Skin Deep

Refined carbs may be the culprit behind adult acne

Acne affects both how we look and feel about ourselves. Once considered a teenage problem, acne has been increasing in adults —and persisting through the 30s and 40s — for the past few decades. But why?

Pointing fingers at the foods we eat is nothing new, and the myth that chocolate and greasy foods contribute to breakouts has been a hard one to dispel. Dairy has been confirmed as one cause of acne, and another recent study has found that carbohydrates —specifically refined carbohydrates — may be the culprit. Consider these facts, which have been proven by studies performed around the world within the past five years:

▪ Foods with a high glycemic index are a no-no for anyone with diabetes, as they affect levels of glucose and insulin in the blood. These foods have been linked to acne as well, and a low glycemic index diet has been shown to improve the severity of acne.

▪ Those who frequently drink milk and eat ice cream demonstrate higher incidence of breakouts.

▪ One particular study focusing on the Mediterranean diet showed that it might actually prevent acne. This may be due to higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

▪ In a study of the South Beach Diet, subjects reported acne improvement and the ability to wean off acne medications. The South Beach Diet limits “bad” carbs like bread and pasta in favor of “good” carbs like whole grains.

▪ Non-Westernized societies have a low incidence of acne compared with Westernized societies, where dietary glycemic loads are much higher.

While the evidence does suggest that high-glycemic index carbohydrates contribute to acne, it’s important to remember that other factors such as stress and skincare must be taken into account.

But the evidence is overwhelming — your skin is influenced by the foods you put inside your body. That’s just one reason to avoid refined carbohydrates, which also contribute to diabetes and obesity.

Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.