Does Evening Primrose Oil for Acne Work?


Evening primrose oil (EPO) contains omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The compound contains strong anti-inflammatory properties, which may aid in treating and preventing acne.

EPO is derived from the Oenothera biennis plant (its seed). The plant is found to grow in North America and regions of Europe. While anecdotal evidence shows that evening primrose oil may help reduce acne symptoms, there is insufficient clinical evidence to back up these claims.

This article shall explain how evening primrose oil for acne works and its use.

Does EPO Help with Acne?

Acne, a chronic inflammatory condition, is believed to affect the sebaceous (oil-producing) glands and hair follicles.

Some persons claim that evening primrose oil, alongside other natural products, lessens their acne symptoms without any uncomfortable side effects of conventional acne treatment.

But, there is insufficient scientific proof to back up the use of evening primrose oil for acne treatment. You can take EPO as an oral supplement.

Evening primrose oil may help alleviate acne by creating a balance in the body ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.

Naturally, EPO contains high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids. EPO averagely possesses about 70 to 74% linoleic acid and 8 to 10% gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).

Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid that improves skin health by the following:

  • Controlling sebum production
  • Preserving water in the epidermis (the skin)
  • Strengthening the skin barrier
  • Getting rid of skin infections

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), essential fatty acids deficiency can result in dry, scaly, or rough skin. Acne-prone skin seems to produce sebum with higher degrees of oxidized squalene.

Squalene is a compound that greatly leads to inflammatory acne and decreases linoleic acid levels.

The body metabolizes linoleic acid into GLA, a fatty acid possessing anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Nevertheless, the enzymes needed for synthesizing GLA are not found in skin cells. The liver produces most GLA, which goes to the skin via the bloodstream.

In a 2018 review article, the authors suggested that EPO does not possess linoleic acid alone but also delta-6-desaturase and GLA. Thus, evening primrose oil supplementation may assist in counteracting the side effects of essential fatty acid deficiency.

How to Use

Evening primrose oil can be used as topical solutions or oral supplements. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate supplements. Thus individuals should be careful when buying these products.

Also, you can apply topical EPO as a serum or spot treatment. Topical EPO may contribute to skin irritation in those whose skin is sensitive. Thus, it is crucial to do a patch test before using EPO on the face.

The test entails using a small quantity of EPO on the skin behind the ear or on the arm to check whether any side effects are observed before using it more.

Those with tolerance for topical EPO can either use it for blemishes or add it to a moisturizer and rub it on their face. EPO is not an essential oil, but evening primrose essential oils are available. It is advised not to swallow essential oils or use them

Evening Primrose Oil and Anti-inflammatory Acne

While there is insufficient clinical evidence to back up using evening primrose oil to treat certain kinds of acne, anecdotal and secondary sources suggest that it may aid in calming inflammatory acne.

GLA possesses anti-inflammatory features, but EPO has more linoleic acid concentrations, which may boost inflammation.

It is uncertain whether EPO affects adult, hormonal, or cystic acne. But, it may enhance the skin’s barrier function and preserve water.

During a 2014 study, scientists explored the effects of oral evening primrose oil supplementation on skin water loss in persons using an acne medication, isotretinoin (Accutane).

Half of the participants in the study consumed six 450-milligram tablets for 8 weeks (about three times a day). The persons who consumed EPO had lesser skin water loss compared to the others in the control group.

Dosage for EPO

Recommended oral EPO doses for adults are between 1 to 8 grams daily. There may be varying dosage information from different companies. Thus you should always check the instructions provided carefully.

Generally, EPO is relatively safe for consumption for short-term use, but the safety of its long-term use is still not clear. You should always consult your physician if you plan on taking evening primrose oil supplements for a long period.

Potential Benefits

The constituents of EPO may proffer skin benefits in the following way:

  • Reduce wrinkles
  • Treat and prevent breakouts
  • Promote hydration and elasticity
  • Control sebum production
  • Sooth dry, itchy, and irritated skin

Unluckily, there are no good clinical trials examining evening primrose oil for acne. According to the NIH, there isn’t sufficient evidence to promote the use of the oil for any health disease, including acne.

Possible Side Effects

While EPO may be safe for most individuals for short-term use, using it may result in mild side effects, including:

  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • skin irritation
  • headache
  • diarrhea

We strongly recommend that pregnant women consult with their physician before using EPO supplements since they can boost the chance of some pregnancy complications.

Evening primrose oil supplements may interact with medications such as warfarin. Individuals who use these medications should talk with their physician before taking evening primrose oil for acne.


EPO is a considerably safe natural supplement that may aid in alleviating inflammatory acne symptoms.

But, there is insufficient scientific evidence to promote the use of evening primrose oil for acne treatment. EPO can be found in topical forms and oral supplements.

Note that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements. Thus you should only buy evening primrose oil products from reliable, well-established brands. It is pertinent not to mistake EPO with evening primrose essential oil.

Consult your doctor or the manufacturer’s directions for proper dosage information.

Kindly comment below if you have any questions or contributions about evening primrose oil for acne.

We will love to hear from you soon!

Mary is the Senior Director of Medical Affairs at Health Parrots. She brings her years of clinical and healthcare technology experience to help consistently create high quality, concise and engaging content and products that uphold the highest medical integrity. She is an M.D. recipient from Baylor College of Medicine and completed her residency at St. Joseph Hospital in Houston, TX. After years of clinical practice, Dr. Le transitioned from clinical medicine to healthcare technology through her work at Epocrates, where she developed clinical news products and disease and drug content. With her wealth of experience, She has also helped create an EHR, secure messaging products, and clinical decision support tools for healthcare systems.


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