• Lucy Francis

Dietary Tweaks For Improving Acne

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

What some people may not know is that I used to really battle with my skin when I was younger; this is one of the reasons I actually became interested in studying nutrition.

Topical lotions didn’t seem to work for me (or at least have any lasting effects) and taking strong medication wasn’t something I was personally keen to do. I wanted long term results and to take better care of my body from the inside out going forward, without the potential for any unpleasant side-effects. This lead me to narrow my focus with lesser options to try, however.

Although my previous diet wasn’t terrible, it was lacking consistency and I didn’t really have any knowledge about nutrition, human physiology – the gut(!) and the effect certain nutrients can have on our health. Through my nutrition qualification and research, I am continually fascinated at the complexity of the body, but also the power even some simple dietary interventions can have.

After making changes to my overall nutrition and lifestyle, my skin improved greatly. Below you can see the condition of my skin before (left) to summer 2017 – for me, seeing great progression with my skin personally took a number of months, but time frames can of course vary for everyone.

I went through a lot of trial and error with my skin, finding certain things which helped a little, a lot, and some none at all.

Supporting areas of the body seemingly unrelated to our skin can have profound effects, for example hormonal acne – when I explain this to my clients they are intrigued; usually topical prescription gels/antibiotics or superfood powders even, have been tried (I’ve been there!), plus lots of reading around which products for x skin types are ‘best’ whether it be ‘natural’ coconut oil concoctions or chemical preparations i.e. benzol perioxide/salicylic acids.

Certain topicals and medications can absolutely be of benefit for many people and it’s an option to consider, however in my line of work I focus internally first, referring further if necessary to dermatology services which are of course outside my remit. I look at clients’ health from a combination of influential factors which can provide information and a strong picture of where to start.

Here’s a few basic nutrition pointers for helping get your skin back to a happy balance:

Of course it’s a personalised matter as everyone is unique (and the reasons for our skin presenting in certain ways can stem from many different angles), therefore any personal advice and tailored nutrition can be built from a thorough health analysis and consultation with me in clinic.

If these beginning tweaks help you even a little bit, I’d be thrilled!

  1. Phytochemical focus. Veggies and fruits provide a variety of benefits, notably the range of phytochemicals they contain which can help fight free radicals (FR = unstable electrons which can cause inflammation if in excess). Antioxidants/phytochemicals do this by literally ‘donating’ free electrons to help reduce this inflammatory state which can present visibly in our skin. Start giving your body a range of different colours and it’ll thank you for it in more ways than one. Sweet potatoes and butternut squash (beta-carotene containing foods) are good options as our body converts this red/orange colour pigment into Vitamin A  – incredibly important for skin health and immunity. Zinc is another nutrient you may want to pay attention to for your skin; this mineral is a co-factor in many chemical reactions through the body, aiding in wound healing and playing a role in the control of sebum production which can become dysregulated in conditions such as acne. Zinc rich foods include whole grains such as oats and also pumpkin seeds, chickpeas and oysters, along with other shellfish and meats. Additional nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin C, iodine and fibre also have shown positive effects for the skin.

  2. Water. This may be an obvious one, but so many people overlook the importance of hydration and make do with just a couple of glasses daily. 2L is a good bench mark but will differ with activity levels. Water helps keep our cells doing all their complex jobs properly and will help assist detoxification pathways (i.e. allowing for more efficient waste excretion).

  3. Limit highly processed foods and added sugars. An excess of added sugars and highly processed foods are not particularly favoured by the skin, or any bodily system for that matter. High GL foods can contribute to sharp blood sugar elevations, potentially increasing inflammation in the body and the production of certain enzymes which may bind to collagen (a type of protein found in skin) and start to break it down – a process call ‘glycation’. More research is needed before the relationship between certain sugars and skin proteins can be identified however it’s an interesting topic. Fibrous carbohydrate sources and/or combining sugars with some protein and fat can help slow the glucose absorption into the blood.

  4. Incorporate healthy fats into your diet. Your omega 3 intake and balance of omega 6 is important in the maintenance of healthy skin and inflammatory support. SMASH fish, chia/flax seeds and walnuts are great options. Extra virgin olive oil and avocados are also excellent monounsaturated fats to include in your diet with their own antioxidant compounds. Fats are the building blocks for healthy cell membranes, formed in two layers (phospholipid bi-layer) and allow for the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins from many colourful foods (a,d,e,k).

  5. What about dairy? Cutting out entire food groups can often do more damage than good, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies or a skewed relationship with food so always seek advice from a nutrition professional if you think you are intolerant or sensitive to specific foods. There is no concrete evidence for dairy directly causing acne, however there are some correlations, and certain individuals can find dairy to be a trigger for their skin condition. Dairy foods have differing compositions depending which types you choose (for example, hard cheeses have a different nutritional profile to skimmed milk, yoghurts, or butter). There’s plenty of dairy-free alternatives out there but just be mindful that you must find nutrients to replace those which dairy provide.

In terms of skin-care… I will happily write another blog post leading on from this including the types of products I use and my general skin-care routine for anyone who is interested from a beauty perspective. Stay tuned!

L x

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