Skin Nutrition: All About Acne

Welcome to Part 2 of the Skin Nutrition Series! Make sure to checkout Part 1 which covers all of the basics when it comes to eating for your skin. Today, we will focus on using nutrition to target skin conditions, notably acne.

Dermatologist-perscribed creams and antibiotics are not the only options you have to fight off acne. In fact, there are many ways to optimize your diet in hopes of alleviating stubborn acne.  

Get Your Gut Health In Check

Acne may be a sign of poor gut health. Without a good balance of gut bacteria, stool cannot move efficiently through the GI tract to be excreted. This leads to constipation. Drinking enough water and increasing your intake of dietary fiber will help relieve constipation that may be worsening your skin. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all great sources of dietary fiber. Incorporating prebiotics and probiotics into your diet on a regular basis can also improve gut health. Check out this blog post for more information on sources of prebiotics and probiotics.

Gluten, Dairy, and Added Sugar, Oh My!

Food allergies and intolerances can play a major role in exacerbating certain skin conditions due to the inflammatory response it causes within the body. Foods containing gluten, dairy, and added sugar are common triggers for worsening acne. While this is not the case for everyone, if you’re struggling with skin issues, limiting these foods may be the answer you’ve been looking for.  

What is gluten? Well, gluten is a protein commonly found in wheat, barley, and rye products like bread, pasta, baked goods, cereal, and more. Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance are all conditions that deal with the inability to properly digest gluten, if at all. Your primary physician should may be able to run tests that determine whether or not you fall into one of these categories.


As for dairy products, most of us are familiar with milk, yogurt, cheese, heavy cream, sour cream, cream cheese, and plenty others, all of which contain a sugar called lactose. To digest lactose, we need an enzyme called lactase. Lactase levels decrease as we get older, so it’s common to experience digestive symptoms when consuming dairy products. 


Last but not least, sugar impacts our skin. Products with added sugars tend to be high on the glycemic index, a tool used to determine the impact of different foods on blood sugar levels. When blood sugar level rise rapidly, larger amounts of the hormone cortisol is released. When levels of cortisol are too high, inflammation occurs. We will dive deeper into the effects of cortisol later.


Stress Less

Have you ever gotten a stress pimple? Stress doesn’t cause acne per say, but it is not optimal for maintaining clear and healthy skin. This is because the stress response releases hormones into the body such as cortisol and epinephrine. Hormones are chemical messengers that influence functions of the body, like growth, development, and metabolism. These hormones increase sebum production, clogging pores and contributing to acne. 


Let’s be real: Stressing less is easier said than done. Here are some ways to alleviate stress and feel better inside and out:

  • Eat healthy fats! Walnuts, salmon, and olive oil lower cortisol levels
  • Practice mindfulness! Whether you meditate or journal, it will promote mental clarity and decreases blood pressure
  • Get your Vitamin C! Citrus fruits, bell peppers, and tomatoes lower cortisol levels
  • Get a good night’s sleep! Sleep is critical and lowers cortisol levels 

Show Your Liver Love

The liver has an incredibly important job in the body: detoxification. When the liver isn’t functioning properly, or is overloaded with waste products, breakouts can occur. The liver processes alcohol, caffeine, and excess hormones like androgens and estrogens. Each of these is correlated with acne in some way.


Don’t be fooled by detox teas and diets. None of these are necessary if the liver is performing as it should – Save your time, money, and taste buds! You can support liver health by limiting your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and other drugs. Exercising regularly and eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will help your liver thrive. 


Bottom Line: Be Kind To Yourself

Dealing with acne can be incredibly frustrating, Remember that whether or not you have acne, you are worthy and beautiful! If you try out these dietary changes and still find yourself struggling with acne or other skin issues, it may be worth seeing a dermatologist if you can. 

In the meantime, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle are robust: Boosted energy levels, better mental health, functioning organs and body systems, and lower risks of chronic diseases!


[1] Healthline. The 12 Best Foods For Healthy Skin

[2] Acne and Nutrition: A Systematic Review

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