Ask An Expert: What Should You Eat If You Have Acne?

With Georga Holt

If you're dealing with frequent breakouts or acne, chances are you’ve tried several different topical solutions and treatments to get on top of it.

And while it’s universally frustrating, according to Melbourne naturopath, Georga Holt, identifying what triggers your acne should be your first priority when it comes to clearing up your skin.

“Acne can be driven by many factors, whether it be excessive sebum production due to hormones or digestive issues. The causative factors are endless which can be quite exhausting when you’re trying to figure out your why.”

We sat down with Georga to discuss some of the main factors that can contribute to acne and what you can do about it.

What are some of the main triggers of acne?

“Acne is multifaceted and it can be caused by a multitude of things, so for a person suffering from breakouts, it can be quite confusing. In clinic, the main ‘triggers’ I see are poor gut health, hormonal imbalances, food intolerances, diets high in processed foods/sugar, low water/fibre intake and stress.”

When it comes to dealing with acne, what should your first step be?

“Your first step should be to identify your triggers, which is easier said than done. I get my patients to start a diary and track when their acne breakouts happen, when it gets worse and when it gets better. That generally helps to differentiate between hormonal, food, gut or stress-related triggers.” 

What are some key nutrients and vitamins you should be dosing up on?

Zinc 

“Zinc is important in maintaining skin integrity and deficiency has been associated with acne. Zinc helps reduce sebum production in the skin by inhibiting the enzyme that over promotes oil production. Therefore less clogged pores generally equals less acne formation.”

Good sources include: oysters, cooked lentils, cashew nuts, hemp seeds and eggs.

Vitamin A 

“Vitamin A is responsible for maintaining the health of our skin, reducing inflammation and also helps support our immune system, which is beneficial for the bacterial aspect of acne.” 

Good sources include: salmon, sweet potato, kale and lean meats.

Vitamin C 

“Vitamin C is a precursor for our natural collagen production which can help with skin repair and regeneration. Additionally, Vitamin C also plays a role in our immune system and reducing inflammation.” 

Good sources include: citrus fruits, berries, kiwifruit, tomatoes and broccoli.

Are there any foods best avoided if you have acne?

“I don’t love to recommend restrictive eating as it can create a vicious cycle for our mental health. Moderation is key and of course, identifying your acne triggers is important. However, certain foods have been found to be inflammatory for our skin, so if you do experience acne, removing dairy, sugar, processed foods, high GI foods and gluten can do wonders in reducing the intensity of breakouts while you work on finding the root cause.”

Acne can be tough on your self-esteem and mental health. What are some of the things people can do if they’re feeling down about their skin?

“Because acne is visible, it certainly does play a part in our self-esteem. Please know that you are not defined by your breakouts. My top tips include:

  • Find out what is causing your acne, knowledge is empowering. 
  • Make sure to drink two to three litres of water each day.
  • Practice good skin hygiene by washing your towels, face towels, gym towels and pillowcases regularly.
  • Thoroughly cleanse your face each night.
  • Eat a variety of wholefoods.
  • Be kind to yourself, our body listens to our mind. 

If your face is breaking out, this is just your bodies way of telling you there is something going on internally that needs to be addressed. Be patient, your skin will heal and will get better.” 

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