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acne and dietProclamation No. 110 declares the second week of November of every year as “National Skin Disease Detection and Prevention Week” under the auspices of the Philippine Dermatological Society which aims to educate the public on the importance of self-examination, adequate skin care, early consultation with dermatologists for proper management of skin diseases. This article focuses on the relationship between nutrition and skin health in terms of acne prevention.

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions experienced by adolescents and young adults. They could be in the form of mild few pimples on the face or body or to severe forms with redness and swelling. Acne lesions form when the hair follicles become blocked with skin cells and excess oil (sebum). This usually happens during adolescence when hormonal imbalances may stimulate excess oil production in the face, neck, chest, upper back and upper arms. This excess oil also allows the overgrowth of the bacteria Cutibacterium acnes that causes inflammation - thus the formation of a red or painful pimple.

What Causes Acne?

1. Hormonal changes. Hormonal changes during puberty stimulate excess oil production which may aggravate acne. Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) are also prone to acne and even hirsutism or the formation of male like pattern hair in the face, chest and back due to high levels of androgen hormone. If you suspect that you have an underlying medical condition that is causing your acne, consult your doctor.

2. External Factors. Oil based cosmetics may contribute to acne by blocking hair follicles. Some soaps and astringents may also alter the normal skin pH and irritate the upper layer of the skin which may aggravate acne. Thus, choose non-comedogenic skin products and choose a mild cleanser and avoid scrubbing the skin.

3. DietHere are some of the foods that may trigger or promote acne:

Sugary foods (High Glycemic Index / High Glycemic Load Foods). Glycemic index is a measure of how fast a certain food can raise the blood sugar levels as it gets digested. The more processed a food item is, the faster it is digested and faster in raising the blood sugar. Thus, processed foods with refined sugars such as sugar flavored drinks or fruit juices, chips, biscuits, and some types of pastries may aggravate acne when consumed in large amounts. Thus, choose foods with low glycemic index such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain cereals, nuts and seeds as snack or meal alternatives.

● Dairy. Dairy products have been shown to increase the risk of aggravating acne in several studies which could be attributed to its high glycemic index. Thus, choose nondairy milk alternatives such as fortified soymilk, almond milk and other plant-based milks to prevent acne.

● Whey Protein Supplements. Whey is the main protein component in milk (80%) which has been observed as one of the triggers of acne in some individuals. Thus, if you observe more breakouts after whey protein consumption, consider other protein sources such as lean chicken or fish, egg whites or plant based protein supplements to prevent acne.

4. Stress. Psychological stress can probably worsen acne. In several studies of students, acne severity appeared to worsen during times of increased stress.

How can Acne be Treated?

Acne can be treated by treating the underlying cause and lessening the factors that contribute to acne. However, for adolescents, hormonal changes are hard to modify thus acne can be controlled through topical treatments such as ointments or gels that effectively reduce acne-causing bacteria and improve the regeneration of the skin to clear up scars and prevent future pimple formation. These medicines are prescribed by dermatologists after proper assessment of your acne type.

Basic skin care practices also include using a gentle facial cleanser, using a non-comedogenic moisturizer and using a sunblock with SPF 50 to protect the skin from sun damage during daytime. Lastly, following a balanced and varied diet with plenty of fiber, fruits and vegetables may help improve your overall health and skin health. Adding regular exercise and adequate sleep into your regimen may also help relieve stress which can help prevent future breakouts and aid in faster acne healing.

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References:

• National Council on Disability Affairs (n.d.). Proclamation No. 110. Date Accessed 08 November 2021. Retrieved from https://www.ncda.gov.ph/disability-laws/proclamations/proclamation-no-110/.
• Grabe, E. (2021). Patient Education: Acne (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate. Date Accessed 20 November 2021. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/acne-beyond-the-basics?search=diet%20and%20acne&topicRef=15326&source=see_link#topicContent.
• Rodrigues-Gimarino, S.R.S. (n.d.). The Role of Diet in Acne. Philippine Dermatological Society. Date Accessed 20 November 2021. Retrieved from https://public.pds.org.ph/the-role-of-diet-in-acne/.
• Juhl, C. R., Bergholdt, H., Miller, I. M., Jemec, G., Kanters, J. K., & Ellervik, C. (2018). Dairy Intake and Acne Vulgaris: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 78,529 Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Nutrients, 10(8), 1049. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10081049