Fighting acne or spotting those first wrinkles can send many of us into a Google frenzy trying to figure out how to quickly “cure” these skin problems.
From foods that are said to make pimples worse to collagen supplements that can miraculously reverse signs of aging, it can be difficult to work out which information is actually valid.
On the ZOE Science and Nutrition podcast, Dr. Justine Kluk – a consulting dermatologist with a particular interest in acne – that there is indeed a link between what we eat and the condition of our skin.
However, she warned that many people could be eating unhealthily due to inaccurate information found on the internet.
We usually associate acne with teenage years, but Justine said it’s common to experience it into adulthood and it’s often associated with hormonal changes.
It’s fairly common for women to experience it in their early to mid-20s, but new pimples can appear in women in their 30s, 40s, and in women going through the menopause.
Regardless of age, people struggling with breakouts often take a hit in their confidence and self-esteem but don’t know how to take care of their skin.
Justine discussed some foods that might lead to acne, what to eat instead, and how diet is related to skin aging.
Are There Certain Foods That Can Make Acne Worse?
She observed that many people start what is called an elimination diet after reading somewhere that certain foods can trigger acne.
“It’s one of the most concerning things I see in the clinic,” Justine said, saying that some patients even develop eating disorders after “misinterpreting information about food and acne.”
However, the dermatologist added that “high glycemic diets are associated with increased acne severity” — those gravitating towards refined carbohydrate foods like white bread, pasta and potatoes, which trigger a rapid spike in blood sugar and the release of hormones.
“Basically, what underlies acne is increased oil production in the skin and clogging of the pores, where the oil is supposed to come out, and which is carried to the skin’s surface by dead skin cells,” which bacteria then feed on and cause acne-causing inflammation .
Androgen hormones like testosterone can increase oil production and clog pores, Justine added.
“We can relate food to it because [by eating] “With these sugary foods and these very refined carbs, your blood sugar goes up, then your insulin and insulin-like growth factor goes up, and that increases androgen hormones,” she explained.
Sugar and dairy could also have something to do with the development of new facial spots, Justine continued.
“People often see a link between consuming dairy and a deterioration in their skin,” with studies showing that Western populations were particularly affected.
But products like milk might make your pimples worse than other dairy-based foods like cheese, the dermatologist noted.
Simple food exchanges to treat acne
“There are ways to reduce refined carbohydrate intake without eliminating carbohydrates from your diet altogether,” Justine noted.
“You can easily replace your white bread, white rice, or white pasta with whole food versions of them. You don’t have to change your lifestyle or other things you do.”
The dermatologist also suggested adding healthy proteins and fats, as well as fiber, to your diet to help reduce your blood sugar’s response to food.
However, she emphasized that life is about balance and that it’s perfectly okay to treat yourself.
Simple acne skin care tips
Although mild acne can be easily treated at home, Justine urged anyone with serious skin conditions to seek expert help from a family doctor or dermatologist to treat them safely and effectively.
She shared a few simple tips for treating the skin condition at home.
- Don’t skip the moisturizeras it can strengthen your skin barrier and make it “a happier, healthier place” – choose ones that are non-comedogenic so they don’t clog your pores
- Use vitamin A, retinol, and retinoids topically to reduce pore clogging and inflammation
- Wash your skin with a gentle cleanser twice a day
- Only use a product with active ingredients Incorporate it into your skincare routine and introduce it slowly
Can Your Diet Slow Down Skin Aging?
As for aging, Justine said we can’t reverse the signs, but maybe we could slow it down.
According to the dermatologist, sun exposure is one of the main reasons our skin becomes saggy and wrinkled over time. Therefore, wearing sunscreen and a hat on a regular basis can be helpful.
On the question of whether collagen supplements actually work, Justine said, “The decision is still pending.”
“We know that we tend to absorb these nutrients better when we get them from food. So do we really have to take a collagen supplement?” the dermatologist asked her hosts.
A Mediterranean diet is much cheaper and more accessible than taking collagen supplements, the effects of which don’t last when you stop taking them, argued Justine.
That means eating meals rich in vegetables, herbs, fruits, nuts, beans, and whole grains, with smaller amounts of dairy, meat, fish, and eggs.
And adding retinol to your skincare regimen might actually help boost collagen production, she continued, as could vitamin C.