If you had acne in high school, you may remember your parents claiming that pizza, hamburgers, and chocolates would cause your acne to break out even more. Was this statement really true? Or was this just another old wives’ tale used to trick you into eating more vegetables?
If your acne problem has followed you well into your post-high school years you may still be asking yourself the same question. Does diet really have any significant effect on acne?
Unfortunately, the answer is not that straight forward. There are several factors that cause acne and addressing them properly is the only way to prevent these bumps from rearing their ugly heads. However, various dermatologists have suggested that there are certain foods that can actually make the problem worse and can trigger painful breakouts.
What Is Acne?
Before we dive into the foods that could be triggering your acne. Let’s take a look at what acne is and how it develops on the skin. Acne, which is a skin condition, causes various types of bumps to form on the shoulders, back, neck, or face. These bumps occur when the pores get clogged with dead skin cells and excess oil (sebum) excreted from the sebaceous glands. Sometimes bacteria can also get trapped inside the pores, which usually causes inflammation and can be quite painful. There are a few different types of acne that can develop at any age:
- Pustules – red bumps that occur on the surface of the skin and are filled with pus.
- Papule – otherwise known as a pimple is a raised bump that clusters together and forms a rash similar to goosebumps or a shaving rash.
- Cyst – the most serious and painful type of acne that is caused by a combination of oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells that gets trapped deep underneath the skin.
- Blackheads – resembles tiny black dots on the skin and is a result of a clogged pore that is still open.
- Whiteheads – resembles tiny white bumps that are caused by a clogged pore that has closed.
Acne usually occurs during puberty due to hormonal changes, but it can also occur in adulthood and is usually brought on by emotional stress. In some cases, acne goes away on its own but in more severe cases where bacteria is present, it may need to be treated with prescription antibiotics. In most mild cases, acne can be managed by improving skin hygiene, taking a high-quality supplement like AcneTru™ by Approved Science, and eating a balanced diet.
Now that we know what acne is and what causes it, let’s take a look at the foods that may be affecting your acne.
Simple or refined carbohydrates, sugars, and grains are one of the main dietary culprits behind acne breakouts for the same reasons it is bad for our health – it raises insulin levels.
Carbohydrates, especially the ones that have been refined or stripped of all its nutrients, are one of the body’s fastest sources of energy. This is because of how easy it is to break carbs down into glucose, which is then transported throughout the bloodstream and used to fuel various cells and organs or stored as fats. But while this process is happening, the pancreas secretes insulin in order to offset the spike in blood glucose levels.
When the body produces too much insulin it causes growth factor somatomedin C and androgen hormones like testosterone and androstenedione to become more active, which stimulates the production of skin cells and sebum that can contribute to a breakout. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it turns out your parents were correct about the burgers and pizza.
There have been a lot of studies that have found a strong link between eating dairy products such as milk and the increased risk of developing acne or triggering the pre-existing condition.
While scientists are not exactly sure how it contributes to acne development they do believe that it is due to two possible reasons – growth factor hormones and insulin. Dairy products contain various milk proteins, hormones, and of course lactose, which is a sugar and causes insulin levels to spike.
Studies show that individuals who eat dairy products like ice cream regularly are more likely to develop acne than those who don’t. While some researchers believe that the combination of hormones and lactose can have an effect on our body’s own hormone levels, some may not be affected by dairy at all.
Polyunsaturated Cooking Oils
Corn, safflower, sunflower, canola, and soybean oils are known to cause increased levels of inflammation and acne breakouts. These polyunsaturated cooking oils that are traditionally used by fast-food joints and restaurants are extremely rich in omega 6 fatty acids and low in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. The imbalance in these two essential fatty acids causes the body to go into an inflammation overdrive, which not only causes breakouts but is also extremely bad for your health.
Studies show that supplementing with omega 3 can help offset the inflammation caused by omega 6 rich foods and improve the condition of your skin.
Using these oils to make greasy fried foods is also a contributing factor to the development of acne, especially if you work in a restaurant or just enjoy frying foods regularly. The steam and oil from the pan or deep fryer may splatter onto your skin and can clog up your pores. If your job doesn’t involve frying foods like this, it may be best to start steaming or grilling your foods to prevent excess oils from building up on your skin and to improve your overall health.
What Foods Should You Eat Instead?
While there are no set rules on what an anti-acne diet looks like, research has shown that following a diet that consists of low glycemic foods (foods that do not cause a spike in blood glucose) is helpful for minimizing the severity and frequency of acne breakouts. These foods include legumes, whole grains, and fresh non-GMO fruits and vegetables.
Research also shows that foods that are rich in Zinc, Omega 3, and Vitamin A and E help to reduce the severity of acne and significantly improve the condition of the skin. Zinc, which is an essential mineral, helps to regulate hormone levels in the body and plays an important role in the development of the skin while Omega 3 and Vitamins A and E help to remove harmful toxins from the body, reduce inflammation, and neutralize harmful free radicals.
A few examples of foods rich in these nutrients include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sweet potato
- Red bell pepper
The Bottom Line
As we mentioned before, there are many factors that cause acne to develop, and changing your diet alone won’t guarantee results. You need to address the root cause which could range anywhere from hormones to genetics. With that being said, there is no harm in switching to a healthier diet. If you are experiencing a breakout, try to cut out refined carbs, sugar, unhealthy cooking oils, and dairy for a while to see if these may be triggering your acne. If your acne clears up, that is a good indication that your diet may be the issue. If this is the case you could try following a low glycine diet that includes vital vitamins like Zinc, Omega 3, and Vitamins A and E. If you have tried every trick in the book and still can’t get your acne under control, a natural supplement like AcneTru™ may just be the solution you are looking for!