Can diet affect acne?

September 22, 2018 by Shadi Pornak0
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Many of our patients at SkinCare Physicians ask if they should change their diet to help improve their acne. Fortunately, there have been many studies looking at possible links between diet and acne. SkinCare Physicians’ Dr. Tania Phillips sheds some light on which foods to avoid and which foods can help.

Foods to avoid

  • High glycemic foods – sugar, white bread, white pasta, and other simple carbohydrates: A study published in July 2018 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that diets containing a lot of foods with a high glycemic foods were strongly linked to acne. Scientists aren’t sure why, but one reason may be that high glycemic foods can cause the release of various hormones, such as growth hormone insulin and IGF-I, which can make acne worse. Highly processed and refined carbohydrates turn to have a little or no fiber, and generally could cause blood sugar levels to spike.
  • Low-fat dairy products: A link exists between dairy products and acne development. In particular low-fat dairy products are associated with acne. Why milk may worsen acne is however still a bit of a mystery. One theory is that some of the hormones in milk cause inflammation inside the body. It is possible that these hormones become more concentrated when the fat is removed. No studies have found that milk products such as yogurt or cheese lead to more breakouts.

Foods possibly helping

Foods with high levels of polyphenols can help to decrease inflammation and may also possibly help acne. Polyphenols are natural micronutrients packed with antioxidant molecules. Polyphenols are found in many plant-based foods including nuts, berries, fruits, green vegetables, dark chocolate, extra virgin olive oil, wine and green tea. Polyphenols have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties and can be used for reducing sebum production in the skin and for treatment of acne.

In summary to help improve your acne, try the following dietary changes:

  • Avoid starchy or sugary foods that have a high glycemic index.
  • Avoid low-fat dairy foods and beverages, if you eat dairy products.
  • Eat plenty of colorful plants and produce.

Keeping a food and acne diary for a few weeks may help you to identify which foods affect your acne. Also, remember that other factors such as stress may trigger or worsen acne.
While some evidence suggests that diet can possibly affect acne, diet changes alone may not prevent or clear breakouts. If your acne persists, the dermatologists at SkinCare Physicians recommend to seek a medical treatment.


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