Acne does not make you ugly. They are normal like freckles or stretch marks – they just come and go.
Acne is a skin condition in which pores become clogged with dirt, oil, or bacteria, causing inflammation. Our understanding of the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris is still evolving. It is known that multiple factors impact acne, including genetic, hormonal, inflammatory, and environmental influences. Because of its implications in many of these factors, diet has been a part of the acne discussion for decades.
- HOW DOES DIET IMPACT ACNE?
- COMMON FOODS THAT TRIGGER ACNE?
- HOW DOES CONSUMING DAIRY PRODUCTS CAUSE ACNE?
- FOODS TO AVOID FOR AN ACNE-FREE SKIN
- FOODS TO PREVENT ACNE
- MYTHS ABOUT ACNE AND FOOD
- HOW CAN YOU PREVENT ACNE?
HOW DOES DIET IMPACT ACNE?
What you eat affects how your body functions overall, and your skin is your biggest organ. So, it stands to reason that what is good for acne is not much different than what is good for a healthy body overall. The biggest takeaway from recent studies on diet and acne is that a low-sugar, well-balanced diet is ideal for reducing inflammation and regulating hormone (and thus, sebum) levels.
COMMON FOODS THAT TRIGGER ACNE
Food alone does not cause acne or prevent it. Your genes, lifestyle, and what you eat all play a role in the condition. But some foods may make it worse, while others help your skin stay healthy.
SUGAR AND SOME CARBS
You are more likely to have acne if your diet is full of foods and drinks like soda, white bread, white rice, and cake, they are high on the glycemic index, a measure of how foods affect blood sugar. When your body makes more insulin to bring down blood sugar, it affects other hormones that can boost oil production in your skin.
CUT BACK ON ALCOHOL
Most alcoholic drinks are super sugary, and thus bad for you. So, if you do drink, do so in moderation – and drink lots of water to mitigate alcohol’s effects.
AVOID PROCESSED FOODS
Processed foods tend to contain more sugars, salts, and fats than we need, while meals you prepare with fresh ingredients at home tend to be healthier because you can control what you put in.
The caffeine levels of coffee negatively impact the body’s hormonal stress response by increasing levels of cortisol (a stress hormone). This is bad because stress is linked to acne. Coffee can interfere with iron absorption and sometimes contains mycotoxins. Two things that could cause systemic inflammation and worsen acne. Coffee is often consumed with milk and sugar. Two more things that are bad for acne.
HOW DOES CONSUMING DAIRY PRODUCTS CAUSE ACNE?
Whey and casein, the proteins in milk, stimulate growth and hormones in calves — and in us when we drink their milk. When we digest these proteins, they release a hormone like insulin, called IGF-1. This hormone is known to trigger breakouts. Sometimes the hormones in milk can also interact with our own hormones, confusing our body’s endocrine system and signaling breakouts.
FOODS TO AVOID FOR AN ACNE FREE SKIN
- Refined Grains and SugarsEating lots of refined carbohydrates may increase blood sugar and insulin levels and contribute to the development of acne.
- Dairy ProductsMilk is known to increase insulin levels, independent of its effects on blood sugar, which may worsen acne severity.
- Fast FoodFast food items, such as burgers, nuggets, hot dogs, French fries, sodas, and milkshakes, are mainstays of a typical Western diet and may increase acne risk.
- Whey Protein Powder It is a rich source of the amino acids’ leucine and glutamine. These amino acids make skin cells grow and divide more quickly, which may contribute to the formation of acne. The amino acids in whey protein can also stimulate the body to produce higher levels of insulin, which has been linked to the development of acne.
- Foods You are Sensitive ToAcne is, at its root, an inflammatory disease. One way that food may contribute to inflammation is through food sensitivities, also known as delayed hypersensitivity reaction. Food sensitivities occur when your immune system mistakenly identifies food as a threat and launches an immune attack against it. This results in high levels of pro-inflammatory molecules circulating throughout the body, which may aggravate acne.
FOODS TO PREVENT ACNE
While the foods discussed above may contribute to the development of acne, there are other foods and nutrients that may help keep your skin clear. These include:
- OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, and regular consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of developing acne.
- PROBIOTICS: Probiotics promote a healthy gut and balanced microbiome, which is linked to reduced inflammation and a lower risk of acne development
- GREEN TEA: Green tea contains polyphenols that are associated with reduced inflammation and lowered sebum production. polyphenols increase blood-flow and oxygen to the skin, improving its overall look, feel and most importantly, health.
- TURMERIC: Turmeric contains the anti-inflammatory polyphenol curcumin, which can help regulate blood sugar, improve insulin sensitivity and inhibit the growth of acne-causing bacteria, which may reduce acne
- ANTIOXIDANT-RICH BERRIES: Like vegetables, the more antioxidants you can eat, the better – especially if you struggle with acne. A diet rich in antioxidants can decrease mild to moderate acne.
- DARK CHOCOLATE: Dark chocolate is the healthiest kind of chocolate you can try. (It is relatively low in sugar and depending on the kind, contains very little to no dairy.) It also contains zinc, another acne-fighting nutrient.
- PALEOLITHIC-STYLE DIETS: Paleo diets are rich in lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and nuts and low in grains, dairy and legumes. They have been associated with lower blood sugar and insulin levels.
- MEDITERRANEAN-STYLE DIETS: A Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grain, legumes, fish, and olive oil and low in dairy and saturated fats. It has also been linked to reduced acne severity.
MYTHS ABOUT FOOD AND ACNE
Myth #1: Your diet does not affect your acne.
At first, researchers believed your diet had a significant impact on acne. Then, after a few studies regarding chocolate and acne, they reversed their position. Now, recent studies do point to a connection between food and acne. Foods high on the glycemic index, such as white bread, chips, high-sugar products, and white potatoes. Eating foods low on the glycemic index and limiting your dairy intake may improve your skin.
Myth #2: All chocolates cause acne
Chocolate has long been lumped together with greasy foods and junk food as snacks to avoid if you want to get rid of your acne. While the sugar and dairy content in milk chocolate may contribute to skin problems, dark chocolate is probably safe. In fact, the antioxidants in dark chocolate may help your skin.
HOW TO PREVENT ACNE?
- Wash your face at least twice a day to remove dirt and pollution from your skin. Do not over wash. Over washing can deprive your skin of necessary oils. This can contribute to sebum production.
- Drink lots of water to hydrate your skin and prevent it from over producing sebum. Too much sebum may lead to clogged pores.
- Wear sunscreen every time you step-out of the house in the day. Direct exposure to the sun can dry-up your skin. This can result in excess sebum production.
- Avoid oil-based makeup products. They may clog your pores. Water-based makeup products are recommended for acne-prone skin.
- Remove your makeup before you sleep. Do not buy oil-based makeup removers.
- Cleanse, tone and moisturize on a regular basis. Follow a skincare regimen that helps your skin maintain its pH levels and prevents clogging.
- Avoid exfoliating your skin every day. Exfoliating too much can stimulate sebum production in the skin. Use gentle scrubs whenever you do.
- Follow a healthy diet. Research shows that low carbohydrate diets can help improve acne vulgaris.
- Wear sunscreen before you step-out. Direct exposure can dehydrate your skin and body, leading to an overproduction of sebum. Choose an anti-acne sunscreen to avoid clogged pores.
- Do not pop your pimples. Popping your pimples can break skin barriers and infect other pores. This may result in acne breakouts.
IN A NUTSHELL
- Insulin and high-glycemic index are perhaps the two most scientifically and clinically, associated factors with acne.
- Excess insulin = bad for acne. High glycemic-index diet = more insulin. Therefore, avoiding foods with high glycemic loads should reduce insulin levels and decrease acne.
- Consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, green tea, fruits, and vegetables may be protective against the development of acne. Vitamins A, D and E, as well as zinc, may also help prevent acne.
Dr. K. BHAVANI
CONSULTANT – DERMATOLOGIST AND AESTHETIC PHYSICIAN
MBBS., MD(DVL).,FRGUHS., FELLOW IN COSMETOLOGY