A healthful diet rich in leafy vegetables, beneficial fatty acids, and protein is certainly crucial if you want to create and maintain a gorgeous complexion. After all, a healthy, well-balanced inside often yields a beautiful outside. But if you struggle with chronic acne—either adult breakouts or the time-honored trials of teenage skin—the unsatisfying truth is that despite numerous studies, the jury is technically still out as to whether diet can trigger chronic breakouts. Acne is largely caused by hormones, yet cautionary tales about how certain foods yield breakouts stubbornly persist. Read on to find out which “acne-causing foods” can be dismissed as the stuff of myth and which are true acne culprits.
Does Greasy, Fried Food Cause Acne? Probably Not.
Cheesy pizza, oily potato chips, french fries, and juicy cheeseburgers won’t give you pimples. This myth began because people once thought that fatty foods must cause acne since they contain oil, and sebaceous oil causes acne. The problem with that logic is that the oil in food has absolutely no relationship to the sebum on your skin, and the only way that pizza could directly cause acne is if you rubbed it on your face.
Do Carbohydrates Cause Acne? Maybe.
Some studies have suggested that simple carbohydrates contribute to high levels of insulin in the blood, which can disrupt normal hormonal function and lead to imbalances that, in turn, lead to acne. Speaking at the American Academy of Dermatology’s summer symposium in 2011, Dr. Alan Shalita of the SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York said, “I would encourage patients with acne to moderate the amount of carbs that they eat.” Eating a diet low in carbs can help keep blood glucose and insulin production in check.
Does Chocolate Cause Acne? Probably Not.
Diana McShane, a dermatologist at Duke University, says, “Chocolate has been implicated in the role of acne for decades without any convincing data to support or refute this theory.” Several studies have found no relationship between chocolate and acne, but somehow none have been conclusive enough to officially close the book, so the misconception continues. Still, most medical professionals agree that it’s an old wives’ tale.
Does Dairy Cause Acne? Maybe.
The longitudinal Nurse’s Health Study, conducted at Harvard University, discovered that women who drank more milk as teenagers tended to have more and worse acne than those who consumed little dairy. Other studies of children and teenagers have replicated these findings. Doctors hypothesize that the main problem is the hormones present in most milk products, which interfere with normal hormonal function. Another possibility is that milk sugar increases insulin levels in the same way that carbs do. In fact, some doctors even think that the reason chocolate gets such a bad rap with regard to acne is really more about the milk and sugar that candy bars contain and not the cocoa itself.