Think you are the only person in the universe dealing with adult acne? Well, you've got company. Clinical acne affects 45% of women ages 21 to 30, 26% of women ages 31 to 40, and 12% of women ages 41 to 50, according to a study by Massachusetts General Hospital.
Why do blemishes continue to linger post-puberty? Stress, hormones, cosmetics, and interestingly, diet have been speculated as potential causes. While the link between food and acne is still controversial--studies linking diet to acne are small and not conclusive--dietary changes may help; they seemed to work for me.
After suffering a severe and persistent bout of acne during college, I began researching alternative treatment methods and stumbled upon several small studies and natural healing books that discussed how changing your diet could help acne. Frustrated and willing to try anything, I adjusted my diet. I cut back on dairy, sugar, and wheat, and ate more raw fruits and vegetables. To my surprise, it really did improve the condition of my skin.
If you have blemishes way past your teenage years, try these diet tips to help calm your complexion.
Eat an avocado: A study in Lipids in Health and Disease suggested that food rich in healthy fats (think omega-3s) could help reduce acne lesions in addition to improving mental outlook. Snack on avocados, raw nuts and seeds, olives and olive oil, and fish, such as wild Alaskan salmon and sardines, to up your intake.
Limit dairy: One hotly debated hypothesis says that dairy can aggravate acne; there are strong opinions on both sides. In the September 2011 issue of Dermatology World, the magazine of the American Academy of Dermatology, William Danby, MD, division of dermatology at Dartmouth Medical School, said, “In patients who have no genetic background for acne, dairy plays no role whatsoever. It will not give them acne. But for those who have a propensity for acne and are susceptible to the effects of dairy, it can make their acne much worse.”
For me, cutting out dairy seemed to play the biggest role in reducing my blemishes, which incidentally do run in my family. Curse you Mom and Dad! Either way, try your own personal two-week trial and see if it makes a difference for you.
Amp up zinc: Zinc is vital for the structure and function of cell membranes. A small Turkish study found that participants with acne were more likely to be zinc-deficient than those without acne. Good sources of zinc are meat, eggs, mushrooms, whole grain products, and oysters.
Pick the right carbs: Refined grains and white flour in breads, pastas, bagels, and muffins can cause a quick spike in blood sugar, which may contribute to acne. On the other side, eating low glycemic index foods could improve your skin. Eat quinoa, brown rice, barley, and sweet potato to satisfy your carb cravings without aggravating your complexion.
Focus on vitamin A: This fat-soluble vitamin is necessary for healthy skin and a study in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology suggests that vitamin A supplementation can improve acne conditions in patients. Fill up on sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, and carrots to reap the benefits.