Can changing your food change your skin?

Published November 16, 2021, 5:28 PM

by Dr. Kaycee Reyes

The link between diet and acne

Acne—they say that if you’ve never had it, you’re one of the lucky few. We all know how those big, red, ugly bumps can ruin our day, our confidence, and our self-esteem. And it is even more frustrating for some who have tried several treatments but still can’t make it go away. What gives? Apparently, while we all know that what we eat affects our health, food can affect our skin too. But if there is a link between food and skin, does this mean we have to stop eating our favorite desserts altogether? Is food finally the cure to end acne? Let’s find out.

Why, acne, why? For decades, there has been no known cure for acne. But with advancements in science through the years, acne has become more manageable nowadays with new medications and a combination of oral and topical treatments. Acne appears because the pores are clogged by oil, blocked by dead skin cells or bacteria. Acne can manifest as blackheads, whiteheads, papules and pustules, cystic or pus-filled red bumps. Individuals as young as teens can get acne, but now, adult acne has become widespread as well. In fact, it is one of the top prevalent diseases worldwide (Tan & Bhate, 2015). What causes this to happen comes not from one, but several factors such as genetics, hormones, and lifestyle. Previous studies did not find a link between food and acne, but now there are studies emerging that say, well, there could be.

Eat this, not that. A study by Kwon et al. (2015) tested 32 patients with mild to moderate acne by placing them on a 10-week low glycemic diet that yielded favorable results. Another study resulted in favor of a low-glycemic diet to reduce acne (Smith et al., 2007), where from observing 43 male patients for 12 weeks, it was found that acne decreased among those who ate low-glycemic food. And yes, there could be a link to dairy too. Another study tackled the effect of dairy on acne (LaRosa et al., 2016) among 255 teenagers, either with moderate or no acne at all. It was found that low fat/skim milk was associated with acne. This means that the best acne-fighting food is also what we consider the healthiest—fruits and vegetables, lean meat and fish. Avoiding high-glycemic, processed food has also been a proven preventative measure. While more studies are needed to conclude the link between diet and acne, these studies above suggest that diet and nutrition matter when it comes to acne, and that good skin could really start from within.

Don’t let acne win. Acne is not as simple to treat, but it can be managed. Since it is caused by several factors, going to a dermatologist rather than self-medicating is the best way to manage it, as there could be different triggers for each individual. Now that we know that, alongside other factors, there is also a link between acne and diet, being mindful of what you eat can also help you on your journey to acne-free skin. Of course, it is difficult to avoid our favorite food items altogether, but consuming more fruits and vegetables and less processed food and sweets could help. Not only can doing it clear your skin, it would benefit your overall health too. Now that’s a win-win!