You’ll have no doubt heard that it’s best to avoid certain foods like cured meats and chocolate if you have acne. The subject of fascinating research, the links between food and acne have been established in recent scientific studies for both adolescent acne and adult acne. The good news is that anti-acne nutrition is possible, with visible results in 4-8 weeks depending on the person.

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    Pénélope Restoy, Dietician-nutritionist specialising in micro-nutrition - (France) .

    The French National Committee for Scientific Research recognises that diet has an impact on acne. It can foster, trigger or aggravate it. Or improve it.

    Pénélope Restoy, Dietician-nutritionist specialising in micro-nutrition - (France) .

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Loren Cordain, Professor at the University of Colorado, US, carried out a study on teenagers around the world who did not appear to suffer from acne: in particular, the Papuans and Inuits. He observed that Inuits started to be affected by acne when they adopted a western diet.

Several doctors highlight the fact that modern nutrition is often pro-inflammatory and maintains an environment that fosters acne. As for many other pathologies, processed industrial foods – and their high levels of fat, sugar and harmful ingredients – are largely blamed.

In recent years, many questions have been raised. Does milk cause acne? What is the link between chocolate and acne, gluten and acne, sugar and acne and cheese and acne? Which foods can help treat acne? Here’s what our expert Pénélope Restoy has to say.

Ingredients containing lots of sugar or with a high glycaemic load increase the glucose in the blood stream and maintain inflammation. This includes sugar, sweets and refined cereals, in particular white flour. The glycaemic index of white bread is the same as for sugar. So, when we eat white bread, it’s as if you were eating large slices of sugar. The additional glucose increases the secretion of insulin in the pancreas. This hyper-insulinemic environment has an impact on hormones and can encourage the overproduction of androgens, responsible for excess sebum secretion.

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High in protein, dairy products and meat contain the amino acid leucine. In excess, leucine can foster inflammation. It is therefore important to eat meat and dairy in moderation. If you like milk, why not explore other sources, for example, ewe or goat milk that are less pro-inflammatory?

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This means lots of vegetables and fruits – although no more than 3 pieces of fruit a day to limit fructose. All vegetables contain a number of antioxidants, especially colourful ones. They contribute to the acid-base balance that is essential for the skin. Modern diets have become overly acidic with excess protein and cereals and not enough fruit and vegetables. The ideal balance is 70-80% base foods – the rest should be acidic. Remember that proteins contribute to this acidic portion, and in excess can create an imbalance.

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By Pénélope Restoy, dietician-nutritionist specialising in micro-nutrition, (France )

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  1. A diet based on low or medium GI foods like whole grains, accompanied by vegetables and pulses at least twice a week. The fibre provides pre-biotics that are key for the intestine, an organ that plays an important role in the skin. If the intestine is too permeable, it allows toxins through that can have a negative impact.
  2. An anti-inflammatory diet with a good omega-6 / omega-3 ratio. Most of us consume too much omega-6 (ready meals and junk food), which we should try and balance out with omega-3 (small oily fish like sardines, mackerel, herring, as well as products labelled Bleu Blanc Coeur ).
  3. Increase antioxidant sources that help fight inflammation e.g. red fruit, colourful vegetables, green tea and spices. 
  4. Keep an eye on your zinc and selenium intake as they help in the healing process.
  5. Avoid pro-inflammatory foods including processed and junk food, products with lots of saturated fats and trans fatty acids, which are cooked at high temperatures or fried.

Chocolate and acne

Chocolate with 70%+ cacao is an excellent source of antioxidants but not recommended if you are suffering from acne.

"You need to wait 4 – 8 weeks, depending on the individual."

It all depends on the level of inflammation. You need to be patient. The skin is the end destination. If the inflammation reaches the skin this means all the processes need to be rebalanced. This is often linked to problems like porous intestines, a clogged liver or stress. It involves an overall approach. For some, nutrition can be enough. For others, it needs to be combined with other conventional allopathic prescription treatments from a doctor or dermatologist. Not forgetting topical treatments to moisturise and reinforce the skin barrier and healing process. By leveraging several paths, the results always appear in the end.

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"Helping the liver function better is, without doubt, useful for dermatological conditions.”

The liver is an excretory organ that is often mistreated and can get clogged up and tired. When it is overworked, some of the toxins usually eliminated reach the skin and create a source of inflammation. 

From a purely nutritional point of view, it is recommended to regularly:

  • Drink water with lemon juice in the morning before eating. This antioxidant is rich in vitamin C and helps the body’s acid-base balance.
  • Add slivers of black radish macerated in lemon juice and olive or rape oil to your salad.
  • Introduce variety by adding rocket, garlic, herbs and spices to your salads.
  • Prepare drinks and infusions with milk thistle, artichoke, green tea and matcha.

Good to know

  • The more bitter the food, the better it is at fighting oxidation and inflammation.
  • Hydration is also very important during a detox.

"Looking after a patient with acne should be based on overall thinking and a multi-dimensional approach on several levels.”

I recommend that my patients consult the appropriate specialists including a dermatologist and a dietician trained in micro or physio-nutrition who can give personalised advice. It is important to focus on the connection between the skin, brain, intestines and liver to reinforce the intestinal barrier and microbiota, which are essential to our immune system. I also recommend using skincare products that preserve and respect the cutaneous barrier. Let’s not forget lifestyle – ensuring you get enough high-quality sleep and manage stress is also important.

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