Last Updated on September 20th, 2019
Can an apple a day keep the dermatologist away? No matter how light your acne, an apple diet won’t get rid of blemishes overnight. You still have to do basic skin care1. This remarkable, inexpensive, and widely available fruit, however, can do a great deal to reduce inflammation in your skin.
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Apples are not going to make any Internet list of sensational foods. They are too easy to find. They are too inexpensive. Most people already eat them.
But apples are a solidly nutritious food2. They are not the best source of fiber, but they are a good source of fiber. They are not the best source of potassium, but they are a good source of potassium. They are not the best source of vitamin C, but they are a good source of vitamin C. And along with onions and citrus zest, they are a really good source of a plant compound called quercetin.
Quercetin is what makes the anti-acne apple diet possible3. This plant compound survives digestion. It circulates through the bloodstream to the skin. In the skin (and in the nasal passages), it binds to receptors on mast cells that release histamine, the same chemical that triggers allergies. Histamine is also a major trigger for acne.
When the skin senses stress, which may be either whole-body stress of which you are very where or skin-localized stress such as too much alcohol in a face scrub or some irritant chemical, it generates its own stress hormones. These stress hormones activate the mast cells to release histamine4.
You experience the release of histamine as redness, itchiness, and irritation, as pimples become more prominent and unsightly. The purpose of the release of histamine, however, is to kill skin cells and flush out any offending substance to the surface of the skin. The problem is, you can have this skin reaction with or without having encountered any offending substances. Sunburn or emotional stress can also make your skin break out. Quercetin, abundant in apples, onions, and citrus peels, slows down the process of inflammation5 and helps keep your skin clear6.
You could just as easily go on an onion acne diet as you can go on an apple acne diet7, but eating a lot of onions causes its own beauty and attractiveness issues. You could also boil down about 8 oz/224 g grapefruit rinds for a really awful-tasting soup, or eat about half a cup of lemon zest a day, and your skin would probably get better. But apples don’t make your breath smell bad, and you probably could not deal with the bitterness in large amounts of citrus zest or citrus rinds.
The blemish-fighting quercetin in apples is concentrated in the peel8. You get more benefit from eating fresh, organic, unpeeled apples than you get from eating apple sauce, apple butter, apple jelly, or apple pies, or from drinking apple juice. While white sugar in small amounts is not a terrible thing for your skin, it’s best to get your quercetin from fresh fruit, so your body only has to deal with the natural sugars in the fruit.
The apple makes quercetin to protect itself from sunburn9. There is more quercetin in apples that have ripened on the tree, especially if they are grown in dry-summer climates, such as Chile or Washington state in the United States. Apples grown in conditions of summer drought also produce up to 3 times as much vitamin C as apples grown in areas where it rains during the summer growing season. Certain varieties of apples have more quercetin than others, especially Northern Spy and Red Delicious. Empire apples have relatively low amounts of quercetin.
Since you need to eat the peel, organic, unsprayed apples are preferred. About 20% of the fungicides absorbed by the peel break down during storage, so an older conventionally produced apple is less potentially toxic than a recently picked one, but it won’t taste nearly as good. No matter whether you choose organic or conventionally grown fruit, it’s a good idea to rinse the fruit as soon as you get it home from the store. Running water removes as much dirt and bacteria as commercial fruit and vegetable washes, but you have to remember to turn the apple upside down under the tap to get bacteria off the bottom. Let the fruit dry before you store it.
Even the best skin treatments don’t work for everyone. Nearly everyone will enjoy clearer skin on the acne apple diet, but there are a few people who won’t, specifically, those people who have both acne and an allergy to apples.
Apple allergies tend to be most common in people who live in areas where apples are especially abundant, such as the countryside of England and Wales, and the Pacific Northwest of the United States. (There are few reports of apple allergies in Chile and New Zealand.)
People who are allergic to apples tend also to be people who eat large numbers of apples, three, four, five, and more a day. If you already eat more than one apple a day, eating more apples a day won’t clear up your skin. In fact, you might take a vacation from eating apples for two weeks to see if you don’t experience beneficial clearing of your skin.
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