For decades those with acne were told to avoid eating oily foods and chocolate, to wash regularly and apply over-the-counter topicals containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to diminish their acne. Diet was not considered a major contributor to acne. Today, it still isn’t. Many health professionals have decided that acne can’t be prevented, that outbreaks are not controlled by good hygiene or diet. A more complex set of factors is at play. In other words, anti-acne diets have not proven effective in preventing outbreaks.
While the acne/diet connection resurfaces regularly, there is no reliable research that confirms food intake causes the occurrence or severity of acne. Acne activates on the skin when too much oil is created, skin pores are clogged, bacteria infiltrates, or inflammation is present. Other prevalent factors may include one’s age, acne type and severity, lifestyle influences such as smoking, stress and pollution, fluctuating hormone levels and genetics. Treatment may depend on how motivated one is to taking the necessary steps.
When the presence of acne disturbs your psyche or self image, is persistent or severe, it’s time to see a dermatologist. It won’t hurt to ask your doctor these questions:
“Do you recommend any changes to my diet?”
“What self-care steps might improve my symptoms?”
Sensible skin care includes washing the face twice a day with a mild soap and using water-based skin care products and cosmetics, but these won’t make a person’s skin invincible to acne. However, proper treatments can control acne and minimize future breakouts.
Pimples form when the combination of oil and dead skin cells block the pores. Skin naturally sheds its dead cells but when a lot of sebum (oil) is present, the cells can get stuck in your pores. There are some dietary factors, such as insulin and glycemic index, that impact sebum production. The glycemic index (GI) of a food measures how fast it raises your blood sugar. Eating foods with a high GI increases insulin that likely increases sebum production. Foods high in GI include: pastries, white bread, soft drinks and breakfast cereals with high sugar content. Foods with a low glycemic index include: nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
The link between inflammation and food intake is consistent in research. Inflammation is a factor that may be associated with acne. Foods that can cause inflammation in the body include white bread, pastries, fried foods, sugary beverages, and red meat. Foods that are anti-inflammatory include: nuts, fatty fish, fruit, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes and olive oil.
Don’t forget the role vitamins play. Vitamin A can induce a lower skin pH and reduce sebum content. Vitamins A and D regulate the growth and differentiation of skin cells. Aging diminishes vitamin D production in skin so getting 15 minutes of sunshine a day might help. The UVB rays provide the energy your skin needs to make vitamin D. Retin A is a derivative of vitamin A that promotes skin cell turnover. Eating foods high in these vitamins is a healthy choice.
Just remember that we are all individuals with unique bodies and lifestyles. Exercise promotes good blood circulation and reduces stress, factors that may lessen the chance for acne breakouts. Conventional topicals containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide are still effective for treating mild and moderate acne, but if you are still concerned see a dermatologist. There are many treatment options available other than fishing for supposed anti-acne diets.