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Top foods to eat to combat rosacea and acne - and what to avoid

A model with clear skin, her hair tied back and wearing a white robe, drinks a bottle of green juice
Certain foods, like fresh fruit and green vegetables, can help improve skin health. (Getty Images)

“You are what you eat” is an adage that people with skin problems know all too well, as studies have long linked diet and skincare. It is common advice from dermatologists that, in order to maintain good skin, people should avoid unhealthy foods that may trigger skin conditions.

Among people with acne and rosacea, a new study has shown that eating habits do indeed impact the severity of these skin conditions. Researchers from LMU University Hospital in Munich and Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami in Florida, found that 81% of acne patients and 71% of rosacea patients who took part in the study reported that diet had an impact on their skin.

Rosacea is a long-term skin condition that mostly affects the face. It appears as a persistent redness on the skin - mostly on the cheeks, forehead, chin and nose - caused by dilated blood vessels, and can also include small bumps and pus-filled spots that are similar to acne.

Acne is a very common skin condition and is identified by the presence of pus-filled spots, blackheads and whiteheads. They mostly appear on the face, but can also affect skin on the neck, back and chest.

The study suggested that developing diets tailored to people with these particular skin conditions could improve their outcomes.

papulopustular rosacea, close-up of the patient's cheek
Rosacea appears as redness on the skin, and sometimes can include bumps and spots. (Getty Images)

Dr Ross Perry, medical director of the Cosmedics skin clinics in the UK, was not involved in the study but tells Yahoo UK that rosacea flare-ups appear to be more closely linked to food triggers compared to acne. However, it is still important for acne patients to follow a healthy lifestyle diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, wholegrains, lean meat, and plenty of water.

“This goes alongside getting plenty of sleep, keeping stress levels to a minimum and avoiding alcohol and cigarettes,” he adds. “Individuals who eat mainly processed foods, foods full of fat and sugar, fizzy drinks, alcohol, etc, none of which are particularly good for our bodies on the inside which will only show outwardly on the skin.”

Foods that promote skin health

Kim Pearson, from leading London cosmetic surgery Karidis, outlines her top five foods that can help “nourish the skin and optimise its health”.

Walnuts

A vegan source of omega-3, a type of fatty acid that can help reduce inflammation, boost hydration and prevent breakouts. Dry skin is often due to a lack of omega-3 in the diet, Pearson says.

Berries

Punnets of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries at a farmer's market
On top of being delicious, berries can be good for improving skin health. (Getty Images)

Rich in antioxidants, berries help to combat free radical damage to slow down premature ageing. Go for berries with rich colours, such as dark red, purple or black as they contain the highest level of antioxidants for optimum skin health.

Tomatoes

These contain lycopene – a powerful antioxidant which has been shown to protect skin from sun damage. Some foods are more beneficial eaten raw, but the lycopene in tomatoes is only released with heat so use more tomatoes in your cooking to reap the benefits.

Lemons

Lemons and other citrus foods are a good source of vitamin C which is essential for collagen production. Lemons also help to break down fat so squeeze liberally over food to aid digestion.

Greens

A view of different types of green leafy vegetables such as kale, cabbage, and spinach
Incorporating more green, leafy vegetables into your diet is good for overall health, as well as skin conditions. (Getty Images)

We’ve all heard the saying, eat your greens, advice we should follow for fabulous skin. Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables are rich in skin-healthy nutrients, especially betacarotene which is a powerful antioxidant that converts to vitamin A, essential for healthy skin cell turnover.

Foods that can trigger flare-ups

Pearson says: "Often the first measure to prevent rosacea flare-ups is addressing the diet. Some of the food and beverages that can trigger a rosacea episode include cheese, chocolate, soy sauce, spicy foods, alcohol and hot drinks so I'd suggest avoiding these.”

Dr Perry agrees and suggests that individuals who suffer from rosacea may benefit from keeping a food diary, which is a “way of underlining those specific food groups, and equally foods that can help reduce a flare-up”.

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