Last Updated on July 22nd, 2020
Many teens and young adults who experienced acne “back in the day” were told to stop eating certain foods such as chocolate and crisps. This is because it was commonly thought that a “bad” diet was a key cause of acne and blemished skin. Studies have debunked this somewhat, as the role of surging hormones as a cause of teen and adult acne is more understood.
However, diet does play a role in the cause, severity, and management of acne, as it does in every facet of our health. While it’s not as simple as “put the chocolate down!”, there are acne food causes to be wary of. There are also some skin-loving foods you can eat to reduce the risk and severity of acne.
Let’s start with the “⛔ no list” before discussing the “👍 yes list”.
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You may not be surprised to see dairy at the top of the list, as it is a commonly-known acne culprit, and for well-backed reasons.
Researchers in the Polish peer-reviewed journal Pol Merkur Lekarski, reported that dairy products such as milk may indeed trigger acne for some people. This is because milk increases the insulin-like growth factor-1, otherwise called IGF-1, which in turn ultimately leads to the production of sebum. Sebum is the oil made by the glands under the skin which combines with dead skin cells to feed and exacerbate acne-causing bacteria.
If you suspect that milk is leading to breakouts, try swapping dairy milk to plant-based milk such as coconut 🥥 or almond and see if it makes a difference to your acne regularity and severity.
Chocolate has been blamed for “bad skin” and breakouts for decades, and there is certainly some truth behind these claims.
The same Polish researchers as mentioned above reported that eating chocolate can aggravate acne because it predisposes people to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). When you have a spike in blood sugar, your body produces more androgens, which leads to increased acne. Another study conducted in the Netherlands supported the idea that chocolate aggravates acne, reporting that this is due to chocolate changing the immune system.
Interestingly, the immune system can be to blame for acne breakouts as it responds to bacteria with inflammation leading to pustules. However, a healthy, strong immune system is also important for fighting acne and keeping the skin healthy. For this reason, it’s smart to take immunity-loving Vitamin C and Zinc supplements for a strong immune system and to prevent acne. What’s more, it’s important to keep inflammation-causing factors such as stress and irritating skincare products at bay, to stop the immune system from responding with inflammation.
In a research article published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, researchers reported that when it comes to diet and acne, carbs are the main culprit. Based on their data, they advised that dermatologists should encourage their acne patients to keep high-glycemic foods to a minimum. High-glycemic foods are foods that lead to a drastic spike in blood sugar, causing you to “crash” after that initial sugar high.
According to Harvard Medical School, some of the highest carbohydrate foods (therefore, high-glycemic) are bread, tortillas, rice, noodles, potatoes, and couscous. Many breakfast meals are also considered to be high-carb foods that spike blood sugar and lead to breakouts, including some cereals, rolled oats, porridge, and muesli.
You don’t have to give up carbs and sugars completely, but approach them as occasional treats.
What’s more, you can make diet substitutions such as eating brown rice as opposed to white rice, and whole-grain bread as opposed to white bread.
It won’t come as a surprise that high-fat snacks are on the naughty list, especially those containing saturated and trans fats. Omega-6 fatty acids are also considered to be among foods causing acne as they cause inflammation in the body like trans and saturated fats do. Avoid food such as processed meats, cheese, oily snack foods, and fast food, basically anything deep-fried, salty, or packaged! Stick to healthy fats found in foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, fish, and olive oil.
Your skin, body, energy levels, and overall health benefit from a diet high in fruits and vegetables, as countless studies show. In research published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, researchers explored how plant-based food and supplements can help to control acne. Specifically, they explored how the gut microbiome provides feedback between the foods that we eat and our bodies. The gut microbiome and the relationship between food is also important when it comes to inflammation, one of the key acne causes.
Unsurprisingly, the scientists reported that a diet rich with plant-based foods and low in processed foods is linked to improvement of acne.
Food that is “close to the source”, meaning that it has gone through little-or-no processing contains the most vitamins and minerals, especially food that is plant-based (i.e. not meat or dairy). 🍌 Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains supply your body with skin-loving vitamins such as vitamin E, vitamin D, and vitamin A. These food sources are kind to the body and don’t lead to inflammation, instead, they nourish the body from the inside out.
Specifically, some of the best plant-based foods that can help to prevent acne include avocados, walnuts, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, and soy. Many of these plant-based foods contain such nutrients as zinc, essential fatty acids, beta carotene, vitamin C, and lycopene. It’s also a good idea to use the spice turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Add a pinch to your smoothie, salad dressing, or make a golden latte using turmeric and almond milk.
Green tea has been touted as a superfood for decades, with claims that it helps with weight loss, brain power, and yes, acne reduction.
A study published in the journal Antioxidants was conducted to see if green tea helped to reduce acne. What the researchers found was that the polyphenols in green tea were effective at reducing the amount of sebum that was produced. Too much sebum being produced, as mentioned earlier, can lead to the pores becoming clogged, which leads to an increase in acne.
They also found that green tea was effective in helping to improve the severity of existing acne.
What makes green tea so powerful are the polyphenols that it contains, which are also found in nuts, berries, and legumes. The great thing about polyphenols is that they are anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antineoplastic, meaning they inhibit the growth of tumors.
Sip a hot cup of 🍵 green tea each morning and night, (add a little lemon juice if the flavor is too bland for your palate!).
Oily fish is the subject of many past and recent studies concerning its effects on the skin, body weight, heart, and brain health. Studies show that the omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish such as salmon have anti-inflammatory properties that calm inflammation in the body that can lead to diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and even skin issues such as acne. What’s more, studies have shown that the western diet is high in omega-6 fatty acids and low on omega-3s, causing increased inflammation and, therefore, increased risk of acne.
Note: people with acne who follow a vegan and vegetarian diet can source healthy fats through chia seeds, flaxseed oil, nuts, and edamame beans. These foods all have a low-glycemic index, won’t raise blood sugar, and are not known food causes of acne.
In addition to avoiding foods that cause acne, you can speed up the acne removal process by trying a well-formulated acne skincare system.
One of the most effective and highly recommended products for acne treatment is Exposed Skincare. While this may sound like a pitch, nearly everyone who has used Exposed Skincare products to help fight acne has seen beneficial results within one month. This is because Exposed Skincare uses powerful natural ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and azelaic acid to treat acne without drying out the skin. What’s more, they use the right amounts of each ingredient so that they can work their magic without causing adverse effects, unlike other popular systems such as Proactiv. Proactiv reviews give an insight into the user experience, with many reports of dry skin, issues with billing, and a high price that doesn’t match up to the results.
Not only do Exposed products have an outstanding reputation for getting rid of acne, but the company also offers a full year guarantee with purchase, so you have nothing to lose and beautiful, acne-free skin to gain.
1. Can certain foods cause acne?
Some foods may have a negative impact on the gut microbiome, lead to more sebum production, and negatively impact the immune system. Research shows that some of the food that causes acne include dairy products, chocolate, unhealthy fats, and high-glycemic refined carbohydrates.
Unhealthy fats linked to acne include those containing omega-6 fatty acids, such as vegetable oil, and those found in processed meats, potato chips, and pizza. Steer clear of processed treats and snacks that are filled with sugar and processed oils. Instead, shop for whole foods with minimal processing.
2. What should I eat to avoid acne?
Fill your plate with plant-based foods such as colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as green tea, which is high in polyphenols and helps to reduce the production of sebum. Choose high-fiber, whole grains such as brown rice and whole oats (if you tolerate gluten) as they have a low glycemic index and won’t spike your blood sugar. Add some oily fish such as salmon to your diet as it is anti-inflammatory and contains lots of healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids to nourish your skin from the inside out.
3. Do eggs cause acne?
This is an age-old question, with various answers. Some people find that cutting out eggs helped to clear their acne (including star Natalie Portman), while others did not see a difference. Eggs are packed with nutrients that are good for skin, such as vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin B7 (biotin), and zinc. However, eggs can also contain high levels of omega-6 and hormones when cage-raised as opposed to free-range. If you suspect eggs are causing your acne, cut them out while keeping the rest of your diet normal, and see if it makes a difference. The short answer? Everyone is different and eggs may or may not be a cause of acne…with evidence for both sides!