Diet and it’s affect on skin is a controversial one. Many dermatologists insist diet has no effect on acne, and we all have that friend who gorges on chocolate but has not a spot (and sometimes not an extra pound, like seriously) to show for it – so what to believe? Hormones (and therefore sebum production) can certainly be affected by diet and lifestyle, and there is research suggested an association between milk and acne – based on an increase of IGF1 in milk creating an increase in circulating androgens (basically something in milk that affects hormones). Personally I think the only way to work out what is best for you and your skin is to give it a go, observe the results and adjust as you see fit.
What did I cut out?
Reducing sugar, dairy and caffeine has helped, but completely cutting them out didn’t yield remarkably better results than living by the 80:20 rule – I stick to 2 coffees a day max, and really only have milk with this and tea. Ice cream is my favourite but I try and stick to Nobó or something similar (aside from last Sunday when I went to town in Tribeca – hot fudge sundae how are ya…aaaand yes, I can see the difference this week). A friend of mine completed two years without milk and had the clearest skin of her life – so different things can work for different people. Reducing sugar has had the biggest impact for me – also take a chromium supplement to keep my blood sugar as steady as possible (blood sugar spikes are basically the devil when it comes to your skin, at least according to Beyoncé’s dermatologist – who says diabetics have the worst skin) .
If you’re visualising brunches filled with food envy and mid-afternoon slumps to beat the band, I’d like to stop you right there. It’s not that bad, and yes, it does take a bit of getting used to, but the biggest change I’ve noticed from adjusting my diet seems to be more down to what I’ve added (it’s not all about restriction – so you don’t need to feel guilty if you love brunch as much as I do).
I’ve discussed supplements for clear skin here but the number one addition to any acne-free diet is a liquid chlorophyll supplement – I ran out of this two weeks ago, and only found my favourite brand in stock today, and god can you feel/see the difference. I have discussed chlorophyll previously here but honestly, this is the most important thing you can do to clear up your skin. Generally the advice is one teaspoon in a glass of water daily, but I find if I’ve a particularly bad breakout/festival weekend/the entire festive season, I need to drink a diluted version all day to see the effect (large 2L bottle with 1-2 tablespoons chlorophyll – should be a pale green colour). You have to be careful starting out, as it can impact your stomach until your digestive system adjusts to it – so start out slowly and gradually add more.
The other big change I’ve made to my diet is to seriously up my vegetable intake. I previously didn’t eat meat – and therefore you would think ate a lot of vegetables (really I tended to focus on protein like fish and beans) – but after a conversation with a nutritionist about how most of us are pretty poor veggie eaters I reassessed things. 6-7 portions of fruit and veg a day are what the official guidelines advise – but most of this is supposed to come from vegetables, not fruit – which can be a large source of sugar if you’re eating dried fruit in particular.
Increasing your vegetable intake, particularly the green variety, is more difficult than it sounds. Honestly, at the start I felt like all I was doing was eating vegetables and still I was only hitting 4-5 portions a day. One thing that has made it easier is trying to eat greens at breakfast – and no, I’m not one for tupperware on a Sunday, doling out chicken and broccoli for every meal of the week (but fair f*cking play to you if that is you, maybe I’ll get there some day!)…but I have taken some inspiration from the fitfam-crossfit community. A green smoothie at breakfast time is an easy addition, and doesn’t stop you having your porridge/eggs/whatever else you fancy – but you do need to make sure it really contains a lot of veg. Baby spinach is my go-to, as it’s cheap, involves no chopping or peeling and has a pretty inoffensive taste when mixed with some coconut water, berries and flaxseed oil (kale I’m looking and you and your oh-so-bitter-and-impossible-to-hide tang).
The other option involves actually eating vegetables in the morning – now I know not everyone’s stomach is going to be able for that, particularly if you’re not a morning person in the first place. The following recipe has become a bit of a staple for me when I have a little bit more time, or just can’t really face another green smoothie!
- 1 bunch of broccolini
- 2 eggs mixed together in a cup as if for scrambling
- 1 tablespoon of basil pesto (I love the Happy Pear one)
Chop /broccolini into 2cm stalks (about 1/3 of the stalk). Lightly stir fry in coconut oil/butter etc and add pesto. Scramble eggs into the mix until cooked. I like to dollop some pesto on top at the end (kind of obsessed with that pesto if I’m honest) and serve either alone or with toast. Obviously if broccoli is really not your thing, try something different – courgette, bok choi and asparagus can all work well.
Next I’ll be discussing medications for acne that still refuse to clear up, but I would love to hear how you get on with trying to increase your vegetable intake – and if you have any other ways of doing it please let me know!