Possible benefits, safety and more

If you live with persistent acne, you’ve probably tried a number of treatments in an effort to achieve clearer skin.

While you have many options to consider, traditional anti-acne ingredients like retinol and benzoyl peroxide may not work for everyone. If they prove to be too strong for your skin, you may notice a cycle of inflammation, dryness and redness that weakens your skin’s natural defenses and leads to more rashes.

Perhaps you have heard of colloidal silver, a topical treatment that is currently gaining traction as an acne remedy. This aqueous solution contains silver microparticles. Proponents say these particles provide supercharged antimicrobial benefits without damaging the skin’s microbiome.

The claims are impressive, to be sure. But does it really work? Is it safe to use? Here’s what to know before trying it.

Colloidal silver was first used medicinally in 1891 to cleanse wounds. This use continued until the 1940s, when antibiotics came into play. Today, you can find colloidal silver in a variety of skin care products, including:

  • lotions
  • masks
  • toners
  • serums
  • cleansers

“Silver has been shown to have antimicrobial properties,” explains Dr Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.

He goes on to say that applying it to the skin can be beneficial as an acne treatment.

“The reason is that silver can reduce the levels of acne causing bacteria on the skin which promote inflammation and pimples.”

Since bacteria play a key role in acne, it makes sense to use a product that targets bacteria without damaging the skin barrier.

Although experts are not sure, it is generally believed that silver particles can puncture the cell walls of bacteria, inhibit cell respiration, and disrupt DNA and the replication cycle.

Most of the existing evidence for the effectiveness of colloidal silver is anecdotal. Still, you can find a number of dermatologists who recommend it.

a little 2017 randomized controlled trial compared two different acne treatments:

  • gel of silver nanoparticles (colloidal silver) with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide
  • clindamycin gel with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide

The researchers assigned 32 people with moderately severe acne to each group. Those in the silver treatment group:

  • seemed to notice a little more improvement in inflammatory acne at the end of the study
  • said they were slightly more satisfied with the treatment after 6 weeks
  • reported no side effects

The study authors found no major difference between the two treatments and concluded that the silver nanoparticle gel was both effective and safe.

Nonetheless, more randomized controlled trials are needed to substantiate the benefits of colloidal silver for acne.

Silver is used in the medical and dental industries, in personal care products, and in agricultural and industrial products.

You may also notice colloidal silver supplements marketed as an alternative health product to boost immunity and fight cancers and infections.

To date, however, no scientific research validates these claims, and medical experts recommend avoiding these products altogether.

Risks of oral use

Taking colloidal silver by mouth can cause many negative effects, including something called argyria. This permanent condition, resulting from the buildup of silver in the body, leaves your skin, eyes, nails, gums, and internal organs a bluish gray.

This method of taking colloidal silver also poses another problem. It can interact with certain drugs, including antibiotics.

Oral use of colloidal silver can also cause other serious side effects, including seizures and organ damage.

In short, most experts consider silver to be unsafe to take orally.

Risks of topical use

As for topical use, clinical studies are limited and experts have yet to determine the potential risks.

We know that silver is not considered an essential mineral. In other words, it has no function in the human body. Yet, when you apply silver topically, your skin may end up absorbing small particles.

Allergies to money, although rare, also remain a possibility. If your skin tends to react negatively to metal, you’ll probably want to avoid topical colloidal silver.

Another important consideration? Colloidal silver products are not standardized. This means that the production, which includes the amount and size of the silver particles, can vary from product to product. Investigating a brand before making a purchase is always your safest bet.

On the positive side, colloidal silver seems to go well with other skin care products and acne treatments.

If your skin care regimen currently contains ingredients such as salicylic acid, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, or alpha hydroxy acids, adding a product with colloidal silver might offer a way mild to enjoy a boost in antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits.

The most effective application of colloidal silver for acne will usually depend on the product you are using.

You’ll need to follow the directions on the package to make sure you’re using a product correctly, whether it’s a mist, mask, or cleanser. If your dermatologist recommends a colloidal silver product, they’ll also tell you how (and how often) to use it.

Often you can use these products in the morning and again in the evening. You don’t have to do anything special to prepare your skin. Remember to apply sunscreen in the morning.

While you can find silver-containing skin care products at many online retailers, you can begin your research by asking your dermatologist for a recommendation. It’s always best to put any new product in front of an expert before adding it to your skin care routine.

Colloidal silver may turn heads as a gentle and effective option for treating acne, but the evidence to support its benefits remains largely anecdotal.

Some dermatologists may recommend it as a safe ingredient to add to your skin care regimen, yes. But others may suggest giving him a pass.

If you do decide to give it a try, it never hurts to research a brand before making a purchase. And again, it’s always best to consult a dermatologist or healthcare practitioner before trying colloidal silver for acne.


Jessica Timmons has been working as a freelance writer since 2007, covering everything from pregnancy and parenthood to cannabis, chiropractic, stand-up paddleboarding, fitness, martial arts, home decor and more. Her work has been published in mindbodygreen, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids and Coffee + Crumbs. See what she’s doing now on jessicatimmons.com.

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