Health Q&A

The Acne Diet: Top Blemish-banishing Foods

March 4, 2019

What is acne?

Acne vulgaris is a common skin condition where lesions appear on the skin causing an unsightly appearance and, in some cases, physical discomfort. Acne is particularly common among adolescents who have reached puberty and whose hormones are undergoing radical changes. The pores become clogged with dead skin, oil, sebum or bacteria. Breakouts are commonly found on the face, neck, back and shoulders.

Different types of acne

There are subtypes of acne: non-inflamed and inflamed. A person can have a one specific type or a combination of types simultaneously.

  • Non-inflamed acne includes blackheads and whiteheads. These do not cause any swelling and are a result of clogged pores. They are sometimes filled with pus.
  • Inflamed acne includes severe swelling and infection. These include papules, pustules, nodules and cysts. They are hard, clogged pores that appear swollen and are sensitive to touch.

Acne banishing foods: look good, feel good

Skin health and nutrition are linked. The best foods to eat if you’re suffering from acne are those which hydrate the skin, regulate oil production and maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Some of the best acne-preventing foods are:

1. Kale: superfood is high in fibre and rich in vitamins A, B6, C and K, as well as minerals like manganese, calcium, potassium and magnesium. The antioxidants, vitamins and minerals help reduce hyperpigmentation and even out skin tone. Add some raw kale to your salads or use in a healthy smoothie.

2. Sweet potatoes, contain retinol, which is a vitamin A derivative and helps fights the symptoms of acne. The beta-carotene acts as a skin barrier against discolouration, inflammation and clogged pores caused by free radicals in the body. Use sweet potatoes in stews or casseroles or eat a baked sweet potato with toppings.

3. Lemon is a natural astringent. This citrus fruit can help tighten the skin and reduce the occurrence of blemishes. Don’t apply the juice directly to your skin as the acid could burn it. Rather use freshly squeezed lemon juice over salads or drink in some warm water.

4. Pumpkins contain enzymes, zinc and alpha hydroxy acids, which can soften your skin and restore the pH balance. This can also help regulate the body’s oil production. Use pumpkins to make delicious pureed soup or roast the seeds as a healthy snack.

5. Berries, like blueberries and strawberries, are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. These can help you manage healthy blood sugar levels and reduce the appearance of blotchy skin. Cruciferous vegetables, like peppers or broccoli, have the same effect as berries. So, try out some sweet berry desserts or eat some raw veggies as a snack.

6. Legumes, like chickpeas, kidney beans or lentils, also assist in regulating and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Add these to soups, curries or salads.

7. Papaya (or pawpaw), contains a digestive enzyme called papain that helps exfoliate dead skin, unclogs pores and hydrates the skin. It’s also rich in vitamins A, C, K, B, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Try drinking fresh papaya juice or use in a smoothie.

8. Salmon, and other fatty fish, like tuna and sardines, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as antioxidants, vitamin B, potassium and selenium. These are excellent sources of nutrition for skin health.

9. Cauliflower contains an amino acid called histidine. In addition to which it is also rich in fibre, vitamins B6, C and K, folate and magnesium. This can help reduce inflammation, boost collagen formation and block environmental toxins. Use cauliflower options in place of wheat, like a pizza crust or noodles.

Foods to avoid if you’re suffering from acne

Some foods can stimulate the production of certain hormones, like insulin, which can cause an excess production of oils in the body. This results in inflammation of the skin.  The following foods should be eaten in moderation or eliminated from your diet:

1.Refined carbohydrates, like white bread and pasta; and sugar, found in sweets and chocolates, are high on the Glycaemic Index and will stimulate your body’s production of insulin, which has the hormonal effect of causing excess oil production.

2. Shellfish, like crab, prawns or crayfish, are high in iodine. This mineral can cause skin irritation by accelerating the formation of inflamed pimples.

3. Dairy products, like milk and cheese, can cause breakouts by stimulating the production of insulin and hormones.

4. Alcohol and those foods with a high salt content, like crisps, have the effect of dehydrating the skin, which will also have a negative effect on the levels of vitamin A, B, C and antioxidants in your body.

5. Foods high in saturated or trans fats, like fatty meat or baked goods, can also cause a negative skin reaction. These foods are low in nutritional value and high on the Glycaemic Index.

Traditional treatment methods for acne

Topmed recommends visiting a health professional, like a dermatologist, for a proper diagnosis. They may recommend treatments like topical creams, antibiotics or a combination of both.

Natural herbal remedies for acne

There are certain essential oils, which can assist with the appearance and symptoms of acne. Some of these include:

  • Tea tree, a powerful anti-septic, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal oil, that can be applied topically or diluted in a carrier oil (like coconut or olive) to treat skin conditions.
  • Witch hazel is a natural astringent and can help remove some of the skin’s excess oil. It also helps reduce redness and itching. Witch hazel can be applied directly to the skin for treatment.
  • Bacteria-killing essential oils, like thyme and rosemary, can be also be used to reduce infection. These should also be diluted in a carrier oil before being applied directly to the skin.

The skin is the largest organ of the human body and requires care to prevent skin damage. If you’re suffering from the effects of a skin condition, like acne, it would be beneficial to make sure you’re following a nutritious diet which can help reduce the effects of this disease.


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