…Or even many of the top pages on a foods that cause acne Google search. A shocking statement eh. And I fully expect you to have the same amount of scepticism when reading this article with me. I invite it.
What we’re about to do?
Fact; One of the top ranked pages for a Google search of foods that cause acne is an article by WebMD. It’s called “Best and Worst Foods For Acne”.
And it feels uber trustworthy because;
- It’s on the top page of Google – which means it’s a respected authority in Google’s eyes
- It’s by WebMD – who in their own words “work with a team of over 100 doctors and health experts’
Plus the WebMD site looks trustworthy. It’s medical looking. It even says MD in the name – the abbreviation for Doctor of Medicine. These are the letters a hard-working graduate of medical school puts behind their name.
I’m Cheryl Woodman MChem because I’m a ‘Master of Chemistry’. If I’d studied medicine at university – I’d be Cheryl Woodman M.D.
And with that very science degree plus years of skin coaching know-how, I’m about do something utterly shocking. Completely discredit pieces of information ‘100’s of doctors and health experts’ have sign’ed off on for the Best and Worst Foods For Acne WebMD article.
Because you my friend, deserve better. And if you follow pieces of advice WebMD give you, there’s a very strong chance you’ll be making your acne worse. Yikes right.
Are you ready for this? Let’s get to it ‘eh…
Foods That Cause Acne
WebMD start off their Best and Worst Foods For Acne article with a bold claim;
“Food alone doesn’t cause acne — or prevent it.”WebMD
Told you it was bold.
I believe the exact opposite. I also know it from personal experience.
The science support;
Psst; This is just one of many papers which support food can cause acne.
In 2002 a study published in the Archives of Dermatology (ref) showed;
If you live in the western world or have a western lifestyle/diet you have a 95% risk of suffering from acne at some point in your lifetime.
In westernized societies, acne vulgaris is a nearly universal skin disease afflicting 79% to 95% of the adolescent population.”Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(12):1584-1590
This is huge.
The same study also showed – some populations have a near zero risk of acne.
“Not a single papule, pustule, or open comedone was observed in the entire population [of Kitava Islanders].”Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(12):1584-1590
…and that when people who don’t have acne, move to live a westernized lifestyle i.e. eat westernised foods suddenly clear skin turns into acne prone skin.
“…acne was absent in the Inuit population when they were living and eating in their traditional manner, but upon acculturation, acne prevalence became similar to that in Western societies.”Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(12):1584-1590
The human bit;
I’ve experienced that food can cause acne first hand. Yes my friend – I once had acne.
I’ve also seen that food can cause acne in my skin-coachees – and that when they eliminate foods that cause acne – their acne heals.
Disclaimer; this is not ‘the’ fix for everyone, but in my opinion, research and experience – it is the gold mine you should start at.
Sure – you need a good skincare routine.
Sure – you need to be looking after your adrenal health.
But food is ultimately fuel. It’s the building blocks of every cell in your body. It’s ground zero.
Imagine trying to lose weight by hitting up a sweat my body weight in 45 minutes spinning class – 7 times a week. You’re working like crazy in every one of those 45 minutes. You deserve to see results.
You’re having an energy drink before the class, a protein shake after the class, a full roast dinner with potatoes, pigs in blankets and juicy gravy every night to refuel. Plus a coconut smoothie with dollops of almond butter and sprinklings of cocoa for dessert.
You’re racking up a solid 2, 500+ calories per day.
No matter how hard you peddle, it is sensationally unlikely you will lose weight.
Because food is the ground zero of your losing weight equation.
Just like food is the gold mine of your getting rid of acne equation.
Foods that cause acne – what I would say to WebMD; Food is the power horse of acne, published science learnings made in the last decade are proving it.
To you my friend – if right now you’re stuck in a rut with acne, I strongly recommend you make diet your #1 starting block. I know diet change can be completely overwhelming, so I have a starting list of foods which cause acne which you can download here for free.
Psst; In this free cheatsheet you’re also going to find a list of foods you can eat. Huzzah – with this you can get a head start on designing an acne diet which works.
Time to make our way through the WebMD foods that cause acne list. #1 is milk.
Yes my friend – this one is spot on – almost.
“The more milk you drink, the more likely you are to have acne”WebMD
There are a heck load of science reasons for this;
- Foods that cause acne tend to mess up your hormone balance – milk contains hormones
- Milk contains lactose – about 65% of us are intolerant
- There’s proteins in milk which can cause inflammation – psst; acne is a ‘chronic inflammatory skin condition’
What WebMD leave out – it’s not just milk. There are a shockingly large amount of foods which contain dairy or milk by-products and some of these are concentrated. Meaning if you’re eating a spoonful, you might as well be drinking 3 glasses of milk.
Another big yes. I agree. WebMD aren’t doing too badly so far eh.
Sugar is a gigantic culprit and a food to avoid if you have acne.
This is because;
- Sugar changes your hormone balance (!)
- Sugar specifically signals your body to release a hormone which makes skin oilier – leading to clogged pores and acne – it’s also linked to large pore size too
The extra need to know; Natural sugar counts too. In my free list of foods that cause acne you’ll find a starting list of natural sugar high foods you should avoid and a yes list of natural sugar low foods.
3. Oily Foods
“It’s a common myth, but eating greasy foods won’t cause acne or make it worse.”WebMD, quoted 9th Jan 2020
And they’re not alone. In another 1st page of Google search result the Independent in their article – ‘Foods to Avoid During An Acne Breakout According to Dermatologists’ – support this;
Board-certified dermatologist Dr Melanie Palm, if she’s being quoted word for word is telling us – “Greasy or deep-fried foods do not cause acne,”
Although the comma in the quote is making me believe perhaps there was a qualifier in Dr Melanie Palm’s second sentence. A qualifier along the lines of what I’m about to explain.
Oily and fried foods firmly sit inside my foods that cause acne camp.
- Oily, fried foods tend to be cooked with bad oils – oils which are high in omega 6 and have been shown to be inflammatory – remember how acne’s an inflammatory skin condition?
- Fried foods are cooked at extremely high heats – have a think on this for a moment – water boils aka evaporates at 100oC, oils can get up to 300oC before they evaporate. When foods are cooked at high heats all kinds of chemical reactions happen e.g. trans fats are made. The oil can oxidise and ‘go-off’ and ingredients like these can cause inflammation and stress in your body.
Disclaimer; the oily food camp is a little grey – a natural oily food like salmon is not a food that causes acne – naturally oily foods which aren’t fried and are low in other inflammatory fats can actually be helpful for acne.
This is something I explain more in Acne Warrior – including how to find them. It’s not a black and white, yes and no answer. You need to know the detail.
The science support;
It’s known and proven that an excess of omega 6 fats can be inflammatory (ref);
“high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today’s Western diets, promotes the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) (a lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio), exert suppressive effects… Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects,… whereas omega-6 fatty acids do not”Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy 60(9):502-7
This paper published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy in 2006 (ref) is looking into why we have such high disease risk in the western world. The key reason they’re looking at is diet.
A human speak translation of that quote; western diets have high amounts of omega 6 in them, this promotes diseases like heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Whereas lowering omega 6 and increasing omega 3 fatty acids can actually help to suppress disease i.e. stop it from happening or reverse the progression/help to heal a disease.
Psst; Most diseases can be sparked or kicked off by inflammation or be identified as inflammatory. So by looking at one inflammatory disease you can also start to see what might be helpful for another inflammatory disease aka acne.
Double psst; Acne is classified as a skin disease.
What I say to WebMD; It’s not a myth that eating greasy foods can cause acne or make acne worse. In my scientific opinion, for the reasons above greasy and fried foods can have huge potential to worsen and cause acne.
To you my friend; Think of greasy and fried foods as a treat snack only.
The bottom line; On balance the advice you’re finding in WebMD’s worst and best foods for acne blog is not – bad. But it also doesn’t go the whole hog. If you follow just the sneak peak of these pieces of diet advice you’re super likely to walk away thinking – I’m eating healthily and I still have acne. Nothing is working (!)
Plus – if you follow that last rule and think – OMGosh yes – I can eat oily and greasy foods because they definitely DO-NOT cause acne. You’re super likely to feel like your acne diet isn’t working and that instead it’s actually making your acne worse.
When you know the extras – magic knowledge bombs which help you eliminate foods that cause acne from your diet plus packs your diet full of foods that help fight acne – only then will you start an acne diet which works. So make sure to download my free list of foods that cause acne and foods that help fight acne to get started asap.
And please, please, please share this advice to anyone you know who’s also in need of it.
What foods that cause acne have you been told about? Wondering if they’re myth or truth? Come ask me your acne diet questions in the comments below…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.