Are pimples linked to diet?  The science of natural solutions to acne.

It’s the Easter Sunday tally of chocolate and hot cross buns and it’s time to get science to help me prevent pimples popping-up like bunny rabbits!  In 7 days I will be standing in front of a group of gals talking evidence based health solutions and a visage resembling a pizza is not a confidence booster – it’s emergency strategy time.

Pizza face prevention time

Pizza face prevention time

Don’t believe me that chocolate and hot cross buns can cause acne?  Studies on twins have proven that whilst the tendency to spots can run in families diet has a very large impact on whether or not your face has an outcrop of zits (6).

Twin studies show genetics + environment cause pimples

Twin studies show genetics + environment cause pimples

In fact the conservative Journal of Dermato-endocrinology said “nutrition is one of the most important parameters that is involved in modulating skin health and condition” (3).

The scientific research on the causes of acne:

  • Cows milk including skim milk. Proven by studies on girls before menarche (onset of their period) and in adult women (6).

  • High glycemic foods, that is, foods high in sugar and low in fibre.  High sugar foods alter insulin and hormone production and function causing the skin to produce more oil (6).
  • Type of fat eaten.  Healthy fats in fish, avocados and meat do not promote pimples but unfortunately fats in processed foods may (6).
  • Milk chocolate. The scientific jury is still out on milk chocolate, however, if your chocolate has dairy, sugar and was not made in your kitchen it is more than likely to be pimple promoting (6).
No longer with the fluffy chicken :(

No longer with the fluffy chicken 😦

Well considering afternoon tea was a Darrell Lea Nougat Egg it’s too late for analysis of causes – time to research solutions!

When I was an image obsessed teenager I would have insisted my GP prescribe a course of antibiotics promising like a junkie that this would be my last time.  Fast forward 20 years and my personal history of multiple immune disorders is a warning to all that antibiotic abuse is a short-sighted, short-term solution.

Natural solutions endorsed by science:                                                                            

Vitamins and Minerals: Pimples typically leave a wound that is red, lumpy, and inflamed and nutrients like vitamins A and C, zinc and glucosamine may reduce pimple healing time and improve the appearance of the wound (3).

Low sugar, high fibre:  Not only are high sugar diets linked to acne but a study on male volunteers noticed a greater improvement in total acne lesions while eating a low sugar, high fibre diet (3).

Avoid dairy and processed fats (6).

Scientific theory but little research on vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced by your skin after sun exposure and scientists believe it may play some role in helping with acne.  Whilst this has not been proven there are many other benefits to regular sun exposure so I’ll make sure I top up my Vitamin D with 20 minutes / day this week* (4,5).

Natural antiseptic: If pimples do turn up I will pop a drop of topical antiseptic tea tree oil (an essential oil of the Australian native tree Melaleuca alternifolia) on the bumps.  A single-blind, randomised clinical trial on 124 patients of 5% tea-tree oil compared with 5% benzoyl peroxide lotion found both treatments had a significant effect in reducing the number of inflamed and non-inflamed lesions and improving acne.  Although the onset of action in the case of tea-tree oil was slower it also had fewer side effects (1).

Taking out the Trash! Organs of excretion

Taking out the Trash! Organs of excretion

My own theory with my own research: When dodging the very real possibility of pizza face I make sure my “organs of excretion”, that is, my liver, kidneys, bowels and lungs are working to move out any toxic compounds my body forms from the indulgences of the weekend.  In practical terms this means I add vegetables to every meal to increase fibre and healthful nutrients, drink over 2L (0.5 gallon) of water a day and go for a walk in the fresh air.

If you find that you have acne that is not responsive to these mainly lifestyle measures you might have an underlying condition that requires further investigation and targeted treatment personalised to your body and circumstances.  Evidence based herbal and nutritional strategies provide an effective yet natural way to encourage clear, beautiful skin.

If you would like to explore the reasons behind your spots I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Easter Sunday!

black sonia

Evidence Based Natural Solutions


*Please always be sun safe.  I get my sun exposure before 11am, protect my face from the sun and leave before I turn pink. 20 minutes is based on my complexion which is light mediterranean and the current overcast and rainy conditions of autumn/fall in my part of the world.

1. Bassett, I. B., Pannowitz, D. L., & Barnetson, R. S. (1990). A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne. The Medical Journal of Australia, 153(8), 455-458.

2. Melnik, B. C. (2013). The role of mTORC1 in acne pathogenesis and treatment.  Expert Review of Dermatology, 8(6), 617-622. doi:10.1586/17469872.2013.846514.

3. Piccardi, N., & Manissier, P. (2009). Nutrition and nutritional supplementation: impact on skin health and beauty. Dermato-endocrinology, 1(5), 271-274.

4. Reichrath, J. (2007). Vitamin D and the skin: an ancient friend, revisited. Experimental dermatology, 16(7), 618-625.

5. Schwalfenberg, G. K. (2011). A review of the critical role of vitamin D in the functioning of the immune system and the clinical implications of vitamin D deficiency. Molecular nutrition & food research, 55(1), 96-108.

6. Spencer, E. H., Ferdowsian, H. R., & Barnard, N. D. (2009). Diet and acne: a review of the evidence. International journal of dermatology, 48(4), 339-347.

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