Alpha Lipoic Acid Benefits for Skin

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a compound made in small quantities by our body and required for the proper daily function of our bodies. It has become increasingly popular for its anti-aging effects and other health benefits. Recently, many people are increasing their intake of ALA with supplements or topical skin care products to reap the purported benefits. But is it truly the fountain of youth?

Key takeaways:
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    Alpha lipoic acid is utilized by every cell in the human body.
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    Alpha lipoic acid can be found in certain foods, oral supplements, and topical skin care products.
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    Alpha lipoic acid may have potential health benefits, such as in the treatments of diabetic nerve pain, diabetes, memory loss, and heart disease.
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    Topical use of alpha lipoic acid on the skin has shown some success in the anti-aging arena with its antioxidant properties to prevent wrinkles, anti-inflammatory capabilities to help acne, and exfoliative benefits to fade brown spots.
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    Because more research is needed to fully understand the benefits of alpha lipoic acid, you should discuss its use and dose with your doctor first.

What is alpha lipoic acid?

Alpha lipoic acid, also known as lipoic acid, ALA, or thioctic acid, is a cofactor for several enzymes. This means that ALA is needed for enzymes to function properly. ALA works in the mitochondria of every cell in the body to help produce energy for the cell. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Where can you find alpha lipoic acid?

Alpha lipoic acid should be either consumed or applied topically daily to receive any benefits. Patients can consume ALA supplements in doses of 300-600 mg daily, and it is generally considered safe. Many have taken up to 1800 mg daily. However, you should discuss ALA and the dose with your doctor before starting alpha lipoic acid to determine if it is safe for you.

Topical alpha lipoic acid can be applied daily to the skin in strengths less than 5% to address skin care issues. It is safe for all skin types; however, with any new products, you should try a test spot first. It is also recommended to begin using it every other night for a couple of weeks, then use it every night. Be sure to keep ALA out of direct sunlight because sunlight can break down ALA. Store your products in a cool, dark place.

Alpha lipoic acid benefits for skin

Alpha lipoic acid has shown promise in helping skin, but as with oral supplementation, there are a limited amount of good studies showing benefits for skin health. Many swear by the daily use of alpha lipoic acid for skin rejuvenation. Some evidence supports alpha lipoic acid's benefits on skin appearance.

Skin lightening

Anecdotal evidence shows alpha lipoic acid to be a tyrosinase inhibitor. By preventing the action of tyrosinase, melanocytes cannot produce melanin. Melanin is what gives our skin pigment. Alpha lipoic acid may decrease the pigmentation caused by the sun, acne, and trauma to even out skin tone.


Some evidence supports the use of alpha lipoic acid to improve wrinkles and fine lines. It works by stimulating collagen synthesis by fibroblasts. Collagen is what gives our skin structure and prevents wrinkles from forming. Alpha lipoic acid also aids different enzymes responsible for promoting collagen production.

Reduces skin damage

Alpha lipoic acid is thought to help improve skin through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It has shown promise in protecting skin from the ill effects of UV radiation from the sun, smoking, and pollution. Since it is an antioxidant, it protects our collagen and elastin from degradation to prevent wrinkles and defends our skin cells against sun damage that causes skin cancers.


Alpha lipoic acid has exfoliative properties to improve dull, dry skin, make your skin softer, and give you radiant skin. It can fade brown sun spots and give you a smooth skin texture. ALA can unclog pores to reduce blackheads.


Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it may help treat and prevent acne breakouts. Its exfoliative properties will unclog pores and reduce discolorations caused by acne. It can decrease the redness associated with rosacea as well. ALA can also speed up the healing of temporary skin breakouts.

Other benefits of alpha lipoic acid

While there is limited good data on the effects of alpha lipoic acid on different organ systems, anecdotal reports have demonstrated some success. At times, alpha lipoic acid has shown benefits in the treatment of diabetic nerve pain, improving memory loss in Alzheimer's patients, lowering blood sugar in diabetics, and lowering cholesterol to improving heart disease.

Alpha lipoic acid side effects

Alpha lipoic acid is generally considered safe in most patients. However, you should always discuss it with your doctor first before starting a regimen of ALA. Your doctor can advise you on the proper dose for your particular health concerns. Higher oral doses of 1800 mg daily have shown some GI upset, headaches, and vomiting. It may also interact with blood thinners, thyroid medications, anti-cancer drugs, and diabetes medicines.

Topical alpha lipoic acid is also considered safe in all skin types in strengths less than 5%. Higher-strength products may cause skin irritation, redness, and rashes. If you have sensitive skin, try a test spot first. You can also use it every other day to start until your skin gets used to it.

Best way to use alpha lipoic acid

There are various sources of alpha lipoic acid. Our bodies produce ALA every day in every cell. However, it is produced in small quantities with limited bioavailability. This is the reason why many seek oral or topical supplementation from outside sources.

Alpha lipoic acid is food in many food sources. It is prevalent in red meat and the liver and kidneys of animals. Vegetarians and vegans can reap the benefits of alpha lipoic acid from vegetables, like spinach, broccoli, and potatoes. Also, alpha lipoic acid is present in many oral supplements readily available in health food stores.

If you want to acquire anti-aging benefits for the skin, alpha lipoic acid is available in various types of skin care products. It is often combined with other antioxidants or beneficial skincare ingredients, such as vitamins C and E, to give you more bang for the buck. The most popular forms are face and eye creams, serums, and moisturizers.

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