Submit your skincare questions to Dr. Agnes, CEO of Herborium and natural medicine expert
Have you ever wondered to think if it’s a myth
or not that chocolate causes zits? The link between diet and acne isn’t clearly
understood—at least, not yet. There’s no doubt that what we eat affects our
whole bodies, skin included, but is it really as simple as a chocolate bar or
can of soda causing new breakouts the next day?
And that’s not even going into how intense
some people’s skin seems to react to certain foods. While the correlation isn’t
fully established, a growing number of people claim that particular food groups
don’t just break them out—they’re the direct cause of cystic acne.
On their own, a cystic pimple isn’t really
that uncommon—in fact, It’s likely that everyone has experienced at least one!
Cystic pimples are zits that are deep under the skin and much more tender than
your regular whiteheads. Unlike blackheads or whiteheads, cysts tend not to
have a visible head and can be way more tricky to treat as they’re so far under
the skin’s surface.
If most of your breakouts tend to be this kind
of deep, painful pimple, then it’s likely that you are dealing with cystic
Because they’re so deep into the skin, they’re
actually far more prone to scarring than other types of acne. That’s because
cysts make skin so inflamed—and also
how tempting it is to just dry and pop them. As we all know, this only makes
things worse, so resist the temptation!
Cystic acne is also far more likely to be
caused by hormones than other types of acne, especially in women. While men are
more prone to cystic acne in general, if you’re a woman and you tend to have
cysts in your lower jaw area, it’s a high chance that your acne is hormonal.
There isn’t a lot of research yet clearly
explaining the link between diet and acne, but there are a lot of promising
anecdotes about eating to major categories of food: dairy and
high-glycemic-index food. Chocolate bars are both by the way—coincidence?
This covers basically every single food that’s
derived from milk or has dairy ingredients. The thing is, dairy is actually a
common ingredient and you might not even realize it’s in a certain food!
Exactly how dairy products cause acne in some people hasn’t been
established—but there are a few key ideas that are being explored to understand
the potential dairy-acne link.
Cow’s milk naturally contains hormones to help
baby cows grow quickly, and it’s argued that consuming dairy causes a hormonal
imbalance. It’s also believed that cows are injected with further synthetic
hormones to encourage their milk supply. Like the natural hormones, these have
the potential to cause hormonal imbalances in people and could be the source of
Dairy products contain a sugar called lactose,
which is unique to milk. While most people can digest dairy products just fine,
there is a small portion of the population that can’t process it as well and
this can manifest in a few different ways—including as cystic acne. The thing
with lactose is that it only takes a tiny amount to cause a reaction in people
who are intolerant to it, so even just that tiny piece of chocolate could be
all it takes to cause a breakout!
Balanced insulin levels are actually a major
part of your body’s health, including your skin. A big component of milk is
IGF-1, aka Insulin-Like Growth factor. In fact, our bodies naturally produce
IGF-1 during puberty—which is about the time when we actually start getting
acne. However, production eventually levels out over time. Dairy milk naturally
contains this—as support to help baby cows grow—and it’s thought that the IGF
consumed in milk is related to increasing levels and increased acne.
There’s another important category to
critically examine, and that’s high Glycemic Index (GI) and high Glycemic Load
(GL) foods. Like dairy, foods with high GI/GL levels boost levels of IGF-1, and
could potentially be the cause of your acne. They’re really similar but quite
different ways of understanding how sugars in food affect the body. For
example, foods can be high GI and low GL, or both high in GI and GL.
Foods in this category tend to be carbs—white
bread, cereal, pasta, and white rice. It also covers sugary treats that are
basically digested and absorbed instantly into the bloodstream, like chocolate
bars and candy.
In most cases, swapping out processed versions
for the whole versions (for example brown rice for white rice) is a pretty easy
fix and should show results in skin pretty quickly—but cutting out your
favorite treats is trickier! In some cases, swapping out candy in favor of
fruit and bigger servings of leafy vegetables can help curb sugar cravings,
improve your skin and even have the added bonus of slimming your waistline.
The thing is, at the end of the day everyone’s
skin is different.
You could eliminate certain food groups to see
how it affects your skin, but just cutting out dairy might not be the magic
solution for your acne—even if it worked really well for your friend. Despite that, testing to see how certain
foods affect your skin will help to understand your personal breakout triggers
and how to best treat your acne.
However, because cystic acne can be caused by
more internal issues than external, it’s good to have access to something that
can successfully treat it internally—alongside cutting out potential acne
AcnEase is designed to treat all forms of
acne, from the inside out. Even the most stubborn cystic acne doesn’t stand a
chance against this formula! It breaks the cycle of acne and can help with
hormonal imbalances for clear skin. To get the most out of AcnEase, we
recommend avoiding acne trigger food groups we mentioned above for the clearest