While the relationship between acne flare-ups and diet is yet to be conclusively determined, there is a body of research that promotes the idea that what you eat may affect your skin health–and, therefore, the zits on your face.
In particular, high-glycemic foods such as refined sugars and flours, dairy such as milk and yogurt, and fried fatty foods may worsen acne breakouts.
Meanwhile, antioxidant-rich foods such as fatty fish, green leafy vegetables, fruits, turmeric, and green tea are thought to improve acne.
The link between what you eat and what goes on in your face
Let’s get one thing clear: food does not cause acne. However, it may influence the severity of your acne breakouts.
While acute acne is a direct result of various factors such as genetics, predisposition to inflammation, genetics, or increased oil production, research also shows that diet may play a key role in certain people’s acne conditions. And individuals who know their food-related acne triggers may help them avoid worsening their skin problems.
3 Foods to Avoid If You Have Acne
Many of us have heard how oily, fatty junk foods can do a number on our skin. But the science isn’t as cut-and-dried as the assumption might be. Foods that trigger acne do so for a number of reasons. If you think that your diet might be contributing to your acne, it might be a good time to review your diet for the following food products.
1) Dairy products
Dairy has been linked to adverse effects on the skin. Several theories have been proposed as to why this is the case, including the notion that proteins in milk may set off growth and hormone factors in the body that increase the chances of developing acne flare-ups.
Research has shown that consuming dairy products regardless of frequency and quantity is linked to an increased likelihood of developing acne than those who swear off the milk. It must be noted that since no causal relationship has yet been found between dairy consumption and acne, the question of whether milk is an acne trigger is yet unknown.
2) High-glycemic and sugar-rich foods
Foods that possess a high glycemic index increase blood sugar levels and may cause serious health problems if an individual overindulges on them. High glycemic index foods generally contain refined or processed carbohydrates such as white rice, white bread, white sugar, junk food, and snacks, apart from others.
These insulin spikes caused by consuming high-GI foods may trigger acne pathways to develop, worsening existing acne.
Okay, we get the protestations…but unfortunately, chocolate has long been suspected of triggering acne. Certain studies indicate that individuals who eat more chocolate are more likely to aggravate their acne. Experts are yet uncertain whether chocolate, like other high-GI foods, worsens acne because of its high sugar content or if something else is behind it.
If it’s any consolation, dark chocolate is known to contain acne-fighting antioxidants. As no causal relationship has yet been drawn between acne and eating chocolate, more research is needed in this field.
HONORABLE MENTION: Fatty foods
Fatty, oil-drenched foods have long been blamed for many health conditions. It shouldn’t surprise that they are thought to make acne worse based on research. It is believed that saturated fats trigger pathways to acne development, as do trans fatty acids.
Eat these foods to avoid acne
The jury is still out whether there is a silver bullet in the form of food that improves acne in particular. But there are certain nutrients that support the notion that they can help boost skin health, such as antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory foods which may reduce the likelihood of contracting acne. Here are five foods you’ll want to incorporate into your daily diet.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s appear to reduce the likelihood of developing acne due to their role in reducing inflammation and IGF-1 levels that may trigger breakouts. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, walnuts, and flaxseeds. Taking a fish oil supplement or an omega-3 supplement may also be helpful if you are unable to obtain the necessary fatty acids from your diet.
- Turmeric. Turmeric, whose bioactive compound is curcumin, has been lauded for its potential to fight inflammation and bacteria. This makes it a potential acne-improving food, supported by several small studies demonstrating its benefits.
- Green tea. Green tea is loaded with polyphenols, which are antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Consuming polyphenol-rich foods may help control oil production, keeping a rein on acne breakouts.
- Probiotic foods. Probiotics are thought to have the potential of normalizing skin bacteria levels apart from the gastrointestinal system. However, more research is yet required in this aspect of probiotics.
- Mediterranean-inspired diets. Cutting out consumption of refined and processed food in favor of healthier, whole food choices may help you improve overall health, including skin health. Mediterranean-inspired diets rich in seafood, healthy oils, whole foods, and lesser saturated fat and dairy consumption may be of interest for individuals who wish to improve their skin health.
What are other causes of acne?
Many factors are thought to cause acne. Acne is ultimately caused by clogged pores, leading to inflammation and infection. Other factors include hormonal changes, genetics, anxiety, stress, and depression, recreational drug use, smoking, the use of specific clothing or masks, side effects from medications, or existing medical conditions may all play a role in acne development.
Consult your doctor if you have questions about what is causing your acne and what you can do about it before trying supplements or diets.