Diet, exercise, stress and more can have an impact on acne—and your efforts to achieve clear skin.
Proof that lifestyle can have an impact on acne
There’s no debating that acne treatment products are essential for achieving and maintaining clear skin, but skincare is only part of the equation. In addition to using effective, dermatologist recommended acne-targeting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulfur, every day activities like eating, exercising and even how you handle stress can improve acne breakouts—or make them worse. Here, a few scientifically proven ways that your lifestyle can impact your complexion.
Cut the carbs for clear skin
Pasta, bread, rice, sweets, soda, juice and anything sugary have a high glycemic index, which means they cause blood glucose (sugar) to spike as they are digested. This rise in blood sugar prompts the production of hormones that stimulate oil production, which can increase the development of acne. In this study, researchers found that subjects who ate a low-glycemic diet (think lean protein, vegetables and healthy fats) had significantly less acne breakouts. It’s definitely OK to indulge your sweet tooth once in a while, but you may want to think twice when you’re in the mood for snack.
Moo-ve over dairy
Dairy products like milk and cheese are high in protein, calcium and other beneficial nutrients, but they may be contributing to your acne. Dermatologists have mixed views about the connection between the two, but a handful of studies have identified links to breakouts. In one, teenagers who drank more skim milk had more acne breakouts, and another found that whey protein (a main component of milk) has an impact on the hormones, oil production, clogged pores and inflammation associated with blemishes. Other small-scale studies have established a relationship between dairy and acne, however most doctors agree more research is necessary. In the meantime, it couldn’t hurt to cut back a little, right?
Get your ZZZ’s
Everyone’s bodies need a chance to recharge, and that’s why sleep is so important. Too little sleep causes a host of problems—and acne may be one of them. When they body doesn’t get the quality rest it needs, it produces a hormone called cortisol, which has been associated with obesity, decreased immune system function, depression and more. Cortisol also ramps up your skin’s oil production, and excess oil increases the likelihood of acne breakouts.
Try to stress less
Maybe you’ve noticed that you break out before a big test, when you’re having problems you’re your family or friends, or just when you have a lot going on. Stress is another factor that increases cortisol levels, which in turn causes the skin to produce more oil that can lead to more acne. Knowing this, it makes sense that reducing stress (when possible) can help minimize breakouts—and there are a number of ways to chill out. Studies have shown the stress-reducing effects of meditation and exercise, but any activity that helps you relax can potentially reduce breakouts, and that would make you feel less stressed, right?
Up your intake of omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids are “good fats” found in foods like salmon, chia seeds, walnuts and more—and they are available in supplement form as well. If you’re on a quest for clear skin, adding omega-3s to your diet may help. This 2014 study found that participants with mild to moderate acne experienced a significant decrease in inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne (i.e. blackheads, whiteheads and other breakouts) after 10 weeks.
Pop a probiotic
We all know “bad” bacteria contribute to breakouts, but did you know that “good” bacteria may keep P. acnes in check? According to this 2015 research, probiotics have been shown to reduce P. acnes bacteria, but they provide additional benefits that can have a beneficial effect on acne. Probiotics also promote the skin’s production of ceramides, which are an important part of the skin barrier. Increased ceramides help the skin hold onto moisture, which can help minimize dryness and other side effects of acne treatment products. Even more, probiotics have been shown to reduce inflammation, which is another main component of the acne cycle.
Consider silver-infused fabrics
Silver has been used to promote wound healing for centuries, but recent research has proven that this metal has anti-bacterial properties. So, what if you wore a silver-infused shirt to ward off body acne or used a pillowcase with silver threads to further minimize the bacteria that could come in contact with your skin—and enhance the results achieved with acne treatment products? You can also find washcloths, towels, sheets, underwear, workout clothes and more with a quick Google search.