Applications of Gold and Silver Nanoparticles in the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris: A Systematic Review

June 2021 | Volume 20 | Issue 6 | Original Article | 666 | Copyright © June 2021

Published online May 27, 2021

Kimberly Artounian BAa, Nour Bundogji BSb, Elika Hoss MDc, Monica Boen MDd

aUniversity of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix, AZ
bUniversity of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix, AZ
cMayo Clinic Department of Dermatology, Scottsdale, AZ
dCosmetic Laser Dermatology, San Diego, CA

Background: Current treatments for acne are often accompanied by undesirable side effects and contribute to antibiotic resistance. Gold and silver nanoparticles are an emerging treatment method with potentially fewer adverse effects.
Objective: To evaluate current literature discussing the various uses of gold and silver nanoparticles in the potential treatment of acne vulgaris.
Materials and Methods: A search of PubMed, EMBASE, and SCOPUS databases was conducted through April 22, 2020 to identify studies using gold or silver nanoparticles in the treatment of acne vulgaris.
Results: 16 original articles were identified in the systematic review including clinical studies, case reports, and in vitro publications. The available evidence found gold nanoparticles to be effective when combined with phototherapy to target overactive sebaceous glands and bacteria, or to mediate localized, targeted drug release. Silver nanoparticles have primarily been studied for their antibacterial properties.
Conclusion: This review found gold and silver nanoparticles to be a promising treatment for acne vulgaris. Further randomized controlled studies are needed to determine clinical efficacy and the role of gold and silver nanoparticles in the treatment algorithm for acne.

J Drugs Dermatol. 2021;20(6):666-670. doi:10.36849/JDD.5762


Acne vulgaris is a common and chronic inflammatory disorder of the pilosebaceous unit affecting a majority of adolescents and possibly continuing into adulthood.1 The multifactorial pathophysiology of acne includes the overproduction of sebum, increased desquamation of the of the pilosebaceous follicle epithelium, and bacterial colonization of the duct leading to inflammation, most commonly due to Propionobacterium acnes (P. acnes).2 Acne can have a significant psychosocial impact and is a contributing factor to depression and suicidal ideation in adolescents.3

Current treatments for acne vary but several common treatments have undesirable side effects. Antibiotic use has been associated with development of P. acnes antibiotic resistance, leading to treatment failure.4 Oral isotretinoin is extremely effective in acne treatment via a reduction in sebum production, but it is highly teratogenic and is commonly associated with mucocutaneous side effects or severe headaches among other adverse effects.5 Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is effective in inhibiting sebaceous gland function, but is associated with pain, erythema, edema, or blistering during treatment.6

The biomedical applications of metal nanoparticles have been studied extensively in recent years as a method for enhancing penetration of other therapies. Gold, silver, titanium oxide, and iron nanoparticles are promising therapeutic options due to their small size, translocation into cells, and stability over high temperatures.7 Metal nanoparticles have been used extensively in the treatment of cancer and various skin conditions such as rosacea and acne.8,9

In this review, we explore the different applications of gold and silver nanoparticles in targeting different components of acne vulgaris pathophysiology. This is the first review in the literature to evaluate the use of metal nanoparticles for the treatment of acne vulgaris.


A search was conducted on April 22, 2020 in SCOPUS, EMBASE, and the National Library of Medicine’s Pubmed Database consisting of the search terms “acne and gold nanoparticles” and “acne and silver nanoparticles” English-language articles related to the use of gold or silver nanoparticles in the potential