Carbohydrates and Acne

If you're prone to acne like me, it is likely that you've tried pretty much everything to make it go away, and had limited success.  Trying what seems like every possible remedy and having no luck is incredibly frustrating. However, one frequently overlooked cause of acne is diet, particularly in regard to consumption of carbohydrates.  However, not all carbs are bad for you.  The ones to avoid are what are called "empty carbohydrates"  which have a high glycemic index.  Glycemic content is how quickly a particular food causes your blood sugar to rise.  Foods with white flour have high glycemic content.

The concept of carbohydrates causing acne is far from novel, and has been around since the 1930's.  However, recent meta analysis conducted by New York University researcher Jennifer Burris has concluded that there is a strong correlation between carbs and acne.  Small-scale studies were conducted in which adolescent males were given a low carb diet and findings suggest that this helped their acne clear up.  However, this does present problems because it does not appear that any third variables were took into account, nor was there a control group used.  

So if carbohydrates really do cause acne, how does it happen?  The cause is an elaborate chain reaction.  The increase in blood sugar levels lead to the creation of more hormones. The hormone insulin causes an increase in cells and oil, which causes an excessive accumulation.  Carbohydrates also increases testosterone levels which leads to sebum production.  Sebum is an oily compound made by pores to protect the skin from drying out.  Excessive sebum causes oily skin and it becomes trapped in the pores, clogging them and causing acne.  

One interesting point I found when doing my research is that the human body actually requires no carbohydrates for survival as long as adequate levels of fat and protein are consumed.  In fact, many cultures, such as the Inuits or natives of Greenland never eat carbohydrates and studies show that it has no effect on mortality.  Although no certain causation exists as of right now, it seems relatively harmless to give a low carbohydrate diet a shot if you're trying to get rid of acne.



This is really interesting! I used to have some trouble with acne in high school, but once I got some medication it all cleared up! But this would make a lot of sense. My diet is mainly carbs. My favorite foods are pasta and potatoes! I still get some acne here and there, so maybe I'll try reducing my carb intake.

According to an article on MayoClinic's website, the top three causes of acne are hormones, certain medications, and diet. So I guess diet is the only one people can really change. I"ll have to test out your hypothesis and see what happens!

This article made me want to research what foods actually cause acne. I found some interesting things. Pasta, dairy products, and even alcohol were the most surprising ones that I found. "Drinking regularly will depress your immune system and it is your immune system which helps keep the acne bacteria under control .A weakened immune system will make it easier for bacteria to build up in your skin pores."
I think I am going to try to watch what I am eating even more, just because who likes breakouts?

I think it's safe to say I eat way more carbs than the average person; however, I have never struggled with acne except a few pimples here and there. Diet is an easy fix for someone struggling with acne, but diet is not the only cause. Stress plays a large role in acne as well, so as difficult as it is not to stress about pimples, keeping calm could actually help! Sticking to a routine for washing your face can also help prevent breakouts. You can read more about preventing breakouts from stress here:

Yeah face washing and changing pillowcases are both good ideas. I know I wash my face four times a day and change my pillowcases like once every three days. Just a little update. Never really thought about alcohol consumption but that's an interesting point. I guess drinking beer in particular is a bad idea because it's carbs and alcohol. I have been on a low carb diet for almost a week now and I am definitely seeing improvements. Although its hard to stick to sometimes, I would definitely say that it's worth a try.

My dermatologist always told me to stay away from dairy and foods high in carbs if I wanted my skin to stay clear, and apparently he was right! I never attempted to cut it out from my diet completely (who can live without milk in their cereal..?), but there is a dramatic difference from skin nourished through fruits and vegetables versus a carb-loaded, fatty diet. Not only does acne go away, but your skin finally has that dewy glow that's only seen in magazine ads. Diet very much influences your appearance, and your skin will thank you in the end. Of course, a good diet is the only thing that can influence acne. Here's some more skin soothers to fix your complexion that I found helpful:

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