Lactoferrin is a protein found in human and cow milk and in the fluids of the eyes, nose, and elsewhere in the body. It helps to regulate iron absorption in the intestines and to deliver iron to cells. Lactoferrin may be involved in the regulation of bone marrow function, and thus may boost the immune system. It has also shown to have anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Lactoferrin is traditionally used to treat intestinal ulcers, diarrhea, and hepatitis C. It may also prevent tissue damage and promote healthy bacteria in the intestines.
Because of its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, Mueller et al. examined the effect of bovine (cow) lactoferrin supplementation on mild to moderate acne. Forty-three adolescents and young adults were enrolled in the study. They were required to take a chewable tablet of bovine lactoferrin twice per day for eight weeks. Efficacy of the treatment was measured by the number of acne lesions at the end of the study compared to the number of acne lesions at baseline. Tolerability of the treatment was also evaluated.
Thirty-nine patients at an average age of 17.8 years completed the study. Overall, 30 of the 39 patients (76.9%) had a significant reduction in the total lesion count by 22.5%. The non-inflammatory lesion count had a significant reduction by 23.5%. However, the inflammatory lesion count had an insignificant reduction by 20.2%. No adverse effects of lactoferrin were reported.
The results of this study suggest that lactoferrin for the treatment of mild to moderate acne is well tolerated and may reduce acne lesion counts in affected adolescents and young adults. However, further studies are needed. Mueller et al. recommend randomized, placebo-controlled trials of longer duration.