said mineral. Concerning foods, brazil nuts, seafood, and organ meats are the best sources of selenium. Other good sources include cereals, grains, muscle meats, and dairy products.
Apart from food, a supplement is also a good source of selenium. It is available in various forms such as sodium selenite/selenate and selenomethionine. However, the latter proves to be the better choice as the body can absorb 90% of selenomethionine, compared to just 50% of selenite.
Whether you get selenium through food or supplements, you must meet the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 55 micrograms. This is applicable for both men and women aged 14 years old and above. The RDA is higher for pregnant and lactating women, at 60 and 70 micrograms respectively.
With that being said, is important to note that the maximum daily amount should only be 400 micrograms. An excess of that can lead to symptoms similar to arsenic poisoning.
Tips on Taking Selenium
While selenium is generally safe to take short-term, it may come with several side effects, such as:
As has been mentioned, selenium can boost the immune system. As such, it should be avoided by people with autoimmune diseases. Supplementation may worsen the symptoms of lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few.
In a Nutshell
Selenium is a mineral found in most foods and supplements. It is an antioxidant that can defend the skin cells from free radical damage. As such, selenium may help prevent premature skin aging. It may also help reduce the severity of acne caused by inflammation, hormonal changes, and mood disorders.