Diet and Acne: What the Latest Research Says


Over at the Acne Blog, Daniel Kern has posted a few high level posts relating to recent readings he has undertaken on the topic of diet and acne. Daniel has read the latest published research to see what new trends are emerging.

It is encouraging to see that research is continuing in this area. Long gone are the days when my dermatologist told me that diet had absolutely nothing to do with skin and suggested I could eat whatever I wanted in whatever quantities I wanted and I would suffer no change in my skin.

Diet and Acne: Wrapping it up

The last few days I have spent going through all clinical studies/trials regarding acne and Omega-3 fats, iodine, antioxidants, chocolate, calorie intake, fatty/oily food, digestion, and zinc.

Adding to this what I have learned regarding dairy and glycemic load, I’m sorry to say that nothing stands out for me as a smoking gun when it comes to diet and acne.

We simply don’t have enough research yet, and nothing feels super compelling to me at this point. However, at least researchers are looking into how diet may affect acne, so hopefully by the next time I review the literature, the evidence available to the scientific community will start taking shape. In the meantime, based on digesting everything the research community has to offer regarding diet and acne, here is what I am personally going to do as far as diet goes:

Dan goes on to offer some advice about what he will personally be doing as far as his diet is concerned; keep taking fish oil, keep eating wild seafood, a zinc supplement of 30mg a day, be eat generally healthily and not worry too much about iodine or chocolate for fatty foods.

Latest Greatest Research: Glycemic Load and Acne

If you eat a high glycemic diet with foods like white bread, sugary soda, white potatoes, and white rice, you will experience insulin spikes. This we know. What we don’t know (sorry Josh) is whether this sort of diet will directly affect acne.

Scientists hypothesize that a high glycemic diet and its resulting insulin reaction will result in higher levels of hormones (IGF-1 and androgens) which may contribute to clogged pores and increased skin oil production.

When it comes to high glycemic diets in particular, scientists also postulate that eating this way may lower the amount of beneficial proteins (IGFBP-3) and natural retinoids, which help keep skin cell growth in check and pores from becoming clogged.

However, as is becoming customary in my research on diet and acne, we do not have enough research to make any strong correlations.

Sadly, as is the case with much research, good thorough studies that will satisfactorily prove or disprove a link are hard to come by. The holy grail here will be to prove that permanently reducing your glycemic load lead to a permanent reduction in acne symptoms. Now that is something I would like to see.

Of course there are many many health benefits from eating a low glycemic diet, so you really can’t lose by trying this out yourself.

Latest Greatest Research: Dairy and Acne

Hormones: Milk contains hormones such as IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) and androgen (male hormone) precursors.

Iodine: Milk often contains iodine, largely due to farmers dipping the teats of cows in an iodine solution before milking in order to sterilize. At large doses, iodine can cause what are called acneiform eruptions. Acneiform eruptions look similar to run-of-the-mill acne vulgaris but are different in important ways.


What stands out strongly now that I have read all of the evidence is that the design limitations in dairy and acne studies thus far leave us without any concrete answers. After performing a thorough review of existing evidence, authors in the Journal of Clinics in Dermatology agree: “Our conclusion, on the basis of the existing evidence, is that the association between dietary dairy intake and the pathogenesis of acne is slim.”

Although the inflammation associated with acne and that linked to rosacea may not be directly related, I think all this sort of research is important for rosacea sufferers as more is discovered about how what we eat controls so many functions in our body.

Are You Convinced?

Surely there is no argument that a low glycemic diet is good for everyone, good for general health and a good step for your skin. Beyond that, do you believe that there is a causative link between diet and rosacea

How strong would research need to be for you to totally change your diet, if it could be proven that your rosacea is related to what you eat ?

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About the Author: David Pascoe started the Rosacea Support Group in October 1998. .

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3 Reader Comments

  1. Marilena Cherpes says:


    I’m 48 years old. A few months ago I was diagnosed with rosecea. I have mild symptoms. I’m using a steroid cream, but it doesn’t work at all.
    I would like to know which are the best natural cures on the market?



  2. Baptiste says:

    it is surprising that steroid cream doesn’t but you should avoid such a treatment because the steroids actually deteriorate the skin condition and make the rosacea worse

  3. Trudie says:

    I don’t think dairy necessarily effects rosacea, I used to be vegan (veggie plus no dairy) for 5 years (ie no dairy) and it didn’t make one tiny bit of difference to my rosacea, I have now gone back to being vegetarian (having dairy) instead for almost 3 years and still it hasn’t made any difference. The only thing I have noticed is when I went on a veggie high protein/low carb diet, that really was amazing but was far too hard to stick to. So I now just try to limit my carbs (under 100gms) which has a minimal effect, really I need to get back to maybe 30-50gms but it’s hard. One strange thing I don’t seem to find anybody saying is that my rosacea tends to go in 3-4mth (ish) cycles, and just when it has got to it’s best within a few days it will suddenly go to it’s worst and then I spend the next 3 mths trying to get rid of it and it’ll sort of see saw getting slighter better then worse and so on, anybody get this?

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