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“Beauty comes from within” - unfortunately, so do breakouts. No matter what kind of diet you’re on, and no matter how long you’ve been on it - as soon as you get off track - breakouts seem to show up - and usually at the worst time.
That’s what happened to me.
I lived with hormonal acne for almost 16 years and when I finally delved deep into studying acne, I realized how much influence food has on our hormones.
Perhaps you have heard the term hormonal acne. Basically, when certain foods are consumed they send signals to our glands to create hormones. If there is an excess of hormones produced, these hormones signal to the oil glands in your skin to turn on creating sebum and guess what, bacteria known for causing acne loves this sebum and this leads to the painful cycle of breakouts.
Previous to that, I had stumbled across many articles saying not to eat this or that… I believe you’re in a very similar place.
And even though these articles are true - they are only one part of breakouts.
Personally, I am a total foodie and love to enjoy delicious cuisine, so imagine the scenario I found myself in. It was my niece's wedding. Excitedly, we made the trip to Europe as her wedding was in Italy.
Now imagine Italy for a second. What are your first thoughts?
Rome, Leaning Tower of Pisa, cheesy pizza, cappuccinos, crispy bruschetta, creamy pasta, tiramisu, and the best gelato you have ever had…
Now I tend to follow a clean diet at home while still enjoying my favorites from time to time. However, I don’t know about you, but I am not going to be on any type of eating plan while visiting Europe, let alone Italy.
My skin and diet were on point for over six months at this time because hey, I was the maid of honor in the wedding party. So imagine the daily cappuccinos, the delicious pasta, and that mixed with me being sloppy with my routine and guess what happened? I was eating this type of food for almost 2 weeks and started to see a few breakouts on my jawline!
And that’s not to tell you I’m not eating these things while I’m at home - I’m a big foodie, hence I would never want to get rid of these products from my diet completely.
In this article, I’m going to cover the top 4 foods that have an effect on hormonal acne.
Let’s go back to Italy for a second. Most of the dishes we were having there included some form of dairy.
Pasta with a creamy sauce, pizza with cheese and tons of gelato. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when I saw those breakouts appear.
Why can dairy be so problematic?
Dairy includes things like milk (duh), cheese, butter, and yogurt. You probably have all or at least a few of them in your fridge.
But before you throw them away, let’s go into some facts.
Why is dairy so bad for your hormonal acne?
Well, to begin with, cow’s milk increases our insulin-growth factor IGF-1, which plays an important role in tissue growth and development. What it means in human language - our body increases the production of the cells, and when that happens, our body starts producing more oil on the skin, which blocks our pores and can cause breakouts or acne. This includes organic versions as this hormone is naturally occurring and important for the mother cow to give this hormone to the baby cow to help develop its growth.
The second problem with milk is - the hormones that the cows are fed. Due to the demand for milk, farmers have to be producing it quicker and quicker, meaning they have to stimulate the production of milk artificially. How do they do that? By injecting hormones. When we consume dairy products to our bodies - our endocrine system can produce those hormones that like to trigger those oil glands.
But what is even worse than milk? Skimmed milk.
Not only does it have artificial sugar added to it, but it also uses whey protein to get the creamy feel of it, which can cause inflammation in our body and therefore acne.
And inflammation is related to many of the health problems we’re experiencing.
Ok, I might have scared you here and you’re asking yourself: Should I stop consuming dairy or what should I consume instead?
I personally am a lover of cheese and cream. I do use heavy cream in my coffee and butter almost daily as I find this does not affect my skin like traditional milk does because it does not contain the same amount of protein or lactose.
While I do not avoid dairy 100%, I do keep it in moderation. I feel it is super important to test to see how it affects your skin. Remove it for 30 days and see if you notice a difference in the quality of your skin and breakouts.
If you find you are sensitive to dairy, here are a few substitutes to try. I almost never use milk anymore and enjoy nut alternatives.
Milk - can be substituted for coconut milk, hazelnut milk, almond milk (my favorite), hemp milk, cashew milk.
Butter - (if you’re still sensitive to even this) - can be substituted for olive oil and coconut oil.
Cheese - this one is much more difficult to substitute, however, I substitute it with cashew cheese, pesto or zucchini spread.
Ice Cream - instead of regular ice cream, try the ones made with coconut cream (this is delicious), almond or cashew milk. If you want to do it at home, you can find recipes online on how to make ice cream out of bananas, peanut butter & dark chocolate (highly recommended).
Refined carbs can be separated into two groups:
Sugar and refined grains.
These refined carbohydrates have been once rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, however, they’ve been stripped from all of their good properties and now are what we can call “empty calories”.
They’re also high in glycemic index, which means that once consumed, they cause a rapid spike in glucose in our bodies, which causes insulin growth factor IGF-1 to increase, hence increase the cell production (mentioned above), which makes our skin more oily and creates a perfect environment for bacteria to grow.
Here are the foods that can cause hormonal acne and are high in the glycemic index: white bread, pastries, snacks, pasta, breakfast cereals, white rice, white potatoes, salad dressings, and even some soups.
Here are some foods that are friendlier for hormonal acne:
Whole grain bread
Brown or wild rice
Legumes (chickpeas, kidney beans)
Whole-grain foods such as oats or barley
Fruits like apples, oranges or bananas (test this because some have even commented fruit affect their breakouts)
After every dinner in Italy, we used to have their wonderful gelato… Can you guess what it contains?
Oh, this one is a difficult one to take… As we all love our sweets! To be honest… It’s too hard to resist them…
However, sugar is one of the foods to avoid for hormonal acne. But why is it bad for us? Well, it makes our insulin levels spike (see the pattern?), which once again triggers cell growth and excessive oil production on the skin.
But there is a bigger reason for that…
Our food industry has evolved much quicker than our bodies can adapt. Once you enter the supermarket, you can see products full of artificial sweeteners that our bodies simply cannot digest and use as energy.
And our body is a very intelligent organism. When it’s not able to digest it and use it as an energy source - it eliminates everything through sweat and urine. Hence, excessive sweating follows, which causes inflammation on our skin, which causes clogged pores.
Here are some foods you should avoid: ice cream, bread, candy, soft drinks (Coke, etc.), flavored yogurts.
“But Cami, I’m addicted to sugar, I cannot survive one day without sugar…” I hear you say.
Well… I have to admit. It’s a struggle I’m going through on a daily basis myself, but here is the best piece of advice I can give you that has helped me to fight off hormonal acne:
3.1. Get rid of all of the sugars from my home makes it hard to have access to them when you crave them the most.
3.2. Because cravings can last for a long time - have a dark chocolate bar at home (85% and higher). Dark chocolate can act as an anti-inflammatory tool, and increase your blood circulation, which will deliver more oxygen to your skin and makes it glowing.
However, there are some recent studies showing that dark chocolate could be causing acne too, so my best advice is - keep testing with your own body. I personally don’t have issues when consuming this.
3.3. Whenever I craved for soft drinks - I would have sparkling flavored water or lemon water. I personally do not drink soft drinks at all. Something to note is that many alcoholic beverages contain a lot of sugar.
3.4. If I was ever craving candy - I would substitute it for fruits or unsalted nuts or a piece of dark chocolate.
If you’re a cocktail lover - I have bad news for you. Drinks like mojitos, margaritas and other cocktails are full of sugar too…
The safest choice for you is - to exchange all of the cocktails to red wine, which is the most skin-friendly alcohol drink out there. If I am out and want to have a cocktail I look for cleaner alternatives, margaritas made from agave over simple syrup. Natural fruit juices over those with added sugar. Little tweaks like this have helped me keep my skin clear no matter the circumstances.
Ok, this one's a doozy for my skin personally. This is not technically a food group but something I wanted to address.
Fast foods are loaded with weird fillers, cheap oils, sugar, etc that are highly inflammatory and can lead to that chain reaction to a breakout.
Another scenario I had found myself in was moving across the country. If you have done any type of moving in your lifetime, you know diet is the last thing on your mind and always thrown out the window.
Up to two weeks before we moved we were buying things like pizza, subs, Taco Bell, you name the fast food - we had it. Now driving across country was even worse. Not only are there no healthy options but you find yourself in areas where there is very little fast food choice on top of it. So about a month and a half of bad eating from fast food and chain restaurants and my skin couldn’t take it anymore. I developed some pretty large breakouts on my chin which took a couple of weeks to go away once my diet started to normalize again.
There are so many foods to avoid for hormonal acne… What should I do?
Experimenting with my own diet opened my eyes and made me realize what an important aspect of a healthy diet is to heal hormonal acne…
Testing these aspects of diet led me to see what foods affect my skin and which ones do not.
Something I thoroughly tested though was removing all of these triggers from my diet as I was told if I just got rid of these foods, my skin would clear up.
For over two years I kept a strict diet. I removed all dairy, sugar, and refined carbs. My diet consisted of lean meats, vegetables, lentils, and nuts. My cupboard looked like an aisle at Whole Foods. Naturally, you would think that my skin would clear up as many want to run around and preach to those of us who have acne that we just need to clean up our diet.
I had tested pretty heavy at this point how extended periods of bad eating affected my skin and there was no doubt about it, these foods had done me in, so naturally, I assumed my just removing them from my diet would do it for me and I would finally be free with clear skin.
Wrong. You’re probably like “You’re kidding me. You told us all this food affects our skin yet when they are removed, I still have to deal with these crappy breakouts?”
Yes and no. See food is one facet to seeing clear skin. Food affects how much inflammation is below the surface of our skin and how much those hormones are triggered.
However, it wasn’t until I combined my healthy eating habits with an effective skincare routine that I saw the wow results. The skin I was hunting down for years. The silky smooth complexion that I never thought possible.
Why? It has a lot to do with how breakouts work. See the hormones triggering oil glands are only one facet of a breakout. There are a few things you need to understand about your skin and the connection to acne.
Breakouts comprise of sebum (that naturally produced oil that turned on - thank you hormones!), acne-causing bacteria, and dead skin. When this acne bacteria spreads in sebum, the mixture becomes sticky and then clings to dead skin. This then inflames your tiny pore and bam we have a breakout.
So while I limited the foods that trigger this inflammation, my skin still looked like sandpaper. Upon digging, I found that the skin needs certain nutrients as well to help you see the best skin possible.
So my testing with skincare began again, this time I ditched the traditional acne cleansers and started experimenting. I knew that the skin needed a few things that traditional acne products never gave me. It needed good nutrition to boost good bacteria and start healing this inflammation, it needed a punch to help eliminate the bad bacteria, and gently exfoliate, all while balancing the sebum that likes to turn on from when our diet is not on point.
So began the introduction of our signature Averr Aglow routine.
After combing my skincare routine with my lifestyle changes, I started seeing stellar results! Now I am an advocate for living your best life and taking care of yourself so I encourage you to test and see what works for you and how the above foods trigger your skin.
For me personally, I found that I eat anywhere from 60-80% clean. Generally, I will eat clean during the week and leave my less than clean favorites for the weekend. This combination of skincare and diet has been a winning combo for me and my skin has never returned to the state of constant breakouts that I saw before.
Check out our Clear Skin Kit if you are looking for something to not only clear up your breakouts but also help you see hydrated, glowing skin. Designed to treat breakouts from deep below the surface, our unique Clear Skin Kit works with your skin, not against it.
I packed our Clear Skin Kit with ingredients that do just that. It is packed with skin-boosting goodness straight from nature. No longer do you have to worry about harmful chemicals, your health, or wasting your hard-earned dollars.