The Benefits Of Garlic For Skin Health

  • Irenosen AddehMaster of Science (MSc), Public Health, University of Debrecen, Hungary

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Typically known to enhance flavouring in meals, garlic can also tackle the skin concerns that many of us face on a daily basis. Different garlic preparations may help promote wound healing, reduce acne, and more. Furthermore, garlic contains minerals and vitamins to help combat inflammation and contribute to a healthy lifestyle. 

Introduction

History of garlic

Historically, garlic was used as a way of increasing the amount of work that could be done by labourers, as well as to provide them with strength. It can be considered one of the first agents used to enhance performance. Ancient Greek, Egyptian, Chinese and Indian texts mention the use of garlic in various medical treatments. For instance, Hippocrates prescribed garlic for different conditions.1

In modern-day contexts, historical beliefs about garlic are being explored and confirmed to come up with new treatments for various diseases, including those that affect the skin. Hence, understanding garlic's historical use in traditional medicine is crucial for its current application in the modern world.

Why garlic?

Garlic may be used as an herbal remedy for maintaining healthy skin. Topical application of garlic may be helpful in combating skin concerns such as psoriasis, ageing, and wound healing. However, its effectiveness in clinical settings has not yet been fully explored.

Garlic is available in many preparations, each with differing pharmacological properties. Aged garlic extract (AGE) is said to be the most useful preparation. 

Garlic supplements may also be taken to obtain the health benefits of garlic without direct consumption or application (although supplements may be considered less effective).

This article will focus on some skin conditions that can be treated with garlic, its properties, and some of the effects that garlic may have on the skin (for instance, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects).

With the beneficial effects of garlic becoming increasingly known, garlic may potentially become a staple in not only our foods but also our skincare.

Application and adverse reactions

Adverse reactions may occur with garlic preparations, as with all potential treatments. Some of these include:

  • Irritant contact dermatitis
  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Protein contact dermatitis
  • Pemphigus induction
  • Contact urticaria

Hence, precautions should be taken before self-administration of garlic, especially if one is considering directly applying raw garlic to their skin. 

Additionally, for those wishing to use garlic more directly, one is suggested to ensure proper dilution and application to prevent skin irritation.

DIY garlic-based skincare remedies often involve garlic-infused oils and their application or garlic face masks for other skin concerns. Garlic oils contain sulphur compounds, which may play a role in the blood supply to wounds, enhancing wound healing.

Due to garlic’s anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects as a result of allicin presence, these treatments may be helpful for those wanting to combat atopic dermatitis, acne, dark circles, wrinkles, and more, especially if combined with ingredients that are known to calm and hydrate inflamed skin, such as honey and egg whites. However, cautionary notes and patch testing must be considered before such use.

The benefits of garlic must be balanced with potential skin sensitivities. Therefore, the dietary inclusion of garlic for its internal skin benefits may prove more useful for those suffering from skin sensitivities prior to garlic use. 

Using carrier oils such as coconut and jojoba oil may prevent adverse reactions, but further research and precautions must always be considered before use. Consultation with a healthcare professional before application for pre-existing conditions is critical to keeping you and your skin safe.

Uses of garlic dermatologically

AGE contains organosulfur compounds such as S-allycysteine (SAC) and S-allylmercaptocysteine (SAMC), which are said to have antioxidant effects by preventing oxidant damage. This occurs via the enhancement of cellular antioxidant enzymes.2 The presence of sulfur compounds is, therefore, useful for detoxification.

Additionally, AGE protects our DNA from UV damage (including its immunosuppressive effects) and free radicals.

Garlic in the treatment of skin conditions

Studies have been conducted that show garlic's effects on skin health. However, further research must be conducted to combat any existing limitations (for example, sample type, sample size, garlic potency, and duration of application).

Garlic can treat various skin concerns, including alopecia areata, minor skin wounds, keloid scars, and ageing skin. Here are some of their effects in more detail:

Alopecia Areata 

In a double-masked, randomised control trial for alopecia areata, topical garlic gel treatment was shown to be an effective adjunctive treatment alongside topical betamethasone.

Wound Healing

AGE has been shown to be effective in wound healing. Skin wounds from chickens underwent epithelialisation and neovascularisation once exposed to AGE. The acceleration of wound healing and the minimisation of scarring through garlic’s regenerative effects demonstrate its use when treating minor skin injuries.

Keloid scar

Garlic extract may be a potential treatment for keloid scar due to its inhibitory effects on nuclear factor-k B, nitric oxide, matrix metalloproteinase 2, interleukin-6, and angiotensin-converting enzyme.

Anti-ageing 

Garlic may be used as an anti-ageing treatment due to its long-term effects on fibroblasts' maximum proliferative capacity, allowing for potential rejuvenation.

Other

Garlic may also have potential use in the treatment of fungal infection via alcoholic garlic extracts, and leishmaniasis using garlic extract. Additionally, garlic may be useful for reducing dark marks and blemishes as well as in the prevention of acne. 

Antimicrobial effects

Garlic combats bacteria on the skin. It contains compounds that inhibit fungi and bacteria growth, and these antimicrobial effects make garlic promising as a treatment for a variety of skin conditions, including common skin infections. These effects are the result of allicin, as shown by the results of in vitro studies.3 Additionally, antibacterial action may support acne-prone skin.

Anti-inflammatory effects and acne

Many skin conditions have an inflammatory basis, and garlic's ability to reduce inflammation may make it a helpful skin treatment. This occurs via the alleviation of any redness and swelling. Allicin, a compound found in garlic, has been shown to reduce the production of proinflammatory cytokines to help reduce the occurrence of skin conditions such as acne.4

Therefore, garlic may potentially be beneficial in the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions as well as acne-prone skin via its antibacterial function.

Due to its wound-healing effects as mentioned previously, garlic may also prevent acne scarring. 

Minerals and vitamins

Garlic contains selenium, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, copper, and zinc, all of which may be used in the treatment of various skin concerns. Here are some of their properties:

Selenium

Selenium has antioxidant properties and is able to deal with free radicals.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is helpful in wound healing and also acts as an antioxidant. Additionally, Vitamin C is linked to the synthesis of collagen and photoprotection, the former being linked to improvements in skin elasticity.

Vitamin B-6

Vitamin B-6 may reduce oily spots and have a role in reducing inflammation.

Copper

Copper peptides may promote skin healing and reduce loss in elasticity. Stimulation of collagen synthesis is said to be linked to an improvement in skin elasticity and firmness, playing an important role in the prevention of premature ageing.

Zinc

Zinc has anti-inflammatory effects and may be used to treat chronic skin diseases that are caused by inflammation.

Summary

Garlic has historically and currently shown to be extremely beneficial in the treatment of various conditions, although further research is required to confirm its efficacy. Through dietary intake or topical application, garlic may play a role in decreasing inflammation, a process that forms the basis of many skin conditions. However, precautions and adverse effects must always be considered prior to the direct application of garlic on the skin, especially if one has pre-existing skin conditions or if somebody suffers from skin sensitivities. 

Garlic contains many minerals and vitamins that help reduce premature ageing, increase skin elasticity, and reduce oily spots. Additionally, garlic exerts antimicrobial and antifungal effects to treat common skin infections. 

Studies have previously been carried out to show the effects garlic has had on a variety of skin conditions, but existing limitations must be considered. However, with our current and historic understanding of the benefits garlic has on our health, further studies may be carried out to confirm the efficacy of garlic and hopefully come up with new medical treatments for various skin conditions.

Therefore, garlic shows promise as a potential staple in skincare, demonstrating its uses beyond enhancing the flavours found in a healthy meal.

References

  1. Rivlin R. S. (2001). Historical perspective on the use of garlic. The Journal of Nutrition, 131(3s), 951S–4S. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/131.3.951S
  2. Pazyar, N., & Feily, A. (2011). Garlic in dermatology. Dermatology REPORTS, 3(1), e4. https://doi.org/10.4081/dr.2011.e4
  3. Bayan, L., Koulivand, P. H., & Gorji, A. (2014). Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, 4(1), 1–14.[4] Shin J.H, Ryu J.H et al. (2013). Short-term heating reduces the anti-inflammatory effects of fresh raw garlic extracts on the LPS-induced production of NO and pro-inflammatory cytokines by downregulating allicin activity in RAW 264.7 macrophages. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 58(3), 545-551.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Faiza Iqbal

MSci Pharmacology, UCL

Faiza is a pharmacology student who has been introduced to the world of scientific writing through her studies and laboratory internships. With a passion for writing, Faiza often has fun writing anything from literature reviews to articles for blogs.

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