Colloidal silver: an unconventional acne treatment?

March 16, 2015
Sovereign Silver by Natural Immunogenics
Sovereign Silver by Natural Immunogenics ($18.43 for 2 oz.)

I’ve been whining about acne for the last few months on the blog, and things have been improving so I’m preparing to do a skincare routine writeup to go over some of my favorite products that I’ve found to help me out. This is a product that will be mentioned there, but I knew I wanted to take some time and write about it to some length first because it’s kind of a funny one that isn’t a traditional personal care product nor is it really marketed as an acne treatment. I’m talking about the Sovereign Silver first aid gel produced by Natural Immunogenics and available at health food stores like Whole Foods.

I’ve been experimenting with this gel on and off since Christmas, which is when I received it as gift amongst a few other funny natural health products. The idea of using silver as an antimicrobial treatment isn’t entirely new to me, I remember hearing Gwyneth Paltrow talk about silver sprays on Dr. Oz many years ago. Apparently she always brings one on a flight with her and spritzes her seat down before settling to avoid getting sick while traveling. Or something. Into the Gloss has also written about silver in their Ingredients to Know series.

Beyond that, though, I wasn’t familiar with the term colloidal silver and also hadn’t heard much about applying it to the body. To approach that simply for the time being, the main thing to note is that this is extremely simple in terms of ingredients: silver and water. I’ll come back to the formulation in a bit, but one of the big practical benefits that I see in using a hydrosol like this is that it won’t dry your skin out the way that alcohol or tea tree oil will, which suck moisture out of skin as they rapidly evaporate. I have what I’d consider to be “true” combination skin with some areas that are oily and other areas prone to dryness, so I can’t really reach for harsh products even though I’m trying to clear out some acne.

So, this is product is marketed as a first aid gel, and it’s labeled applications include minor skin issues like burns, cuts and scrapes, blisters, insect bites, and skin eruptions from acne, eczema, or minor infections. It’s a clear, slightly runny gel that feels a lot like aloe, and it doesn’t sting or tingle on skin unless you’re putting it on an open wound, in which case you might feel a little discomfort for a second but it’s not horrible at all. My little 2 oz. bottle is sturdy brown glass and comes with a pump which can be easily twisted closed for travel (tried and tested – I’m in Europe right now and I brought it with me).

Sovereign Silver by Natural Immunogenics
Sovereign Silver by Natural Immunogenics

How I Use It

I’ve tried incorporating this in my skincare routine in different ways, and I’ve found an approach that seems to be working for me. First of all, I’ve been dealing with a few different kinds of issues that I’m trying to treat: small, fairly benign-looking bumps that don’t really hurt or come to a head but stick around forever and make my overall skin texture look quite bad; smallish pimples that are red and irritated, but not very deep down in the skin and cycle through and heal at a normal rate; and the deep cystic acne that’s buried in the skin, feels painful, and creates a lump. I’ve learned that the silver doesn’t simply work on all of these, but can have an effect on the latter two kinds of acne.

The type of acne I’ve found that this works the absolute best on is the cystic lumps. I was really impressed the first time I tried it out, I just put a little glob of the gel on an affected area and let it dry, and the next morning it had nearly disappeared. I don’t experience as dramatic of a result with the smaller surface pimples, but tend to use the gel to just help the healing process along. The gel is also brilliant for treating acne that I’ve picked at, as while it won’t necessarily heal the wound overnight, it can totally prevent it from getting infected, irritated, or bubbling up with pus (lovely). It helps it heal faster and cleaner, if that makes sense.

So here’s how I’ve come to use it: right after I cleanse and dry my face, I apply about a pump and a half (dime-sized blob) to my whole face except for the area around my eyes. As it starts to dry it feels a little tight, not because it’s drying out my skin but because it seems to create a slight film (which doesn’t persist once I moisturize my face). If I have any pimples that are appearing or if I need to treat any wounds, I will take a little blob and apply to the spot and let it dry. Once dry, I’ll spritz with a hydrating toner, let that dry maybe halfway, and then continue on with the rest of my skincare.

I use it twice a day, and will take a little more time with it at night since I’m in less of hurry. I’d say it dries at a similar rate of, I don’t know, water … which makes sense, since that’s basically what it is. So the layer I put all over my face isn’t very heavy and I probably let it dry for 30 seconds. If I layer a blob onto a specific spot, I may let that dry for maybe 2-5 minutes because I really want to give it the best chance to do its magic. For spots of larger concern, I’ve had a few instances where I’d apply a hefty blob of gel and let it sit for more like 10 minutes.

This routine has eliminated my cystic acne. Using the gel allover my face rather than just on specific spots was something I started trying out to see if continued use helped improve my overall complexion over time, and I do think it’s been helping, though I definitely need to use another product to combat my persistent smaller pimples and textural woes. It’s easy to apply and doesn’t dry my skin out, so I have no practical issues with continuing to use it in my routine. I have had some confusion about at what point exactly to stick it in my skincare routine, and my conclusion so far is that it’s best on clean skin with other products used on top, starting with a toner meant to hydrate. I have yet to experiment with how to use it in conjunction with more of a treatment or exfoliating toner, so my feelings on where exactly to put it in the routine may change over time.

Sovereign Silver by Natural Immunogenics
Sovereign Silver by Natural Immunogenics

What It Is

I wish there was a great website or two that I could point you to for a better understanding of what colloidal silver is, exactly, and how to know whether you’ve got a good one (since Natural Immunogenics is not the only manufacturer out there), but I’m really disappointed to say that I don’t know if one exists. One of the big consequences is that it’s really difficult for me to say how well Sovereign Silver stacks up in the bigger picture. They do have a really informative website which I suggest thumbing through if you’re curious, I just generally don’t suggest taking manufacturers solely at their word when it comes to figuring out how good a product is.

If you occasionally read about quirky natural remedies, you may know colloidal silver as the stuff that literally turns people bluish if they drink large quantities of it. The Natural Immunogenics website even has the question “will this stuff turn me blue?” answered on their website, because of course they have to. Consumers have so many reasons to be distrustful of natural remedies (exhibit A, exhibit B), but I’ve seen absolutely no indication that applying silver topically carries this risk, whether your product is of proper quality or not, frankly.

Someone outside of the company who makes a case for this brand specifically is the ‘Health Ranger‘ of Natural News, although I have to admit that my overall trust for the opinions of him and his news network is somewhat low. I find that Natural News tends to use sensationalistic language and articles can draw conclusions that don’t have any basis in the quoted science. Still, he makes a case for Sovereign Silver over other types of colloidal silver, gives some detail about the formulation, and shares how the he has integrated silver into his life, so I still find this particular article interesting. I wish I had better information to point to, but there are a couple of places to start with if you’re interested in learning more what colloidal silver is and how it can be used. Neither the brand’s nor the Health Ranger’s articles discuss silver’s use on acne, so I’ve been discovering the pros and cons of that on my own.

Sovereign Silver by Natural Immunogenics
Sovereign Silver by Natural Immunogenics


Sovereign Silver is sold in various sizes and can be found on the official website, Amazon, or natural grocers like Whole Foods. My 2 oz. bottle costs $18.43 on Amazon, and that’s a fairly long-lasting size to try out. I’d suggest trying it if you either have cystic acne, pick at your skin, or just generally might benefit from having a first aid gel on hand. It’s an interesting thing to try, and it has definitely found a place in my routine.

Have you ever tried silver? Are there any funny natural skincare remedies that you swear by?

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  1. Interesting! I’ve had at least a little bit of acne for as long as I can remember, so I’m always on the lookout for different treatments. I’ve also started to suspect that I’m sensitive to salicylates (asprin), so I’m avoiding a lot of the traditional treatments right now. I love that this doesn’t dry out skin!

    1. I would love to hear if you try it! It’s always a bad feeling to discover ingredient sensitivities. I also like that this isn’t too expensive of an experiment. You’ve also made a lot of great product recommendations that I’m excited to try out, and I have yet to dive into Paula’s Choice. It’s definitely a journey!

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