September 5, 2014

Diet & Acne: Is There a Connection?

"Does it really matter what I eat, and are there foods that can cause (or can cure) acne?"

I get asked this question all the time! The truth is that some foods will aggravate an already existing acne problem, but no foods will actually cause the issue from scratch. 

It's true that some foods are scientifically proven to be acne triggers, but other foods leave an impression of cause and effect when it's really timing that's at play. 

Is it specifically chocolate that's causing breakouts or is it the onset of a menstrual cycle that's causing an increase in the eating of chocolate??


Is it that the food contains a component that has been scientifically proven to provoke acne (rather than the entire food itself)??


Iodine is particularly one component that has been proven to be an acne aggravator. 

Anyone with a stubborn or persistent acne problem should cut down on consuming major sources of iodine (but leaving just a little from fruits and vegetables in order to keep the thyroid functioning). 

Other than that, no iodized salt, no kelp (you'll sometimes see this in vitamins or supplements), and no green juices with kelp, spirulina, or other seaweed. (Odwalla and Naked Juices are big culprits!) Broccoli and asparagus also contain fairly high amounts of iodine and should be eaten sparingly. As for non-veggie sources, liver has a very high amount of iodine and should be avoided.

There is also quite a bit of iodine in soft cheese, yogurt and whole milk -- if you're eating a yogurt every day for breakfast, it could explain some of your persistent breakouts.


Along that vein, when it comes to dairy, many colleagues of mine swear that dairy aggravates acne due to added hormones given to milk cows. At this time, I am personally more than a little skeptical of this theory...

Hormones perform so many functions within the body and so many more problems should be showing up if this were really the case. Considering how much iodine can be found in yogurt, whole milk and some cheeses, I've been inclined to believe the source of the problem is really due to iodine, and not hormones.

Having said that, I have a colleague who has explained to me how a part of the oil gland at the bottom of our pores can be affected by a hormone naturally found in cows milk -- without any other bodily systems being affected at all.  Therefore, it's not what is added to the diet of cows, it's what's already there.  It takes about 6 weeks for this hormone to leave the body, so if you want to eliminate dairy to find out if it's causing your breakouts, you'll need to fully eliminate it for a full 6 weeks.  If your skin starts to clear up, slowly add the dairy back into your diet to see if you break out again (just to make sure that it's not just a coincidence).


There are often relationships between ingredients in skincare and digestive allergies/sensitivities, but those relationships depend on how severe the allergies actually are.

The stress placed on the body from having to react to allergens can create a slight sensitivity in the skin as well, because overall, the immune system gets involved.

For instance: Wheat and chamomile are cousins. 

I have seen it happen where a client with a sensitive skin-type and an allergy to wheat found relief because she stopped using all products containing chamomile and azulene (which is derived from chamomile).

Staying away from gluten-based ingredients and their derivatives is a must for people with Celiac Disease, but it may surprise them to know that chamomile can also aggravate their skin.  Ragweed is also a cousin of wheat and chamomile, and I've seen instances where someone with severe Ragweed allergies but no gluten sensitivity found relief for their sensitive skin also by avoiding chamomile in skincare products.  

In any case, if you have seasonal allergies, it's a good idea to avoid skincare products with more than 4 botanicals in their ingredient lists, and pay attention to those 4 or less to make sure they aren't identical to those things you're allergic to.

Sugar/Junk Food

There is a theory that sugar in the diet can aggravate acne if there is yeast overgrowth in the body, but I don't believe this is true. (Frankly, I'm much more inclined to believe that symptoms attributed to candida are actually food allergies not yet uncovered.) However, I am inspired by the latest research that suggests there is a connection between acne and a high glycemic diet that involves insulin resistance. From what I gather, however, insulin resistance already has to be a problem in the body for this to take place.

Having said that, I do think that since sugar does very much cause inflammation in the body and considering how much inflammation is involved in acne issues, high amounts of sugar in the diet can affect the immune system in pores, making it difficult for the pores to stay clear and quiet.  

And speaking of chocolate or greasy junk food...

When are you most likely to increase your intake of chocolate or junk foods? More specifically, around what time of the month are you usually prone to breaking out (along with mood swings, fluctuating hormones, etc.)? 

I think you can see where I'm going with this... 

So now that we've covered what can aggravate acne (and what doesn't), I'm sure you'd love to know what foods can help diminish the break-outs and flare-ups.

It's actually very simple: Eat anti-inflammatory foods!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), fatty fish like salmon and trout, nuts, colorful fruits and vegetables (the brighter and darker the color, the better!), garlic, dark green leafy veggies that are not from the sea, and green tea. Lots and lots of green tea!

(I personally broke out something horrible during all the stress of the move to my new salon location, and I've been drinking tons of green tea. My skin has never looked better! I was drinking tons of water before, but it's the green tea that's been different lately.)

To help boost your skin's immune system, cut down on inflammation and promote healing your skin from within. The right skincare regimen with tonerserum, and a hydrating nighttime lotion can work wonders for helping to clear your on-going adult acne problem. Also, make sure you use a mask once or twice a week, and never ever forget your daily non-clogging sunscreen!

If you have breakout issues, and you think you might need an improved diet to help clear things up, please share your experiences in the comment section below. :)

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