With 95% of people in the UK stating that acne has impacted their life at some stage, it is evident that achieving clear skin is an issue that affects many.
Although the cosmetics industry produces a litany of creams and lotions that claim to help with clear skin, whether they work or not depends on many factors.
At the same time, tackling skin conditions such as acne is about more than cleansing and removing your makeup at night.
In the absence of a clear skin diet, you may find that spots and blackheads persist no matter how many products you use.
While it may seem as though achieving a clear skin diet will suck up a lot of your time and money, this is not the case. Misinformation floating around the Internet will lead you to believe that tropical berries and herbs from far-flung destinations are the secrets to addressing your skin conditions.
Want to know the best part?
Well, a known fact is adjusting your dietary components to include foods like sweet potatoes, olive oil, and everyday fruits and vegetables are as effective.
Sounds good, and affordable, Right!
Creating the right clear skin diet doesn’t need a great deal of scientific research, nor do you need to donate lots of time and money towards the process. Instead, developing an understanding of why you have acne in the first place, the role skincare plays, and how your diet can alter your skin conditions will clear up a few myths, as well as your skin.
Need to know more about what is acne? Or to help clear your skin, carry on reading.
In this post, we are going to take a detailed approach to:
- Educating you on why you suffer from acne, even past your teenage years
- Help you understand what makes the problems better and what makes them worse
- Focus on developing a clear skin diet that avoids acne-inducing foods and incorporates spot-battling substances
If you are ready to begin, let’s start.
Why do we suffer from acne anyway?
During your teenage years, acne begins due to changes in hormones. These are called your ‘sex hormones,’ and they play an essential role in your biological development. Unfortunately, acne is a side-effect for many. Even worse, spots and blackheads are especially prevalent in others, leaving a fortunate few with the odd coverable pimple.
Your face is full of pores, which play a role in keeping your skin soft. These pores are home to sebaceous glands, which secrete sebum. You may have heard that your skin is the body’s biggest organ and that it is the first line of defence in your immune system. For it to remain defensive, it has to stay soft. It is for this reason that pores secrete sebum.
Unfortunately, during puberty, the sex hormones we mentioned above cause you to secrete excessive amounts of oil. When these oils begin to clog your pores, they start an inflammatory response. The inflammatory response they lead to spots, which vary in nature.
The types of spots you may encounter, as a teenager or an adult.
At the more innocuous end of the spot scale are whiteheads. As the name suggests, they have whiteheads, which are surrounded by a raised red area of inflammation. They occur when bacteria plug the pores alongside oil. As a result, your body produces pus, which manifests itself by appearing on the outside of your skin.
Other types of spots include:
- Blackheads; Like whiteheads, blackheads look exactly as their name describes. Unlike whiteheads, blackheads feature a combination of oil, dead skin cells, and a substance called melanin. Melanin is the same hormone that allows you to tan. As such, when it appears inside blackheads alongside dead skin cells and bacteria, it gives them their characteristic blackhead appearance.
- Papule pimples; Papules are small red bumps that are soft. If you touch them, they may feel tender. Unlike whiteheads and blackheads, they do not have a ‘head’ that will come out if you attempt to squeeze it. On that note; do not try to squeeze any spot. Doing so exacerbates the problem, causing you to encounter more and increasing your risk of scarring.
- Pustule pimples; Pustule pimples are more painful than papules and often feature a large whitehead. They occur when large amounts of dead skin enter the pore and are glued together by the sebum. As a result, they may last longer than other types of acne.
- Nodules; Nodules are large red lumps that sit beneath the skin. When left alone, they usually die down.
- Cystic acne; Cystic acne is the most painful and difficult type of acne to manage. It features a nodule, accompanied by pus that sits beneath it. As your body attempts to fight cystic acne using prostaglandins, the spot becomes tender to touch.
As you may have guessed, not everyone suffers from the same type of acne, or to the same degree. Several factors play a role in skin conditions, including your genetics, the rate at which you produce sex hormones, and the environment you live in.
If acne starts during puberty, why doesn’t it stop when puberty ends?
Puberty usually occurs anywhere between 10 and 14. It tends to start earlier in females and persons of colour. As you may have guessed, puberty coming to an end doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly encounter clear skin.
In fact, although adult acne has always occurred, there’s evidence to suggest that it is on the rise. While studies in this area of medicine are not always revealing, factors such as an increase in pollution, leading more stressful lives, and our diets play a role.
Although you move past puberty as an adult, you don’t stop producing sex hormones. They’re essential to a reproductive functioning, which means the foundation for skin conditions continues.
According to the NHS, there are several risk factors for adult acne, as well as many reasons:
- Familial. If a first-degree relative had adult acne, you are more likely to as well.
- Being female. Unfortunately, if you are female, you are far more likely to suffer from adult acne than your male counterparts. Menstruation, pregnancy, and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome all increase your risk. Around 80% of adult acne cases are in women.
- Using certain medications. Steroids such as prednisolone make your skin more sensitive. Similarly, lithium and carbamazepine also increase your risk. With that said, it is not advisable to stop them due to acne. Always talk to your doctor first.
- Smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes acts as a vasoconstrictor, which means it makes your blood vessels smaller. The vasoconstricting effect means poor nutrient and oxygen delivery to your skin.
Naturally, this means there are lots of ways you can approach treating acne. Medically, there are plenty of prescriptions that tackle the problem. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you can use antibiotics, topical agents, and even hormonal treatments to address acne. However, it is worth noting that the American Academy of Dermatology may not make the same recommendations as doctors in the UK, who have to follow NICE guidelines and the British National Formulary.
Before taking a medical approach, you might want to try reaching for healthy skin through natural methods. This brings us to whether a clear skin diet will work for you.
Does diet help with clear skin?
Although the jury is out on whether your diet plays a role in how healthy your skin is, there is plenty of evidence emerging that suggests using a clear skin diet to achieve a healthy glow. One study from the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology reveals how eating too many carbohydrates increases your risk of acne. According to the study, a systematic data review shows that the sudden rise in carbohydrate consumption over the last two decades has increased acne. Because of this, you may want to consider cutting back on foods such as white bread and changing to whole grain alternatives.
Cutting out white bread alone is not going to address all your skin problems, though. Another study, which is more niche, suggests that our gut bacteria affect our ability to achieve healthy skin. Published in Beneficial Microbes, the research suggests that eating a poor diet makes your gut more porous, which in turn results in systemic inflammation. As inflammation and acne go hand-in-hand, this theory does have sense behind it. However, as the study is small, it requires more evidence to support its theory.
Researchers published in Advances in Dermatology and Allergology have confirmed that a high glycaemic load increases your risk of acne. In other words, you need to eat fewer of the foods that cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, and more of those that turn into energy slowly. This supports the study we mentioned above. As such, you need to eat fewer ‘normal’ potatoes and more sweet potatoes.
Finally, another study we believed was worth highlighting focused on the role of Insulin and Insulin-Like-Growth-Factor in causing acne. As you probably already know, insulin is a hormone that the pancreas secretes from its beta cells to mobilise glucose into your cells for use as energy. Insulin-like growth factor increases the number of growth hormones you produce, which then increases the sex hormones you produce. As we mentioned at the beginning, sex hormones trigger your acne journey in the first place.
While all these studies give an exciting insight into how a clear skin diet could provide you with the glowing look you’re seeking, you need to know more about what a clear skin diet could involve based on the research we’ve mentioned.
How to clear skin with your diet?
Eliminating processed carbohydrates is a must-do for several reasons. From white bread through to pasta, each one could play a role in making your skin conditions worse. Such carbohydrates may include:
- Puffed cereals
- Regular potatoes
- Instant oats
- Sweet snacks in general
Of course, eating these products occasionally isn’t going to prevent you from having healthy skin. However, as one of the studies mentioned, the correlation between humans consuming more carbs and a rise in adult acne suggests that making them the mainstay of your diet is detrimental to your appearance.
However, you do need some carbohydrates to function. Although your body will eventually use protein and fat as energy sources, doing so can reduce muscle mass, leading to other health problems. Similarly, the brain relies on slow-release carbohydrates for its functions, thus avoiding carbs altogether is not wise.
Instead, you should aim for:
- Sweet potatoes
- Grainy bread
- Normal porridge
Of course, which of these items you eat will depend on whether you have intolerances or not. If you are aware of any intolerances, avoid whichever low-glycemic foods trigger your allergy as per your doctor’s instructions.
Other foods that your clear skin diet should include
Antioxidants are an absolute must when it comes to a clear skin diet. Whether you live in the countryside or in a city, you are encountering pollution. Pollution doesn’t just exist outdoors; it’s in your home too.
But, what does pollution have to do with healthy skin? As this dermatological study reveals, there are four ways pollution affects your skin:
- You’ll produce more free radicals, which impact cellular health.
- It triggers inflammatory processes, which play a prominent role in acne.
- It triggers your aryl hydrocarbon receptor, which accelerates skin ageing.
- Your skin microflora alters, reducing healthy bacteria and increasing bad bacteria.
Because of these four mechanisms, you need to take steps to protect your skin from pollution. One of the simplest ways to do that is to add more antioxidants to your diet.
Before we begin discussing which antioxidants to add to your clear skin diet, you need to understand what they are and how they work. Antioxidants prevent oxidation, which is a process that damages the skin’s epidermal layer. They also counteract harmful substances, including those you encounter without realising. Certain fruits and vegetables have an ‘ORAC’ score, which indicates that they are more effective than others. While not widely accepted throughout the medical community, the ORAC score can give you some indication as to which are the most effective.
If you are new to the world of antioxidants, you’ll be pleased to find out that fruits and vegetables do the trick nicely. However, there are certain fruits and vegetables that are more effective than others. They include:
Thanks to their high anthocyanin content, blueberries are a potent antioxidant. They act as an excellent addition to a low-glycemic oatmeal breakfast, or as a quick snack during the day.
Not only are kidney beans refreshingly low-cost, but they also give your digestive system a reboot too. While there was once a time when experts touted wild blueberries as the ultimate antioxidant food, further research has found that kidney beans are more efficient. They work well in dishes such as chilli con-carne, or as part of soup.
While cranberries are rarely delicious enough to eat on their own, getting your hands on fresh cranberry juice with a little sweetener allows you to experience the antioxidant benefits. Their total antioxidant capacity is 8,983, so if you can fit them into a smoothie, you’re giving your skin a fighting chance. Even better, they’re rich in Vitamin C, which you need to boost your skin’s favourite structural protein: collagen.
Of course, fruit and vegetables aren’t the only antioxidants out there. You can incorporate herbs and some unexpected treats into your clear skin diet too.
Dark chocolate with a high cacao content
When we say that chocolate acts as an antioxidant, we don’t mean your average bar of dairy milk. Instead, you need to aim for one with a high cacao content. To maximise the benefits, try aiming for a high-end brand that dries the cacao beans at a low temperature.
Green tea has long been a favourite amongst health lovers for all kinds of reasons. As far as your skin goes, it contains flavonoids and polyphenols. Flavenoids are anti-inflammatories that you’ll find in almost all fruits and vegetables, but they’re particularly high in green tea. As for polyphenols, significant studies demonstrate that they fight many disease processes including osteoporosis, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Finally, there’s ginger. While there are lots more antioxidants out there, ginger is one of the most interesting for several reasons. First, it contains its own unique antioxidant: gingerol. Like the flavonoids in green tea, gingerol is a potent anti-inflammatory agent, making it useful for tackling the inflammatory processes behind acne.
Knowing which antioxidants will help with your clear skin diet is probably useful. However, if you’re leading a busy lifestyle, it’s also helpful to learn techniques that’ll allow you to incorporate them into your daily routine.
How to get clear skin through your diet, even when you’re busy
In an era where we’re all leading active lifestyles, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that we don’t have any time for a clear skin diet. In fact, most of the ingredients above are cost-effective, simple to add to recipes, and suitable as snacks.
By employing a few time-saving tactics, you can get clear skin through your diet, even if you are pushed for time. Here are some simple suggestions.
Creating simple snacks
Many of the foods listed above are ideal as mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and evening snacks. For the purposes of maximising your energy levels and helping your digestive system tick along, we would like to suggest:
- Green tea in the morning instead of your usual coffee. It’ll give you an energy boost, plus it doesn’t come with the same ‘crash’ effect.
- Blueberries are perfect as snacks at all times of the day. They’re light enough to avoid aggravating your digestive system, yet they pack enough energy to keep you going. Thanks to their low-calorie content, they’ll avoid the weight gain that attracts more oestrogen, which in turn produces more spots.
- Try to aim for dark chocolate in the afternoon, and in small quantities. As a rich food, it may keep your digestive system purring in the evening, leading to a poor night’s sleep. Because sleep deprivation increases cortisol production, this too can increase your risk of bad
Adding some to your morning routine
As we’ve already mentioned, the high glycaemic index of instant oats is not good for your skin. Slow oats and overnight oats, however, are.
By itself, porridge is not the most enticing breakfast. But, if you add blueberries or a little dark chocolate, it suddenly becomes more palatable.
Few morning routines are better than those that involve smoothies. As we’ve already mentioned, cranberries are rarely palatable when eaten alone, and the high sugar content of non-natural cranberry juice negates the antioxidants’ power. However, if you can combine them with other ingredients to make a smoothie, you’ll gain the antioxidant benefits without any of the poor taste.
Similarly, ginger is an excellent additive, especially for afternoon smoothies. It gives them a vibrant kick, helping you boost your energy during midday slumps.
Finally, always bear in mind that kidney beans will kickstart your digestive system with reckless abandon. Providing you don’t suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, this is a great way to increase nutrient absorption, which in turn helps your skin. Try adding them to your diet at least once a week.
Need Professional Support
If you’re still encountering skin problems and require advice, consider a professional consultation with Dr Dhesi. As a medically qualified doctor with advanced aesthetics training, he can help you bring vitality back to your complexion through a bespoke skin consultation. Through taking a holistic approach, he’ll help you develop a plan that’s unique to your needs.