Almost everyone experiences at least one acne breakout, and most have been through phases (months to years) where acne is their constant companion.
Acne is common and difficult to control because multiple factors contribute to acne breakouts. From your genetic makeup and hormones to your overall health and the medications you take, many variables affect your skin, including when and where acne appears and how long it lasts.
But what about food? Your social media feed tells you to cut out dairy, wash with honey, and avoid fried foods. The advice is so varied that it’s tough to sift through the myths and find the facts.
That’s where we come in. Dr. Robert Topham and our experienced team at Holladay Dermatology & Aesthetics help folks throughout the greater Salt Lake City area overcome their acne breakouts using advanced treatments, such as topical solutions, antibiotics, drainage, extraction, and laser therapy.
We also help you understand what does and doesn’t cause acne. In this blog post, we focus on the link between food and acne and dispel a few myths floating around the internet.
Myth #1: Dairy foods cause acne
If you searched the terms “food” and “acne,” you probably came across several sources that said avoiding dairy products can clear up your acne. The theory stems from research that shows people with high levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) can increase their androgen hormone and sebum production.
Because some dairy products can increase your IGF-1, a myth began circulating about dairy products causing acne, but it’s complicated.
Some studies show that one glass of milk daily increases acne, and others find that drinking up to six glasses daily had no effect. Researchers are still looking into all the possible combinations of culprits, including types of dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk, etc.), fat content, quantity, age, hormones, and other factors, but the results to date are conflicting and inconclusive.
If you suspect dairy products are behind some of your breakouts, Dr. Topham may suggest following a food elimination plan under his supervision. By eliminating certain foods for a period and slowly reintroducing them into your diet, you can reach your own conclusion about milk and acne.
Myth #2: Go gluten-free to clear up acne
If you have celiac disease, you need to steer clear of gluten. In addition to severe digestive issues, gluten can trigger several other symptoms in people with celiac disease, including dermatitis (rashy, itchy skin), but not acne.
Following a gluten-free diet can be stressful, especially for teens, and stress can contribute to acne breakouts. So, if you don’t need to give up gluten for health reasons, save yourself the hassle and move on to other treatments and lifestyle changes that actually work for acne.
Myth #3: Chocolate causes acne
Chocoholics rejoice — chocolate does not cause acne.
Most studies show that chocolate doesn’t cause or trigger acne. However, most chocolate contains dairy and sugar, and high-carb diets, especially with added sugars, may exacerbate acne. So, due to its ingredients, chocolate may worsen the skin condition.
If you suspect outbreaks occur a day or two after you eat chocolate, switch to dark chocolate and see if the lower dairy and sugar content makes a difference.
Myth #4: Fried foods trigger acne
The reasoning behind this one isn’t a stretch: Excess oil causes clogged pores and acne, so greasy food probably does the same. But it’s not true.
Unless you’re getting the grease all over your face, your favorite fast food isn’t likely responsible for your acne. That said, a steady diet of junk food increases your body’s overall inflammation and sets the stage for all kinds of health problems, including acne.
Changing your eating habits for overall health can help your skin clear up, too.
The final word
The bottom line is that the wrong food choices aren't causing your acne, but the right food choices can boost your skin health and help you fight breakouts.
For more tips on acne-fighting nutrition and proven medical treatments, call Holladay Dermatology & Aesthetics in Holladay, Utah.