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How Can Your Diet Affect Acne?

If you suffer from acne, you’ve probably done your homework on home remedies and other ways to prevent or combat outbreaks. During your research, you may have come across several articles, studies, and papers discussing whether and how diet does or does not affect acne. With so much conflicting information and new data coming to the forefront each day, it’s difficult to know if there’s any relationship between your acne and your eating habits at all.

So what’s the bottom line? Does diet affect acne? And, if so, how does the food you eat lead to the production or prevention of pimples? While researchers, doctors, and dermatologists still lack a conclusive understanding of these matters, this topic is certainly worth exploring.

The Connection Between Diet and Acne

To pick apart the potential connection between diet and acne, we must first go over what causes acne in the first place. Acne arises when the skin’s oil glands (sebaceous glands) produce excess material (oils and skin cells) and block the pores, resulting in whiteheads, blackheads, and inflamed skin. Changes in hormone levels are the primary cause of this overproduction, which is why pimples are so prevalent in teens and pregnant people. That said, hormonal changes aren’t the only reasons for acne; anything that leads to bodily inflammation and/or excess sebum can result in an acne outbreak. With this in mind, you might wonder what nutrition has to do with acne.

It’s no secret that different types of food have different short- and long-term effects on the human body. This is why certain foods are considered healthy and others unhealthy. More specifically, certain foods can cause a spike in one’s blood sugar levels, namely high-glycemic foods. This rapid increase in blood sugar often leads to inflammation while simultaneously boosting sebum production, resulting in a one-two punch that might trigger acne or make an outbreak more aggressive.

Foods that May Trigger or Worsen an Acne Outbreak

High-glycemic foods include favorites such as:

  • White bread
  • French fries
  • Potato chips
  • Puffed rice
  • Pastries
  • White rice
  • Corn flakes
  • Milkshakes and other sugar-filled drinks

It is also possible that the hormones found in milk can cause inflammation (and therefore acne), though the evidence here is inconclusive.

Stress, Diet, and Acne

Even if it turns out that high-glycemic foods and certain dairy products don’t directly lead to acne or have as big an impact on it as some researchers believe, stress can certainly play a role. When you feel stressed, your body produces stress-related hormones like cortisol, which can result in inflammation and the overproduction of sebum. Additionally, feelings of stress can also affect the way we eat. The term “comfort food” comes to mind, and typically consists of high-fat, high-carb, high-glycemic foods.

In other words, stress might be the actual root of your acne outbreak, not the food you’re eating. Rather, you might consume less healthy food due to your stress. Furthermore, the initial appearance of acne often leads to more stress, creating a vicious cycle of stress-hormone production, poor eating habits, and pimples. This might be why we see a strong correlation between diet and acne, even if there isn’t direct causation.

Can a Change in Diet Reduce Acne?

Simply put, it depends. For some, eating better can help clear up their acne quite effectively. But those with highly acne-prone skin may have a harder time preventing acne outbreaks. As such, a change in eating habits might not make much of a difference in these cases. However, switching to a healthier, lower-glycemic diet can be good for your body and skin overall, so it’s worth considering regardless. To be more specific, try making these changes in what you eat:

  • Reduce or eliminate foods and drinks with a high sugar content
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates (pasta, white bread, pastries, etc.)
  • Cut out dairy and whey protein
  • Go for nutritious whole foods
  • Opt for omega-3 fats (avocados, fish, chia seeds, etc.)
  • Eat more vegetables to boost your vitamin intake and reduce inflammation

Switching to a more nutrient-rich, less processed diet may not get rid of your severe acne or prevent future outbreaks entirely, but it will improve your health and potentially reduce stress levels in the process.

The Verdict

Ultimately, the jury is still out on the extent to which diet affects acne. And to make matters more complex, everyone is different. A certain type of food might trigger acne in one patient but have no effect on another. For these reasons, it’s important to keep tabs on the foods and other factors that seem to exacerbate your own acne outbreaks and discuss these matters with your dermatologist. By examining your skin type, medical history, and more, you and your doctor can come up with an optimal strategy for how to prevent acne and treat your current symptoms.

Let the experts at Premier Dermatology Partners help you deal with your acne and improve your skin health as a whole. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.

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