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Oftentimes, both colleagues and patients ask questions surrounding diet and acne.

It is a common question that dermatologists receive from patients. Because of this, dermatologists need to stay up to date on the latest research in regards to diet and acne.

Diet and Acne Myths

Acne is generally thought to be genetic and typically caused by normal male hormone fluctuations in the body. Both men and women have male hormones circulating in their bodies. Food enters the stomach and metabolizes into the bloodstream. Therefore, it cannot directly influence your hormone levels, making it hard to link diet and acne.

For example, eating chocolate or greasy foods cannot make your pores immediately larger. Also, it can not cause a large red acne bump to appear on your face the very next day. Multiple real-life clinical trials over the years have disproved this direct and immediate food affecting acne notion.

Food Flare-Ups

However, many studies examine whether certain food categories can trigger acne flares over time. Not necessarily through a direct cause and effect action, but more indirectly. One idea is that if people drink a lot of milk, the male cow hormones will cause acne to appear. Although it makes sense intuitively, this idea is not yet proven.

Another concept is that people who eat a lot of complex carbohydrates will have more acne. The theory here is that you need insulin to break down complex carbohydrates. Insulin also stimulates male hormones in the body. So, more complex carbs lead to more insulin which leads to more male hormones and then more acne on your face. While it is not confirmed whether diet and acne are linked, there are credible theories out there.

Some research in impoverished areas outside of the United States where complex carbs are the diet staple do indeed seem to corroborate acne being worsened with a complex carb diet.

Researchers over the years have looked into other possible factors influencing acne in the long term. These factors include:

  • Greasy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Dairy
  • Foods with a lot of gluten
  • Too much or too little of certain vitamins etc.

None of the factors mentioned have verified a relationship with acne.

It is not proven whether a gluten-free diet may lessen acne, even in those individuals allergic to gluten.

Dermatologists are continually learning about the complex interplay between our diet and acne.