Here come the holidays…stuffing, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, gravy and an immense array greasy, fatty yet, delicious foods. Popular belief is that greasy foods cause or worsen acne, so do you need to limit what you eat, passing up on the foods you look forward to all year? Previous theories indicated that eating greasy, fatty foods increased the amount of fatty acids, causing an increase in sebum, which in turn would make your skin oily.
When you eat greasy, fatty foods, the grease doesn’t suddenly appear on your face, but that doesn’t mean that what you eat doesn’t affect your complexion. Acne is caused by a build-up of excess oils which clogs pores, allowing bacteria to grow. Once that happens, your immune system takes over, creating inflammation - which appears as a red spot and then a pimple.
According to an article in Scientific American, testosterone is the culprit behind your acne break-outs, in both males and females. (Yes, girls have testosterone too, it is just not as plentiful as it is in boys.) During puberty, when hormones surge, acne peaks. Later, when hormones become regulated, your acne lessens. Certain foods can influence the amount of testosterone in your body.
So what foods do have the potential to increase or worsen acne?
Dairy foods have been tied to acne in several studies. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2005 found a significant connection between consuming dairy products and acne.
White flour and processed carbohydrates (bread, bagels, pasta) may also contribute to an increase in acne according to a study completed in Australia and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. The researchers believe that these foods cause insulin spikes, which in turn, increase the levels of testosterone in both males and females.
The “bad” fats - those linked to heart disease and other physical problems - are believed to increase inflammation and therefore may increase acne, according to the book The Clear Skin Diet. “Good” fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation. In the book the author, Valori Treloar points out that cultures who consume high levels of “good” fats traditionally have less acne although there have not been controlled studies to back up this information.
The debate on whether foods impact your complexion is still going on. The foods listed here are thought, based on some studies, to have some link to acne. But other studies have shown that foods do not affect your acne.
Whether you have acne or not, certainly, watching your food intake during the holiday season and throughout the year, is important. Eating a well balanced diet, eating small meals throughout the day to keep blood sugar even and adding foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids is good advice. But the jury is still out as to whether different foods contribute to acne.
For more information:
“Acne,” Updated 2010, Oct. Staff Writer, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease
“Fact or fiction?: Fatty Foods Equal Pizza Face,” 2007, May 31, Cynthia Graber, Scientific American
The Clear Skin Diet, 2007, Alan C. Logan and Valori Treloar, Cumberland House
“The Naked Truth about Natural Acne Treatments,” Updated 2010, Sept 15, Staff Writer, American Academy of Dermatology
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.