We’ve all heard this myth at some point in our lives. Whether it was on a TV show or from a relative giving you unsolicited skincare advice, you’ve probably been told that chocolate/greasy foods will give you acne. But is it true?
Short answer? No. Long answer? …It’s complicated.
The first thing I’ll tell you is that there’s no known single food trigger that will give you acne. Chocolate specifically won’t do it. Pizza specifically won’t do it. But there is some evidence that a high-fat, high-sugar diet may contribute to the increased incidence of acne in the western world.
Now, this isn’t going to be universally true. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who have high-fat, high-sugar diets with perfect skin. A huge part of acne is genetic and hormonal, so I’m not trying to convince anyone that your diet is the only thing that’s triggering your acne. BUT it might be a contributing factor.
The general thought is that eating lots of fat and sugar can cause fluctuations in hormones that may increase sebum production and triggering an inflammatory response, which may manifest itself as acne on your face. Again, every body is different so this may not hold true for you, but if you’ve struggled with acne in your life, you may want to try a low glycemic index diet and see if that makes a difference.
Now, the interesting thing about sugar being a trigger is that it also makes dairy a trigger as well. Dairy may well be the key to why acne is so prevalent in the western world. We consume more dairy than most cultures and it may be causing lots of health problems. Science is showing more and more that human bodies were not designed to break down lactose after breastfeeding time. 75% of the world is lactose intolerant, and up to 30% of the western world is lactose intolerant. While the west has adapted to eating/drinking dairy, it doesn’t mean it’s great for you. Lactose is a sugar, and there’s some evidence that lactose is one of the sugars that can increase sebum production and may be connected to acne.
There’s a ton of anecdotal evidence that cutting dairy from your diet may help to mitigate acne issues. Personally, I don’t drink milk (I can’t quit cheese, y’all. It’s too good) and I still have acne issues, so it hasn’t worked for me, but if you’re trying to find a solution to your acne issues and nothing is working, cutting out dairy may be worth a shot!
The other thing that might trigger acne is something I hardly want to mention because I’m afraid y’all will think I’m a hypocrite. Deep breath. Here it is: caffeine. Yep, my most beloved of all molecules may in fact be a trigger for acne. And it’s also where chocolate may come into the mix. Not only does chocolate have sugar and dairy (if you eat milk chocolate) but even the darker varieties have caffeine in them. Caffeine enhances the body’s stress response, which drives up insulin levels which, like with sugar, may be the cause of over-production off sebum, leading to clogged pores. It also increases production of new cells, clogging pores with dead skin and increases likelihood of inflammation, which makes for the painful red bumps we all know and hate.
If you can go no caffeine, by all means, please do. I, however, will not be giving it up. Again, there’s no hard proof that sugar, fat, dairy, or caffeine are for sure the acne triggers for everyone. It’s all about experimenting with your own body and making your own decisions. I’m not here to tell you to cut out dairy, sugar and caffeine, but if you want to see if it helps you, by all means go for it. Just be safe and do some research or consult a nutritionist before making any gigantic changes to your diet, and make sure you’re getting all the macro and micro-nutrients you need.
Also, please consult a dermatologist before doing anything too crazy! They may be able to tell you that your acne is hormonal and birth control will help, or something else. You are not alone and if you have the resources to see a dermatologist, it may change the game on your fight against acne.
Have any of you had any luck cutting acne-triggering foods out of your diet? Let me know in the comments below!
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