|Best used: AM or PM
|Caution: Sensitive Skin
|Best for: Acne, Oily skin, inflamed skin. Antioxidant
|Comments: “Organic’’, derived from milk thistle
|Mode of action: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory reduces sebum production
**** With Vitamin C
What is silymarin?
Silymarin is a flavonoid extracted from milk thistle. It can be considered as organic.
It has been shown to have various pharmacological properties including; liver protective, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, & cardioprotective activities. In the context of skin benefits, this compound can downregulate oil production in addition to reducing damage to collagen from UV & environmental stressors. It is also a potent anti-inflammatory.
What conditions does it treat?
This product is suited for oily acneic skin with blemishes. Silymarin’s main roles include the treatment of acne & improving skin quality, especially in combination with active ingredients such as L-ascorbic acid & ferulic acid.
It is also a potent antioxidant, protecting your skin from UV & environmental pollutants. This reduces collagen breakdown in the deeper dermal layers of skin.
What does it exactly do for acne?
In the context of acne, silymarin reduces oxidation of sebum or oil. This reduces oxidative stress, in turn reducing inflammation & proliferation of bacteria known as c.acne. Silymarin also reduces oil production & can reduce the shine & greasy look of seborrhoea.
Some formulations contain L-ascorbic acid with silymarin. The former can stabilize the latter, & at the same time reduce post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation due to its inhibitory function on melanocytes.
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What types of acne can respond to Silymarin?
- Teenage or comedonal acne.
- Hormonal or jawline acne.
- Acne with potential to scar or pigment– especially in darker skin types.
- Oily or greasy skin, also known as seborrhoea
Disclaimer*: Ideally silymarin should be combined with other formulations to treat acne including retinol, retinoids, niacinamide, or salicylic acid.
Disclaimer**: I do not manage acne, my work is entirely procedural. For medical conditions, please consult my colleagues at Cutis.
Why is silymarin good for darker skin types?
As an anti-acne treatment silymarin is especially suited for darker skin types as it can reduce post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Results can be seen as early as 4 weeks. It does this by-
- Reducing the number of acne lesions.
- Reducing the activity of tyrosinase– the enzyme implicated in formation of pigmentation.
- Combining the synergistic effects of L-ascorbic acid, which is another potent tyrosinase inhibitor.
What is the evidence with melasma?
There are a few studies documenting the beneficial effects of silymarin in the management of melasma as this compound has been shown to reduce the activity of melanocytes (the cells that produce melanin, or pigment).
Can oral silymarin treat acne?
A recent paper compared silymarin to oral antibiotics –
In the study, the synergistic effects of concomitant silymarin and doxycycline. Although the improvement was more favourable in the combination group, there was no statistically significant difference (p = .9 in ASI and p = .5 in GAGS). The results of our study suggest that although the silymarin monotherapy is not as effective as doxycycline for the treatment of acne vulgaris, it can be a therapeutic option.
Dosage is 140 mg silymarin a day, orally.
What does the data show?
Silymarin can potentially reduce the appearance of skin aging including pigmentation & wrinkles. Effects are best seen at 8 weeks.
It also improves skin quality including improving luminosity, brightness & radiance.
What other ingredients are frequently combined with silymarin?
The most common ingredients that are used in synergy with silymarin include;
Vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid. Optimal formulations range between 10-15%. Vitamin C adds to the antioxidant role. This vitamin can reduce melanin formation as it is a tyrosinase inhibitor
Salicylic acid as this is a physical exfoliant. In lower concentrations it is also anti-inflammatory.
Ferulic acid, along with vitamin C can act synergistically with silymarin to provide antioxidant cover. One of my favourite’s is the SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF from The Formulated.
How does silymarin work as an antiaging molecule?
Silymarin has been used as an anti‐ageing agent as it has antioxidant, anti‐collagenase, and anti‐elastase activities in in‐vitro studies. This reduces breakdown of dermal collagen & elastin, in turn preserving the integrity of skin tone.
They found that the extracts might be added as a mixture to gain overall anti‐aging effects. Topical formulations can slow ageing processes by reducing oxidative stress due to UV damage & environmental pollution. A sensible anti-aging formulation consists of topical silymarin, combined with ascorbic acid prior to sunscreen application in the morning.
Does taking silymarin tablets benefit skin?
A recent study has shown that oral silymarin can accelerate wound healing in patients with burn scars. Wound healing is accelerated due to the anti-inflammatory & antioxidant properties of silymarin.
How do I incorporate silymarin in my skin care routine?
Davin’s Viewpoint on silymarin.
Dermatologist, Brisbane. Australia.
An option for your skin if you are into organic skin care. Derived from milk thistle, silymarin is a powerful antioxidant. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, hence its use in various clinical applications including acne, rosacea, dermatitis, & melasma.
In the context of acne, this molecule works by indirectly modulating the amount of oxidised lipids. Hence its function is not directed at the production of sebum or oil (unlike retinoids or anti-hormone mediations). By reducing oxidative stress on free fatty acids, it reduces the amount of C.acnes bacteria. Think of it as reducing bacteria counts by limiting access to food. Silymarin also has anti-inflammatory properties, which may also account for the clinical improvements of acne.
The role in acne is further extended by its role in modulation of the enzyme tyrosinase, which is responsible for post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is caused by increased activity of melanocytes secondary to inflammation.
Would this be my first pick for acneic skin? Nope. I do think that more traditional ingredients such as azelaic acid has more anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory & anti-pigment benefits than silymarin, however it could be a useful ingredient for those wanting a two in one topical, namely anti-acne as well as antiaging role (in the context of antioxidant properties). A combination of this and vitamin C would seem sensible & synergistic.
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