Silymarin has many important medical uses. Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD says it’s beneficial for a variety of therapeutic uses, including liver detoxification, supporting bone health and boosting lactation in new mothers. However, the milk thistle–byproduct can also benefit your skin. Hint: it’s great for oily, acne-prone skin.
What is silymarin?
Silymarin has a wide range of uses, which has made it popular among innovative skin-care brands like SkinCeuticals and PCA Skin. New York dermatologist Michele Anzilotti, MD who has a SkinCeuticals SkinLab partnership in her practice, explains that silymarin “is a powerful plant-based antioxidant derived from milk thistle that helps prevent oil oxidation and provides antioxidant protection against free radicals.” However, that’s not all—it can also address a myriad of skin concerns. “What makes silymarin so beneficial is its universal ability to address and correct a number of skin conditions,” says Dr. Schlesinger.
It’s an antioxidant
“First and foremost, silymarin has been shown to have powerful antioxidant abilities—some think even more powerful than vitamin E,” says Dr. Schlesinger. Silymarin’s high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help it reduce solar UV radiation-induced inflammation and oxidative stress, which contribute to signs of photoaging and certain skin cancers, including melanoma.
As mentioned, silymarin also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can be great for calming breakouts. The anti-inflammatory properties also make it an ideal ingredient in post-procedure products to help heal the skin.
It’s great for oily or acne-prone skin
Silymarin is best known for its ability to regulate oil production, says Dr. Anzilotti. “Studies using silymarin in skin care show a reduction in oiliness, refined skin texture, and an improvement in skin clarity, fine lines and overall appearance.”
It can improve hyperpigmentation and size of melasma
If you suffer from hyperpigmentation or melasma, silymarin may be the ingredient you’ve been missing. Dr. Schlesinger notes that a 2018 study found that silymarin helped prevent melanin production without affecting skin cells, unlike hydroquinone. This means “your skin gets the same benefits without the negative side effects,” he explains.
Products featuring silymarin
Dr. Anzilotti says she personally uses SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF ($166) daily and consistently recommends it to her patients who are oily and blemish-prone. It’s “the perfect solution because it provides protection against environmental aggressors while reducing skin oiliness.” Dr. Schlesinger also recommends this “first-of-its-kind oily-skin antioxidant serum.”
For professional-level melasma treatment, Dr. Schlesinger advises using PCA Skin C&E Advanced ($125). “It uses 1% silymarin, combined with other powerful antioxidants like vitamins C, E and hexylresorcinol to brighten areas of discoloration.” He also recommends NassifMD Dermaceuticals Quickfix Face and Neck Lift Face Masque ($55), PCA Skin Resveratrol Restorative Complex ($120) and SkinCeuticals Eye Balm ($82).