The exact relationship between diet and acne has yet to be definitely established, but what is clear to researchers is that diet does influence breakouts to a certain degree that has yet to be quantified. For instance, a 2010 study published in the scientific journal Skin Therapy Letter found that there was a link between acne risk and a high glycemic load diet.
These results mirrored those of a 2007 study conducted in Australia, which found that subjects suffering from mild to moderate acne who switched from the typical American diet rich in highly processed bread and cereals, to one that was rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meat and whole grains, experienced a great improvement in their condition.
Thus, diet changes may have a positive impact on acne. But what foods should you eat and what should you avoid?
Foods to Avoid
Sugar. Having too much sugar in your diet, particularly processed white sugar, can cause breakouts. Excess sugar can also lead to other health risks such as increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes and becoming obese, which can impact cardiovascular health. According to the World Health Organization, it is recommended that children and adults limit their “free sugar” intake to less than 10% of total energy intake or less than 12 teaspoons. Free sugar refers to fructose, sucrose and glucose commonly added to processed food and drinks, as well as sugars in fruit juice concentrates, syrups and honey.
High glycemic foods. These foods quickly break down in the body and raise blood sugar levels by spiking insulin levels. Examples include snack foods like chips and white bread as well as white rice. You should also avoid the highly processed food typically served in fast food restaurants, such as burgers that are rich in fat and grease. Instead, you should increase your intake of low glycemic foods, which include fruits and vegetables, sweet potatoes and whole grains.
Cow’s milk. Some studies have shown that there may be a link between cow’s milk and acne breakouts, although the exact correlation has yet to be determined. Some scientists have speculated that milk may spike insulin levels or cause inflammation. You can switch instead to soymilk, which is made from soybeans and rich in essential fatty acids.
Chocolate. Eating chocolate is commonly believed to be one of the major factors causing breakouts. Although the evidence suggests that there is a correlation between acne and chocolate, since it is believed to cause inflammation and promote bacterial infection, the link has yet to be definitively confirmed. In addition, dark chocolate does have some health benefits since it is rich in anti-oxidants. So if you want to avail of the health benefits of chocolate without increasing acne risk, avoid processed milk chocolate bars; instead, take some unsweetened dark chocolate in moderate quantities.
What to Eat?
Zinc. This essential mineral plays a vital role in many bodily functions, including wound healing, immune function and protein synthesis. Adding more zinc to your diet may significantly reduce acne. Since the body has no mechanism for storing zinc, you have to get it regularly from the food that you eat or through supplements. Zinc-rich foods include: crab and other seafood; turkey; beef; cashews and pumpkin seeds.
Antioxidants. These substances reduce toxins in the body, such as free radicals that cause cell damage and may be behind many chronic diseases. Aside from reducing acne, antioxidants can also promote skin health by reducing wrinkles and the appearance of scars and repairing damage caused by overexposure to the sun. Foods that are rich in antioxidants include: Goji berries; pecans; wild blueberries; cilantro; blackberries and cranberries.
Omega-3. This fatty acid is commonly found in fish and other seafood. Getting enough Omega-3 in your diet is not only seen as beneficial to overall skin health and reducing breakouts but also can help with a wide variety of conditions, including arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even cancer, as well as strengthening the functioning of the immune system. Aside from fish, you can also get Omega-3 from flaxseed and walnuts.
Juiced fruits and vegetables. Juicing allows you to take more of these healthy foods by making them more convenient to consume. In particular, eat more dark leafy vegetables since can promote clear skin by removing impurities from your body.
Probiotics. These active microflora live in the human gut and help reduce inflammation. The richest sources of probiotics are yoghurt, kimchi, pickles, miso soup and sauerkraut.
Other Lifestyle Changes
Drink more water. Although the recommendation that you should drink at least eight glasses of water a day is still under debate, you should increase the amount of water you are drinking. This is particularly important if you are living in a hot and dry climate where you are more prone to become dehydrated. You can increase your intake by constantly drinking some water throughout the day.
Ensure that you get enough exercise/physical activity. Having a regular exercise program can help reduce toxins in your body that increase your risk of an acne breakout. You should exercise from 30 to 45 minutes a day, five days a week. Make sure that you sweat since sweating helps cleanse your body; but make sure to shower afterwards since dried sweat can irritate skin and cause breakouts.
Avoid too much sun. Being outside when the sun is at its highest can cause skin damage due to UV rays; if you cannot avoid being outside, use sunscreen that has lighter ingredients such as zinc oxide and octocylene that are gentler on skin.