Updated: Apr 6, 2020
More evidence continues to be uncovered regarding the link between diet and acne. Numerous studies have found that high-glycemic-index diets, dairy, and certain supplements can contribute to breakouts. When putting together an acne treatment plan for your patients, include some advice on dietary changes that might help them to get and keep clear skin.
1. Reduce Sugar Intake
Numerous studies have found that high-sugar diets are directly correlated with a higher risk of acne. Remind patients that sugar is not only found in sweet treats, but also in simple carbohydrates like white bread, white potatoes, and pasta. Researchers have found that the traditional Western diet – which is very high in processed foods, refined grains, and sugar – leads to a much higher odds of developing acne than many other standard diets around the world.
2. Try Eliminating Dairy
Dairy is another food that seems to be linked with a higher prevalence of acne. A 2018 study found that individuals between the ages of 7 and 30 who consumed any amount of dairy had an increased incidence of acne, compared to individuals in the same age range who consumed no dairy. However, this study and others found that skim and other low-fat milks were linked with a higher incidence of acne, compared to whole and high-fat milks.
Researchers are still unsure why this may be the case, but there are several hypotheses. One is that people who drink low-fat milk may be inclined to drink more of it than they would if high-fat milk was the only option. Another speculation is that it could have something to do with the process used to produce low-fat milk, or the existence of growth hormones or other additives.
Some people may be more sensitive to dairy than others. If a patient is struggling with acne and consumes a considerable amount of dairy, suggest eliminating or significantly cutting back on dairy for at least one month. If they notice clearer skin, dairy may be partially to blame for their breakouts.
3. Check Your Supplements
Studies have found that vitamins B6 and B12 are linked with a larger concentration of P. acnes bacteria on the skin. We are still not sure why this happens, but it is worth mentioning to your patients if they are struggling with acne. Vegans and vegetarians in particular may be at an increased risk, as many take these supplements because they are not getting B vitamins from meat. Let them know that there are many plant-based sources of B vitamins, like barley, lentils, broccoli, and citrus. Foods that contain these vitamins do not appear to be linked with a higher incidence of acne – only the supplements.
Conversely, taking vitamin A supplements may help to prevent acne, since acne medications like Retin A and Accutane contain this vitamin.
A comprehensive approach to managing acne can include prescription medications, non-prescription cosmeceuticals, and lifestyle adjustments. Educate your patients about how each of these areas can help them achieve and maintain the clear, healthy-looking skin they want.
If you have other tips about the link between diet and acne, please connect with me (Dr. Leslie Baumann) via LinkedIn and share them with me. I would love to hear from you!
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