This blog post is based on scientific evidence, written and fact checked by our doctors. Our team of dermatologists and formulators strive to be objective, unbiased and honest. Do you see a new pimple pop up each time you consume a pizza or a burger? Or, have you been monitoring your fried food intake because you know it will lead to a zit the next morning? If your answer to these questions is a yes, you probably want to avoid certain foods to prevent acne. Read on to find out what they are and how they work.
Foods That Cause Acne
Before getting to the list, you must understand that food is not directly responsible for acne. Only if you have acne-prone and excessively oily skin, or poor gut health and lack of a proper cleansing routine, the following foods can cause a reaction.
Sugars, which we consume as refined white sugar in our homes and in other forms like sodas, tetra pack juices, honey, etc. are rich in refined carbs. These get absorbed fast into the bloodstream, raising your sugar levels. The increase in insulin levels also pushes the excess sugar into your cells, which in turn causes acne.
2. Dairy Products
A study conducted on teenagers showed that consumption of low fat and skimmed milk led to an increase in acne. However, the relation between milk and acne is not clear yet. If you notice acne post milk consumption, it is best to avoid dairy.
3. Fast Food
Teenagers who consume high amounts of fast food like burgers and fries are known to experience acne. However, the link between fast food and what ingredient exactly causes acne is unknown.
In a study conducted on males, it was found that those who consumed 100% unsweetened cocoa did cause a significant increase of acne. The study concludes that eating chocolate (which usually contains milk - a dairy product and sugar] makes the immune system react strongly to acne causing bacteria.
5. Greasy Food
Fried foods or items like bacon and burgers that have a lot of grease, also have extra fat in the meat. The excess oil and fat can lead to an outbreak of pimples.
6. Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein is a rich source of proteins and amino acids like leucine and glutamine. This powder is usually consumed by male athletes and bodybuilders. However, consumption of whey protein makes the skin’s cell grow and multiply faster, besides rising insulin levels, which can also be a cause for acne.
7. Refined Grains
Refined grains or refined white flour is usually found in breads, pasta, cereals and rice noodles. These have a high glycemic index and raise blood sugar levels. Insulin makes the androgen hormones more active, leading to faster cell growth and sebum production – which leads to acne.
8. Foods Rich In Omega-6 Fats
A western kind of diet with cornflakes, soybean oil, etc. are known to increase the risk of acne as they contain Omega-6 fats, which are inflammatory in nature. If you already have acne-prone skin, eating these foods may make you more vulnerable.
9. Lean Meat And Animal Protein
Some people have pimples that are fairly large and dark red in colour; they also appear along the jawline and the neck, besides the cheeks. These are due to an excessive intake of meats like chicken and mutton. Red meat can cause these pimples, though the connection is unknown.
Note: Observe how your skin reacts to different foods. If you notice breakouts immediately after consuming any of the above-mentioned foods, you can choose to avoid them.
What Foods Help To Keep Acne At Bay?
Just as there are foods to be avoided to prevent acne, there are some you can eat to ensure you have clear skin! Foods with a lower glycemic index like complex carbohydrates and certain other items in the food chain can minimise the appearance of acne. Some of these are:
1. Complex Carbohydrates
These are found in whole grains -- quinoa, whole wheat bread, and brown rice; fruits and vegetables (not in juiced form), red and yellow peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach and apricots; and legumes such as dals, beans and peas.
2. Vitamins A, D, E
A study found that those lacking Vitamin A and E showed increased acne. Tuna, liver, cream and feta cheese, butter, eggs, mackerel etc. are rich in Vitamin A. Nuts like almonds, peanuts and broccoli are rich in Vitamin E. Supplements for Vitamin A and D should not be taken without a doctor’s advice.
These are the panacea for more than half our skin’s problems. A healthy gut helps to reduce inflammation, thereby reducing the appearance of acne. Probiotic supplements can help. Yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, etc. are probiotic-rich foods.
It contains curcumin, a potent antioxidant that is known to reduce inflammation. It can regulate blood sugar levels, and reduce the occurrence of acne-causing bacteria. It can be had as an oral supplement on the doctor’s advice or even applied topically for significant benefits.
Chickpeas, beans, seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds, meat and shellfish are good sources of zinc. People with low levels of zinc in their body may be more prone to acne.
While the jury is still out on whether some foods have a definite link to acne, there are certain foods that act as triggers and can cause an outbreak. It happens with almost 10% of the world’s population. So if you know that a certain dish or food item can give you a pimple, it is best to avoid eating it. But most importantly, celebrate yourself and your body regardless of the acne and keep your confidence up and going. Acne will come and go.