Surprising Ways to Clear Acne
There are literally tens of thousands of over-the-counter acne treatments1 and dozens of prescription acne medications2 that usually do a fair job of clearing acne. But some of the best ways to clear acne don’t require you to buy anything at all. Before you spend a small fortune on acne treatment, why not try one of these quick and simple methods that often clear acne?
- Sometimes changes in diet clear up acne in just a few weeks, but different diets work for different skin types.
- Skin usually responds to a low sugar diet3.
- Acne may differ in different ethnic groups4.
High-Protein Diet to Clear Acne on Fair Skin
One way that sometimes clears up acne fast is a high-protein diet. High-protein does not mean 100% protein. Even a high-protein diet has to be complemented by some carbohydrate (an absolute minimum of 40 grams/160 calories of carbohydrate is needed every day for the brain to absorb amino acids from the bloodstream), and everyone needs some essential fatty acids for regulating inflammation. In fact, a “high-protein” diet may contain less than 50% protein.
In one study, researchers asked volunteers who had acne to eat a diet consisting of:
- 44% of calories from protein,
- 35% of calories from carbohydrate, and
- 21% of calories for fat.
When volunteers ate this relatively high-protein diet, acne began to clear up in less than two weeks. Then the researchers asked the same volunteers to eat diet consisting of:
- 10% of calories from protein,
- 70% of calories from carbohydrate, and
- 20% of calories from fat.
When volunteers at this low-protein diet, acne started getting worse in less than two weeks. The reason high-protein diets seem to fight acne is that they slow down the conversion of testosterone in the bloodstream into the skin-active form of the hormone, dihydrotestosterone. Testosterone does not stimulate excess oil production in the skin until it is converted into dihydrotestosterone.
How can you make your diet a high-protein diet? You don’t so much need to start eating hunks of meat as you need to avoid second helpings of carbohydrate. Get your extra protein from low-fat sources such as lean meat, fish (not fried!), soy, beans, and lentils. Skip dessert. Generally, you will do better with acne if you eat less carbohydrate than if you eat more protein.
The high-protein diet is most helpful for controlling mild to moderate acne on fair skin. Another diet is best for Asian skin.
A Special Diet to Clear Diet on Asian Skin
Asian skin tends either to be very sensitive to food choices or totally insensitive to food choices. Changes in diet may produce dramatic changes in acne, or no change at all. When diet makes a difference, however, the offending foods are those that are high in iodine.
Iodine makes the skin break out by changing the way it uses thyroid hormone. Extra iodine in the diet may also increase production of thyroid hormones, which make the skin very sensitive to inflammation and prone to forming brown spots after acne heals.
Which foods are highest in iodine? In most Asian diets, the highest-iodine foods are:
- Seaweed salads,
- Dried shrimp, fish, cuttlefish, squid, and urchin,
- Seaweed snacks (nori chips),
- Tuna, and
- Salty foods made with sea salt or iodized salt, including all kinds of pickles and kimchi.
Eliminating these foods is just half of the battle. It is also necessary to cut back on fried chicken and braised pork, as well as soft drinks. People who have acne on Asian skin get over acne faster and have fewer brown spots once acne heals.
A Low-Allergy Diet to Clear Acne on Black Skin
Black skin stands up to sun. All the pigment in black skin that makes it resistant to the sun, however, makes it especially sensitive to inflammation. Often acne breaks out on black skin after food causes mild allergic reactions that are not even noticed except for the inflammation in the skin. Breakouts on black skin are not just due to oil and acne bacteria. They are due to inflammation caused by allergy.
The foods that most often cause allergies in people who have black skin include milk, wheat, and citrus. People of African heritage are less likely to be allergic to peanuts, tomatoes, chocolate, cola, or beef. Sometimes simply reducing consumption of bread, ice cream, and orange juice reduces the number of acne breakouts.
Beans and Acne on Brown Skin
And if you have brown skin? Be careful with beans. Many people of Hispanic or Middle Eastern heritage are sensitive to beans, especially fava beans. There are people of Mediterranean heritage who have life-threatening reactions to fava beans, but many more who have skin-tightening reactions to all kinds of beans and legumes.
It is best to take a “bean break” for about two weeks and see if there are changes in your skin. If there is just no way your family can function without beans at every meal, make one small change in their preparation. Pour off the water in which beans are soaked before they are cooked. Pouring off the soaking water reduces the lectins in the beans when they are cooked. This fights flatulence, and reduces irritation of the skin. It also helps to substitute Anasazi or appaloosa beans for pintos. Anasazi and appaloosa beans contain far fewer lectins to irritate the gut and the skin.
Other Steps to Clear Acne
Sometimes a simple change in diet causes dramatic improvement in acne, better than you can get from any acne product or any acne medication. But the way to get rid of all your blemishes for good is to clear acne with the help of a complete acne care system such as Exposed Skin Care. With your complete acne treatment system, you can cleanse your skin5 to remove excess oil, moisturize6 your skin to keep it supple, exfoliate your skin to prevent clogged pores, and keep inflammation at a minimum with toners, astringents, serums, and probiotics7.
- Decker A, Graber EM. Over-the-counter Acne Treatments: A Review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012 May;5(5):32-40.
- Acne. Mayo Clinic
- Diet and acne update: carbohydrates emerge as the main culprit. Mahmood SN, Bowe WP. J Drugs Dermatol. 2014 Apr;13(4):428-35.
- Davis EC, Callender VD. A review of acne in ethnic skin: pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and management strategies. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010 Apr;3(4):24-38.
- Choi JM, Lew VK, Kimball AB. A single-blinded, randomized, controlled clinical trial evaluating the effect of face washing on acne vulgaris. Pediatr Dermatol.2006 Sept-Oct;23(5):421-7.
- Chularojanamontri L, Tuchinda P, Kulthanan K, Pongparit K. Moisturizers for Acne: What are their Constituents? J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014 May;7(5):36-44.
- Notay M, Foolad N, Vaughn AR, Sivamani RK. Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics for the Treatment and Prevention of Adult Dermatological Diseases. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2017 Dec;18(6):721-732.
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