Spot the change

2009-06-24 00:00

THE debate has lingered for many years as to whether diet affects acne. Common myths for the treatment of acne have fuelled the debate — from avoiding dairy products and chocolates, to eating no red meat or sugar, or simply just cleaning the face more vigorously and frequently.

Acne is caused by the over-production of sebum (resulting in oily skin) which combines with dead skin cells and clogs the pores. These blocked pores are attacked by bacteria living on the skin, resulting in inflammation and infection. Acne isn’t caused by the foods we eat, but the inflammation and its progression can be worsened by an incorrect diet.

To prevent pimple breakouts, the cause of acne needs to be addressed. This means reducing sebum production, unclogging pores and reducing the inflammation.


Balancing the fats

Western diets generally contain high fat foods (particularly animal products such as meats and cheeses) and refined higher kilojoule foods such as biscuits, puddings and chocolates. These foods contribute to oily skin and should be limited.

Some researchers believe that the hormones found in animal products are responsible for increasing the number and severity of acne episodes. Look out for hormone-free meat, poultry and dairy products.

Balancing the fat intake in your diet is key, and extremes should be avoided. Diets that lack any fat also worsen acne by altering the sebum production. Some fat is essential for healthy skin — particularly fats found in dark fish (such as tuna, salmon and sardines) and olive or canola oils. These “good” fats contain omega 3 fatty acids and help to reduce inflammation — thus limiting the flaring up of bacteria in clogged pores. Sufferers of severe acne may benefit from an omega 3 supplement.


Don’t be tempted by junk

Fast foods such as burgers, chips and pies congest the digestive system. This leads to an accumulation of toxins and may worsen a skin flare-up. Sugary foods and drinks such as pastries, cakes, desserts and soft drinks are also linked to acne development. They cause the blood sugar levels to spike, thus triggering acne onset and worsening pre-existing acne.


Water, water, water

Drinking enough water is essential to keep the skin clear. It rids the skin (and body) of toxins and keeps the skin supple and hydrated. Instead of sugary drinks, try a glass of water with a slice of lemon. A hot mug of water with lemon may be more appealing on a cold winter morning.


Vitamins in a “traffic light”

Aim for a red, orange and green vegetable at dinner time. This will boost vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E intake — all of which are vital to healthy skin and aid repair. Colourful fruits and vegetables eaten daily will help to fend off the inflammation of acne and maintain the skin’s natural resistance. A handful of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and a few nuts will boost zinc and selenium levels, and reduce the severity of break outs.

A healthy body is much more likely to have a healthy skin. While eating well won’t prevent all acne flare-ups, it certainly will result in a healthier body and a clearer skin.

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