Dietary Triggers That May Cause Acne

Dermatologists say high-glycemic foods and dairy products could contribute to break outs.

Milk and breadStaples like milk and bread may cause acne. Photo via Shutterstock

The conventional wisdom on acne prevention is constantly changing. Pick up any health magazine and it seems every month there is a new story on what to do and how to prevent it. What’s in for your skin one month is out the next, and many clear skin strategies are based more on old wives tales than actual science. But new research from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests that cutting out dairy products and foods with a high-glycemic index could offer acne sufferers actual relief.

A new report from the AAD explains that high-glycemic foods like white bread, chips, and white potatoes spike blood sugar levels far faster than low-glycemic foods like whole grains, nuts, and vegetables. The release cites several studies in which subjects who followed a low-glycemic load (LGL) diet saw skin improvements. One study focused on the patients with polycystic ovary syndrome, for which acne is a common side effect, and data that shows a low carbohydrate diet stabilized the individual’s hormone levels and soothed break outs. The report also mentions a web-based study in which 86.7 percent of the 2,528 respondents reported having less acne while on an LGL diet. Of course, the nature of the survey leaves room for error, but the study is a reason for “cautious optimism” according to the AAD. Dr. Whitney Bowe, an AAD representative says in the report:

“These studies show that low-glycemic diets may improve acne. The consumption of high-glycemic index foods appears to trigger a cascade of responses, which can lead to acne through effects on growth hormones and sex hormones.”

Also mentioned in the report is the possible link between dairy and acne, referring to several studies that found connections between dairy consumption—particularly skim milk—and poor skin condition, likely due to hormones and growth factors in milk. Though the correlation is something to be aware of, the report calls the link between dairy and acne “weak” and notes that the research on the subject is not concrete, and that each of the studies done on dairy’s effects on skin have had flaws.