I had beautiful skin as a teenager, and while it was great in my younger years, it left me completely unprepared for the adult acne I now deal with regularly. On a weekly basis, you’ll find me trying a multitude of new products with salicylic acid, retinols galore and just about any ingredient that strips the skin. Admittedly, it’s not always the best plan of attack. That’s why I decided to give evening primrose oil supplements a try.

Tons of vitamin and supplement brands offer evening primrose oil, but I chose the one from Nordic Naturals Omega Woman ($21, The dosage is simple—I take one or two pills a day after a meal, and the supplement is supposed to go to work. The problem is, while I’ve seen an improvement in my skin, I can’t decide if it’s the pill or something else I’ve done.

To help, I reached out to Jordana Mattioli, a licensed aesthetician at CompleteSkinMD in New York City, whose answer also got a thumbs-up from her boss, dermatologist Elizabeth K. Hale, M.D. She says:

“I love evening primrose oil. It’s a plant extract that comes from the seeds of a wildflower. It’s not only emollient (hydrating) but a powerful anti-irritant, which means it will have a significant anti-inflammatory effect on the skin.”

Here comes your science lesson for the day: The key ingredient in evening primrose oil is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)—an omega-6 essential fatty acid that helps strengthen the skin barrier, reduces moisture loss, and causes the anti-inflammatory effects that can calm some of the lesions associated with acne, as well as the redness. Our bodies can’t make GLA, but Mattioli says we can get it from other sources, including evening primrose oil.

And while she thinks it’s also a great topical ingredient in skin care products, she says the best treatment for acne is to use several ingredients at once. Meaning, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all cure. She also notes that GLA can affect certain medications like blood thinners, high-blood pressure medicine, and antidepressants, so it’s best to check with your doctor before you give it a go.

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