When your skin is breaking out, it’s somewhat of a reflex to reach for the salicylic acid and detoxifying masks — we do the same thing! While treating the problem topically is one option, chances are it’s not enough to make your skin glow immediately. When no amount of medicated skincare and concealer can bring your blemished complexion back to life, consider loading up on antioxidants and skin-stimulating ingredients that work to heal your breakouts from the inside out. They say, “you are what you eat” and nobody knows more about feeding your skin than Dermatologist Dr. Melissa K. Levin. Here she breaks down all the best (and worst) foods to eat for clear skin.
Avoid high-glycemic foods
High-glycemic foods are foods with a lot of sugar, and surprisingly, it’s not just the foods that curb your sweet tooth. Dr. Levin says, “research shows that [foods with high amounts of sugar] trigger a cascade of endocrine responses that can promote acne. Avoid anything with a glycemic index score 70, including white bread, pretzels, baked potatoes, and junk food.” In case you’re wondering how these foods translate into breakouts, she explains, they “are all rapidly absorbed and lead to higher serum glucose levels, which correspond to elevated levels of insulin. Insulin increases sebum and oil production, stimulates androgen synthesis, increase androgen bioavailability, which all play a role in acne.”
Eat more low-glycemic foods
It’s not enough to cut out foods with high amounts of sugar, you also need to add low-glycemic foods to your diet. Dr. Levin says, “look for foods with glycemic index scores under 55, like vegetables, sweet potatoes, barley, beans, and multigrain bread — these won’t spike your blood sugar as fast.”
“Epidemiological studies have linked fat-free milk with acne,” says Dr. Levin. “Many dairy cows in the US have been treated with bovine growth hormones to increase their milk supply and therefore milk from these cows have a higher level of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor). Milk’s proteins and added hormones would be the likely culprits of breakouts.” She also adds, “try almond milk, a dairy alternative with the added bonus of being low-glycemic.”
Load up on antioxidants
While Dr. Levin admits the studies on these TK aren’t as strong, she says, “research shows that antioxidants, like vitamin C and those in green tea, can ease oxidative stress and therefore breakouts. Inflammatory acne might also be improved by omega-3 supplementation or oily fish.”
If you haven’t already heard about the healing powers of probiotics, Dr. Levin suggests that it can do more than balance gut health. She says, “the gut-brain-skin theory suggests that helping good bacteria bloom, via probiotics or yogurt, may help breakouts.” Additionally, you might consider incorporating zinc and nicotinamide (vitamin B3) into your daily diet. Dr. Levin explains, “these have emerged as an alternative acne treatment for the anti-inflammatory effects however it is less effective than the traditional acne treatment.” She adds zinc “is considered to act directly as an anti-inflammatory, inhibit free fatty acid levels, and suppress sebum production.” The recommended doses for elemental zinc 15–30 milligrams per day in adults.
If topical treatments haven’t proven to be a solution for acne thus far, try incorporating Dr. Levin’s dietary tips into your daily routine. At the end of the day, you can’t expect to see glowing skin if you’re not taking care of yourself from the inside out. So, plan a trip to the grocery store, nix the fast-food runs, and load up on the supplements and you’ll be back and glowing in no time.