Lactoferrin is a protein that’s part of the human immune system. Because of its ability to regulate the immune system it’s studies as a possible treatment for acne and other inflammatory conditions. And indeed early research shows promising results.
Lactoferrin is part of the innate part of the human immune system. Innate immune system is transferred from the mother to the baby and protects the baby before the other parts of the immune system develop. So it’s the first line of defense for infants.
Later in life lactoferrin is found in body secretions, such as tears, mucous, blood and saliva. Researchers believe that lactoferrin plays an important role in protecting the mucous parts of the body.
Lactoferrin is also found in the skin. And that makes it interesting as a potential treatment for acne.
Studies show lactoferrin may help with acne
I found 2 studies on lactoferrin and acne. Not much to go by, but they show some interesting results.
A Korean study published in the journal Nutrition was the better of the two. It was controlled, double-blinded and randomized – meaning we can have more confidence on the results. The Korean researchers gave fermented milk for 36 people. 18 out of the 36 also got 200mg of lactoferrin with their fermented milk. The other 18 didn’t and acted as a control group.
Compared to the controls the people who got lactoferrin had:
- Almost 40% decrease in inflammatory lesions
- More than 20% less pimples overall
- Acne was graded as 20% less severe
- Sebum levels on the skin went down by 31%
The people who drank the lactoferrin beverage also had a better sebum fatty acid profile. What that means is their sebum was more resistant to inflammation, which helps to protect against acne breakouts.
The other study was also positive. In this German study the researchers gave 43 teens and young adults a chewable table with lactoferrin. They were measured the total pimple count and compared it to the pre-study count. They found that 77% of the subjects had fewer pimples than before the study. The average decrease was 22.5% in 8 weeks.
Interesting, but the problem with this study is that it had no controls. So we can’t say if the improvement was due to placebo or specific effect by the lactoferrin tablet.
Lactoferrin inhibits skin inflammation
I found a few other studies on lactoferrin and skin issues. In some of these studies the researchers looked into its ability to suppress inflammation in the skin. They rubbed an irritating substance to the skin and looked the effect of lactoferrin on the resulting inflammation. They found that lactoferrin can suppress the production of inflammatory substances on the skin. They also found that lactoferrin can’t protect against inflammatory molecules from other sources.
What this means is lactoferrin probably can’t protect against food allergy induced acne, but it can help to protect the skin against irritation by harsh skin washes, sun light, pollution and so on.
I’m not aware of any serious health risks with lactoferrin. WebMD reports this on safety of lactoferrin
Lactoferrin is safe in amounts consumed in food. Consuming higher amounts of lactoferrin from cow’s milk might also be safe for up to a year. Human lactoferrin that is made from specially processed rice appears to be safe for up to 14 days. Lactoferrin can cause diarrhea. In very high doses, skin rash, loss of appetite, fatigue, chills, and constipation have been reported.
So what can we make of all this? Can lactoferrin help you to get clear?
It’s too early to say yet. But the results look interesting. In two studies lactoferrin was shown to help with acne. Other studies have shown that it can reduce inflammation in the skin – one of the causes behind acne. We know lactoferrin plays a role in beneficially regulating the immune system. And there doesn’t appear to be any serious safety concerns.
You can find several brands from Amazon for less than $20 (please don’t ask me which one is good – I don’t know). With all this in mind I think lactoferrin is one of the few supplements worth trying.
- Dietary effect of lactoferrin-enriched fermented milk on skin surface lipid and clinical improvement of acne vulgaris.
- Efficacy and tolerability of oral lactoferrin supplementation in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: an exploratory study.
- Lactoferrin and host defence: an overview of its immuno-modulating and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Lactoferrin: influences on Langerhans cells, epidermal cytokines, and cutaneous inflammation.
- Regulation of epidermal Langerhans cell migration by lactoferrin.
- Exogenous topical lactoferrin inhibits allergen-induced Langerhans cell migration and cutaneous inflammation in humans.
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