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How Effective Is Lysine for Acne?

By Marlene de Wilde
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Taking lysine for acne is not a common treatment or therapy but has proven successful for some acne sufferers. Lysine is one of the essential amino acids for the body, but because it is not produced by the body, it must be consumed. Some people prefer to get their intake of lysine from food sources while others find supplements more convenient. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and protein is an important factor in healing the skin. Using lysine for acne works for some people but has the opposite effect for others.

The main role of lysine is collagen formation and tissue repair, which is probably why it may be effective for acne. The amino acid is usually prescribed or recommended as a treatment for viral infections such as cold sores, shingles and herpes. The effect of the lysine on acne was noticed by people taking supplements for these conditions who saw their acne clear up at the same time. Other people, however, saw the exact opposite and experienced increased acne outbreaks while taking lysine supplements. Research has supported that lysine can have a beneficial effect on the skin, but some people may be more sensitive to the role lysine plays in maintaining hormone and enzyme levels.

For some users of lysine for acne, it seems to be effective over the short term but then the acne flares up again. As lysine is integral to tissue repair, it promotes the healing of scarred and unhealthy skin. This effect may only be temporary as the causes of the acne have not been treated, only the symptoms. It could also be that taking lysine for acne or for herpes over the long term may deplete levels of the B6 vitamin and one sign of B6 deficiency is skin inflammation.

There are 21 amino acids, all of which are necessary for optimal health, but of those, only eight are not synthesized in the body and so must be provided in the diet; these are referred to as "essential" amino acids. Lysine is one of these. It is found in some meats, fish, vegetables, dairy products and legumes. Most people who follow a healthy diet get enough lysine from the foods they eat and it is recommended that sufferers of cold sores try to increase their dietary sources of lysine before taking supplements. Lysine supplements are generally considered safe and free of side effects, but excessive lysine intake may contribute to the formation of gallstones.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1000731 — On Dec 04, 2018

Take B6 to make the lysine work.

By anon992387 — On Sep 04, 2015

I seem to get one or two cold sore breakouts a year, and up until recently I had never tried l-lysine. A friend had recommended it to me after an unsuccessful battle with a cold sore using Abreva and Zovirax pills earlier this year (I still got a bad breakout after using the recommended dose). I promised myself that if I had a new breakout in the future I'd try and treat it naturally with l-lysine.

Lo and behold, last Tuesday, I woke up to that tingling feeling on my lip and within minutes I had a decent sized red bump. I immediately popped four 1000mg l-lysine pills and put ice on my lip for 20 minutes. This regime literally stopped it in its tracks! I couldn't believe it.

I continued to take two l-lysine pills for the next few days just to be sure that I had killed everything, and it worked like a charm. Now, on a side note, I also suffer from moderate hormonal acne on my jaw and mid-cheeks. I'm 29, and I've suffered since age15 and I've tried everything except accutane (just won't do it). The only thing that really works for me is birth control, but after more than a decade on the pill, I wanted to come off and feel what my body's natural rhythm was like. Once I did, I realized that I hate the feeling of being on birth control and its only merit was my skin clearing.

So, as you can imagine, after months of being off the pill, my skin went crazy. It happened gradually, but seven months later. my skin was just as bad as it had been when I was 15 when I went to the dermotologist for the first time. I was gutted. I stayed positive and tried every natural topical remedy I could find and researched high and low on the Internet. I tried glytone products, dietary changes, anti androgen washes, turmeric and used differin on top of all of the natural remedies and sadly Nothing worked. I didn't want to take doxy or mini as they cure nothing long term and they negatively impact your body.

So eventually, I gave in and got a prescription for my old pill. But here's the catch: I couldn't start taking it until the Sunday after my next cycle, so there was about a two-week waiting period where I'd have to grin and bear any new spots. It was during this waiting period that the cold sore flared up and the l-lysine was consumed. Well, it's really really exciting to report that I think the lysine is clearing up my skin as well. It's beenm five days since I took the high dose of l-lysine and I've had no new breakouts. On that first day it did blow my skin out; it looked really bad and all of the spots came to form heads and the cystic nodes swelled up (I figured better new zits than a cold sore – at least you can cover zits up), but surprisingly, by day three, all of my spots started to go down drastically! I'm now taking one lysine pill per day as an experiment. Maybe it will work, and maybe it won't but it's going to be my last shot. If this doesn't work, then on the pill I go.

My thoughts: If lysine makes some people's skin worse at first (like me) this may be part of the healing procces. I'm not a doctor so please don't follow my advice without conducting your own research, but my experience with any acne pill regime is that you go through a small period of inflamed acne before it gets better. It's the same with doxy, sulfa pills, accutane and even birth control. Your body has to get the infection out one way or another. So I'll keep on with the experiment and I'll repost in another week or so. Right now I'm feeling like it could be my saving grace. If not, then at least I know I've exhausted all options.

For cold sores, however, l-lysine is a miracle cure. I wish I'd known about it years ago and I want to scream from the rooftops about it, except that that would be very embarrassing, but seriously, it's incredibly effective. If it works for acne too, then my goodness, everyone should know about it as a potential remedy. I know it doesn't work for everyone, but for some like me, where 99 percent of acne remedies don't work anyway, I'm going to hedge my bets one last time.

By anon956158 — On Jun 11, 2014

Lysine increases calcium absorption, so if you are still sticking to a dairy based diet, your acne may get worse due to non organic foods loaded with chemicals and hormones utilized to protect and yield more product such as milk.

Eliminate all dairy if possible and replace with pomegranate juice, fresh fruits and vegetables. Wash your skin with liquid neutrogena soap and spend time outside getting fresh air and sun light. Drink plenty of fresh spring water especially before going to sleep.

Take a quality multivitamin to balance out any depletion caused by Lysine. Something that offers 100 percent daily value and covers a wide range of vitamins. Consult a doctor or a healthcare provider if you are on meds or not sure about changing anything you currently do.

Cystic acne gets worse when drinking milk, eating cheese, too much junk food, eating eggs constantly, high sugar based foods and daily stress.

By anon937278 — On Mar 04, 2014

Best thing to try is 2250mg Pantethine and 1200 mgN-aceytyl-L-cysteine per day. It is an anti-acne protocol that really does work.

By anon928906 — On Jan 29, 2014

It suppressed my cold sores but gave me terrible acne. This supplement has caused me so much stress. I hope it works for you! Everyone's body reacts differently, so the only way to know is to try it and see. I discontinued l-lysine three weeks ago and my skin is clearing up nicely. Before, I was waking up daily to new breakouts. Ugh. Too bad.

By anon349398 — On Sep 25, 2013

Everybody try Sundown Naturals, l-lysine 500mg. It’s a small orange bottle and you can find it in family dollar or maybe walgreens, but it definitely works! Trust me! I am 20 years old and I have HSV-1 and I found out that the drugs that they sell you at the pharmacy for HSV-1 work, but they are bad and unhealthy for you because it’s a drug!

Take 1 pill in the morning and another one in the afternoon. Do this only when you feel a breakout coming on. Do not do it every day, because if you do, your body will get used to it and it won’t be as effective anymore. So I encourage you all to go to the store right now and buy it. When you do, I also recommend not drinking or eating anything with caffeine in it because caffeine weakens your immune system, thus making you have more pimple breakouts, and cold sore breakouts! When I went to my doctor, I asked if it was OK to take l-lysine instead of my medicine and she said yes!

People, I truly recommend you all give l-lysine a try. It has actually cleared up my skin in pimples, my face practically glows, and even my family noticed. Ever since I’ve used l-lysine, I haven’t gotten a breakout for six months, and when I do feel one coming on, I just take my daily two pills and literally, *poof* -- it’s like I don’t even have HSV-1! I was a skeptic at first too, but damn! I was wrong! This amino acid is literally magic in a bottle. Do not take any more prescribed medicine. This vitamin/amino acid is the best thing that will happen to you in your life!

By anon342901 — On Jul 25, 2013

I am 34 years old, and have suffered from cystic acne for over a decade, have tried every product you can probably imagine, and have found nothing to be effective, until I found out about Lysine. I have been taking Lysine for about two weeks and so far, my cystic acne is almost gone! It's so crazy - the giant, disgusting, frightening red mountains on my face have subsided (knock on wood), but I have been getting cysts on my neck. So that's my response thus far to Lysine. I also take Borage oil, Hemp oil, do a very mild version of OCM, and I am currently eating and drinking horribly. After a severe breakout, I was talked into a strong peel that did dry everything out and make my giant cysts dry out (they were lanced prior to peeling - yeah!), but after a week of looking like a Walking Dead extra from the peel and a wonderful week of clear skin, my skin flared up again. Eeww. So I tried the Lysine and so far it's great! I'll try to post again. Also, I think I'll supplement with B6 to help counteract the side effects of L. Good luck!

By anon308993 — On Dec 14, 2012

Recently I got three cold sores in a row. Once one would start to clear up another one appeared. I let the first one run its course and it took a long 10 days or so. When I started to get the second one, I took lysine and a lot of it! Maybe about one pill every two hours. That may be above the recommended dose, but this sore didn't stand a chance.

Normally, when I get them on my upper lip, they swell up quite a bit. This remained barely noticeable which made me quite happy. Then the third one barely came out for one day - just a little bump. Then I also noticed my acne clearing up, which led me to this site, since the only thing different I was doing was taking the lysine. I'm happy about that, too.

By anon306875 — On Dec 02, 2012

I am taking Lysine right now for hsv-1 and am having a pimple break out. Glad this feed is here, since I am starting to think the break out is associated with the Lysine. I have problems with pimples and it is getting worse as I get into my 30s. The only thing that seems to clear it up for me is completely stopping my sugar intake.

I also take turmeric supplements at times, because it supports healthy inflammation response and it does seem to make a dent in the number of pimples I have.

By anon302281 — On Nov 08, 2012

Try an oil face wash with steaming your face with a hot wash cloth. Castorol oil and extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil. Believe it or not, an oil takes oil away, but make sure you steam your face with the washcloth and wipe away. Vitamin e oil is good too.

The pimples get crusty and come off. Strange and weird. I've been doing this for eight days and my pores are clear and no blackheads, and my cystic acne is healing. I'm going to try adding lysine.

By bear78 — On Jan 21, 2012

Yes lysine works for acne but I think it's much better to take it in natural form. I think the reason it might be causing more breakouts in some people is because of the artificial ingredients and additional substances in the supplements.

I just concentrate on eating lysine rich foods and limit my consumption of foods high in arginine. I've heard that arginine cancels out the benefits of lysine and is found in chocolate, nuts and coffee. So I try to avoid these.

Beef, fish, turkey, cheese, eggs, beans, chicken, crab, milk, seeds on the other hand, are really high in lysine. I make sure to eat some of these foods every day.

By serenesurface — On Jan 20, 2012

@ysmina-- Yes, I've had good results from taking lysine supplements. I wasn't taking them for my acne actually. I took them to help get over a herpes breakout and my acne started disappearing along with it.

I had bad acne at that time with numerous breakouts on my face and all of them went away one by one. I haven't had any new breakouts since then.

So it's not a scam. It's just that it doesn't work for some people but it's definitely worth a try to see how you will react. It could end up clearing and curing your acne as it did mine.

I just took the recommended dose on the supplement bottle which said one 1000 mg tablet daily.

By ysmina — On Jan 19, 2012

I've heard about the benefits of lysine for acne and rosacea on several different forums. Several members of these forums have claimed that lysine has cleared up their acne or rosacea in a very short period of time. But since they didn't give any detailed information about their experience, I haven't felt that it was reliable enough to go ahead and try lysine myself.

I have rosacea and acne due to it. If anyone has actually tried lysine and has seen an improvement in their skin condition, please share the details with me. I would really like to know what the average dose is and if any official studies have been done on lysine's effects on acne.

I'm really hopeful that lysine could be the solution that I'm looking for. But with so many spammers and advertisers working overtime to sell their products, I'm not sure what to believe or not to believe any more.

By jonrss — On Jan 19, 2012

@zsazsa56 - That's really too bad. I had the same experience. As a matter of fact, my acne got worse while I was taking it.

I am like you and have had acne my whole life. I wish desperately that I could find something that would clear it up or at least make my break outs less severe. What else have you tried using? Have you had more success with something else, a wash or a cream or a vitamin supplement? I will try just about anything to make this go away.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Jan 18, 2012

I have suffered from terrible acne for my entire life. I thought it would go away once I got out of my teenage years but I was not so lucky.

I had tried just about every treatment under the sun with varying amounts of success. Things worked for a while but nothing was able to clear my skin up entirely.

A friend of mine recommended lysine and I decided to give it a try. At that point I had nothing to loose. I used it for about two months but unfortunately I never saw any real improvements. I wish I could tell you guys that it is some kind of miracle treatment but it wasn't for me. My acne is as bad as it ever was.

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