Food & Nutrition to help Teen Acne

Acne can be an issue for many teenagers and have a huge impact on their self-esteem and mood. There are enough stressors in life being a teenager without adding acne into the mix!

With more severe acne, medications are often prescribed but these can have unwanted side effects and do more damage to the skin in the long run. Luckily there are natural alternatives we can use on a daily basis to bring about change before resorting to things like medication.

During puberty there is a surge in hormones, especially androgens which are the male sex hormones. This occurs in both boys and girls and can lead to an increased production of sebum on the skin. Until the hormones and sebum production balance out there is likely to be increased breakouts and chances of acne.

Acne has become a very common occurrence in teens these days and most teenagers will experience it or know someone who has. However, studies have shown traditional populations with a local diet high in fibre and nutrients do not have any cases of teenage acne! The native populations on Papua New Guinea and Paraguay were studied over a 27 month period and showed no signs of acne in this time. This shows us that hormones have a big effect on acne but are not the whole or underlying cause.

Some of the conventional therapies prescribed to treat acne are as follows –

  1. The Oral Contraceptive Pill – this is often prescribed to teen girls to stabilise hormones by stopping androgen production, but when they stop the pill it can cause a surge of androgens and sebum and often makes the skin worse than before. It can also have other side effects that need to be considered.
  2. Antibiotics – Antibiotics are often prescribed to fight off the bacteria in infected acne. This can have a short term effect in helping decrease the inflammation but also damages the delicate gut health balance that is so important in managing acne in the long term.
  3. Roaccutane – is often given to boys with serious acne as they can’t have the OCP but it can have some serious side effects including anxiety and depression.

Diet has a very big role to play in the occurrence of acne and cutting down on these foods can really help with the severity and frequency.

  1. Sugar – sugar drives up another hormone called insulin. When we eat sugar and refined carbohydrates (such as white bread, cakes, biscuits etc.) this increases our blood sugar levels and our body produces insulin to bring the sugar levels down. High insulin levels also increase the production of sebum which can cause outbreaks.
  2. Dairy – Dairy can be a problem for acne sufferers for a couple of reasons. One is it has a high glycaemic load and can drive up insulin levels and in turn sebum production and two it contains a protein called A1 which causes inflammation and increased sebum production. Cutting out dairy altogether has shown to clear up acne within a few months in many cases. You could try switching to nut milks, oat milk or coconut milk. Otherwise you could try switching to A2 milk products instead and see how they go. 

Good digestive health is so important in our overall wellbeing. The digestive system and our skin are the 2 biggest organs of elimination so there’s no surprise they are linked! An unhealthy gut causes hormonal disruption and chronic inflammation which can precede many chronic conditions. Leaky gut and disrupted gut flora can cause imbalances that lead to acne.

So if teens have had a mix of antibiotics, hormone therapy and a diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and inflammatory foods like dairy it is a recipe for an unhealthy gut, acne and mood swings.

We’ve mentioned what foods to remove, but now to add some good things in. A healthy gut needs wholefoods such as lean protiens, wholegrains, fruits & vegetables and plenty of water.

Prebiotics are fibers that aren’t digestible by your body but can help good bacteria grow in your gut. Since your body doesn’t digest these plant fibers, they travel to your lower digestive tract to be a food source for the healthy bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics are not the same as probiotics which are helpful bacteria, although both are important to your digestive system. Prebiotic fibres can be found in foods such as garlic, onions, leeks, bananas, apples, oats and barley.

In terms of supplements to support teenage skin and acne it would be good to add in a probiotic supplement or add probiotic foods to the diet such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kim chi.

Zinc is another important nutrient for teenagers. Zinc can help to:

  • Support a healthy balance of hormones
  • Decrease excess androgens
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Support healthy skin
  • Aid in immunity and healing of affected skin

Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are found mostly in fish and seafood. They may help with acne by:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Supporting overall skin health
  • Encouraging a diverse and healthy gut microbiome

With a wholesome diet, the correct nutrients and removing foods that can cause a flair up of acne we can help teens reduce the frequency, severity and duration of their outbreaks.

* We recommend you seek advice from a qualified practitioner before taking supplements