Acne is not just skin-deep. Those who deal with acne on a regular basis know that it is more than just a skin condition. It can affect one’s quality of life and impact social life. Depression and anxiety can follow frequent bouts of acne. While the exact causes of acne have yet to be identified, research over the past 200 years has linked diet to the disturbing skin condition. An important recent comprehensive review of scientific studies has proven a strong association between diet and acne.

While it is important to note that diet cannot directly cause acne, it has been well-established that diet can aggravate or influence it. When considering how to get rid of acne, diet should be a key factor in a treatment plan. Research suggests that topical approaches to reducing acne are more effective when we also change the way we eat and drink. The link between diet and acne is the foundation of medical nutrition therapy (MNT). MNT has shown strong promise in the past 10 years as a way to treat acne, and is based on avoiding or reducing three specific foods.

Milk: Milk may do a body good, but it can contribute to the development of acne. To understand how milk can cause acne, it is necessary to understand that milk’s role in nature is to grow things — specifically babies. Cow’s milk is designed, therefore, to grow baby cows. This is wonderful for the baby cows, but may not be so wonderful for keeping skin clear. Milk is problematic when ingested because it causes a pimple-producing spike in hormones.
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The hormones in milk specifically linked with acne are forms of testosterone and androgens — hormones that stimulate your skin to make more pimples. Androgens are actually the same hormones used by body builders to grow muscles. The dark side of androgens is their role in causing skin blemishes and fueling the cycle of acne. All milk contains hormones, even organic and raw varieties.

The Proof Is In The Pimple

A highly regarded Nurse’s Health Study investigated how various lifestyle factors influence health. The study involved 47,000 nurses and found that nurses who drank more milk as teenagers reported much higher bouts of severe acne. Interestingly, the study also concluded that it was not the fat in the milk that caused the acne — skim milk was actually found to cause more acne than whole milk and cream. Several other prominent studies have correlated higher intake of milk with acne.

While it is not necessary to avoid dairy products completely, studies do suggest it would be prudent to decrease one’s milk intake as part of a holistic approach to clearer skin.

Sugar: Sugar is not so sweet for your skin. Because it drives up the insulin in your blood, eating sugar can directly cause pimples. Foods that quickly raise blood-sugar levels include refined carbohydrates like white bread as well as soft drinks, candy bars and sugar-laden breakfast cereals. Large, randomized and controlled scientific studies have correlated sugar intake with increased acne. When you ingest sugar, your body makes more insulin — a known culprit in causing pimples. The simple solution to avoid insulin spikes in your diet is to favor a diet based on low-glycemic whole foods including grains, fruits, legumes, vegetables and lean meats. Insulin levels can also be controlled with regular moderate exercise. While eliminating sugar is one of the simplest ways to reduce acne, it is also one of the most overlooked. Quite simply, a low-sugar diet will make you less pimply.
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Milk chocolate: The good news is that you don’t have to entirely avoid chocolate to reduce your acne. There has been debate over the past 50 years regarding whether or not chocolate can actually cause breakouts. The other good news is that there is no evidence that cocoa causes pimples. However, milk has been established as an acne instigator.

If you are a chocolate lover, you can still safely indulge — just stick to dark chocolate containing over 50 percent pure cocoa and avoid milk chocolate. Dark chocolate contains only cocoa and cocoa butter. Dark chocolate also contains less insulin-spike causing sugar, which should be avoided in your fight against acne.
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This is a Guest Post submitted by Lindsay Tosto. Lindsay has worked with Maybelline New York, Smashbox Cosmetics, Urban Decay Cosmetics and Sephora. She is more than a makeup artist — she’s an artist who looks at the face as a canvas.