Is it possible that what we eat in our diet can cause or affect acne? In 2010, researchers surprised some people when they reported that diet could indeed, affect acne outbreaks. That year, an article in the scientific journal Skin Therapy Letter reported the results of a 27-study analysis—21 observational studies and 6 clinical trials.
Scientists found that cow’s milk intake increased acne prevalence and severity, and also found an association between a high-glycemic load diet and acne risk.
Foods That Reduce Breakouts
An earlier study published in 2007 showed similar results—Australian researchers found that young men between the ages of 15 and 25 with mild-to-moderate acne experienced dramatic improvement when they switched from eating the typical American diet (with white bread and highly processed breakfast cereals) to a healthier diet of whole grains, lean meat, and fruits and vegetables.
“The acne of the boys on the higher-protein, low-glycemic index diet improved dramatically,” said senior author Neil Mann, associate professor at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia, “by more than 50 percent, which is more than what you see with topical acne solutions.”
Some people have long believed that diet affects acne, but only recently have researchers started to find evidence that this is true. If you’d like to try changing your eating habits to enjoy clearer skin, we’d encourage you to try it….you have nothing to lose!
Foods Culprits That Increase Acne Breakouts
Studies so far have focused mostly on the foods that make acne worse. Here are the five that come up most often as culprits in increasing breakouts. Avoid these for about a week, and see if you notice a difference.
- COW’S MILK – The 2010 study found an association between cow’s milk and acne. Scientists aren’t yet sure why this may be, but there are several theories. Cow’s milk spikes blood sugar, which can increase inflammation (leading to pimples). It also increases insulin levels, which encourage the production of skin oils (sebum). A lot of the commercial milk we buy comes from pregnant cows, and thus contains other hormones that can trigger the production of sebum. Milk also has growth hormones that can encourage the overgrowth of skin cells, potentially blocking pores. In 2005, researchers studied data from the famous Nurses Health Study II, and found that participants who drank more milk as teens had much higher rates of severe acne than those who had little or no milk as teens.
- JUNK FOOD – For the same reasons stated above (hormonal fluctuations, blood sugar levels), acne causing junk foods are on the list to avoid if you’re trying to clear up your skin. Drinking lots of water and healthier food choices for a hormonal acne diet will help your body stay balanced.
- GREASY FAST FOOD – Greasy fast food creates inflammation in the body. Studies have already linked fast food to conditions like childhood asthma, strictly because of its ability to raise overall inflammation in the body. Inflammation leads to pimples, so if you’re going to a fast-food restaurant, choose the salad or the yogurt.
- SUGAR – You may have already suspected that sugar is related to breakouts. Some studies now suggest that there may be a link. This doesn’t mean that if you eat a cookie you’re going to get a pimple. It comes down to how much sugar you’re eating in a day—particularly at any one time. If you consume a soft drink and a chocolate bar, for example, you’re likely spiking your blood sugar levels, and you could break out hours later. If you suspect sugar could be a culprit for you, try to cut back even by one sugary drink a day to notice a difference.
- HIGH-GLYCEMIC FOODS – These are foods that break down quickly in the body, triggering an insulin spike and raising blood sugar levels. They trigger hormonal fluctuations and inflammation—both of which encourage acne. We’re talking foods like white bread, processed breakfast cereals, white rice, pretzels, potato chips, cookies and cakes, etc. Choose low glycemic-index foods instead, like vegetables, whole grains, sweet potatoes, and most fruits.
Can I Eat Chocolate?
Long suspected to trigger acne, chocolate has received a pass until just recently. One small study from the Netherlands published in 2013 found a connection between chocolate and skin changes leading to acne. For the study, the scientists collected blood from seven healthy people before and after they ate 1.7 ounces of chocolate, each day, for four days.
A 2017 study found that just 48 hours after eating chocolate, college students with acne had more new lesions than their peers who ate a comparable amount of jelly beans.
The Science Behind It
Researchers then exposed the blood cells to bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes—which contribute to acne when they grow inside clogged pores—and to Staphylococcus aureus, another skin bacteria than can aggravate acne.
After eating the chocolate, the participants’ blood cells produced more interleukin-1b, which is a marker of inflammation, when exposed to Propionibacterium acnes. Eating chocolate also increased production of another immune system factor called interleukin 10 after exposure to Staphylococcus aureus. Interleukin 10 is thought to lower the body’s defenses against microorganisms, so higher levels could allow bacteria to infect pimples and worsen them.
This suggests that chocolate could increase inflammation and encourage bacterial infection, making acne worse. This was an extremely small study, however, and more research is needed. Dark chocolate has health-promoting antioxidants, so depending on how much you eat per day, you may want to wait for more evidence.
In the meantime, to see if you may be sensitive to chocolate, try eliminating it for a week, by itself, and see if you notice a change in your skin.
What Foods Reduce Breakouts?
Just cutting out the damaging foods listed above will likely lead to clearer skin—especially if you were regularly consuming them before. But what if you’re already eating healthy? Are there certain foods that could give you the edge against acne?
Research is in its earliest stages, but we do have some knowledge of particular foods that may help. Here are five of them:
- BROWN RICE OR FLAXSEED – The typical Western diet contains too many omega-6 fatty acids, which are tied to inflammation. Brown rice is a rich source of vitamin B, protein, magnesium, and several antioxidants. For acne, vitamin B acts as our skin’s stress fighter, which will help regulate hormones levels and prevent the likelihood of breakouts. Eating more omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in walnuts, flaxseed, and the like, can help tame inflammation and improve acne breakouts.
- GREEN TEA – Green tea is filled the antioxidants that can protect from environmental stressors. Drink more green tea throughout the day.
- SALMON – Several studies have indicated that the mineral zinc may reduce the effects of acne. It’s best to get zinc from your food, however, as too much in supplements (more than 100 mg a day) can result in side effects. Most salmon and other seafoodsare great for acne because they’re high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, acne-fighting nutrients and antioxidants (like vitamin A, vitamin D, and zinc), and low in carbs (see why carbs cause acne here). Other was to incease your zinc intake natural are eating toasted wheat germ (sprinkled on salads and steamed veggies), veal liver, roast beef, roasted pumpkin and squash seeds, and dried watermelon seeds.
- JUICING – Eating more fruits and vegetables can naturally help clear up acne, and juicing is a great way to do so. Many contain beta-carotenes, which naturally help reduce skin oils, and all are naturally anti-inflammatory. Dark, leafy greens also help clear impurities from the body, which can encourage acne. Dark-colored berries contain phytonutrients good for skin when eaten.
- PROBIOTICS – These have been found to reduce inflammation in the gut, which may help reduce acne. According to a 2011 study, intestinal microflora may affect inflammation throughout the body, which in turn, can affect acne breakouts. Since pre and probiotics can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, scientists believe they may help reduce acne breakouts. “There appears to be more than enough supportive evidence to suggest that gut microbes, and the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract itself, are contributing factors in the acne process,” the scientists wrote. To get more probiotics in your diet, try yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, microalgae, miso soup, pickles, tempeh, kimchi, and kombucha tea.
Of course, there are many factors that contribute to acne, and diet is just one of them. Along with eating cleanly and avoiding acne triggers, there are many other factors that can contribute to your situation.
What You Put On Your Skin Matters
There is no shortage of products out there promising to clear up your blemishes but can be too harsh or drying and many are best tossed in the trash. When you’re deciding what to put on your acne prone skin here’s what you need to know:
–Natural Skincare is a great idea. While converting your entire skin care regimen to 100% paraben, phthalate free etc. can be a big undertaking it’s wise to start moving in that direction. Because much of the underlying cause of acne, especially in PCOS, is hormonal things that mimic estrogen like parabens are only going to add to your misery.
– Switch to an acidic PH Face Cleanser. The number one reason why your skin’s acid mantle is acidic. An acidic ph is NOT bacteria-friendly, which is important. Don’t believe us! A 1995 study tested the impact of cleansing on acne-prone skin. Scientists asked patients with inflammatory acne lesions to use either soap or an acidic face cleanser for three months. The results? Only one month later, the group using soap had way more lesions than before. The group using an acidic cleanser had the opposite result: they had fewer lesions than before! In other worse: high pH soaps make acne worse while acidic cleansers (like our Face Cleanser) help to clear acne up. The reason? As this study shows, when you wash your face with soap, propionibacterium acnes (the bacteria that causes acne) proliferates. You have a lot of those nasty buggers on your skin. But when you switch to an acidic manuka oil face cleanser, the amount of propionibacterium acnes bacteria on your skin falls down significantly. That’s a win right there.
– Don’t over dry. Be careful with acne treatments and use only on congested breakout prone areas.
– Don’t be scared of oil. Non-oil moisturises are so popular among acne sufferers but for so many can make the sebaceous glands rebound and produce more oil. With topical oils use sparingly but they do wonders to help balance out oil production.
– Exfoliation is key. Remember your normal sloughing off of old skin cells is compromised. If your skin is broken out it’s important to use something gentle as to not damage the skin further.
Our Manuka Biotic Recommendations
Manuka Biotic Skincare for Acne
Manuka oil is a powerful remedy for acne. It has been extensively used for generations in New Zealand for its antimicrobial properties for other skin problems, such as eczema or even wounds. Manuka Oil contains other compounds that have strong antibiotic qualities and clinical trials suggesting that it has more of an effect on MRSA bacteria than the more common tea tree oil.
The topical application of Manuka oil for acne not only has healing benefits, but it also helps to maintain a good balance of bacteria on the skin. It has been shown to have exceptionally strong cleansing and anti-bacterial effects against a wide range of microbes, including acne-causing bacteria.
When new acne breakouts appear Manuka oil is the go-to treatment for disinfecting the blemish and eliminating toxins from the pores. Manuka oil soothes and instantly reduces inflammation and redness, helping acne appear less obvious. It also assists in speeding up the healing process to clear your complexion sooner.
Use as a targeted spot treatment by applying a drop of Manuka oil onto a cotton bud and directly dabbing onto emerging and existing pimples.
Our manuka oil infused Face Cleanser and Light Day Cream have amazing antibacterial properties that penetrate deep into the skin. Manuka Oil is known to be effective in killing acne-causing bacteria and drying up blemishes without the side effects. Our Face Cleanser is pH perfection, supporting the skin’s natural balance of protective oils. Many overly alkaline cleansers strip the skin of the acid mantle, a protective layer of oils. Our Face Cleanser is formulated not to interfere with the skin’s barrier in any way leaving the skin soft & smooth while gently washing away dirt & impurities.
Please read the full ingredient list for any known irritants or allergies. We advise trying new products on a small patch of skin and waiting 24 hours to make sure there is no reaction. Any natural product on the market could contain an ingredient that won’t agree with your skin.