People have always suspected that there’s connection between what we eat and pimples on our face. But until recently, if you asked a doctor, they usually insisted that diet isn’t a factor. But several studies from the last decade have started to shift the conversation. While changing your diet alone isn’t likely to clear up acne, what you eat can affect your complexion. Here are eight tips to eat right and keep your skin looking great.
1. Eat well, look great. Skin is the largest organ of the body, and to keep it healthy, we have to eat for overall health. Several recent studies, namely, including one from Australia and another from New York University have shown that a low-glycemic diet heavy on whole grains, vegetables, fruits and lean proteins reduces acne. It appears that these low-glycemic foods keep blood sugar and insulin levels low and in turn tamp down oil-producing hormones called androgens—as well as cell growth in pores. And that means fewer pimples.
2. Eat your vitamins. Along with healthful foods, vitamins and minerals are the building blocks of good skin.
- Vitamin A: We’ve all heard about the wonders of vitamin A in Accutane and Retin-A, but you can get some of the same benefits without the side effects with a diet rich in vitamin A foods.
- Vitamin E and C: These antioxidants possess calming properties that can reduce skin inflammation associated with acne.
- Zinc and Selenium: Zinc can inhibit growth of P. acnes and calms irritated skin. Some evidence points to a lower than normal level of zinc in acne sufferers. As an antioxidant, the mineral selenium protects skin from free-radical damage.
3. Drink up. Drinking five to eight glasses of water every day helps keep your skin hydrated and your body functioning properly. Water flushes out toxins that can cause skin problems and is necessary for skin regeneration.
4. Get fishy and seedy. Omega-3 fatty acids from cold-water fish, seeds and nuts have anti-inflammatory properties that can protect the skin against acne. Plus, they also help keep skin cells healthy.
5. Choose low-fat foods. Diets high in saturated fat can stimulate insulin-like growth factors that boost androgens and increase skin oil production. Next stop: breakout city. But a 2002 study published in JAMA Dermatoligy found that indigenous people eating unsaturated fats from tubers, rice, peanuts and fish are largely free of acne.
6. Dark chocolate? Yes! Cocoa is chockfull of antioxidants called flavinoids that improve blood flow to the skin and have anti-inflammatory properties. The JAMA Dermatology study found that pure cocoa and dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa might even alleviate acne, especially when the chocolate was low in sugar.
7. Limit dairy products. According to a review done at The George Washington University Medical Center, the naturally occurring hormones in milk and those given to cows to encourage their growth as triggers for acne. A researcher at Dartmouth believes that skim milk, organic or otherwise, seems to be the worst because processing increases level of hormones. Since milk is meant to stimulate growth in calves, it contains anabolic steroids and growth hormones that can set in motion the creation of androgens and increased oil production in you. More oil often equals more blemishes.
8. Avoid processed and sugary foods. Bye-bye, sodas, pastries and French fries. According to the New York University study, high-glycemic foods such as these break down quickly during digestion, filling your system with sugar and the insulin the body uses to break it down. As the insulin is cranked out, so are androgens that prompt the skin to produce more oil for blemish-causing bacteria to eat. Highly processed, simple carbohydrate foods such as candy, cakes, white bread, aren’t good for eliminating acne.
Choosing a healthful diet can go a long way toward making you look and feel better. As always, you have to decide which diet choices are best for you. Test foods over a few weeks to see if eliminating them has any effect on your acne. You’ll never know until you try. By Rachel Duran. Rachel is an editor and blogger at Arithmetic, a new skincare company focused on adult acne.