Once more of a teenage phenomenon, acne is a growing curse among adults, with a 200% rise in over-18s seeking specialist help in recent years.
Out of this group, women are five times more likely than men to be adult acne sufferers.
It is unknown why adult acne has become so much more prevalent, but – as sufferers will know – everyone from well-meaning family members to glowing-faced health bloggers seem to have an opinion on what causes it – and all-too-often it’s diet that comes up as the suspected cause.
Consultant dermatologist Dr. Anjali Mahto, regularly sees patients eating ‘almost nothing’ because they have been told it will improve their skin.
Acne is a distressing condition to live with – and Dr. Mahto, who has personally suffered with acne for 25 years, sees people she works with seriously restricting what they eat in the hope of curing their condition.
“The easiest thing to control is your diet. On a fairly regular basis I see patients eating almost nothing, because they think it will stop their skin flaring up,” she says.
Does your diet cause acne?
In short, no. While you’ve probably been told chocolate will give you spots, the reality is far more complicated.
“Diet will never cause a skin condition. It’s caused by your DNA,” Dr. Mahto explains.
So will eating better have any effect at all? “It does have a small part to play, but only a small one.”
How can changing your diet improve your skin?
First thing’s first: there are no ‘wonder foods’ for your skin. Nor will cutting out whole food groups help, in the vast majority of cases.
Instead, you should focus on having a healthy, balanced diet in order to get all the nutrients you need.
Dr. Mahto says: “Eating well for your skin is eating well for your general health – there’s no point buying the latest supplement.”
“Take a step back, look at your diet as a whole,” adds nutritionist Nichola Ludlam-Raine, speaking on the same panel.
“Make sure you’re getting the right nutrients for your skin: fibre, wholegrains, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E.
“Most importantly, think about what you can add, rather than what you can take away. Think nuts, nuts, beans, avocados and whole grains.”
You could also try eating less sugar, which can have an inflammatory effect for acne-sufferers, according to a study which found those who regularly ate added sugars had a 30% greater risk of developing acne.
“If you’ve got a high GI diet, which is high in quick-releasing sugars like white bread, pasta, sugar, it tends to be correlated with more acne,” explains Nichola.
A small group of people will benefit from giving up dairy, too. “I think for the vast majority of people, dairy does not cause acne. For a small, select group, it may well cause problems,” adds Dr. Mahto.
What else can you do for your skin?
If you develop acne, Dr. Mahto recommends you begins with topical products. Ingredients to look out for include salicylic acid, glycolic acid which reduces pigmentation, niacinamide, benzyl peroxide, tea tree oil.”
If you try these skin products and over-the-counter treatments for a couple of weeks, and they don’t work, or you’re getting scarring, go to your GP for prescription creams and retinoids.
For severe acne, Dr. Mahto also prescribes a course of oral Roaccutane, also known as Isotretinoin.
“A lot of people are scared of Roaccutane, but in the right hands it’s a really effective drug.”
Above all, for those suffering with acne, it’s worth remembering there are always treatments and support available.
Dr. Mahto, drawing of her own experience of acne in an Instagram post last December, reminded her followers that no one should ‘just put up’ with the condition.
“Sometimes it isn’t down to what we are eating or sleepless nights or heavy make-up or anything else we are doing wrong.
“It is just the luck of the DNA draw in terms of our unique combination of hormones and genetics. If you are suffering with your skin there are always solutions.
“They do not come with the guarantee that after a round of treatment your acne will not return, but there is always something that can be done and no one needs to suffer or just put up with it.”
If you are suffering from acne, head to the Acne Support website for support and practical steps to help you deal with your condition.
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