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Hey guys!

I’m always looking for ways to help you feel more confident in your own skin. Usually, that means chatting about our bodies, why they’re different, and how we can love them for the amazing things they are.

Today though, I want to literally talk about your skin. I mean, acne is something we’ve ALL dealt with and it’s something that can really make us feel insecure. Some of us deal with it all the time, and some of us only occasionally. So I was thinking… diet probably has some influence right? The answer is YES.

Basically, there are a handful of factors that contribute to good, healthy skin: hormones, sebum production (that lovely gunk that clogs your pores), inflammation, and a few others. But here’s the interesting thing – FOOD influences those factors!

I know that everyone’s skin is different and my skin might be more sensitive to some foods than yours, but what are some foods that we can avoid if/when we’re prone to breakouts? Let’s find out!

1. Sugar 

This one didn’t shock me and it probably won’t surprise you either! But yep, eating too much sugar can REALLY do some damage on your skin.

As far as acne goes, eating sugar increases your blood sugar really quickly, which makes your body release a TON of insulin to help your body absorb it. Having more insulin in the blood triggers inflammation and has been linked to worsening acne.

Sugar does more damage than that to your skin though! It actually breaks down collagen and elastin, meaning it’s NOT doing you any favors if you’re trying to avoid wrinkles.

2. Dairy

The research on WHY dairy is linked to acne isn’t super strong, but there is a link there. The reasons here could be increased insulin production leading to inflammation and IGF-1 hormone (like sugar and refined carbs), or something to do with the hormones that cows are treated with that make their way into the milk.

It’s also interesting that while the link between milk/ice cream and acne is pretty strong, the link between acne and other dairy products like cheese/yogurt isn’t so much.

I’m gonna throw whey protein in with dairy too. Yep! This kind of protein powder is linked to acne too. Basically, researchers believe that some of the amino acids in whey protein powder increase a hormone that makes your body produce skin cells more quickly, which causes acne.

3. Refined Carbs

Refined carbs are foods like white bread and pasta, crackers, pastries, and cereals. Like sugar, refined grains have a high glycemic index – that means your blood sugar raises quickly when you eat them and your body has to release more insulin to absorb it. Why? Because they’ve been stripped of fiber, which slows down the absorption of carbs.

So we know that extra insulin can cause inflammation. It can also increase a hormone called IGF-1 that boosts sebum production. Not good for acne!

If you’re into gut health, refined carbs can mess that up, too. Why does that matter for acne? WELL, your gut health has a strong influence on inflammation – a big factor for acne severity.

4. Fast Food

Those cheeseburgers and fries aren’t doing your skin any favors, that’s for sure. Fast food has a TON of fat, plain and simple. And no, it’s not healthy fat. I’ve totally noticed that eating a higher fat meal (ahem, pizza) really does make my skin feel…greasier? But that’s just my experience. More research is needed to figure out exactly WHY fast food is linked to acne, but it could cause more oil/sebum production. Fast food might also mess with acne-causing hormones.

5. Caffeine and Alcohol

Caffeine might not cause your skin problems unless you go overboard. To make your skin look full and hydrated, you need to hydrate! Caffeine does the exact opposite. It acts like a diuretic, actually dehydrating you. No worries if you love your cup of coffee or tea in the morning – just be sure to hydrate with water the rest of the day!

Alcohol is kind of like caffeine – it dehydrates you. When you’re dehydrated, your skin can’t clear toxins as well and it might even produce MORE oil. Dry skin is usually pretty rough and dull too. If you want that full, glowy skin, limit the caffeine and alcohol and drink plenty of water.

What about foods you SHOULD eat for good skin? 

First of all – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Then eat plenty of this stuff

  • Foods with healthy fats – like fatty fish and avocados! These are great for glowy, healthy skin because they fight inflammation.
  • Fruits and veggies – they have nutrients like vitamin A (sweet potatoes, carrots), vitamin C (fruits, bell peppers, broccoli) and other antioxidants that protect your skin from sun damage and support your immune system.
  • Probiotics – from foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, tempeh and miso. This will balance your gut bacteria, which plays a HUGE role in inflammation and your immune system.
  • Green tea – if you’re bored with water, try green tea. It has antioxidants that reduce inflammation and may help with acne.

Take note of what YOUR skin is sensitive to

Are you seeing a trend here? We’re all different!

Your skin might be super sensitive to some of these foods, and totally unaffected by others. Dairy might make my skin totally erupt, and you might eat ice cream every night with totally clear skin. Our bodies process things in different ways. BUT I’m still thinking that diet is the best place to start if you’re struggling with your skin. Start with hydration and pack in the healthy stuff, and pay attention to the foods that might irritate your skin! It’s amazing to see how nutrition changes our body from the inside out.

The Conversation (23)

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  • Annusya Pipi says:

    Aside from caffeine and alcohol and maybe fast food, there’s no reason to minimize any of these essential foods! Of course you shouldn’t eat TONS of sweets but sugar and refined carbs give you quick glucose (essential for your brain and cells!) that’s easy to digest and dairy is full of nourishing animal fat and vitamins <3 Don't abuse your body by avoiding these things, jeez

  • Matt says:

    I lost 20 pounds but it was difficult to fight cravings, one prodoct that helped me was leptoken check this out https://bit.ly/2YfKwx7

  • Salma says:

    These days try to avoid fatty fish specially salomon as it was found to be the reservoir for the covid-19 virus which caused the second wave god protect us all

  • Tanel Troskie says:

    What would you recommend as alternatives for things like refined carbs? Because it is so hard to just cut that out of my daily diet since its one of the easiest things to make? Please any healthy alternatives?

    • Dani says:

      Just switching to whole grain can make the world of difference. Whole grain bread and pasta or brown rice for example, better yet – make your own! I started making my own whole grain bread about 4 months ago and I will never buy a store loaf again. Bread used to bloat me so bad even when I did buy whole grain. Bread should have 3-5 ingredients, yet store brought can have up to 27! That rubbish they put in seriously isn’t good for anyone. And making your own is so quick and easy. I promise you’ll never look back 👌

      • Annusya Pipi says:

        yeah, whole grains are great if you want to destroy your digestive system :s

  • Tanel Troskie says:

    You are really just so inspiring and I’ve been following some of these tips and the difference is incredible. Thank you so much!

  • Jackie says:

    Could you write a blog post or do a video series about food percentage (carbs, protein, fat) in relation to body types? Also, the best way to approach and plan for adding this to your lifestyle? I am at the point in my workout routine where I am stuck and trying to push forward. Started some research but am finding the topic to be a bit overwhelming.

  • Tamika Bright says:

    What protein powder do you recommend?

  • Fiona says:

    Which one is it? No dairy or dairy in yoghurt and kefir? This is so triggering once again Cassey, take some responsibility for your content!

    • Dee says:

      Triggering: “causing someone emotional distress, typically as a result of arousing feelings or memories associated with a particular traumatic experience.”

      Who hurt you, Fiona. How is dairy traumatic lol

    • Dani says:

      Ever heard of dairy free? 🙃

  • lauren says:

    caffeine in moderate amounts really doesn’t dehydrate you to the point some people think… and unless you’re buying decaffeinated, green tea has caffeine and also tannins that can leave your mouth feeling dry. dairy is the first food most dermatologist will tell their patients with acne to cut out. you can eat sugar and other simple carbohydrates in moderate amounts, but you need to pair them with something high in fiber to mitigate the blood glucose spike.

    IGF-1 may cause increased sebum production, but it is responsible for the effects of growth hormone and therefore very important if you are trying to add mass.

  • KJ Pretorius says:

    Awesome article – Loving it! Thanks ♥

  • Jen says:

    I’m currently eating 2 Thai bananas (so sweet!) for magnesium instead of sweets because of your wonderful tip.
    Went for a run this morning and my body needed to refuel, I’m so happy I stumbled upon this today

  • Angie says:

    I just realized that dairy, sugar, and refined carbs make my face break out BUT I LOVE THOSE THINGS 😭😭😭 and yep, I really have a problem about sugars and those kinds of yummy food because of sweet teeth (sweet tooth but like a lot more times attracted to sweets).

  • Marie says:

    Dairy is evil. Even the nutritionist at the hospital didn’t know all the symptoms of dairy intolerance. For example dry cough and coughing out blood – that’s dairy. It makes the membrane in the throat dry, that makes you cough and the coughing causes the dry membrane to rip. Stuffy nose is also dairy’s doing. Puffy cheeks – also dairy. Excessive ear wax – dairy again. And if your hair is falling out and no shampoo or lotion or potion doesn’t seem to work, it might be dairy again. Clear it out of your food for about 2 months and you see masses of baby hair starting to grow. That means leaving anything that has something to do with milk out of your diet – milk chocolate itself, desserts accessorized with milk chocolate, puff pastry made with butter, Indian food containing ghee etc.

  • sigrid says:

    Caffeine actually gives me hormonal acne all over my jaw line (and that is from just one cup a day!). I testet this more than 6 times to be sure, and I see a VERY clear correlation. No coffee = clear skin. Then I think “ah, whatever, bad skin isn’t too bad” start drinking it again and boom, it’s back :P Eating too much dairy gave me acne on my back, but the difference between eating a little and eating nothing is zero. It just goes to show that we all need to find our own triggers! I also agree with you – our bodies are giving symptoms/signs of something that should be looked at, and we should treat cause, not symptom (like stop drinking coffee instead of taking medicines)!

  • Bionaze says:

    Caffeine and alcohol really make your skin unhealthy. It dehydrates your skin. Thanks for this helpful clarification. It’s always better to have a healthy diet.

    • Amélie says:

      It is so true.
      Every time I drink too much alcohol, I’m sure there’s a pimple when I wake up the next morning. Some day when my skin is fragile, only one glass of alcohol make that. But, it is all about balance after all…

  • I think I know why milk and ice cream makes you break out more than other dairy products, and it is because milk and ice cream has more sugar in it than other dairy products such as cheese. And sugar helps you break out.

  • I consume a lot of caffeine daily to keep up with the work. I think that would explain the dry skin problem I have been facing the past month. Thanks a lot for sharing Cassie!

  • Glor says:

    Thank you! For a while, my skin has been acting up, so seeing reasons why is very helpful!

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