Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States. It afflicts up to 50 million Americans each year, including approximately 85 percent of the teen population, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The unsightly pimples, nodules, cysts and scars that may accompany an acne breakout usually don’t qualify as a serious health issue, but they can cause significant emotional and psychological distress. Many myths surround acne, including the idea that some foods can cause it.
Acne is a disorder of the pilosebaceous units (PSU), according to the FDA. PSUs house the sebaceous glands that produce skin oil called sebum that is essential in keeping the skin moisturized. These glands are located just under the skin and are located all over the body, but they are most prevalent on the face, chest, upper back and shoulders. Inflamed oil glands, combined with Propionibacterium acnes bacteria, clogged pores and excess sebum, are thought to result in acne breakouts.
Some old wives’ tales blame the consumption of greasy fried foods like fried chicken or french fries for acne breakouts. Other myths tag chocolate, dairy products, potato chips and pizza as the culprits. Research as of 2010 does not provide any evidence of a link between any food or food group and acne, according to the AAD.
There is some speculation among researchers that the typical Western diet which is high in refined carbohydrates may contribute to acne, according to the AAD. Small studies have been conducted using diets that consisted primarily of vegetables, fresh fruits and lean proteins. Results of these studies suggest a link between diet and acne may exist, but such a link has not been established as of 2010.
Acne is not caused by eating any particular type of food, but the AAD notes that some people report that their acne breakouts worsen after eating certain foods. Pay attention to what you eat. If a particular food appears to make your acne worse, you should avoid it. While eating greasy fried foods won’t cause acne, the act of eating foods like fried chicken may get some of the cooking oil on your face, which may aggravate existing breakouts.
Most acne cases can be treated, but the process typically takes at least four to eight weeks before results can be seen. Mild cases of acne usually respond well to over-the-counter topical medications containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Moderate to severe cases usually require the intervention of a medical professional and may include treatment with prescription topical or oral medications. There is no scientific evidence that changing your diet will help.