If there’s one skin problem that is stubborn and frustrating, it’s acne. It seems to pop out of nowhere and stays for longer than it should. And, as if the breakout itself wasn’t difficult enough to deal with, it leaves scars behind that take even longer to go away, if at all.
If you’ve spent a lot of money, time, and effort into dermatologist appointments, then you don’t have to anymore. Give foods a chance instead to see if they can help clear your skin from the inside. Let’s start off by understanding diet’s role in acne production.
Does Your Diet Promote Acne And Breakouts?
The phrase “you are what you eat,” couldn’t be truer when it comes to acne. Although some experts say that the two aren’t connected, recent research states that diet might just be a cause of breakouts. This link is specific to blood sugar levels in the body.
Studies state that certain foods raise your blood sugar levels, more quickly than others. When blood sugar rises quickly, it causes the release of a hormone called insulin. Excess insulin in the body causes sebaceous glands (oil glands) to produce more oil, hence increasing your risk of acne.
Research also indicates that most “Western” diets worsen inflammation, which could also be a cause of acne. These foods include high-glycemic foods like refined grains, omega 6 fatty acids.1 By switching to foods that control your blood sugar levels, you could try and beat acne.
Foods To Eat To Keep Acne At Bay
Here’s an excuse to have more sushi! Studies show that the primary signs of acne – comedones, papules, pustules, acne cysts, and oily skin – are lower in those who consume a lot of fish and seafood. This is because they’re rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which decrease inflammation and are believed to regulate the symptoms of PMS (which might be a cause of acne).2
Recent evidence has also linked fish oil intake to reduced acne production.3 Meanwhile, zinc-rich foods like oysters are believed to inhibit sebum production and inflammation, hence controlling breakouts.4 5 If you do decide to try supplements instead of whole foods, make sure to consult a medical professional first.
2. Whole Grains
Whole grains have a low glycemic index, which means that they don’t lead to a blood sugar spike. If your diet consists of a lot of white bread, cereals, pretzels, regular pasta, mac and cheese, and the likes, you might be aggravating your acne problem.
Fortunately, all you have to do is have a low glycemic load. It is believed that reducing glycemic load leads to an improvement in acne.6 So, whenever you can, opt for whole grains, sweet potatoes, legumes, and lentils.7
Eggs have almost become synonymous with “health food,” but their vitamin A content might reduce the blockage of sweat glands and inhibit sebum production. Deficiency in this nutrient might be a cause of excessive breakouts.8 Vitamin A found primarily in animal-based foods. Other sources of it include dairy products, liver, and fish.9
Alternatively, you could opt for vitamin A supplements. Low doses of it have shown to be effective in treating moderate acne. However, it’s important to consult a medical professional before you do start any supplements.10
A plant-based “superfood” that’s gotten the health industry obsessed, flaxseed can be added to desserts, in salads, smoothies, and bread. It is also often used in place of an egg for baking. Flaxseeds are high in omega 3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation.11
Studies also show that flaxseed consumption lowers the symptoms of Polycystic ovarian syndrome, one of which is acne.12 So, the next time you’re at the grocery store, don’t forget to pick up flaxseeds.
Incorporate yogurt into your diet if you suffer from stubborn acne. This is because probiotics have been linked to a reduction in breakouts. This is based on the belief that gut microbes and the gastrointestinal tract contribute to the process of acne production.
Probiotics keep your gut healthy and, in turn, your breakouts under control. However, it’s important to stick to regular yogurt, and not the sweetened ones. If you plan on supplementing with probiotics, do check with a doctor first.13 14
Other foods to incorporate include fruits, lean proteins, and vegetables (particularly leafy greens). Research states that communities who followed a diet rich in these foods had a lower incidence of acne.15 Persistent breakouts can be problematic and tiring, but by switching to a healthier diet, you might be able to control their intensity.
|↑1, ↑2, ↑11, ↑15||Pappas, Apostolos. “The relationship of diet and acne: a review.” Dermato-endocrinology 1, no. 5 (2009): 262-267.|
|↑3||Khayef, Golandam, Julia Young, Bonny Burns-Whitmore, and Thomas Spalding. “Effects of fish oil supplementation on inflammatory acne.” Lipids in health and disease 11, no. 1 (2012): 165.|
|↑4||Gupta, Mrinal, Vikram K. Mahajan, Karaninder S. Mehta, and Pushpinder S. Chauhan. “Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review.” Dermatology research and practice 2014 (2014).|
|↑5||Matsuda, Yoshikazu, and Toshiaki Walanabe. “Effects of oyster extract on the reproductive function of zinc‐deficient mice: Bioavailability of zinc contained in oyster extract.” Congenital anomalies 43, no. 4 (2003): 271-279.|
|↑6||Katta, Rajani, and Samir P. Desai. “Diet and dermatology: the role of dietary intervention in skin disease.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology 7, no. 7 (2014): 46.|
|↑7||Glycemic Index and Diabetes. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑8||Basavaraj, K. H., C. Seemanthini, and R. Rashmi. “Diet in dermatology: present perspectives.” Indian journal of dermatology 55, no. 3 (2010): 205.|
|↑9||Vitamin A. Australian Government Department Of Health.|
|↑10||Kotori, Merita Grajqevci. “Low-dose vitamin “A” tablets–treatment of acne vulgaris.” Medical Archives 69, no. 1 (2015): 28.|
|↑12||Nowak, Debra A., Denise C. Snyder, Ann J. Brown, and Wendy Demark-Wahnefried. “The effect of flaxseed supplementation on hormonal levels associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome: A case study.” Current topics in nutraceutical research 5, no. 4 (2007): 177.|
|↑13||Bowe, Whitney P., and Alan C. Logan. “Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis-back to the future?.” Gut pathogens 3, no. 1 (2011): 1.|
|↑14||Kober, Mary-Margaret, and Whitney P. Bowe. “The effect of probiotics on immune regulation, acne, and photoaging.” International Journal of Women’s Dermatology 1, no. 2 (2015): 85-89.|