If you struggle with acne-prone skin and breakouts, you’ve probably wondered if your diet might play a role. Your skin is better some days (or weeks) than others, so perhaps it has something to do with the foods you eat? And of course, there are the old wives tales about eating chocolate and acne. But do any of these theories hold water?
Of course, we have the medical practice of dermatology to answer that. We spoke to the leading skincare experts to find out which foods you absolutely shouldn’t eat if you have acne-prone skin, in their professional experience. Here they are:
"If you are an athlete taking protein powder supplements, you may consider avoiding whey, and also casein, caseinates, and milk solids, as the same hormones that stimulate muscle growth also stimulate sebum production and skin cell growth," Dr. David Lortscher, board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Curology tells SheFinds.
"These can have similar effects on the skin to as drinking too much milk, as they also trigger insulin release from the pancreas and raise insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels."
Although there have been conflicting reports for years on whether chocolate causes acne or not, Dr. Lortscher says that the most recent research shows that it does in fact play a role. "For acne-prone males, daily consumption of 99 percent dark chocolate can exacerbate acne, according to one recent study," he tells us.
Skincare expert and CEO of Santa Monica-based skincare startup Rose&Abbot Jennifer Douglas points to the sugar and dairy that chocolate contains as to why it's a culprit.
Fried & Junk Foods
"Processed and fried foods contain high amounts of omega 6 fatty acids, which are very inflammatory," board certified dermatologist Jennifer T. Haley, MD FAAD, tells us. "It is better to choose foods high in omega 3 fatty acids, like wild cold water fish, which will naturally hydrate the skin and reduce inflammation."
"A diet high in refined, processed foods creates perfect conditions for pimples," Douglas continues. "These high-GI foods raise blood sugar levels quickly and cause insulin levels to rise."
"Milk contains components related to the hormone testosterone that may stimulate oil glands in the skin," Douglas tells us.
Dr. Haley confirms that excluding foods like yogurt, kefir and fermented dairy, dairy has been associated with acne and inflammation in multiple studies.
So, what should you eat instead? "I find that by replacing dairy with alternatives (coconut, almond) often improves inflammatory acne."
Sugar of any kind, "Causes spikes in your body's insulin levels that further exacerbate inflammation," Douglas explains. This includes "liquid sugar" aka, soda and juices, too.
"These drinks have a high glycemic index and raise your blood sugar levels rapidly." Dr. Haley describes. "This causes irreversible damage to collagen, is inflammatory, and causes breakouts."
But don't worry--you can still eat real fruit, just not the juices. "Real fruit contains fiber which prevents this rapid sugar rush and can safely be eaten," Dr. Haley advises.