Managing acne is not a piece of cake, but there’s good evidence to suggest that a healthy diet can contribute to healthy skin. No surprise. 

There are many ideas on the internet about the best acne diet.  Low glycemic. Anti-inflammatory. No gluten. Low sugar. And the list goes on… It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here’s the lowdown on the diet-acne connection and some of the acne causing culprits based on research and anecdotal evidence. 

Like most things, managing your diet is an experiment. So, rather than cutting these items out completely, eliminate them for a while and see how your skin reacts. Triggers are different for every body. Always consult your doctor before making changes to your diet that can impact your health.

1. Foods that increase your androgen levels

  • High glycemic load. Research suggests that foods with a high glycemic index can lead to increased androgen levels.  More androgen causes more sebum production. Head over to the next section for tips on keeping androgen levels in check.
  • Dairy. Not all dairy is equal - we’re specifically talking about cow milk. Milk can increase DHT production due to its IGF-1 and whey protein content, and trigger excess sebum production.
  • Whey protein. It’s one of the two proteins in milk. Keep an eye out for it in supplements, protein powders or bars. Consider an alternative like pea, hemp or brown rice protein instead.
2. Foods that cause inflammation 

As inflammation plays into the acne pathogenesis, reducing inflammation causing foods where it makes sense is a good idea. For an easy starting place, consider limiting vegetable oils, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, corn oil. Avocado oil, coconut oil and olive oil are good alternatives to cook with.

3. Gut microbiome is out of sorts 
A gut microbiome that lacks a healthy balance of bacteria may trigger inflammation. Several studies have demonstrated that the gut microbiome and skin are connected (aka the gut-skin axis). Our unique gut microbiomes are constantly changing based on external factors like diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits. In short, a happy gut makes a happy skin microbiome, which helps your skin barrier function properly. A few tips to keep your gut happy:

  • Increase gut diversity with fermented foods. A 2021 Stanford study showed that consuming fermented foods daily increased gut microbial diversity and lowered inflammation. Think sauerkraut, kimchi, lacto-fermented pickles, kombucha. 
  • Feed healthy gut bacteria with prebiotic fibers. Think turnip, parsnip, celeriac root, kohlrabi, chard, arugula, fennel, leek, mushroom, bok choy, purple potato, chia seeds, flax seeds, garlic, onion, and broccoli.
  • Is a probiotic supplement right for you? Consult your doctor.

PS: look out for Biotin. Most of us get enough biotin from our diet and don't need to supplement.  Biotin is commonly found in high doses in hair, nail and skin supplements. When in excess, it causes overproduction of skin cells. Not great to keep the pores clear, considering Retention Hyperkeratosis is already complicating things down in the follicles.