Here I am, minding my own business, getting my work done and maintaining a good social distance and BAM- I start to break out. For me, acne has always been a problem, and I’ve only recently been able to start to clear my skin. But, of course, there always seems to be a pesky little zit that pops up at the most inopportune times (aka right before a zoom meeting).
I do everything I can: I have a skincare routine full of natural products, I drink water with lemon, and I try to get my beauty sleep, and yet... so what can I do to improve my skin? If you’re anything like me, you’re probably searching for the secret to clear skin, too.
While skincare does help a lot, people often overlook the role of a diet in the appearance of skin. Most breakouts are caused by an excess of oil production, blocked pores, and inflammation, all of which can be increased by the consumption of unhealthy foods. Thus, to help you treat your skin from the inside out, I’ve put together a list of the top five foods that could be causing you (and me) to break out.
Refined carbohydrates rapidly affect blood sugar levels, which then leads to an increase in insulin levels. High levels of insulin activate androgen hormones, which contribute to an increase in sebum production. Sebum is an oil secretion, so increased sebum production results in more clogged pores and thus more breakouts. Along with increased sebum, rising insulin levels result in an increased amount of insulin-like growth factors, which causes cell growth that allows for greater opportunities for breakouts to develop.
Try to avoid: large amounts of white bread, white flour pasta, and soda.
The research behind fast food and acne is less comprehensive than the research around refined carbohydrates. Nevertheless, there exists a clear correlation between fast food consumption and acne. The most common proposal is that the fats and other unhealthy ingredients in fast food prompt changes in hormone expression. These changes result in increased oil production and irritation, which leads to an increase in breakouts.
Try to avoid: burgers, excessively greasy foods, french fries, and milkshakes.
Similarly to refined carbohydrates, dairy consumption leads to an insulin-like growth factor that promotes breakouts. Further, dairy products increase the mTORC1 enzyme that increases acne development and can increase the likelihood of other health concerns, as well. Plant-based milk products, however, don’t seem to have the same acne-causing properties as cow’s milk, so they offer a dairy supplement that is healthier for your skin.
Try to avoid: excessive consumption of cow’s milk, cheese, and other products made with cow’s milk.
Alcoholic cocktails are often loaded with sugars that can lead to inflammation of the skin’s surface, therefore promoting breakouts and other skin conditions. Alcohol is also a diuretic, meaning that it promotes dehydration. When dehydrated, skin overcompensates by producing an excess of oil, leading to an increase in pore congestion and acne development. Dehydrated skin is also harder to exfoliate, resulting in even more clogged pores and breakouts.
Try to avoid: excessive consumption of sugary alcoholic cocktails like margaritas and mojitos.
Eating food that you’re sensitive to can also lead to increased breakouts due to the inflammatory effects of food sensitivities. Acne development is increased, and perhaps even more painful, when it comes as a result of inflammation. Inflammation aggravates acne by elevating the amount of pro-inflammatory molecules that are circulating within your body. Thus, food sensitivities lead to more redness and can both prompt the initial development of acne, as well as increase the duration of the breakout.
Try to avoid: food that you have a history of sensitivity to or continued consumption of foods that you have recently discovered a sensitivity to.
Of course, we all succumb to the occasional craving here and there, and that’s completely okay. It may even be good for our mental health. I mean, hey, just last night I opted for an ice cream sandwich instead of a bowl of strawberries. Guilty as charged. The way I see it, the key is to take everything in moderation. Don’t order fast food take out every night. Try to mix in days of healthy eating to lessen the breakouts caused by your diet.
We love communicating with our #paradoxcommunity, so feel free to share your breakout stories in the comments below or DM us on Instagram with questions. If you liked this article, make sure to check out our pieces on period acne (here) and face mapping (here). For more skincare tips and beauty content, follow us on Instagram and Pinterest!
Not sure if retinol is worth the hype? Learn the benefits of retinol as well as pro tips on how to pick which retinol product is right for you. Add retinol to your nightly routine and start your journey to smoother skin!