Fight acne with food and lifestyle changes

If you’ve fallen prey to pimples, start by making some simple changes to your daily routine

Racha Adib
Racha Adib - Special to Al Arabiya News
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Acne in your adult years can be difficult. Today’s breakouts are no longer a concern you left behind in your teens. The 21st century lifestyles involves stressful days and eating the wrong foods which eventually shows up on your skin. After all, the skin is a reflection of your overall health.

But studies have been conflicting in the past, with a number proving that no link exists between diet and acne. But in more recent years there has been growing evidence to suggest otherwise. Beirut based dermatologist Dr. Haifa Saghir agrees.

“Of course the food you eat reflects on the skin…” she says. The skin is a reflection of your health, and a nutritious diet that keeps your inside healthy will keep your outward appearance looking good.

Infographic: Simple tips to fight acne

Infographic: Simple tips to fight acne
Infographic: Simple tips to fight acne

If you’ve fallen prey to pimples, start by making some simple changes to your daily routine, and you may see your acne improve.

However a certain diet should not be used as a sole treatment for acne but rather as a complement to acne treatments provided by your doctor.

Get your ZZZs

In the modern world, sleep has become more of a luxury. But if you leave yourself sleep deprived, you’ll find yourself more prone to stress, and stress may worsen acne.

According to a study by Stanford University in 2003, college students had more acne flare-ups during exam periods, in which they were more stressed. The study concluded that acne severity correlated highly with increasing stress.

But today, scientists still don’t know how the mechanism works exactly. They do, however, know that the cells responsible for producing sebum - the oily secretions that clog your pores – also have receptors for stress hormones, which gives us a clue on how they may be linked. In any case, make sure you’re getting sufficient sleep every day.

The sweet connection

According to Dr. Saghir, chocolate is especially linked to acne. Recent studies second her opinion. It appears that a diet high in sugar, whether in chocolate or other foods, may be to blame for those zits.

In a 2007 study, researchers explored the possible link. The study included 43 male acne patients. For three months, some ate a diet that included foods with a low glycemic load (a number that estimates how much the food will raise a person’s blood glucose level after eating it), and others ate a carbohydrate-heavy diet without being concerned about their glycemic load. Those who ate the special low glycemic load diet had more improvement in their acne.

Sugary foods make your blood sugar levels soar, and your body responds by secreting a burst of the hormone insulin. Insulin reduces your blood sugar levels, but also seems to elevate sebum production.

It’s always a good idea to aim to keep your blood sugar levels steady. Avoid processed foods and simple carbs like chips, cookies, white bread, pasta, and sugary drinks to avoid the sugar roller coaster.

Say ‘yes’ to sunscreen

You may be reluctant to cover your face with sunscreen during the winter days but according to Dr. Saghir, “sunscreen is a must in all seasons.” Any amount of skin exposure to sun without protection raises your risk of acne. Sun exposure can cause inflammation which as a result can make your acne worse. Over time it may also lead to dark spots, wrinkling, and skin cancer. Remember to apply sunscreen everyday 30 minutes before you leave your house.

Embrace Fruits and Veggies

“We have to eat healthy food to have a nice complexion such as vegetables …fruits” says Dr. Saghir. Such a diet is as essential to your skin health as it is to your overall health. Choose fruits and veggies that are high in vitamin A. Retinoic acid, the active ingredient in prescription creams for the treatment of acne, is actually a derivative of Vitamin A. You can get Vitamin A from cantaloupes, carrots, apricots and sweet potatoes, which can contribute to a clearer complexion.

Cleanse your Face

Did you know that face has more oil-producing glands than any other part of the body? If you top that with a day’s worth of makeup, sweat, and dust, you’re left with a pore-clogging concoction to fill your pores and result in acne – unless of course you wash it off. “We have to use a neutral soap morning and evening and apply creams that regenerate the skin”, recommends Dr. Saghir.

But it’s not enough to cleanse your face. You should also clean anything that comes in contact with your skin. For example, your cell phone can be exposed to thousands of bacteria which spread from your fingers to your cell phone, multiply due to the heat emitted by your phone, and then spread to your face upon contact. To avoid this, sanitize your phone with anti-bacterial wipes daily.

Your pillow case is another culprit and can transport dirt and oil to your face. Choose pillowcases made out of natural fabrics because they breathe better and collect less bacteria. But no matter what material your pillowcases are made off, you have change and clean them often.

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