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Angela Palmer

Is Your Diet Causing Acne? Even Experts Can't Agree

By February 25, 2013

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Diet has nothing to do with acne... wait, maybe it does... no, it doesn't... yes it does.

It seems like every other month there is a new study coming out on the whole diet-and-acne-connection, and one that contradicts the previous study. Your dermatologist will tell you one thing; if you ask another you'll most likely to get a completely different answer. One popular skin care book lays out an anti-acne diet plan. Another expert on TV refutes the whole idea.

With all this back and forth, what do you believe? Does what you eat affect acne or not?

At the root of the issue is the fact that we still don't have a complete consensus as to exactly what role diet plays in acne development. Even the experts don't agree.

A latest article published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looks at history of the diet and acne connection, and complies information on the latest studies done on the subject. Looking at this article it's easy to see, not surprisingly, that more study needs to be done! But that's not helpful to you right now, trying to figure out the role your diet may play in acne.

So, what are we to do? You don't have to wait until the consensus is in. Here are a few tips I've gleaned over the years, through experience and talking with lots and lots of others who have acne, that will help you no matter what the latest diet-and-acne study says.

1.) Eat lots of fruits and veggies. Face it, most of us don't get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables daily. Adding more to our diet is going to have a healthful impact on our entire bodies, even the skin.

A study published last year in the PLOS One Journal shows that adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet improves skin tone and color. In fact, those who ate more veggies and fruits were judged to be "more attractive".

So even if you don't notice a difference in the amount of breakouts you see, adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet will make a healthy difference in your life irregardless.

2.) Cut out foods you think are triggering breakouts. I've never personally seen a link between diet and acne breakouts, but I know of lots of people who assert certain foods trigger a breakout for them. The human body is a mystery and everyone is different, so who am I to argue?

If you think that certain foods are making your skin look worse, there's no harm in cutting them out for a while to see if you get any improvement. (FYI, right now the finger tends to point at dairy products and some carbohydrates.)

Just remember that acne tends to wax and wane naturally. What you think may be a breakout caused by that milkshake you drank last night could very well be the natural progression of acne. If you're really dedicated, you might consider keeping a food journal.

It's interesting to note that nearly every study we have on diet and acne shows a correlation between acne severity and diet only. Not one show certain foods cause breakouts, only that they may make existing breakouts worse.

3.) Diet can be only one part of your treatment plan, not the only part. Acne is caused by many different factors coming together, a perfect storm if you will. So while you and your dermatologist may decide that monitoring your diet can be on factor in your treatment routine, it won't be the only treatment. It won't even be the most important part of your treatment.

Just cutting out a particular food won't make your acne completely disappear. You still need treatment medications: OTC products, prescription topicals, or possibly oral medications.

And if you'd rather not worry about your diet and acne, don't sweat it. There's no proof that diet affects acne as of yet, and your diet may not have anything to do with your acne at all. It's much more important to use proven acne treatments. That's where you'll find real improvement.

Burris J, Rietkerk W, Woolf K. "Acne: The Role of Medical Nutrition Therapy." Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 113 (3):416-430. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.11.016

Whitehead RD, Re D, Xiao D, Ozakinci G, Perrett DI (2012) "You Are What You Eat: Within-Subject Increases in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Confer Beneficial Skin-Color Changes." PLoS ONE 7(3): e32988. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032988

More About Diet and Acne

March 11, 2013 at 2:38 am
(1) jenny says:

I have to agree. It does appear that the medical community is divided over the exact role if any that diet plays.
My doctor friends -one of whom specialises in skin problems tells me that there may be a connection with the worst sorts of outbreaks, akin to an allergy I suppose. Whatever the science though, eating healthly surely has to help for general wellbeing if nothing else?

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