Acne and Diet

Acne and Diet

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Acne is a troublesome skin disorder that leads to the formation of lesions called pimples, or "zits". The most common type of acne, that affects many adolescents, is called acne vulgaris. This type of acne is brought on by hormonal changes that occur during puberty.

How Diet is Related to Acne

According to quite a bit of research, there is absolutely and unequivocally no connection between diet and acne. That said, if you ask many people who have the condition – and, all too frequently, those who do not have the condition – they will say that there is a relationship between eating certain foods and experiencing break-outs.

All the times you’ve heard that things like chocolate and chips and pizza would give you pizza face, not true. There is not one single scrap of evidence, found or proven, that can tie acne occurrences to what, when or why you eat. However common-sense dictates that the condition of your skin will be at its optimum with a well-rounded nutritious diet.

Why the Disconnect Between Acne Sufferers and Research?

How is it that so many people with acne feel that diet has something to do with their breakouts and science says it’s not true?  The key is in the wording.  People with acne may indeed suffer from breakouts from certain food choices.  However, that doesn’t mean that the foods are causing the acne! Those results are from people who already have acne and whose symptoms worsen or flare up as a result of certain triggers.

There is a big difference between a skin condition and a trigger.  The trigger may cause symptoms to worsen or to appear, but the skin condition itself is already there.  This helps to explain why research consistently says that having acne is not the result of your diet.  Still, it’s important to know what role food plays in the condition and in overall skin health in order to provide the best support you can to your largest organ, whether or not it is affected by a condition.

What Causes Acne?

What is known, is that the male sex hormone – testosterone (found in both sexes) causes abnormalities in the skin starting at around puberty. It is unknown why. Pregnant and menstruating women are also prone to acne. There is also believed to be a genetic factor at play, whether it has to do with hormone balance and distribution or something else has yet to be determined.

These abnormalities in hormones can lead to a reaction within living tissue that can result in plugged or infected hair follicles and/or sebaceous (fat) glands in the skin. That can lead to pimples.  Pimples are not the same thing as having the skin condition known as acne.  When those pimples become chronic, that’s when things start to become a condition and not just an affected spot here or there.

Acne can occur in various degrees of intensity, on the face, back, shoulders and chest as a direct result of the overproduction of oil called sebum naturally secreted by hair follicles to lubricate and even cleanse the skin and hair. The signs of acne are lesions such as blackheads which are plugged glands, red spots, and whiteheads or infected, pus filled glands. 

Acne is not caused by bacteria. That said, when acne is present, bacteria can lead to the infections that present as some of the signs of the condition. This helps to explain why simple face washing is not the cure for the condition. In fact, washing the face too frequently or with products that are too harsh can exacerbate the condition.

Other Factors That Lead to Flare-Ups

There are factors that can cause acne to flare up.

Oil does not cause acne. Many people have oily skin or apply oils to their faces without suffering breakouts.  However, a combination of many factors which may include oily skin can worsen an existing condition. 

Acne Treatment

Treatment for this condition can include a range of different efforts. If your case is moderate to severe, it is a good idea to speak with your doctor before choosing your strategy. 

The typical treatment for acne is using topical creams and lotions. It’s important to speak with a doctor before choosing over the counter acne products. Those are typically harsh and while they may provide temporary benefits, they can worsen the issue in the long run. 

Instead, finding the proper skin care routine using gentle products appropriate to skin type is a good place to start.  Proper hydration can also play a great role in overall skin health to help avoid infection and heal up from those that already exist.  Yes, acne and diet can have a relationship here, as there are many foods that are great for skin health. Choosing those foods can help to promote healing and reduce inflammation. While this won’t cure the condition, it can help to ease the symptoms. 

Again, it’s important to reiterate that while diet can support the skin and help to keep it healthy, it will not decide whether or not you have acne as a skin condition.

In extreme cases where the acne has gone deeply into the skin it can become a bacterial infection and antibiotics are prescribed for treatment. In severe cases, other medications may also be prescribed.  Those are often saved for the worst cases as they can lead to a spectrum of unwanted side effects, such as extreme dryness in the eyes, nose, and mouth, among other areas.  They can also lead to other unwanted effects that should be discussed with a doctor before a prescription is filled.

As uncomfortable as a bad case of acne may be, it is rarely if ever life threatening.