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From the time puberty hits, most of us have to deal with acne every now and then. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself the question, why?
The human body is covered in hair follicles - some more visible than others. However, the parts of our body that are more exposed to dirt and grime, i.e. our faces, are also more prone to clogging of the exposed hair follicles, thus resulting in acne.
That said, clogged pores alone do not cause acne. Our genetic make-up, daily lifestyle, and eating habits all play a role… which is why some of us have to deal with acne spots more often than others.
Foods That Cause Acne
But what if we told you that paying close attention to what you put in your body could prevent acne spots from showing up on the most prominent part of your body? Your skin, after all, is something you wear every single day. So how does your diet affect your skin?
So here’s our list of foods that cause acne, and why it's best to avoid them in order to prevent acne breakouts…
When we have a higher level of certain hormones in our body, we can become more prone to acne. For example when we have our periods, go through puberty, become pregnant, breastfeed or go through the menopause, our fluctuating hormines can affect our skin.
But what does all this have to do with dairy? One word - hormones.
Dairy cows are also full of hormones as they would’ve recently given birth and technically, they’re breastfeeding, even though the milk they’re producing isn't going to a baby cow, it's going to dairy drinking humans.
When we drink milk or eat dairy products therefore, we’re also consuming hormones. This can lead to a fluctuation on our own body, and cause acne breakouts, especially if we’re already prone to them.
Sugars and Carbohydrates
Both added sugars and refined carbohydrates (think white bread, sugary cereal, white pasta and white rice, amongst others) get absorbed quickly into the bloodstream.
Increased blood sugar, as you can imagine, leads to increased insulin levels in the body which, as it turns out, is what makes acne worse. So, does sugar cause acne? Yes, it could well be causing yours.
Sugar and acne are linked because more insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is generated within the body when more insulin is produced.
This in turn makes skin cells grow quickly and results in greater sebum production. Sebum, the oily secretion on your skin, is what further clogs the hair follicles, thus making your chances of having acne breakouts much higher.
Whey Protein Powder
With health conscious individuals starting to get dependent on market bought whey protein powders instead of focusing on a balanced meal, the ill-effects of this habit can sometimes go undiagnosed.
Not only is whey a primary by-product of milk, but it’s also known to contain amino acids which aid in the rapid production of skin cells. And you know how the rest of the story goes - more sebum production, clogged hair follicles, acne…
If you like to drink protein smoothies and shakes opt for protein rich hemp or pea powder instead. Both also happen to be vegan friendly, too.
Foods Rich in Omega 6 Fatty Acids
It’s a known fact that omega 3 fatty acids in food reduce inflammation and tend to soothe the skin.
Omega 6 fatty acids in food, on the other hand, cause the opposite effect and also threaten to undo the effects of the former.
This is why omega 6 rich eggs, corn, and vegetable and soy oils can make acne worse whereas omega 3 rich fish, walnuts and chia seeds can make the skin calmer and less likely to break out.
While there is no established scientific correlation between chocolate and acne, informal studies and tests from as long as one century ago have shown a pattern of increase in acne with increased consumption of chocolate.
However, the key ingredient in chocolate, cocoa, does not seem to be the culprit as in some experiments where people who consumed ten times as much cocoa did not get any more acne than those who didn’t.
The obvious logical explanation then is that the sugar and milk in chocolate could be the contributing factors. A recent study also showed that chocolate affects the body’s immunity against acne-causing bacteria.
So whatever the actual cause may be, when thinking about foods to avoid for acne, it’s a good idea to stay away from chocolate if you’re attempting to reduce the appearance of acne on your skin.
The level of carbohydrates, sugars, and flavourings in fast food should by now be self explanatory reasons for why they make acne worse.
Add to that the possibility of hydrogenated vegetable oils rich in omega 6 fatty acids, and you have a formula for bad acne.
Similar to fast food, it’s the ingredients in fizzy drinks that make them bad for your complexion.
Sugary, carbonated drinks are the biggest culprits when it comes packing sugars, with some of them having close to 15g of sugar per 100g serving.
Not only is alcohol inflammatory, but it also strips the body of its essential zinc absorption. Zinc is considered to be one of the most important elements of acne treatment, mainly owing to its anti-inflammatory properties.
So when alcohol serves to both prevent zinc from working in your body and also causes further inflammation, the reasons for staying away from it are self-explanatory.
Foods That You’re Sensitive to
Adding to the list of foods that cause cystic acne is any food that causes you to experience an inflammatory reaction. You’ll know what these are, but common culprits are gluten dairy, lupins and celery. (This is different to a food allergy, that causes a severe and dangerous allergic reaction.)
They tend to cause stomach bloating, nausea, sickness and diarrhoea and may cause your skin to act up.
Food sensitivities occur when our immune system mistakenly thinks a food or nutrient is a threat and launches an immune attack against it.
This results in high levels of inflammation that may cause cane to become worse. An elimination diet can help you identify foods you are sensitive to.
High GI Foods
The GI, or glycemic index, of a food is a measure of how quickly and how high a food causes the blood sugar levels to rise. The higher the GI, the more quickly it will flood the bloodstream with sugar.
As you can imagine, pure sugar has the highest GI of any food. But white bread and pasta, white rice, sugary snacks, processed cereals and anything sweetened also has a high GI that will cause your blood sugar levels to spike.
High GI foods also lead to an increase in IGF-1, which as we learned above, can lead to inflammation and acne.
An Acidic Diet
An acidic diet, one that’s high in animal protein from meat and eggs, sugar, fat and salt will, also cause your skin to react, especially if your skin is already prone to acne.
Switching to a mostly alkaline diet, filled with fresh vegetables and plant proteins from beans and nuts can significantly improve your skin.
Your Diet and Your Acne
They say you are what you eat, so paying close attention to what you put in your body and the effect it has on it are crucial.
But much like a healthy balanced diet goes hand in hand with exercise for the overall wellbeing of your body, avoiding acne causing foods also goes hand in hand with proper skin care for the overall well being of your skin.
Then, based on your skin type and severity of acne, you can choose a moisturiser to prevent dryness as well as a topical treatment for your acne that can soothe the inflammation on your skin.
To hear more from real women with real relief from their acne troubles, visit our skincare page where you will also learn about our step-by-step six week transformation from acne. With cautious eating habits and a disciplined skin care routine, clear skin is now just a few weeks away.
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.