foods to avoid for clear skin Source: flickr (Saluda UdeA)

When it comes to avoiding acne, there is no one solution. The causes of breakouts are many, and complicated; striking the right balance between alcohol intake, the food you eat, and the lifestyle you lead.

If it’s too late to avoid a breakout, there are a number of medical treatments you can undergo. Water-based, over-the-counter cover-up creams and cosmetics can solve the occasional clogged pore; however, if the problem is more consistent, making certain dietary changes is an easy way of tackling the underlying causes of breakouts.

Whilst the jury is still out on the link between diet and acne from a medical perspective, there are links between certain foods and the scientific conditions that can induce acne breakouts.

Don’t worry: this isn’t going to be all doom-and-gloom. Chocolate, one of the foods that comes to mind when we think about acne breakouts, isn’t even on this list…

1. Dairy


dairy is bad for skin Source: wikimedia

I won’t sugar-coat it: there’s mounting evidence that dairy should be avoided, especially for adults. On the face of it, the fact that we even drink dairy is ridiculous. Milk is designed to transform small calf into a half-ton adult cattle; whilst it’s important that children develop, there’s no real reason for us to attain our nutrition from another animal’s milk when the mother’s breast milk (or the host of alternatives) does the job just fine… and it what babies are supposed to drink.

Milk contains IGF-1, an insulin-like growth hormone which helps young bodies develop necessary tissues. Increased levels of IGF-1 result in increased skin oil production, and an overproduction of skin oil is a contributor to acne.

The implication is that milk, with its high IGF-1 count, can lead to skin breakouts. What’s more, IGF-1 stimulates the body to produce cells; excess production of skin cells can lead to pores being clogged.

75% of the world’s population lose their lactase enzymes after weaning; this means that the vast majority of human beings are incapable of breaking lactose down. There are so many other (and more effective) ways of attaining the nutrients found in dairy products.

2. Sugar


sugar is bad for skin Source: wikimedia

This will come as bad news to people who have a sweet tooth: milk and sugar (the essential ingredients to the perfect cup of tea) are leading causes of acne breakouts.

Let me explain: research in the past few decades has demonstrated that one of the main factors of acne breakouts are hormones.

Excessive hormonal reactions result in higher-than-normal sebum production and skin cell growth (which in turn results in blocked pores), whilst inflammation damaged the sebum found in pores, creating the ideal environment for P. Acnes bacteria to congregate. Whilst bacteria exacerbates existing inflammation, it doesn’t actually cause it: it’s sebum inflammation that triggers acne.

Our old friend IGF-1, and its acne-related counterpart insulin, are linked to our blood-sugar levels. When you eat carbohydrates, especially sugar, your blood sugar levels increase. This encourages the pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that infuses cells with sugar, and reduces blood sugar levels.

This is important point: elevated insulin levels increases both IGF-1 levels and bioavailability. As we’ve exposed already, high IGF-1 levels result in excess sebum and skin cell production.

If you’re trying to work out how to get clear skin, one of the best things you can do is cut as much sugar from your diet as possible (unfortunately).

3. Peanut butter


peanut butter bad for skin Source: wikimedia

Peanut butter is highly fattening. Two tablespoons translate to 16g of fat, 31% of which is unsaturated.

First things first: a healthy ratio of omega 3 and 6 is needed to avoid inflation (somewhere in the region of 1:1 to 1:4).

That fats in peanut butter are omega-6 fats -- more specifically, the omega-6 arachidonic acid -- which are responsible for triggering inflammation. When one of your pores clogs, there’s a risk that a sebaceous gland might rupture. This rupture is treated by your immune system, in the form of omega-3.

You can see what the problem is here. Any inflammation would be very quickly halted if your body’s omega3-6 ratio was at the ideal level: the wound would be cleaned up very quickly. Peanut butter, being so high in omega-6, can very easily upset the delicate balance between omega3-6.

A single tablespoon equates to 2.25g of omega 6. Balancing the ration properly is impossible with that much of an omega-6 overload, which inevitably leads to a disproportionate ratio… which, as if I needed to say it, leads to breakouts.

4. Coffee


coffe bad for skin Source: pexels

Coffee can do wonders to your energy levels, but it can have an equally strong yet detrimental effect on your skin.

We’re all aware of the rush that comes with coffee. Most of us -- myself, unashamedly included -- depend on it to get us through bleary-eyed mornings and flagging afternoons. It serves to mention the complexity of coffee; there are over 1,000 chemical compounds within it.

One of the things it does is magnify our stress response. The scientific term is that it induces a state of “hyperadrenalism”, making the adrenal glands pump out excessive hormones. If you’ve taken anything away from this article so far, it should be this; hormonal imbalance is one of the leading causes in acne.

5. Cocktails


cocktails Source: wikimedia

Mixed drinks often tend to be rife with sugar. I won’t repeat the perils that exist in an excess of sugar. Margaritas, Mojitos, Caipirinhas, Daiquiris, Old Fashioneds, Whisky Sours… I’m trying to find a way of listing cocktails that aren’t the nice ones, but ultimately the sugar in them contributes to their taste.

Hello inflammation and blood sugar spikes… but these aren’t the only considerations we need to keep in mind.

Alcohol, as most of us know, is a diuretic. Diuretics promote urine production, as well as the excretion of water from the body. Put simply, the more alcohol you drink, the more dehydrated you’re going to become.

Your skin can’t exfoliate properly when it’s dry, and your pores are likely to get clogged, which -- you guessed it -- leads to breakouts.