I thought pregnancy would be the last time I had to deal with acne. To say I was shocked that I broke out like a hormonal teenager in the midst of puberty while weaning would be an understatement. But now — now when I’m not pregnant, breastfeeding, weaning, and am most certainly not a teenager — I still have acne. You’d think that since I have to have wrinkles and age spots, I could have at least cashed in the acne for those lovely reminders of my ever-increasing age, but no. I get to keep them all. Thanks, life.
There are lots of things that can cause acne, unfortunately, but one of them keeps getting shoved under the carpet as a myth: your diet. Once rumored to be caused by eating too much chocolate, the myth that certain foods can cause acne breakouts was suddenly wiped off the table. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it’s time to start believing that one again. Certain foods can contribute to acne, and if you’re like me and are battling breakouts as an adult, you might not be able to ignore your diet as a cause anymore.
Some of the better known causes of acne like stress and hormone levels can be exacerbated by what you eat. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics revealed the following foods are likely to be related to acne: saturated fats, trans fats, sugar, milk, fish, and high glycemic index (GI) foods. I have to say the only one that surprises me is fish. We know by now that there are no redeeming qualities to trans fat, and sugar isn’t all that much better, especially considering how much of it the average person consumes. Dairy is also a well-known culprit when it comes to breakouts. While not everyone notices a direct link, I can tell you for sure that within three days of eating cheese, my forehead is a disaster zone.
There’s a silver lining in all of this though: Chocolate itself probably doesn’t cause acne. It’s more likely the sugar and milk in the chocolate that cause a bad reaction, so if you’re a chocolate fan, look for a variety with a higher percentage cacao, meaning there’s likely to be less fillers like sugar and dairy.
Here are a few foods that may be to blame for adult acne:
Milk and other dairy products may contain hormones like progesterone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), and bovine growth hormone that end up in our body when we consume dairy products, which contributes to our already delicate balance of hormones. Some of these hormones can trigger an oil-release response in the skin. Oddly enough, skim milk tends to cause worse reactions by contributing to inflammation. Dairy may not cause a reaction in all people, but if you’re struggling with breakouts, it wouldn’t hurt to see if dairy may be contributing to your problem.
2. Sugar and high GI foods
Foods with sugar cause your insulin to surge in response to a rise in blood glucose (AKA sugar). This causes cellular inflammation and can lead to a hormonal endocrine response. Thanks to our teenage years, we all know that imbalanced hormones can lead to unwanted breakouts on skin. A bit of sugar here and there likely won’t cause much damage, but repeated exposure can build up.
3. Trans and saturated fat
Certain fats like trans fats and those containing omega-6 fatty acids can contribute to inflammation, which is a contributing factor to acne and other health problems. On the flip side, healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation.
Now that you know what to avoid, it’s time to investigate what you should be digging into at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Here are a few foods that may encourage healthy skin:
In addition to being a good source of protein and healthy fat, nuts contain important minerals like selenium and zinc that can help improve the quality of your skin. Vitamin E, also found in nuts, helps promote good skin health as well. To include more nuts in your diet, try this walnut-encrusted salmon dish or these roasted nuts!
This may sound like a surprising one, but garlic is a great natural anti-inflammatory. It contains a component called allicin that helps fight bacteria. Acne is often caused by bacteria entering the pores of the skin, so keeping it at bay is an important step in protecting yourself from breakouts. Add a little garlic to sauces and dressings, or try this creamy garlic broccoli or one of these 25 delicious garlic recipes.
3. Fatty Fish
Fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, and sardines are well-known for their high omega-3 fatty acid content. This healthy fat has the opposite effect of trans-fat, as it can help decrease inflammation, stopping acne in its tracks. Other foods containing omega-3 include avocado and nuts. To include more fatty fish in your weekly menu rotation, try this taco spice-rubbed salmon or this classic salmon salad.