At some point in their lives, everyone deals with acne. For most of us, it’s an annoying part of puberty that lasts only for those few awkward adolescent years, and always seemed to show itself on the day of a presentation at school or right before prom. As we reach adulthood, we may get a zit or two when we’re stressed about finals, after a greasy fast-food binge, or for women, when we get our periods.
What about those of us who never seem to get rid of our teenaged cheese-face, whose complexion has decidedly not kept up with the rest of our bodies? Unsurprisingly, adult acne is very common in North America and can seem impossible to get rid of. Thankfully, with a few tweaks to our daily habits, especially when it comes to our food choices, we can banish persistent, painful, and unsightly acne for good!
How do you develop acne?
Acne is caused by the blockage of pores on your skin. This can be due to a build-up of the dirt, grime, makeup, and sweat deep in your pores, however this acne can easily be prevented using proper hygiene and a solid skin-care routine.
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The deep, itchy, and painful acne that most adults experience, however, is caused by hormonal and bacterial disruption and the overproduction of sebum into your pores that comes with that.
Sebum is secreted by the sebaceous glands to moisturize and maintain healthy skin. Overactive sebaceous glands produce too much sebum which clog your pores and cause inflammation (aka giant, red zit!).
In the case of hormone-related acne, topical creams typically won’t do the job, and often contain dangerous bleaches and toxic chemicals that you shouldn’t be rubbing into your skin. This acne needs to be attacked from the inside-out. Many people turn to antibiotics, medications such as Acutane, or hormonal birth control (for women). All of these have their own set of dangerous side effects and still often don’t solve the problem, while causing others at the same time.
The best acne treatment is hidden in our everyday food habits: You can regain control over your hormones and get rid of your acne by making a few changes to your diet.
How to treat acne with food
For anyone in the early stages of acne, or who only get the occasional break-out, foods high in vitamin C contain anti-acne properties and can help you clear up your breakout faster. Some of these foods are:
More chronic outbreak sufferers can consider eating more foods that are high in Zinc, which has been shown to improve acne and skin health. Some of these foods are:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
Other nutrients to include that help fight acne are those rich in vitamin E, such as almonds and spinach, carotenoids, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, and selenium, such as brazil nuts.
Because acne is an inflammatory condition, including anti-inflammatory foods, such as turmeric, ginger, coconut oil, and other herbs and spices can help to reduce the inflammation associated with breakouts and prevent future ones from occurring. For more information on anti-inflammatory foods, read this article.
3 Foods to Avoid to Heal Acne
If you are going to make one change to your diet to improve your skin, removing processed sugar from your diet is the one you should try. Besides the other detrimental effects sugar has on your body, sugar is often the missing link in people’s skin care routines.
Processed sugar causes spikes in your insulin levels, which causes changes and increases in various hormones in your body, including testosterone. This surge and therefore imbalance in hormone levels increases sebum production and causes that deep cystic acne that is painful and often leaves scars.
Even if you aren’t lactose intolerant, dairy products can still have a negative impact on your skin. Though the exact reason behind why dairy products cause some people to get acne is unclear, there are thousands of personal accounts that show how beneficial removing dairy products from your diet can be for acne sufferers.
To determine if dairy is a trigger for you, try removing it completely for one to three months. If dairy is a problem, you will see changes in this time. If you only have small improvement, chances are dairy is not your only trigger foods and you will have to experiment with some others.
For many of us, milk, yogurt, and cheese are staples in our diet, and removing it seems difficult and intimidating. Thankfully, there are plenty of amazing dairy alternatives out there as well as recipes for dairy-free alternatives to many of your favorite foods.
Like dairy, eggs are another common food sensitivity that many don’t realize they have. If you are sensitive to eggs but continue to eat them, they will cause inflammation in your body and your pores, causing acne. Eggs often cause other skin conditions as well, such as eczema and psoriasis.
In general, eating a healthy diet based on whole, unprocessed foods and plenty of water will improve the general look and appearance of your skin. Improving your digestive health by removing offending foods (dairy, wheat, eggs, sugar, nightshades) and including gut-promoting nutrients and probiotics will not only clear up your acne, but provide you with a glowing complexion and a healthy body and mind.
When making changes to your diet, always start by making one change at a time and monitoring how you feel. Persistent acne does not have to be something you live with your entire life. If you are struggling to make changes to your diet and clear acne on your own, consider consulting a dietitian or nutritionist who can give you suggestions and support.1. Dairy Products
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