Experiencing cystic acne? We share some diet ideas that could help you understand why your skin is acting out.
Whilst blackheads and whiteheads are certainly unwelcome, cystic acne causes bigger spots that are harder to conceal. But it’s not just their size that makes these bloated blemishes so troublesome. They’re also downright painful. Then, there’s the infuriating reality that these swollen, sore spots rarely come to a head. All in all, you’re forgiven for feeling powerless in your fight against them.
Severe acne, such as cystic acne, is usually treated and controlled with medication. However, diet can also play a role in limiting future breakouts.
Putting cystic acne on-the-spot
First, let’s take a moment to understand what makes this type of breakout different.
There are many triggers (from hormones to genetics) but what causes cystic acne is usually the same as any other spot. A pore or hair follicle gets congested with an oily substance called sebum. This causes irritation and inflammation, resulting in a spot forming on the surface.
But not all blemishes look the same. Let’s take a closer look at five common types of spot to answer this big question…
What is cystic acne?
These tiny darks spots tend to cluster on the chin, nose and forehead, but can sometimes appear on the chest and back. Blackheads are annoying, but are considered a mild form of acne.
If your clogged up follicle happens to be close to the surface of your skin, it’s more likely to swell outwards. This is when a whitehead pops up.
Another pus-filled variety of blemish, but bigger and more inflamed than your average whitehead. Be warned, they can be painful.
These spots develop further under the skin and are a more severe form of acne. They aren’t pus-filled and appear as hard lumps on the skin’s surface.
Cysts are a more acute type of acne that, like nodules, develop deeper beneath the skin. These large, inflamed bumps are pus-filled and usually painful.
How diet can affect your cystic acne
You can treat mild to moderate acne with over-the-counter acne treatments. Nodules and cysts are different. These more severe forms of acne are generally resilient to common pore-unclogging ingredients.
Although, medication may be required to treat cystic acne, Holland & Barrett nutritionist, Emily Rollason, suggests taking a closer look at your diet as an additional, natural way for you to take some control over your skin.
In particular, Emily points to four complexion-friendly food groups that contribute to a clearer complexion.
Fruit and vegetables
A diet that’s rich in fruit and vegetables, adds a variety of different nutrients into your diet including vitamins A and C, as well as containing a good source of dietary fibre. Vitamins A and C are both key nutrients for the maintenance of normal skin, whilst some initial studies have shown that an increase in dietary fibre may reduce the severity of acne, although more research may be required.
Zinc rich foods
Zinc is a nutrient that is essential for the maintenance of normal skin and thought to aid with reducing production of certain pro-inflammatory substances. Lean red meat, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds are natural food sources.
Another important skin nutrient. Whilst there is no current evidence to suggest consuming more Vitamin E will aid with acne, there is some evidence to show low Vitamin E levels may contribute to acne. It also has antioxidant properties, so may help to protect the skin against free radical damage. Nuts and seeds, together with vegetable oils, vegetable oil spreads and avocados, are sources of vitamin E.
Look for foods containing essential fats, particularly those containing Omega-3 fatty acids. Foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids are walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and pilchards. They have anti-inflammatory properties and may also help contribute to normal sebum levels.
What about acne-inducing foods to avoid?
Could something you eat be triggering breakouts?
Could something you eat be triggering breakouts? There are lots of links between food and acne. As a result, it’s tempting to be ruthless and cut them out based on what you’ve read. But it’s not necessarily that simple.
While dairy may be a trigger for some people, for others, their skin may react more to foods with a high glycaemic load. In short, we’re all different. Whether a food type stimulates skin irritation varies vastly from person to person.
So stop and reflect before stocking up on dairy-free alternatives and slashing refined foods and sugar from your diet. An under-rated treatment for acne is doing some diet homework. Emily suggests keeping a food diary. By noting what you eat and the occurrence of breakouts, you may be able to identify patterns.
With this knowledge you can then speak to a healthcare professional about avoiding food types for a short period of time and tracking any improvements.
Don’t squeeze it
And finally, if you take one thing from this post, let it be this. However tempting it is, resist squeezing cystic spots. These pimples offer none of the satisfaction of a whitehead and just cannot be popped. But not only will trying to pop them be disappointing, it also makes them worse.
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Last updated: 30 March 2020