Foods that cause acne. Is chocolate really to blame?

We’ll cut to the chase — When it comes to acne, there is a definite a link between what we eat and the severity of our acne. For a long time, the connection between food and acne was regarded as a myth, even among skincare experts. Are there really foods that cause acne? Fears about chocolate, soda and dairy were either dismissed as old wives’ tales or material from outdated cosmetology texts.

Yet new studies, including those focused on non-westernised Island communities have demonstrated this link. A study ran on 1200 subjects on the Papua New Guinea island of Kitava amazingly found no breakouts observed over the course of 843 days, including among participants between the ages of 15 and 25. Their local diet of fish, coconuts, tubers, and other vegetables simply doesn’t include many of the pimple triggers found in the modern-day Western diet, which has infiltrated most of the world’s food culture over the past decades.

We now know that a healthy diet means healthy organs, including our largest: our skin. Conversely, certain types of food can aggravate an existing acne condition, or elevate sebum production just enough to induce a breakout. Are there really foods to avoid for acne? Let’s take a tour through all the foods that are rumoured to cause acne, and compare them against the facts.

Can these foods cause acne?

Can oily food cause acne? False!

Just because you are consuming oil doesn’t mean your skin is going to excrete more oil. In fact, dietary fats, especially omega-3’s, are a crucial building block for glowing, healthful skin. They can be found in oily, flavourful fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines or in walnuts, pumpkin seeds, linseeds and chia seeds. The problematic type of oily food is more typically fast food, or food involving some kind of bread, batter or breading. Read on to find out why.

Can chocolate cause acne? Maybe!

Talk openly about your acne and someone, somehow will try and get you to eat less chocolate. Whether or this is a valid cause for concern has not been conclusively confirmed, but a relatively tiny study in the Netherlands found that chocolate could be responsible for increasing inflammation and spurring bacterial infection. Also, look out for the sugar in your milk chocolate. The sugar spikes from it without a doubt lead to acne-causing inflammation. More on this in a bit…

Can dairy cause acne? Likely!

The Internet is awash with confessionals from acne sufferers whose skin miraculously cleared up after cutting out dairy. But are they merely lucky, or are milk and cheese really foods that cause acne? The answer is complex. Basically, hormones found in milk interact with testosterone in the body, and these hormonal shifts cause sebum production to increase, which increases the likelihood of plugged follicles and acne.

Milk proteins whey and casein release growth hormone IGF-1, comparable to insulin and a possible cause of breakout-related inflammation. So milk and cream is a no-go. What about other forms of dairy? Technically, the jury’s still out. A recent meta-analysis of studies revealed no significant link between cheese or yogurt with acne.

Can high GI food products cause acne? Definitely!

Remember the breading and batter we were talking about? These flour-based coatings for fried food, alongside pasta, white bread, white rice, potatoes, and sweet snacks and drinks all have something in common: they’re high GI.

These delicious staples may make up a huge portion of our diet, but food with a glycemic index of above 70 are considered high GI. They are rapidly absorbed into our bodies, sending sugar rushing into our bloodstream, and leading to AGEs (advanced glycation end products). As our bodies go into overdrive to repair damaged proteins from AGEs, what ends up happening is that our immune system secretes pro-inflammatory cytokines that speed-up aging, and, yes, cause acne.

Hormones that accompany the consumption of the sweet stuff set off oil production as well, which increases the possibility of clogged pores, and once again, acne!

It’s no surprise many dermatologists have begun to prescribe a low GI diet alongside medication as a treatment for acne.

We’ve already talked about how to quit sugar, but given the ubiquity of pizza and french fries, the only way to avoid high GI food products is to be disciplined— pack your own lunches, turn down free birthday cake at the office, and snack on high protein nuts and seeds so you don’t cave and order the first thing you see on your food delivery app.

To identify your acne triggers, it may be helpful to eliminate all of the main known dietary causes, subsequently slowly introducing them back into your diet and observing any changes.

In the meantime, it’s key to ensure maximal skin health. This includes being vigilant about sun protection any time you’re exposed to sunlight. Look for a sunscreen that feels great when layered, like B&B Labs Multi Protection Solar Invisible Cream SPF50. Lightweight and unscented, it doesn’t form an uncomfortable film on skin, even after multiple touch-ups throughout the day.

To prevent clogged pores, manage skin cell turnover with a cleanser like B&B Labs Glyco-Glow Cleanser, which sloughs off dead skin cells with an alpha hydroxy acid so they don’t trap excess sebum.

And to ensure that that oil doesn’t accumulate on the surface of your skin, especially after a sweaty workout, try an occasional double-cleanse, beginning with B&B Labs Micro-Molecule Gentle Cleansing Solution to lift away grime and other stubborn impurities.

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