3 Tips to Clear up Acne (Hint: It’s Your Diet!)

Cynthia Bailey, MD|June 11, 2015

How Diet Impacts Acne The fact is that some of the basic building blocks of our modern diet give you zits. Doctors and scientists are just starting to unravel the complicated biochemical and hormonal cascade that goes from what you just ate to the zit you wake up with tomorrow morning. We don't know everything about diet and acne yet, but we do know that tweaking your diet WILL help control this complex pimple-forming cascade. It means there is hope and that what you eat is really important if you have acne. People who have acne want to do everything to stop the unfair complexion misadventure, so I'm going to give you what you need to change in your diet to help stop your skin from getting zits. Here’s the diet advice that I tell my dermatology patients who are suffering from acne: 1. Avoid High-Carb Foods This includes: white flour, sugary "junk" foods, and sugar-filled drinks and juices. Highly refined high-carb foods have a high glycemic index (meaning a lot of quick sugar), which is linked to acne. If you cut down on high glycemic foods, your acne should improve. In simple terms: the glycemic index measures a food's ability to quickly increase your blood sugar. A fast rise in your blood sugar from high glycemic foods tells your body to make insulin and,

  • When your body has to produce a lot of insulin because you ate a lot of refined carbs (white flour, sugary foods, etc.), then complex things happen with your hormones, including hormones that affect your pores.
  • These hormones are your androgens (like testosterone) and "insulin-like growth factor." They cause your pores to make blackheads and secrete more oil. They even change what’s in your skin oil, making it more "pimple forming."

Basically, eating refined carbs causes your hormones and pores to go crazy, which causes you to get zits. Stop the cascade by passing on the sugary foods and refined carbs, a.k.a. junk foods. 2. Limit Dairy Products Switch from fatty dairy products (e.g. ice cream and cheese) to a moderate amount of whole milk dairy products. Even better is to eat these dairy products when they contain natural probiotics (e.g. yogurt and kefir) so you get the benefit of those too. Reasons that might explain milk’s role in acne include:

  • Milk contains substances that your body converts to testosterone (that same hormone mentioned above and that affects your pores, causing oil production and acne).
  • Milk stimulates your body to produce a natural chemical called insulin-like growth factor (IGF, mentioned above too). This IGF increases your body's own natural testosterone hormones. It also increases how these hormones affect your pores, causing even more oil production and possibly more pimples and blackheads.

It’s important to know that skim milk products seem to be the worst for acne! We don't know why. Know that all cow dairy milk products may play a role regardless of whether they're made from whole milk, low fat milk or skim milk. 3. Eat Less Meat and Animal-Based Foods/Eat More Plant-Based Foods Eating less meat and more plant foods help you to flip an important fatty acid ratio in your body. It's the ratio of omega 6s to omega 3s. The traditional high animal food western diet has a high ratio of omega 6s to 3s. A plant-based diet has more 3s to 6s and that ratio helps to fight acne.  Reasons this might impact your acne include:

  • Omega 6s fuels inflammation (like, really big pimples). You get loads of omega 6 fatty acids in meats and other animal-based foods.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids quiet inflammation. You get tons of those in things like walnuts, flax seeds, spinach, and salmon.

Make these dietary changes and watch the driving force behind your acne slowly lose steam.  It won't happen overnight, but your skin will look better and you will feel better too. Treat your acne with the right skin care while you wait for the good changes you are making in your diet to impact your skin. To know if you have the right type of acne treatment for you type of acne, click here.  This will give you really clear information on how to match your acne treatment to your acne type, which is really important!

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