what I learned about acne

According to someone, acne is a “disorder of the hair follicles and sebaceous glands… sebaceous glands secrete oils to keep the skin moist, but clogged glands (because of buildup in hair follicles) lead to pimples and cysts”. The primary causes of acne are agreed to be

  1. Hormone changes (e.g., from menstrual cycles, pregnancy, birth control pills).
  2. Diet
  3. Certain medicines (e.g., corticosteroids, lithium, or barbiturates).
  4. Genetics

A popular hypothesis argues acne is primarily a disease of modern civilization, and in particular, the modern diet. The prevalence of acne among so-called primitives who eat a non-Western diet is near nilch (see here, here, here, here, and here).


The three major food classes which promote acne seem to be (cf. Melnik, 2015):

  1. Hyperglycemic carbohydrates (e.g., white and whole wheat bread, white rice, cereal, cakes, sweets, potatoes, watermelon, pineapple).
  2. Milk and dairy products.
  3. Saturated fats including trans-fats (e.g., butter, cheese, ice cream, baked goods) and deficient omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) (e.g., need enough of fish, seeds, tofu, eggs).

Other commonly suspected causes/triggers of acne are:

  1. Sugar and processed carbs – these spike insulin levels which induce your inflamed sebaceous glands to produce more sebum which can lead to more clogging.
  2. Soy – affects estrogen and androgen levels which can also inflame sebaceous glands.
  3. Peanuts and peanut butter – contains androgen-like material which can affect hormones.
  4. Alcohol – also raises certain hormone levels. It also dehydrates you, drying out your skin (which induces skin to produce more oil…).
  5. Gluten (e.g., bread, baked goods, beer, crackers) – some people have mild gluten allergies manifesting in inflammation/acne and they don’t know it.

Lifestyle Tips

  1. Use a gentle cleanser (e.g., Cerave Hydrating Cleanser) – heavier cleansers dehydrate skin, can cause irritation, and change the natural pH of your skin.
  2. Moisturize skin often – as said above in the comment about alcohol, you want to avoid dry skin.
  3. Drink more water (e.g., 3 liters a day is a good amount) – ditto.
  4. Sweat more – sweat flushes out your pores, but probably recommended to wash afterwards so residue does not stick to your skin.