What Causes Acne: Insulin Resistance and Inflammation

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What causes acne. You remember what your derm told you?

Probably something about excessive sebum, blocked pores and bacteria.

That’s the standard textbook explanation. But did you ever stop and wonder why those things happen? Why does your skin make too much sebum? Why do your skin pored get blocked?

Ever asked those questions?

Most acne victims haven’t. Let’s venture under your skin and see if we can answer those questions.

Let’s start with the big picture of what causes acne.

Click for a bigger picture.

What causes acne

As you can see acne is a result of two ‘evils’

  • Blood sugar problems (because of insulin resistance)
  • Chronic, low-intensity inflammation

I dubbed those as ‘Acne Engine’ because they ‘drive’ the pump that pushes hormones into your bloodstream that lead to:

  • Excessive sebum production
  • Increased proliferation of skin cells; meaning faster shedding of old skin cells and growth of new skin cells (it sounds good, but it’s not because it leads to premature aging of the skin)
  • Dead skin cells sticking together instead of separating to individual cells
  • Overgrowth of p. acnes bacteria because of weakened immune system
  • Inflammation of blocked skin pores

Insulin resistance and inflammation goes hand in hand. They create a vicious cycle as they feed each other. Insulin resistance increases inflammation that lead to more insulin resistance and so on (hence the cycle in the what causes acne picture).

If you want to get clear you need to stop this cycle. Fortunately that’s simple. Insulin resistance and inflammation are lifestyle related conditions and respond well to lifestyle adjustments.

First let me show how these buggers lead to acne. They trigger your body to release certain hormones that are linked with acne.

This picture shows the hormonal reactions that cause acne.

Blood sugar swings lead to acne

Click for a bigger picture.

How bloodsugar swings cause acne

I explain this in more detail in how blood sugar swings cause acne page. Here’s the story in a nutshell.

The red line shows what happens to your blood sugar levels when you are insulin resistant (or eat high GI foods). The green line shows a healthier blood sugar response. I explain insulin resistance a bit later.

When your blood sugar levels rise too high the pancreas releases insulin to bring them down. With insulin resistance the insulin doesn’t work so well and the pancreas has to release more insulin to compensate. Eventually the insulin gets through and blood sugar levels crash. Often they go too low.

Low blood sugar levels trigger another emergency response. The adrenalin glands release cortisol and adrenalins that signal the liver to release glycogen (blood sugar). This increases the blood sugar levels. You also get cravings for foods that increase your blood sugar levels.

Insulin levels also affect other hormones. Here we are interested of two: insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and insulin like growth factor binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3). When insulin goes up IGF-1 follows but IGFBP-3 levels go down.

Here’s how those hormones cause acne:

  • Insulin, IGF-1 and adrenalin increase sebum production
  • Insulin and IGF-1 are powerful growth hormones and increase the growth rate of your skin cells (they also make cancer cells grow faster)
  • IGFBP-3 triggers the skin cells to separate when they die

So now we have:

  • More sebum
  • More dead skin cells that have to be pushed through the skin pores
  • Bigger lumps of dead skin cells (instead of individual cells)

Take sticky sebum and a bunch of dead skin cells in big lumps. Insert into narrow skin pores and mix well. Does that sound like a recipe for blocked pores and acne? For a more detailed explanation of how these and other hormones affect the skin, please see Hormonal Acne: Causes and Cures Explained page. Acne-prone skin is far more sensitive to these hormones than normal skin. Luckily you can reduce this sensitivity by applying green tea lotion. Please see the green tea for acne page for more details.

Insulin resistance and acne

Since insulin resistance is a big reason behind your acne let’s see how it happens.

You weren’t born with insulin resistance – just like you weren’t born with acne either. They are conditions that developed over time and are a result of a certain diet and lifestyle.

Here’s how to cause insulin resistance and acne.

I mentioned that this insulin resistance – inflammation cycle feeds itself. Most likely you are at that state. But it wasn’t like that always. Your body doesn’t like these conditions and fights them at every opportunity. It often takes years and decades to reach this point.

This is how you do that:

Eat too much fat; as in typical Western diet Eat too many calories; excess calories are turned into fat which does to the bloodstream and we are back at point one.Inflammation and oxidative stress; toxins, chemicals, bacteria and anything else that creates free radicals

When you eat too much fat that goes into your bloodstream. Fat makes it more difficult for insulin to do its job (i.e. insulin resistance). It also slows down oxygen and nutrient delivery to cells. Strike one.

When you eat more calories than your cells can use at the moment those excess calories are turned into fat (also called triglycerides). That fat goes into your bloodstream and causes insulin resistance. Constantly eating excess calories on their own also lead to insulin resistance. The body doesn’t want to put on excess weight and fights it with insulin resistance. Strike two.

Anything that creates free radicals leads to oxidative stress and insulin resistance. It has now been proven that inflammation is the biggest reason behind diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other diseases related to insulin resistance.

As this study shows:

Type 2 Diabetes: Inflammation, Not Obesity, Cause Of Insulin Resistance

So what causes oxidative stress and inflammation?

  • Chemicals and additives in processed food; basically all foods that come from a factory have chemicals and additives. Only foods in their natural state don’t. Some common examples: fast foods, TV-dinners, packaged and canned foods.
  • Eating foods you are allergic to. Food allergies and acne.
  • Sugars; for example in candy and soda
  • Pollution; air, water
  • Alcohol, caffeine, smoking and other ‘bad habits’

Did any of those as a kid? Perhaps even more than once? That’s strike three.

As you strike out often enough this cycle starts to feed itself. Your cells develop insulin resistance, inflammatory hormones levels go up and your body is full of toxins and chemicals.

That’s insulin resistance and acne.

Let’s look at the other side of the coin: inflammation.

How inflammation causes acne

First I need to say inflammation is a good thing. It starts the healing process and without inflammation you would die quickly. Acute inflammation starts after an injury and fades out quickly as the body heals the injury.

Things turn ugly when you develop chronic inflammation. With our modern diets and lifestyle we keep injuring ourselves all the time. It happens below our pain threshold so we don’t notice it. We do this by eating wrong foods, stress, exposing ourselves to pollution and not sleeping enough. Just to mention few examples. All those create free radicals that cause oxidative stress.

They cause damage at cellular level. Free radicals damage cells and those cells need to be replaced or healed after the damage. Healing means inflammation.

As this happens over and over (for most people after every meal) free radicals ‘attack’ cells all over your body. Which of course means you have inflammation all over the place. Slowly but surely inflammation turns chronic.

Inflammation reduces insulin sensitivity of cells that are near the inflamed area. What happens when you have inflamed cells all over the body? Most cells become insulin resistant.

This also taxes the immune system. Inflammation is an immune system response. When you engage the immune system all the time it has less energy and resources to tackle the bad guys (bacteria and virus). As a result acne-causing bacteria get a chance to take over your skin cells.

As a final insult inflammatory hormone levels are high all the time. This means that when the immune system goes after the bacteria in your skin pores the inflammatory response is too strong. This turns otherwise harmless blackheads and small pimples into nasty, red, painful and pus-filled cysts.

Putting it all together

There; in simple English how insulin resistance and inflammation cause acne.

Now, please listen carefully because this is important. Better hold on to your hat also.

Though the explanation of how insulin resistance and inflammation cause acne is simple there’s no simple solution to the problem. There’s no single reason that causes insulin resistance and inflammation that you could remove and cure your acne.

It’s a bit more complicated.

Controlling blood sugar and inflammation are critical processes. They are among the most vital processes the body has. When they get out of hands you can say hello to some serious health problems (such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, heart attack and cancer).

These processes affect and are affected by almost every other process and function in the body. Because of this you cannot pinpoint a single cause and neither can you find a single solution.

They are lifestyle related conditions; and you can only fix them with diet and lifestyle.

That’s probably not what you wanted to hear. And for many that may be a bitter pill to swallow. But you need to hear that if you want permanently clear skin.

Hopefully you can also hear a message of hope here. Because this puts the power back into your hands. It shows that you are in control of your skin. And you can get clear if you choose to.

I want to finish with the difference between cause and trigger. Because many acne victims confuse these ideas.

Here’s what I call ‘acne equation’.

Acne cause and trigger

It just says that to get acne you need both a cause and a trigger.

Most people think sugar or stress cause acne. They confuse cause and trigger. They see that they get more pimples after eating sugar (or whatever their trigger may be). So they assume that sugar must cause acne.

From this follows that to get clear they have to avoid sugar. While avoiding triggers is a good thing it’s often not enough to permanently cure acne. Because nearly anything can trigger acne. The ones listed in the picture are just few common examples. Avoiding triggers can lead you to an endless hunt. You cut out one food after other and soon you are left with nothing to eat. I wrote an article about dangers of anti-acne diets. It clearly highlights this point.

While they run after triggers many acne victims never realize the real solution to permanently clear skin is to take the cause out of the equation. To do that you have to address all the lifestyle causes, many of which have nothing to do with acne triggers.

Related articles:

Candida and acne.
Candida doesn’t cause acne. Find out why trying to get rid of Candida can prevent you from curing acne. And a simple way to take care of both.

Why Anti Acne Diets Don’t Work?.Thinking diet can cure acne is a dangerous idea. It can lead to frustration, wasted effort and even keep you from getting clear.

Nothing Causes Acne
If you are looking for a specific cause to your acne you can never get clear. Find out the real reason you have acne.

Acne Recipe: How To Ensure Zits And Low Self-Esteem
How to create acne. Finally pimples and low self-esteem are within your reach. just follow these simple, easy and practical tips.

Alcohol and acne
Does alcohol cause acne? Find out if your Saturday night drinking leads to Sunday morning breakouts.

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Comments on What Causes Acne: Insulin Resistance and Inflammation Leave a Comment

Kalin @ 1:21 pm #

The thing is I am eating very healthy diet as is. Lots of fruits and veggies and only some carbs when I have bread with soups and chili and such which is not often. This leads me to believe that it may have something to do with Adrenaline. I only say that because I have night terrors so frequently I will wake up at night in a panic or in a full sprint. If thats the case then it seems that a healthy diet with plenty of exercise wont do it.

On top of that Im a senior in college and stress is a everyday thing as well as the stress of waking up almost every night in the fight or flight response.

Has anyone hear of any adrenalin therapy? I have researched this but its always good to get new ideas/opinions.

Todd @ 4:43 am #

I agree wholehearted that insulin resistance is the root cause of acne. Some have called acne “diabetes of the skin”. If you follow this to its logical conclusion, the key is not just to reduce insulin spikes by avoiding sugar and refined carbs. More important yet is to reduce basal insulin levels for sustained periods of time. Getting basal insulin levels very low works miracles on clearing acne. The best way to do this is called “intermittent fasting”, combined with exercise. First cut out all snacks and eat no more than 3 meals a day. Ideally, cut down to 2 meals a day within a 5-hour window. This can be done gradually over a few weeks, to allow upregulation of fat burning hormones and enzymes. Many people have cured their diabetes this way, and have seen the same benefits in reducing or eliminating acne. Allowing long periods of time with no food (only water, and unsweetened coffee or tea) really works.

Kato @ 1:05 pm #

Thanks for the info Seppo & Todd. I will definitely look into insulin levels. And it dosent help that I have huge pores either, haha.

Tanya @ 3:50 am #

Okay…so, I’ve recently developed an acne problem as I weaned my second child from breastfeeding. I also have an autoimmune thyroid disorder which has caused hormonal problems in the past. I’m a little confused as to what is causing a hormonal imbalance in my body, but I’m pretty sure I have one. I broke out along my chin and right jaw line 3 months ago and symptoms come and go but never fully clear. I do a fairly healthy diet of almost all whole foods/whole grains. In addition, I am a long distance runner who fears the idea of fasting to decrease my insulin levels. I’m sick of dealing with this acne, and I do want to solve the root of this problem…whether it’s a thyroid problem, hormone problem, or insulin problem. Or maybe they’re all related? Does anyone have any suggestions?

kato @ 2:21 pm #

@Seppo:

There is a test out there that has you swipe some saliva at different times of the day then you send it in and they analyze it and make recommendations, Ill try to find out the name of the test. They are fairly expensive and I was lucky enough to have mine done for free from my homeopathic. But the test does look at your health at a micro biological level. So if theres anything going on at a hormonal level the test may pick it up. I had mine done for my acne and sleep walking. Hope that helps.

Food Insurance @ 11:42 pm #

That explains a lot. I didn’t realize insulin resistance could be a culprit of acne.

FaBiO @ 4:46 pm #

Does milk is a trigger for most of people?

Because next week I will start to drink every day because I need for other reason…

Lawrence @ 8:51 pm #

Hi Seppo, about 2 years ago I started getting bad spots, eventually it escelated into acne – After using all sorts of creams suggested by the doctor – I gave up and saw a dermatologist, they put me on a six month course of isotretinoin (accutane) – Apart from the mood swings and short temper, it did wonders for the next year.

Sadly for me, about 6 months after the course finished I started cycling to work….I started getting tiny spots under the skin, they didnt develope any further at the time, but after eating a bit of sugar (sweets) – They got a lot worse, until I had to stop eating sugar entirely. I’ve played with it on and off, eating lots of sugar and seeing the reaction, then fasting on normal food and lots of water (about 5 litres a day) – during the water phase my skins oil decreases to normal levels and all of my spots go away.

Sadly, as of today – It’s apparent that if I eat even one single sweet, like a polo…2 days later I get spots, do you think this correlates to the details of your article?

Thanks

Victoria Adams @ 1:31 am #

Ive been vegetarian for two years and just recently developed severe acne on my forehead. Ive read about nightshade foods – I eat probably 5 times mre tmatoes than I used to. Would you say cutting out nightshades would help?

raphael @ 5:51 am #

Hi, i have a severe acne problem. However, its not on my face. It’s on my back. On my face, its not that bad compared to my back.
i wonder why the concentration of acne is on my back. i was very surprised with this website content and i will definitely take it in consideration this information.
thanks

dan @ 11:46 pm #

hi seppo,

I’ve had cystic acne for the past 7 years, since the age of 23. Nothing has worked, and it’s ruining my life! I’m starting to realize that my derm has no idea what she’s talking about and just wants to push pills on me, so ive been looking into alternative causes.

I planned on going to a food allergist to see if I have any allergies and/or possibly a candida problem. I have two questions for you 1.) Will the allergist or my doctor be able to check if I have an insulin resistance problem, is there even a test for that? 2.) Is there anything else I shoudl have checked out while im there?

Rhiannon Moore @ 9:15 pm #

Hi Seppo,

I have recently gone on to a low carb diet and have been drinking around two liters of water a day. I was curious to know whether my acne is meant to get worse before it’s gets better due to years of toxins being released from my body because of my new diet? Shall I up my water in-take?

Many Thanks,

Rhiannon

Anju @ 6:34 pm #

Hi, I am a pcos pt since last 5 yrs with H/o 2 MISCARRIAGE. was not on METFORMIN.. Of late noticed lot of blacheads under armpits, inner folds`of thighs, on back, with pigmentation on inner thighs + armpits…not to mention severe acne on my face.. im 34 yrs old…

my all hormones normal, but fasting insulin at 17( normal range upto 27) indian readings..

Kindly suggest how to get over this embrassing problem..

fabio @ 7:31 pm #

Hard to say. I think that acne has no cure. You can only control it, by easy or extreme ways.

deepti @ 8:09 am #

i am facing acne problem since 12 years.now i am 23 years
i dont know how to over come .i want a natural treatment for it.
is it true that intake of milk on daily bases tiggers acne.
can you suggest fruits and juices that i should take to overcome acne naturally and effectively.

FaBiO @ 2:08 am #

Here´s a tip , I don´t know if Seppo agree;

- Drink a lot of Water
- Cut sugar (cookies, chocolate, and others)
- Do not eat to much

I´m doing this for a time, my skin is like a Kid skin (but there is still the marks of acne), there is no acne.
But I can´t say that is the cure because appears a llitle pimple, but I can see that it´s not a strong, its small. My skin is MUCH more strong now.

Just a tip. For me it´s working.

FaBiO @ 9:16 pm #

Yes, but I know that´s not the cure.

My acne reduced a lot, but there is still one pimple that grows when the other die. It´s like a cicle, one die other comes.

It´s something that I didn´t fix that is still causing it. And I really have no ideia what is.
I´m 18 years old, maybe it´s the hormones…

lexi @ 6:25 am #

I got acne for the first time at age 5. In fact in my kindergarten picture I have a big pimple right on my chin. My mom fed me mostly an organic vegetarian diet growing up and I exercised and played outside all the time. (no tv, internet, or video games) And I was definitely not a stressed little kid. My acne did get worse when I went through puberty and got so bad around age 19 that I was getting BAD scars. After using every product OTC and prescription my derm put me on accutane. That took care of the the bad cystic acne and 80% of my breakouts but now I am back to about the same amount of zits I have always had since age 5. My diet and stress level is probably worse now than it has ever been but acne is the same as 20 years ago?? What advice would you offer?

lexi @ 6:26 am #

I got acne for the first time at age 5. In fact in my kindergarten picture I have a big pimple right on my chin. My mom fed me mostly an organic vegetarian diet growing up and I exercised and played outside all the time. (no tv, internet, or video games) And I was definitely not a stressed little kid. My acne did get worse when I went through puberty and got so bad around age 19 that I was getting BAD scars. After using every product OTC and prescription my derm put me on accutane. That took care of the the bad cystic acne and 80% of my breakouts but now I am back to about the same amount of zits I have always had since age 5. My diet and stress level is probably worse now than it has ever been but acne is the same as 20 years ago?? What advice would you offer??

peachy_tree @ 3:03 pm #

Hi im 28 years old. my problem is dat i hv oily face n often hv breakouts as well as acnes plus my skin is peeling off in various areas. hv gone to see doctor n was given “Diane 35″ due to unbalance hormone for a few days now. Now problem is, im recommended to hv collagen injection to control my skin problem. so is it wise to go for it? does it hv side effect? wats d pros n cons? more so wat is collagen??? Wad is the difference if it eat collagen or by taking injection or even starting at my age? Please advice me. Thank you.

ongin @ 4:00 am #

@Kalin:

Fruits and veggies *are* carbs. Fruits especially are high in sugar and will spike you blood sugar levels. Many veggies will also spike your blood sugar levels. ie, rice, potatoes, corn. Just because it isn’t processed doesn’t mean it can’t be bad for you.

If you want to actually limit the blood sugar spikes you’ll need to eat fruit and veggies in small quantities with larger quantities of animal products in the same meal. Preferably natural animal products like meat/fish/eggs/etc… Rather than sausage/cheese/yogurt. You also should focus on fruits/veggies that have a balanced fructose:glucose ratio (ie, banana is good, apple is bad) as fructose, though being lower glycemic than other sugars, can play havoc with an already over-taxed liver.

Btw from personal experience. This guy is correct. Blood sugar problems are a leading root cause of acne.

SH @ 1:31 pm #

Hi, I’m 26 years old, and have had acne for almost 12 years now. Close to a year and half ago, my dermatologist put me on Diane 35 as nothing else worked and I had irregular periods. I used it for a year and then discontinued it. However my period did not start back for 5 months and I was told that it usually happens with the pill. My acne also increased and TREMENDOUSLY! I have huge cystic type acne on my face and my back. So my dermatologist put me back on Diane. (Note: I’m in the US now studying and have been in touch with my dermatologist through phone. I have not been able to contact a doc here as they are expensive and I don’t have an insurance that most docs subscribe to.) I’ve been taking Diane again for less than a month. I read about the insulin resistance and it sounds possible, as I definitely have had multiple sugar cravings, I can’t resist chocolates at any point in the day. What kind of diet do you suggest and what else should I do? I also seem to have increased redness (especially when out in the sun) and severe dryness.

christina @ 6:21 pm #

my doctor just prescribed me tretinoin for my acne which, from my understanding, is a form of vitamin A that unclogs pores, increases collagen production and skin cell production. but from what you said in your article increased skin cell production is bad right? I’ve heard so many different things about acne– a lot of which is contradicting. I don’t know who to listen to! I just want to finally fix this problem ive been dealing with since i was 14. I’m going to try what you suggested. no sweets, more excersize and more sleep too. I think one of the biggest things for me is sleep i always break out more when i don’t get enough rest. thanks so much for your article i never knew any of this stuff! Youre right about the skin care industry though they tell people what they want to hear. Sometimes i think they purposefully make ineffective products so you have to just go buy more of it! haha from what i’ve spent on products my skin should be flawless too bad thats not the way things work..

D @ 12:12 am #

@deepti:

@Deepti:

I had a very similar story with acne and finally went the natural route to get rid of it too (it’s mostly gone now, over a year later – hard, but very much worth it). As far as fruits go, any and all kinds of berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc.) are low glycemic (in line with what Seppo seems to say – I stumbled here and haven’t looked at everything he has to say, but what I’ve seen lines up with my own regimen). To reiterate Seppo’s comments though – you don’t want just the juice – you want the whole fruit. The reason for this is that the fiber in the whole fruit mitigates the impact of the sugar on the body (see Robert Lustig’s Sugar: The Bitter Truth on Youtube for a more in-depth discussion on the how’s and why’s – I don’t know if Seppo’s site covers the mechanics of this, but it’s worth the hour and a half with a substantial section on biochemistry). Include any and all fruits you enjoy, but if you can, eat mostly berries for your fruit. If you are worried about not getting enough greens in because you don’t like them (the way I was when I first started) or are just tired of them (now, sometimes), you can blend a fistful or two of greens with some berries (and a banana to smooth out the texture) and you won’t taste the greens.

On milk: it was a problem for my acne (and it’s true for a lot of people too – the study that followed young women for a time was available on the Internet, last I knew), but it might not be for yours. It can’t hurt to investigate further by cutting out milk and derivative products for a time and see how your skin reacts. I personally enjoy lite coconut milk and other nut/seed milks as substitutes, but you can experiment and see what works for you (if you’re curious about the coconut milk thing, look up coconut products – oil, milk – and acne and see what you think – just be sure you’re getting high quality stuff if you want to experiment with it. With my routine, I don’t get very much fat at all, much less saturated – and you need some – so the extra fat from the coconut is not a problem for me, but you would need to see how it worked for you).

Best of luck!

Hammer @ 3:56 pm #

Thank you for your comment Todd,

I tried fasting for 7 complete days (only water nothing else). Besides losing weight, and surprisingly having to sleep much less, my skin remained the same…

:(

How long do you suggest one remains on a low basal insulin level? (although not as extreme as a water-only fast)?

Hammer

Hammer @ 3:56 pm #

Thank you

Bob @ 7:59 am #

I’m not sure if this blog post is dead as far as comments go, but I’ll give it a shot anways! :)

My question isn’t too far fetched or complex. I was simply wondering if there is a flexible, not too specific diet that you could reccomend for someone who wants to follow this brilliant theory. Of course it would be for me! But also many of other people who are probably in the same boat (or close to it) as well.

I don’t want to COMPLETELY cut out carbs from my diet, but I do want to completely eliminate (or close to it hehe) junk food / sugary foods / the majority of foods that lead to these insulin spikes from my diet. And I also dont want to starve myself nutritionally, I want to feel great and full of energry throughout the day. So what you reccomend? If you are willing to write a little diet schedule.. which would be more than amazing and help myself and many other people out tremendously.. it would be helpful if it could look something like this:

Morning:
– 1 bowl of this food
- 2 cup of this food w/ 1 dash of this
- 1 glass of water

Snack:
- 1 this
- 1 glass of water

Lunch:
” ”

Snack:
” ”

Dinner:
” ”

I think you get the point! lol. I dont know if you’ll ever read this Seppo but agian, this would mean the world to me if you could somehow answer my question!

Thanks

Vincent @ 4:25 pm #

I’m 24 years old and I have had a bad history of acne throughout my life. I recently started taking high calorie protein shakes in hopes of gaining weight. During the 1st week, i started to break out more than usual. I was wondering if that was the cause of my break outs. I basically eat whatever i feel like and I drink the protein shakes with milk. Would it be better if i drank the shakes with water instead?

Alison @ 3:14 pm #

Seppo, I was hoping you would answer Tanya’s question (towards the top of this thread) b/c I’ve had similar issues. I think my acne is primarily hormonal. I’ve had two children and I always start breaking out again a few months after my monthly cycle returns following chidbirth. My skin is perfectly clear during the first 6 moths of breastfeeding (when I am not getting my period). I keep wishing that I could take something to level out my hormones or mimic that hormonal state of amenorrhea. We eat a very healthy diet of whole foods at our house, although I admit I do have a sweet tooth and I drink milk. But my diet doesn’t change when I give birth, just my hormones I think. I went to a “holistic dermatologist” a few months ago and he put me on a candida diet along with a lot of supplements. Five weeks of almost no sugar and I saw no improvement, so I went off the diet because I felt it was no way to live. I am very confused about what’s causing this. And frustrated being 34 years old and having to struggle with acne. Any thoughts?

@Tanya:

Hi, Tanya–

With a an autoimmune thyroid condition (I’m guessing Hashimoto’s) you definitely need to avoid any grains in the wheat family, including barley, rye, spelt, kamut, triticale and others. They can trigger an autoimmune attack on the thyroid, and increase and prolong your symptoms while continuing the destruction of your thyroid. If you’d like to know more, here’s a 14-minute video on YouTube, explaining what I do for patients with a thyroid condition.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcdP6BzNGYo

I’ll be happy to send you more info, if you so desire.

kerry clough @ 12:56 am #

I’m 51 and have been breaking out since i was 12. I always seem to breakout around the change of seasons especially going into spring. Last friday i went to friends house and drank 4 to 5 beers and broke out bad the next day. Could it be carb related ? I do eat a healthy diet,fruit in the morning with cereal thats low in sugar and juice. I do eat 2 small bags of peanuts most but not every day. Fruit for lunch or vegy sub at subway. Dinner is salad with olive oil & vinegar, meat, poultry, or fish and a vegy. Pasta is always whole grain. Very little sweets in my diet. I also dont drink pop any more,diet or regular. Dont smoke. Im going to look into insulan res., because diabetes run in my family. Thank You

Joshua Newman @ 12:47 am #

Hi Everyone,

I have a combination of sebaceous cysts, inflammed cysts, pimples, and blackheads on certain areas on my face and neck, all on my back and chest and areas around my stomach and torso. Please someone give me advice to help me rid myself of this curse.

randi @ 9:45 pm #

hi seppo,

this is super interesting and i think what makes the most sense. for the past 6 years i have been vegetarian/vegan and when i first started, is when i started to get acne, before i had very clear skin. i am 24 and i never had too much skin problems in highschool, ironically only after highschool. for the past couple years, i have correlated my acne to candida, and have changed my diet to eat only veggies and eggs. everytime i drink alcohol or eat very sugary foods and drink milk/eat cheese, my face will break out. i can feel the inflammation and sometimes have to take an anti-inflammatory pain killer to help my joints and skin feels better. also, ive noticed in the past year or two that whenever i eat high sugar foods, or alot of food especially with potatoes, corn, etc that my mind feels very foggy, i feel sleepy and sensitive. i know this is blood sugar, but i dont know how this happened and how to manage this! i feel very strongly that this blood sugar issue is what is causing me to breakout, and i attributed it to candida, but i have much more symptoms of this.

sean @ 12:06 pm #

Advice being given is well meant but fundamentally flawed.
Examples are stay away from eating fats as they spike insulin.Fats have ZERO effect on insulin levels and therefore a diet moderately high in them is essential in curing acne.
Also to bundle fats into ONE package is ludicrous,the ones to stay away from are the man made altered trans fats.We are being lied o when it comes to fats especially saturated fats.
To be continued…

P @ 11:35 pm #

Hello,

I just want to tell you that it is not eating fat that causes insulin resistance. In fact eating fat has hardly any impact on insulin secretion – carbohydrates have the most impact, with protein second and fat third. Eating too many high glycemic index CARBOHYDRATES cause insulin resistance.

Also, the more body fat someone carries, the more insulin resistant they are likely to be, but the reason for them carrying alot of fat is likely down to eating to many high GI carbohydrates, therefore the act of eating fat has no measurable effect on insulin resistance.

curedmyacne @ 6:57 pm #

@dan: @dan I had the same problem and have gone to a diet of mean and vegetables (includes olive oil and eggs), which has TOTALLY cured my acne. It is not a fun way to eat, but it is more fun to have clear skin. I have found that high glycemic load foods and coffee cause my acne. I can eat all the protein and fat that I want, and that does not affect me. Try it for a week and see if it works!

curedmyacne @ 6:58 pm #

Should have proof-read my reply … of course I meant “meat and vegetables”

Julia Simmons @ 4:40 am #

I am not sure that I like the simplified approach to acne as eating and lifestyle problems. I was just as active as my siblings when I was younger, I ate the same food…even better..and I have acne…bad. I see women who eat sugar and fat more than me and they do not have acne. There are many skinny and perfect skin people who eat junk. For some reason they seem to view overweight people with acne as people who eat significantly more. I detest this view. Absolutely. It is wrong. There may be certain BODY TYPES that resppond worse to those things…and that may be due to insulin resistance but another article I read said that insulin resistance can be present at birth. I am so sick of people lumping acne’d individuals with people with extra poor habits.

Julia Simmons @ 4:44 am #

@Todd: I have never heard of this. Where can I find details on this?

caroline @ 7:24 pm #

@Todd: I’m very interested in what you say. But I eat pretty healthy. I’m also an ideal weight and have always eaten a lot without gaining. There’s so much conflicting information. I read about Dr. Sears going on a grazing diet to heal himself after cancer. He was promoting many mini-meals.

Joe @ 11:59 pm #

I started having acne sense i was 15. Been dealing with it sense and I’m now 23. The horrible part of it was I decided to embrace it not care and let it grow out of control, because you try and clear it up over and over and it just keeps coming back like a plague. The fact is, if i were to get a cut in my face I more then likely wouldn’t feel it, because I think it destroyed all my nervous system in my face from being dumb and inflaming all the time.

So I decide to combat it one last time been to dermatologist that gave me cover up wash crap when I swear the root of the probably was inside my body not outside. I discovered that if I ingested any substance of (closely narrowed it down too) any chocolate, coke the soft drink :P and greasy foods that has been lathered on to almost all fast foods to make it taste better especially PIZZA & BACON then I break out within 24hrs and also butter but not milk! that’s with my face being clear for 3months straight OK. By clear I mean maybe a few tiny zits but nothing extraordinary when clear as possible.

Image how that set me off. I can eat anything else and not break out, but god forbid I touched those listed. When I do break out I had straight back to water intake like 5 liters a day. By doing this I think I have a small addiction for H2o as well strangely enough. but water works 100% just holds it off temporary for me until i lol accidental eat that stuff again. I mean 1 gram of that well set my face off not 1 pound, just a CRUMB,SIP,LICK dare I Ingest in larger quantity it’s like uncontrollable and painful rash. If you get it on your face and your face is linked to your booty then your booty is going to have them too. :( I discovered this earlier lol

Growing up I assume I had extreme sugar intake, chocolate + tea with sweeteners+ soft drinks + fatty foods (for 10 years) = my payback must have been insulin resistance. So far I have a high metabolism and I’m skinny with on and off acne. xD those main things listed are what Americans eat & drink daily!!! Hard to suppress the urge I know.

Does that sound right?

Scott @ 12:20 am #

Everything you said is probably right. However, your missing 1 thing. What causes this chain reaction. After being tested for Food Allergies, I was able to identify “the Cause”. It was Soybean. The Soybean used in the US is toxic. It is not fermented. Soybean, in moderation, “could be” benificial as studies shown. BUT, try to find food that does not contain Soybean. We have Soybean shoved down our throats. Not only that, Soybean is hidden in ingredience. For example: Natural Flavors, Carmel, Vegetable Oil just to name a few. Soybean has also been linked to Thyroid Disease/Cancer, Kidney Disease/Cancer, Pancreatic Cancer, Diabetes (many Endocrin problems), infertility (in men), Breast Cancer, Ovarian Cancer, and many more. So inclosing, try researching food allergies, especially Soybean.

sharon ellington @ 3:26 am #

@Seppo: I have a severe frutose intolerence,I can eat 1 grape and get a cycle of acne, any fruit causes me problems.

caroline @ 2:18 pm #

@Tanya: Did anyone respond to you? Because it sounds like we’re in a similar place. My skin cleared up beautifully when I got pregnant. My back acne had been terrible, but it swiftly cleared. Three pregnancies, three nursing periods…clear skin. Then I went on the pill for the next four years…clear skin. Then my doctor took me off ’cause I told her I had auras with headaches. Now I have acne, not in my T-zone thankfully, but the sides of my face. I’m trying Pro-active right now. I’ve been told too I might have thyroid problems by an “herbal women.” I’ve considered going gluten-free because that’s what the love vitamin blog girl says, but I don’t get it! I ate lovely dark chocolate and gluten for nine years and had clear skin! It was after I went off estrogen. A doctor friend told me the pill suppressed my testosterone, and now the testosterone is causing acne, but surely my husband has plenty of that hormone and his skin is beautiful. Sigh. I think I will try even harder not to get so full at mealtimes. I’ve always been thin and able to eat all I want…but if eating less will help with blood sugar spikes/acne by all means I want to know.

Pam @ 9:45 pm #

@Todd: Hi Todd, very interesting. Would you be able to offer a bit more detail on how to incorporate the fasting into my program? With the fasting, your blood sugars take a dive, so that makes it impossible to regulate blood sugars. But, I think there is something to the fasting. Would love to hear more.. Thanks.

Sheryl @ 7:46 am #

I am in my late forties and have type 2 diabetes. As a young person I had no skin issues at all, even with my diagnosis of type 2 diabetes at 40 years of age I had few skin issues. Recently my sugar has been creeping up the scales and I have had a change in meds to help control it. I have also noted the increase of acne, especially the cystic boil type since the increase of my sugar levels. This site has helped me understand the correlation of insulin resistance and inflammation and I am certainly going to try some of the suggestions I have read from the posts. I hope to see some improvement with more diet changes and exercise. It also may be time for insulin but I may avoid that with these changes. Thank you for some great information!

Era @ 7:36 am #

This article was very illuminating. this is my problem. Acne only appears on my nose. The rest of the face is clear. recently even cystic acne has started to appear. My diet is also quite low in sugar levels. but i have noticed that stress seems to worsen the situation. Any recommendations to get rid of the acne on my nose?

Linda @ 2:31 am #

My doctor suggested me doxycycline tablets, Clindamycin tablets. She also suggested Retin A micro but I am too scared to use it since its very strong and I have heard that it can peel off your face skin..take 2 months to look better and even that is not permanent. God knows, I have tried every possible natural thing to cure it. I dont drink coke and stuff, no fruit juices or any chocolates. I eat lots of berries and other fruits. Also, I include lots of organic and veggie stuff in my diet. No coffee at all ! I dont smoke or drink. I have no idea why am i getting this acne :( I even do yoga and workout almost every other day. I am an adult in late 20′s . I have a very stupid question though ..can this be because of no sexual activity ? can it cause my hormones to affect my body in bad way ?

Linda @ 3:18 am #

Sorry not Clindamycin tablets, Clindamycin lotion

Alison @ 10:06 am #

Linda, you don’t need to worry about that! I’ve had moderate acne and all the while with regular sexual activity (with my husband). That didn’t help my acne at all. :-)

rspink @ 1:43 pm #

Although I find this article to be informative, I take issue with the stance that you are somehow “responsible” for your acne. I, too, thought that I was somehow responsible for my acne because of my diet and general health. I became a vegan/vegetarian, worked out multiple times per week, quit smoking, cut out alcohol and caffeine and upped my antioxidant levels. And – big surprise – that had little to no effect. And this wasn’t some shot in the dark. I maintained this lifestyle for months. Shocker: it had no effect on my skin whatsoever. And while I agree it’s important to be health conscious, and perhaps making healthier choices may help some in clearing their acne, it is NOT a cure all solution for everyone. It is always better to seek professional intervention in conjunction with living a healthy and active life, eating the right foods and getting enough fluids and rest. However, by asserting that what we put in our mouths, and how that subsequently affects our biochemical and physiological response, is the root cause of our acne is simply false. Some people have imbalances that cannot be resolved by diet alone. Telling people that their bad skin is their fault seems more hurtful than helpful to those of us that have tried, without success, to internally fix their acne.

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