Is acne affecting your confidence? You are not alone. Acne is a common skin condition that affects both teenagers and many adults. It has a big impact on self-confidence, body image and quality of life. Whilst acne is mainly caused by hormonal changes and genetics3, making small changes to our diet and lifestyle can benefit skin health.2
Can Your Diet Affect Acne?
We spoke to Award Winning Dietitian, Harriet Smith:
Is dairy bad for acne?
“There’s ongoing debate as to whether dairy is linked to acne. Some studies have shown a possible link, whereas others haven’t found any relationship.2
If you choose to avoid dairy, a well-planned dairy-free diet which is healthy and balanced can provide you with all the nutrients you need. However, excluding dairy and animal products means that you could miss out on certain nutrients such as calcium, vitamin B12 and iodine.
These will need to be replaced elsewhere in your diet, either through foods or a nutritional supplement.”
How can sugar affect your skin?
“Similarly, some studies have found that eating a lot of sugary foods is a risk factor for acne, but others have found no such association.2
In the UK, it’s recommended that adults should have no more than 30g free sugars a day.5 This is equivalent to around seven teaspoons of sugar. Free sugars are those added to food and drinks by manufacturers, plus the sugars found in fruit juice, honey and syrups.”
Does a low fat diet help acne?
“A high fat diet may increase your risk of developing acne.2 However, it’s important to note that having some fat in your diet is an essential part of a healthy diet.
Try to reduce your intake of foods high in saturated fats (such as red and processed meats, pastries and cakes), and replace these with heart-healthy unsaturated fats (such as olive oil, oily fish, nuts and avocado).”
Mediterranean Diet for acne prone skin.
“Studies suggest that following a Mediterranean-style diet which contains fruits and vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, heart-healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts and seeds and lean protein reduces your risk of acne.2”
Vitamins for Clear Skin
Certain individual nutrients play an important part in skin health. Here are some of the best vitamins for clear, healthy skin.
Vitamin A is an essential micronutrient found in dairy products, eggs, liver, oily fish, and yellow, red, and leafy green vegetables.6 Interestingly, research suggests some people aren’t getting enough vitamin A from their diet.7 Vitamin A helps your body to produce new skin cells, which prevents dead skin from clogging pores. So it’s important to ensure that you’re consuming sufficient amounts.8
Beta-carotene is a plant pigment that gives red, orange, and yellow vegetables their vibrant colour.9 It’s a provitamin A (meaning it can be converted into vitamin A in the body) and is a powerful antioxidant.9
Vitamin C is an antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables like oranges, strawberries, peppers, broccoli, and potatoes.10 Studies shown that its antioxidant properties can help protect the skin from UV light damage.10
It also plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy skin. For example, vitamin C helps the body to produce collagen, which is an important protein found in our skin.11
What role do our hormones play in acne?
Our hormones are one of the main contributors to acne. 12 There are several hormones which influence acne, including androgens, estrogens, progesterone and insulin.18
Out of all the hormones, androgens are the biggest contributor to sebum production in the skin.18 Androgens are a group of hormones including testosterone which stimulate the production of sebum and hormonal acne in both men and women.18 Sebum is an oily substance secreted from glands in the skin, that makes your skin more prone to acne.
Botanical Skincare That Helps Acne
Saw palmetto is a shrubby palm plant native to southern USA that contains antioxidants and fatty acids. Research shows it is helpful for reducing androgen hormones in the body. 19
Saw palmetto is used in many skincare formulas to help with oily skin and high testosterone in women.14
Coconut oil comes from the flesh of the fruit from the coconut palm.15 It’s a versatile ingredient commonly used in cooking as well as in soaps, creams, and cosmetics.15
Research has demonstrated the nutrients in coconut oil can naturally reduce androgen hormones. It’s also high in lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid, which has demonstrated anti-bacterial properties against p.acnes bacteria. 20
Acerola cherry is one of the richest sources of the antioxidant vitamin C in the world, making it a popular ingredient in natural skincare and collagen boosting formulas.
- Acne [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2021 [cited 8 July 2021]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/acne/
- Heng A, Chew F. Systematic review of the epidemiology of acne vulgaris. Scientific Reports. 2020;10(1).
- Williams H, Dellavalle R, Garner S. Acne vulgaris. The Lancet. 2012;379(9813):361-372.
- Skin health [Internet]. Bda.uk.com. 2021 [cited 8 July 2021]. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/skin-health.html
- Sugar: the facts [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2021 [cited 11 July 2021]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-does-sugar-in-our-diet-affect-our-health/
- Vitamins and minerals - Vitamin A [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2021 [cited 8 July 2021]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-a/
- NDNS: time trend and income analyses for Years 1 to 9 [Internet]. GOV.UK. 2021 [cited 8 July 2021]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/ndns-time-trend-and-income-analyses-for-years-1-to-9
- Park K. Role of Micronutrients in Skin Health and Function. Biomolecules & Therapeutics. 2015;23(3):207-217.
- Gul K, Tak A, Singh A, Singh P, Yousuf B, Wani A. Chemistry, encapsulation, and health benefits of β-carotene - A review. Cogent Food & Agriculture. 2015;1(1):1018696.
- Schagen S, Zampeli V, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis C. Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermato-Endocrinology. 2012;4(3):298-307.
- The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):866.
- Office of Dietary Supplements - Botanical Dietary Supplements - Background Information [Internet]. Ods.od.nih.gov. 2021 [cited 8 July 2021]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/BotanicalBackground-Consumer/
- Abdel Bar F. New chalcanonol glycoside from the seeds of saw palmetto: antiproliferative and antioxidant effects. Natural Product Research. 2014;29(10):926-932.
- Dobrev H. Clinical and instrumental study of the efficacy of a new sebum control cream. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2007;6(2):113-118.
- Pham L. Coconut (Cocos nucifera). Industrial Oil Crops. 2016;:231-242.
- Prakash A, Baskaran R. Acerola, an untapped functional superfruit: a review on latest frontiers. Journal of Food Science and Technology. 2018;55(9):3373-3384.
- Bagatin A, De Freitas T, Machado M, Ribeiro B, Nunes S, Da Rocha, M. Adult female acne: a guide to clinical practice. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. 2019;94(1):62-75.
- Mohamed, E. Hormonal treatment of acne vulgaris: an update. Clinical Cosmetic Investigative Dermatology.2016;9: 241-248.
- Pais, P. Potency of a novel saw palmetto ethanol extract, SPET-085, for inhibition of 5α-reductase II. Advances in Therapy. 2010;27: 555–563.
- Nakatsuji T, Kao M, Fang J, Zouboulis C, Zhang L, Gallo R, Huang C. Antimicrobial property of lauric acid against Propionibacterium acnes: its therapeutic potential for inflammatory acne vulgaris. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2009;129(10):2480-8.