Submit your skincare questions to Dr. Agnes, CEO of Herborium and natural medicine expert
There's no denying that what we eat influences
our skin. So if you're using all the right products but your skin doesn't ever
seem to clear up, it's probably a good idea to take a look at what you're
eating. But how do we know what to eat for the results that we want? Is it
really as easy as eating our way to clear skin? Well, yes and no. I know what you’re thinking—what is this article even going
to be about? The fact is, there isn't clear research out there that
without-a-doubt says "this food contributes to acne!". However, some
connections are being looked into to establish a relationship (or the absence
Most of these foods were first identified by
anecdotal evidence—that is, people noticing that whenever they ate this
specific food, their breakouts seemed to get worse. So what exactly are the
current foods (and drinks!) that we think
Dairy is perhaps the number one food group
that is accused of causing acne. Why? Well, there’s actually more than one
hypothesis for why dairy is supposedly linked to acne. The first is that dairy
cows are sometimes given extra hormones to increase their milk supply. It’s
thought that these hormones make their way into the milk and when you consume
the milk, it’s breakout city. Another idea is that it doesn’t even have to be
added hormones—the naturally-occurring hormones in milk could possibly be
causing hormonal imbalance, creating acne.
Alcohol has a huge effect on skin—the most
noticeable is how dry your skin might
be after a few drinks or even the morning after a night out. Alcohol is a
diuretic, meaning it begins to dehydrate you—and your skin. If your skin is
dehydrated for long enough, it's more vulnerable to the environment and any
acne-causing bacteria on it. Alcohol can also be responsible for extra
inflammation in skin—basically, that's increased redness, or in some people
could even cause a rosacea flare-up.
Here are the numbers—a study found that
teenagers who ate a high-fat, mainly fast-food diet had a 43%
greater chance of developing acne than those who didn't. Multiple
studies are associating fast food with greater chances of acne, but the
relationship is actually still unclear. Is it the grease? Ingredients used?
More research needs to be done, but that doesn't mean fast food has the
all-clear. It's best to avoid it for the sake of your overall health—not just
In case you’re not sure what types of foods
this includes, it’s basically everything made of white flour (pasta, bread,
noodles), white rice, and obviously anything that contains a lot of sugar. This
includes all kinds of fizzy drinks, sweets, and lollies—and you might be
noticing chocolate bars are a double no-no, since they’re sugary and dairy products. So, what is the
issue with sugar and acne?
It has to do with blood sugar and insulin.
When you consume sugar, it's very easily absorbed as a source of energy into
the bloodstream, raising blood sugar levels. As blood sugar levels rise,
insulin levels rise to ensure that the sugar makes it to where it's needed in
the cells. The thing is, high insulin levels stimulate acne-causing hormones,
aka androgens by producing Insulin Growth Factor (aka IGF-1). This hormone is
specifically linked to increased sebum production and therefore acne.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, how
am I supposed to know if any of these are breaking me out?”
The answer is super simple—keep a food
journal. Write down everything you eat, and make a note of your skin that day.
It can be as easy as taking a selfie but noting any breakouts on your skin in
your journal fine too. As long as you're recording your skin somehow, either is
ok. The point is to help establish a pattern of what does and what doesn't
affect your skin. Experiment with cutting out food groups, too—so for example,
avoiding dairy for two weeks and recording the results could let you know for
sure if it's an acne trigger food for you.
But, what can
you eat for healthy skin? Like with finding out what food doesn’t work for you, journaling while eating better food for your
skin can really help you understand how to have beautiful skin from the inside
Foods rich in antioxidants work to protect
your skin from the inside out. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of
natural antioxidants, especially ones rich in Vitamin C such as kiwifruit,
blueberries, and most citrus fruits. Green tea is another great natural source
of antioxidants—so opt for a cup of tea instead of coffee for healthier skin.
Antioxidants may potentially support collagen production, ensuring that skin
looks youthful, starting from within.
Another category to focus on are foods rich in
good fats, aka omega-3s. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that benefit the
whole body, not just the skin! A great source of omega-3s is oily fish, such as
salmon and sardines. Another great source of omega-3s is walnuts and chia
seeds. Omega-3s also have potent anti-inflammatory effects, and some early
studies have shown a link between omega-3 supplementation and acne
reduction—but of course, more research is needed.
The last (and one of the best!) things you can
do is stay hydrated! And this doesn’t mean drinking as much water as you can in
a day—you can ‘eat’ a lot of water through eating the right fruits and
vegetables. Watermelon is a great, healthy snack that hydrates at the same
time. Grapes are also full of water, but also have natural polyphenols that
help to make your skin glow from within.
At the end of the day, eating well is going to
benefit more than just your skin—your whole body will thank you! However,
that’s not to say that eating well does nothing—it’s a great foundation to
ensure that your skin is going to be clear and healthy, all starting from the