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When it comes to our skin, we often put so much attention on the treatments we put on our skin
that we forget about the things we’re putting inside our body that may affect our acne. Once
upon a time, people believed that you should avoid french fries and chocolate at all costs if
you wanted clear skin. These days, we know those foods don’t necessarily cause acne. Still, some
foods have properties that can trigger diet-related acne. Overall, diet plays a role in how our
body functions, especially when it comes to our largest organ — our skin.
While few experts believe diet is the primary cause of acne, it’s still important to be aware of
how some foods in your diet and acne are linked. Here are a few pointers that could help you
determine if your diet is triggering your outbreaks.
While it’s a myth that the grease in foods like pizza and french fries cause breakouts (grease
doesn’t leak from your stomach through your skin), there is something to be said for eating
clean. Some foods, like dairy, sugar, saturated fats, trans fats, and carbohydrates, may
increase the likelihood of a breakout. That’s because the carbs found in sugary, starchy, or
processed foods are high on the glycemic index. That means they spike your blood glucose levels
and signal your pancreas to create more insulin. Too much insulin has the potential to cause
many problems, including acne. According to the American Diabetes Association, we should eat the following high-carb
foods in moderation:
Given how everyone’s body is so different, it’s not guaranteed that a change in diet will show on
your skin. And given that, dietary changes may take weeks or even months to show on your largest
outer organ (that’s your skin, of course).
If you’re interested in changing your diet to see if it has a positive effect on your skin, the
best way is to use a food diary. Tracking your diet and acne for 1-2 months may help you
identify whether certain foods cause your breakouts. If you suspect a particular food is causing
your acne, eliminate it from your diet for 3-4 weeks to see if you notice an improvement in your
skin. If your outbreaks lessen, that food is likely a trigger and you should either remove it
from your diet or eat it in moderation moving forward.
When you want to make diet changes for acne, it’s crucial to understand that what works for one
person may not work for you. Everyone’s physical makeup is different, and it can take a little
trial and error with your diet to see what works and what doesn’t. Of course, always consider
any food allergies, sensitivities, or triggers when planning an anti-acne diet.
If you’re not sure where to start, add the following foods to your diet to help improve your
Vitamin A, a natural antioxidant that plays a role in cell functionality, fights toxins and free
radicals and promotes the normal shedding of dead skin cell build-up inside the pores. Add
vitamin A-rich foods to your diet, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens,
winter squashes, bell peppers, fish, and tropical fruits.
You’ve probably heard about the benefits of adding omega-3 fatty acids, or "healthy fats," into
your diet. That’s because their anti-inflammatory properties provide several health benefits,
including helping acne. In 2014, Korean researchers conducted a 10-week study testing
the use of omega-3 supplements on participants with mild to moderate acne and found a
significant decrease in acne lesions. Omega-3s are essential fats the body cannot produce
naturally, so we can only get them from the foods we eat. Consider adding foods like
wild salmon, avocado, flaxseed oil, and walnuts to your diet to get the natural
benefits of omega-3s.
It’s important to distinguish between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. While both provide
specific health benefits, research shows that, on average, we consume too much omega-6 in our
diets in the form of vegetable oils like safflower, sunflower, soybean, and corn. Given that
some omega-6 fatty acids can promote inflammation, they can cancel out the positive effects of
omega-3s, so maintain a proper balance of these two fatty acids in your diet.
Studies suggest that those who
consumed at least 40 mg of zinc a day had improved acne versus those with low levels of zinc in
their diet. This makes sense since zinc is an essential mineral for skin development and
regulating metabolism and hormone levels. Along with supplements, you can get zinc from foods
like turkey, quinoa, lentils, beef, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and seafood such as oysters
Fruits and veggies are always a good idea, as they’re rich in vitamins and nutrients essential to
our everyday health, including our skin. When shopping in the produce department for your
anti-acne diet, go for tomatoes; blueberries; dark, leafy greens; and yellow and orange
fruits such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and apricots.
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