Selenium is an antioxidant mineral that plays a role in reproductive health, skin health, thyroid function, and overall health. This may mean that there is a role for selenium in PCOS and acne.
A lack of selenium in Swedish agricultural soil makes selenium deficiency a concern in Sweden. Swedish studies have found depressed levels of key antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) levels in people with skin disorders such as acne, and in arthritis. Clinical trials using selenium supplementation have reported improvements in acne and other effects of selenium deficiency, including joint pain (Bruce, 1986).
In a 2016 study, researchers looked at the effects of selenium supplementatin in women with PCOS. Specifically, Razavi and colleagues looked at reproductive outcomes, biomarkers of inflammation, and oxidative stress in polycystic ovary syndrome.This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involved 64 women aged 18-40 years old with PCOS attending a clinic in Iran. The women were randomly assigned to a group receiving either a placebo pill or 200 mcg of selenium daily for 8 weeks.
Selenium in PCOS and Acne
After 8 weeks, the women in the selenium group had a much higher rate of pregnancy (18.8%) compared to the placebo group (3.1%). They also had a decrease in alopecia (40.6% vs. 9.4%) and a decrease in acne (46.9% vs. 12.5%). The selenium group also had decreases in hirsutism, and in biomarkers for oxidative stress (MDA levels) and inflammation (high sensitivity C-reactive protein) compared with placebo. This suggests potential benefits for selenium in PCOS and acne.
In one study, researchers looked at blood levels of the antioxidant enzyme GSH-Px in 61 healthy subjects and 506 patients with various skin disorders. People with psoriasis, eczema, atopic dermatitis, vasculitis, mycosis fungoides and dermatitis herpetiformis had depressed selenium levels. Low values of GSH-Px were also found in some people with pemphigoid, acne conglobata, polymyositis, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and systemic lupus erythematodes (Juhlin et al., 1982).
Selenium and Vitamin E Supplementation
In the study just mentioned, researchers gave fifty patients 0.2 mg of selenium and 10 mg of tocopheryl succinate (a form of vitamin E) daily. These patients had low GSH-Px levels, which increased slowly over 6-8 weeks, with encouraging clinical effects (Juhlin et al., 1982).
In another study, 42 men with severe acne, and 47 women with acne (26 moderate and 21 severe) had their GSH-Px levels tested (Michaëlsson & Edqvist, 1984). The male acne patients had significantly lower GSH-Px levels than matched people without acne.
The researchers looked at women using oral contraceptives and found that both those with acne and those without had significantly higher GSH-Px levels than those women not taking the pill. Women with acne who were not taking the pill did not, however, have significantly lower GSH-Px levels compared to matched women without acne.
twenty-nine of the people with acne were given a supplement providing 0.2 mg of selenium and 10 mg of tocopheryl twice daily for 6-12 weeks. Beneficial effects were observed, especially in those with pustular acne and low GSH-Px activity. The benefits tended to accompany a corresponding increase in GSH-Px activity. However, some 6-8 weeks after treatment ended, GSH-Px levels returned to their status prior to supplementation.
Next, we will take a look at chromium, PCOS, and acne.