Acne and food link

Acne and food link

Here is an interesting question that I got from one of my customers with active acne. Is acne linked to diet? Yes and no. Everybody is different and there are many factors to keep in mind. But I'm going to keep it very short and simple.

Good news - chocolate, pizza and French fries have now been exonerated by experts. A few foods however, may be better left out or at least minimized, while others demonstrate an ability to help.

  • Refined carbohydrates : Refined carbohydrates have been identified as a possible contributor to acne. One study found that native people living near the coast of Papua New Guinea, and the Ache hunter gathers of Paraguay, do not have acne, which researchers attribute to their low glycemic diet of fresh food fruits and vegetables and lean protein. While the studies are compelling, more research is needed.
  • Zinc: Zinc reduces the severity of acne by regulating oil gland activity and reducing inflammation. Zinc is involved in the body's metabolism of testosterone, a principal hormone involved in acne formation. Some studies suggest low levels of zinc can be related to the severity and type of acne lesions in some patients with acne vulgaris.
  • Dairy products: Pregnant cows pass high levels of hormones into the dairy products we drink and eat. The theory is that these hormones "turn on" the oil glands in humans, causing them to over secrete sebum, which then mixes with the shedding keratin cells in the hair follicles, creating a plugged pore or pimple. The hormone responsible for causing an over production of sebum and "lining cells" comes from three sources: androgens (sex hormones), the adrenal glands, and dairy products. Eliminating dairy would knock one of these sources out.

What foods trigger acne?

If you want to minimise the chances of acne, there are foods you need to avoid. Unfortunately they are the foods teenagers love!

Fast food and chocolates don’t cause acne, but they can be triggers. 

Burgers, chips, and chicken nuggets are staples when we hit the town, particularly in our teenage years, when those options meet our limited budget. While they are now known not to be as critical as was once thought, they can worsen an existing condition. The high fat (and wrong fat) content plays havoc with our skin. Sausages are another killer. It is thought that the fat alters hormone levels, flaring the acne.

It doesn’t mean we have to avoid our favourite takeaway for ever, but we should cut down on fatty food options if we are having problems with acne. 

Chocolate is more controversial than fast food. It has been identified as a trigger since the 1920s, but the evidence is unclear. One theory is that eating chocolate increases the reactivity of the immune system to acne-causing bacteria. And most chocolate, particularly in Ireland, contains dairy. Because of the hormones in milk, dairy is a definite cause of acne.

And try to avoid omega-6 oils, though omega-3 oils are good for you. Omega-6 comes from any food prepared with corn or soy oil.

Is acne caused by diet?

If food can trigger acne, is the condition caused by diet? The short answer is no, acne is not caused by diet. It is caused by excess oil production in the skin, hair follicles becoming clogged, and bacteria causing inflammation. It hits the face, neck and back worst because these areas of skin have the most oil glands. And hair follicles are connected to the oil glands. The oil production is regulated by hormones, not by diet.

Certain things worsen or trigger acne, though they do not cause it. Two triggers are hormonal changes and stress. During our teenage years our bodies are a whirlpool of changing hormones, and navigating those years of change (and coping with school and exams on top) is a major stressor. That is why acne hits so hard in those years.

Another trigger is our diet, and this is the one we have the most direct control over. And while a change of diet cannot eliminate acne, it can help reduce flare-ups.

What foods should I avoid?

The foods to avoid for acne are the foods we should avoid anyway for best health.

We should steer clear of over-refined, highly processed, empty carbs. A diet of sweets, cakes and frozen pizzas is a recipe for disaster.

We should also avoid the wrong fats. The omega-3 oils found in nuts and fish are great, but greasy food is not so good. So cut down on takeaways. 

Chocolate is not so bad of itself, but it does contain carbs, oils and dairy. So if you need your chocolate fix, try to go for dark chocolate with low levels of additives. 

A good diet with plenty of greens and good oils, and low on over-refined convenience food, will go a long way towards bringing your skin back to a healthy glow. The low glycemic, lean protein diet is a winner.

What’s the best skincare for acne?

Acne is a skin condition, not a dietary condition. So the best approach to eliminate it is through skin care. 

Luckily, that is what we do. At our Jolie Clinic in Kinsale we have a range of options which will help. And a team of experts who will be able to advise on the best of those options for you. Everyone is different, but we can help you navigate through the options.

Chemical peels help many. In this procedure an acidic solution is applied to the skin to remove the top layer. Within a week a newer, healthier layer of skin will replace that peeled off. The skin that grows back is smoother. Peels are used to treat wrinkles, discoloured skin, scars, and acne. You can opt for a light or a deep peel, and we can advise on what is best for you.

We also offer the gentler approach of mediglow masks. The mask is applied for the required time then washed off, gently reinvigorating the skin and cleansing it deeply. 

Why not call or drop in, and we can explore the options together. Acne can be controlled, reduced and eventually eliminated. And we would be delighted to help.

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