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Is the Food You Eat Causing You to Breakout?

by Shermaine Chua 27 Oct 2023

Acne is a prevalent skin condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide. A local study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology in 2019 has shown that approximately 41 per cent of adults, particularly women, experience acne during their adult years.

In fact, prior to starting Kew Organics almost 10 years ago, our founder, Lily Kew had also been struggling with acne throughout her adolescence and adulthood. It was only through using Kew Organics skincare and consuming a healthier diet that she was able to achieve the clear and healthy skin that she has today. With skin like that, you wouldn’t have believed that she’s 52! 

While popular beliefs suggest a direct link between certain foods and acne breakouts, the reality is a bit more complex and the process of seeking a solution is an arduous journey that often leads to frustration. 

Having said that, food alone is not the root cause of acne; rather, it can exacerbate the condition in individuals prone to acne, especially those with oily skin, hormonal imbalances or gut health issues. 

What really causes acne?

hormonal acne around the jaw

Acne primarily stems from a combination of factors, with excess sebum production and hormonal imbalances playing significant roles. Sebum, an oily substance produced by the skin's sebaceous glands, is vital for skin health. However, an overproduction of sebum can lead to clogged pores, fostering an ideal environment for acne to form. Hormonal fluctuations, especially during puberty, menstrual cycles or due to certain medical conditions, can trigger excess sebum production. Aside from that, consuming certain foods can cause a spike in the hormone, estrogen, while a diet high in sugar affects the inflammatory processes in the body which can manifest as acne.

Foods that could be causing your breakouts

Refined grains and sugars

white rice refined carbohydrate

Foods like sugary snacks, sugar-sweetened beverages, white bread, white rice and cereals have a high glycemic index which can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. This triggers a surge in insulin which can lead to increased sebum production and acne. Although, that’s not to say that you should completely cut off rice or your favourite bubble tea from your diet altogether; everything in moderation!

Better alternatives are whole grain bread, brown rice, beans and edamame. 

Dairy

skim milk as a trigger for acne flare ups

Skim milk, in particular, has been associated with acne-flare ups. Touted as the “healthier choice” for milk, you wouldn’t have thought that this high-protein, fat-free option would be an acne trigger, but it’s precisely due to the fat-reducing process involved in creating skim milk that enhances the insulin and Insulin-like Growth Factor 1-promoting elements of milk. The higher insulin levels, together with hormones present in the milk influences the skin's oil production and causes inflammation, contributing to acne. 

Better alternatives include oat milk and milk made from nuts like macadamia and almond. 

Fast food

fast food as a trigger for acne flare ups

A diet packed with calories, fat and refined carbohydrates is linked to a high prevalence of acne. Several studies in different parts of the world affirm a link between acne and fast food, likely due to its effect on gene expression and hormone levels.

Better alternatives include lean protein like fish, fresh fruits and vegetables and baked sweet potato fries.

 

Understanding the intricacies of acne and its potential dietary triggers can empower you to make informed choices. While food may not be the sole culprit, a mindful diet can undoubtedly contribute to managing and improving skin health. Keeping your skin hydrated throughout the day with our Deluxe Hydra Mist and spot treating acne with the Alfalfa & Fig Spot Solution Serum are a few topical solutions that can help manage breakouts whereas our Clear Skin Hydra Deluxe Treatment can help to unclog pores. However, it's important to note that all of these efforts rely on a clean canvas so double cleansing with our Absolutely Youthful Hydra Cleanser followed by our Mandarin Acai Cleansing Lotion is crucial!

That said, as with any health concerns, consulting a professional for personalized advice is always recommended. Feel free to reach out to one of our skilled clean beauty gurus at 8809 0065 for a detailed skin analysis, on us!


References:

Acne (2023) National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/acne (Accessed: 09 October 2023). 

Lim, L. (2023) Breaking out: Adult acne is more common than you think, The Straits Times. Available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/life/style/breaking-out-adult-acne-is-more-common-than-you-think (Accessed: 09 October 2023). 

Marks, V. (1985) ‘How our food affects our hormones’, Clinical Biochemistry, 18(3), pp. 149–153. doi:10.1016/s0009-9120(85)80099-0.

Wei, B. et al. (2010) ‘The epidemiology of adolescent acne in North East China’, Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 24(8), pp. 953–957. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3083.2010.03590.x. 

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