The Link Between Nutrition and Acne

Acne is very common amongst younger people, particularly teenagers. There are a lot of myths regarding if and how much your diet may make your acne worse. Evidence in recent years does suggest a link between diet and acne breakouts. However, this link  is still debated and is still being researched. In particular, dairy products (especially cow’s milk) and high GI (glycaemic index) foods including processed foods, refined sugars and carbs such white rice, white bread, potatoes, and pasta can cause dramatic fluctuations or rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. They are considered to be involved in an increase of acne because these food groups cause a rise in insulin growth factor (IGF-1) hormone levels in the bloodstream. Because of this there is a build up of excess skin sebum (skin oil) production. This oil aggravates acne. 

Although a popular myth, it isn’t true that greasy foods such as burgers, fries, and pizza worsen acne. They aren’t connected with an increase in skin sebum production. However, working in a greasy environment such as a fast food kitchen may increase the risk of breakouts. This would be due to the grease clogging skin pores and causing skin inflammation. Another myth is that chocolate causes acne – again, not true!

What You Can Do

A well-balanced diet with whole foods such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables is generally good for the skin. Additionally it may lead to fewer acne breakouts due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Some people also say that reducing dairy, processed foods and sugar intake helps to reduce breakouts. There is some suggestion that whey-protein shakes may also cause breakouts as they increase certain hormone levels that cause more skin sebum production. If you think any of these foods aggravate your breakouts, avoiding or reducing their intake may help. Even if it does not seem to better your acne, it helps to reduce the number of things that could be causing your acne. This makes it easier to treat.

It is important to note that dietary changes don’t work for everyone as acne prevention. The improvements with dietary changes also vary, and for most people their acne isn’t fixed by changing diets. This is because acne formation is multi-factorial and involves an interplay between genetics, hormones, and the C. acnes skin bacteria. For many, medical treatment is needed to properly clear acne, which can include medication. A dermatologist can help you figure out what products you should be using for your skin.  They can also give you great advice as to how to reduce or get rid of your breakouts.

About the Author

Dr Leona Yip is an experienced Consultant Dermatologist based in Brisbane, and has treated numerous individuals with acne across a wide range of age groups over the years. You can visit her website for more information.