Historically pineapple juice was used as a potent diuretic and to induce labour. Pineapple was also a favourite food of early bodybuilders in the 1930s and 40s who believed it could increase testosterone levels and muscle gains and hence mixed pineapple juice with protein powder to create a tasty protein pudding.
Interestingly for us, Native Americans used pineapple flesh for skincare in the disinfection of wounds and some believe that pineapple contains acids which stimulate collagen production.
However what we’re interested in today is whether eating and enjoying the sweet taste and flavour of pineapple is safe for acne. I’m happy to tell you that the pineapple’s only real flaw is its moderate sugar content of 10 grams per 100 grams. I’m even happier to tell you that the sugar is a complete non-problem anyway if you organise a low sugar diet elsewhere.
Finally, I’m happiest to tell you that eating a delicious slice of fresh pineapple has moderate benefits for acne, particularly due to its famous enzyme compound bromelain. How do pineapples rank compared to other acne-friendly fruits like strawberries and apples? Read on and find out.
Pineapple enhances the absorption of acne nutrients
Pineapple flesh, alongside banana, is the most famous source of the protein enzyme bromelain. Bromelain has many interesting functions; it can be used as meat tenderiser, it can dissolve and weaken warts, and it’s the reason why raw pineapple flesh makes your tongue tingle…
…and what power unites all those functions? The strong power of bromelain to break down proteins and aid their digestion when eaten. Bromelain is a complex of protease enzymes first isolated from pineapple back in 1891. Protease enzymes are found in all humans; they are released by the pancreas into the small intestine to digest any protein you consume.
However, your diet has a significant influence also. On one hand, certain foods such as grains and nuts contain unhealthy protease inhibitors, whereas conversely, many varying natural types of protease enzymes are found in foods. Bromelain is one of them, so put simply, bromelain and pineapples will enhance your stomach’s ability to digest any protein based-food.
This protein digesting action is why bromelain is an ingredient in many commercial marinades, why workers in pineapple fields reportedly lose their fingerprints after several years, and why you can’t add pineapple to jelly without the gelatin dissolving.
All this is great for acne in one simple way: by improving your digestion bromelain allows you to absorb more of the beneficial acne nutrients in protein based foods.
That includes zinc, the mineral which constrains the immune system, allows vitamin A to cure acne more effectively better, and is found in abundance in meat, oysters and eggs. That includes magnesium, an overlooked acne mineral which is generally concentrated in protein foods as well. That includes selenium, which is found in seafood and eggs and is needed to manufacture the acne-clearing antioxidant glutathione.
Bromelain is found in both the stem and flesh of the pineapple. It’s often sold as supplement manufactured in Thailand, the world’s foremost pineapple producer, where the stem is peeled crushed to extract raw juice which is then purified.
In fact, bromelain is promising enough as a nutrient enhancer that many supplement companies now include it to maximise the potency of their vitamin formulas, similarly to the piperine alkaloid found in black pepper. Studies have found that pharmaceutical drugs such as antibiotics are far more effective when accompanied by bromelain. Bromelain is found in all four types of pineapple; the sugar loaf, Cayenne, red Spanish and gold pineapples.
Better yet, pineapple contains a second digestion enhancer called papain which also acts as a protease enzyme. Papain is more commonly found in papaya and is also referred to as papaya proteinase, for its ability to digest protein. Natives in South American reportedly ate papaya with a meal in order to aid digestion, but luckily, pineapple contains plenty of papain as well.
Papain functions similarly to bromelain; it breaks down larger protein molecules into smaller ones which are easier to digest. A protein is essentially chains of amino acids held together by peptide bonds and both bromelain and papain have the power to break down those bonds.
Like bromelain, papain is commonly used as a meat tenderiser in the form of a papain powder. In fact the South Americans have used papain on meat for thousands of years. Interestingly, papain is also added to some commercial toothpastes since it’s a weak tooth whitener.
Papain’s ability to improve the digestion and absorption of acne nutrients is not fully studied, but nevertheless, it makes pineapple highly promising for clearing acne. If you’re low on cash or generally struggling to obtain enough acne minerals, eating pineapple is a great idea.
Outside the realm of acne, these powers give pineapple an added bonus; a potentially reduced risk of blood clots. There’s a protein in human blood called fibrin that can thicken the blood and cause clotting when overabundant. Higher blood levels of bromelain after absorption in the gastrointestinal tract can break down excessive levels of fibrin and prevent this clotting.
Does bromelain reduce red and inflamed acne?
The reason? Bromelain is widely believed to lower chronic inflammation, the single most important condition behind acne, and ever more studies back that theory up.
In fact, the Commission E of Germany, the governmental regulator agency equivalent of the FDA, approved bromelain in 1993 for usage as a post-surgery anti-inflammatory. Studies on animals show promisingly beneficial results on third decree burns. No studies have yet been performed on inflammation-induced acne, but there’s plenty of evidence that both bromelain and pineapple lowers inflammation across the entire body.
For instance, one study examined pineapple as a whole rather than one isolated enzyme. Scientists fed experimental mice either fresh pineapple juice for six months or pineapple juice which was boiled to deactivate the beneficial enzymes.
After six months, the fresh pineapple mice had survived for far longer than the boiled group and experienced significantly decreased colon inflammation. Lessened colon inflammation was noted both in the short term (within 16 days) and the long term (six months).
The scientists concluded that fresh or unpasteurized frozen pineapple juice was safe and decreased inflammation severity. This study not only shows that bromelain lowers inflammation, as the enzyme was deactivated in the boiled group, but that pineapple as a whole retains these benefits.
Then there’s the studies examining bromelain specifically; this review of many medical studies on bromelain found that “administration of bromelain before a surgery can reduce the average number of days for complete disappearance of pain and postsurgery inflammation”.
Perhaps the most interesting study was one performed on 146 post-fight boxers who had major bruises to their faces and haematomas of the obits, ears, lips, chest, and arms. The goal of the study was to assess the therapeutic anti-inflammatory activity of bromelain, so 74 boxers were given bromelain 4 times per day for 4 days during the recovery phase, while 72 boxers were given a placebo.
The difference was stark; 58 out of 72 (81%) boxers taking bromelain enjoyed a total recovery of their bruises within 4 days, with the remaining 16 requiring a further 8-10 days to fully heal. Meanwhile, only 10 of the control group boxers healed completely. The rest required 7-14 days for total healing.
Those results are very promising for pineapples; inflammation is useful for wound healing but when inflammatory chemicals are too over-the-top, the wound healing becomes delayed with chronic redness and pain.
That exact same scenario occurs with the healing of a pimple. Chronic inflammation not only fuels the fires of acne but also keeps acne from fading away.
Bromelain was again confirmed to be anti-inflammatory in a study on inflammation in hospital bed patients. 55 pre-surgery patients were divided into two groups. One group consisted of 22 patients who took bromelain 4 times per day for 48-72 hours prior to surgery and continued for 72 hours after surgery, another group consisting of 33 patients who took bromelain starting on the day of surgery with the first dose administered just one hour before surgery.
The results were again interesting. 42.4% of group two patients experienced a complete disappearance of pain and inflammation within 72 hours, compared to 50% in the bromelain group. Only one member of the high bromelain group had persistent pain after 72 hours compared to 5 members of the lower bromelain group.
Even more promising for acne was a very similar study which compared a high bromelain group and a non-bromelain surgery group. It found that supplementation of bromelain beginning 48-72 hours before the operation reduced the average amount of days for the pain to completely disappear from 3.5 to 1.5, and the disappearance of inflammation from 6.9 to 2.0.
Other studies offer evidence that pineapple and bromelain can treat arthritis, minor joint pain, allergies, sprains, dental inflammation, ear nose & throat inflammation, and all manner of inflammatory diseases.
Overall those studies all offer great evidence that pineapple can lower chronic inflammation, which if it reaches the skin on your face, will benefit acne tremendously.
Also, many magical acne compounds in food are promising but fall short thanks to poor absorption in the body. But bromelain has been found to have a good absorption rate of roughly 40% in the gastrointestinal tract with levels reaching a peak roughly 1 hour after consumption.
How does pineapple compare to other fruits?
As we discussed earlier, pineapple is not the greatest fruit for acne when it comes to sugar, with 10 grams per 100 gram serving. That’s lower than very sweet fruits like bananas (12 grams), grapes (16 grams), and mango (14 grams), but higher than strawberries, raspberries, blackberries (all 5 grams), cherries (8 grams), and apricots (9 grams).
Another flaw with pineapples is their relatively low antioxidant count compared to most fruits; they score 456 on the ORAC scale, a tiny fraction of the acne-crushing 4302 enjoyed by strawberries and the 4275 found in apples.
But on the other hand, pineapples have many advantages for acne not found in some of those fruits. For one thing, they are a totally safe fruit for acne patients with a FODMAP sensitivity. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols; they are a wide family of carbohydrate found in plant foods which those who didn’t hit the digestive genetic lottery find hard to stomach. The result of a FODMAP sensitivity is often acne and that’s why seemingly healthy foods like apples, apricots, mangoes and blackberries can give people pimples and acne at random.
Good news then; pineapple is a fruit widely prescribed on a low FODMAP diet.
Additionally, fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and apples are rather interchangeable since their acne-clearing claims to fame are containing plenty of antioxidants and vitamin C. Well, pineapples have unique acne powers because the only other fruit containing bromelain, bananas, contain nowhere near as much.
Pineapples also have an interesting acne power rarely found in fruits, the power to enhance sleep. A study aimed at analysing the melatonin contents of various plant foods found that pineapple, oranges, and bananas all increased blood melatonin content by over 200%. Another study on six fruits found that eating pineapple flesh increased urinary melatonin by 260%.
Why are those results so promising for acne? Melatonin is the main sleep hormone in humans, which increases in darkness when blue light is shut out. Sleep deprivation worsens or outright causes many of the deadliest conditions behind acne, including insulin resistance, elevated stress hormone levels, and chronic inflammation.
Even better, an old 1985 study examining the serotonin content of 80 different natural foods found that pineapple was the second best fruit source, with its 17.0mcg beating banana (15.0mcg), kiwi fruits (5.8mcg), plums (4.7mcg), and tomatoes (3.2mcg).
Only plantains were better, with 30.3mcg. As well as being the key precursor to melatonin biosynthesis, serotonin is the “happiness hormone”, a neurotransmitter which can keep stress at bay and hence the acne associated with it.
Pineapples rank in the upper echelons for acne-clearing vitamin C as well, with 79% of the RDA (48mg) per 100 grams.
Strawberries have pineapple flesh beat with 97% of the RDA but pineapple crushes the majority of other fruits including apples, and even raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.
In fact, when the pineapple fruit was first discovered by early European explorers in its native Paraguay back in 1492, it quickly become a favourite on long-haul ships as a wholesome food source and as protection from the much-feared scurvy. Scurvy is nothing but extreme vitamin C deficiency which results in bleeding gums, madness and eventually death.
While pineapples contain only traces of acne minerals like zinc and selenium and merely 3% of the RDA for magnesium, the value of fruits in an acne-friendly diet generally lies within their acne vitamins, acne antioxidants and other phytonutrients like bromelain as opposed to acne minerals, which are best obtained from vegetables and meat.
The acne patient’s pineapple selection guide
Firstly, your pineapple must be FRESH. Tinned pineapple will not work for acne, pineapple ice cream will not work for acne. You can’t go down to the local Italian restaurant and order a ham and pineapple pizza; the pineapple is almost always from a can.
The bromelain is deactivated in canned pineapple, as showed by the study on inflammation above where fresh pineapple was optimal. Cooking fresh pineapple deactivates the bromelain as well.
The best quality pineapples tend to be heavy for their size. Obviously, larger pineapples will have a greater portion of edible flesh, however the size does not impact the nutritional quality of that flesh.
Another great aspect of pineapples is that organic ones are total unnecessary for acne purposes; few pesticides can pierce the thick armour surrounding the flesh. Pineapple is hence a regular member of the “clean fifteen” foods with low and healthy levels of agrochemicals.
Finally, if you want the maximum benefits for your acne possible then you should eat your pineapple fresh within 2 days of purchase.
Refrigerating a pineapple will deactivate some of the valuable bromelain and papain enzymes, while a study found that leaving a pineapple in the fridge at 5 degrees led to a 10% drop in vitamin C and 25% drop in carotenoids. That was greater than several other fruits tested, including mango, strawberries and watermelon pieces which all had a less than 5% drop in vitamin C.
Clearly fresh is best, however, those drops aren’t enormous, so don’t instantly discard a pineapple when it gets older. The remaining vitamin C will still be very valuable for clearing acne and the study found that phenolic phytonutrients did not drop at all. Other studies have found that pineapples retain the vast majority of their acne nutrients for nine days. Make sure to only put your pineapple in the fridge after a couple of days, to avoid deactivating the all-important bromelain.
Conclusion – pineapple is excellent for acne
If you’re a big fan of pineapple, the great news; assuming you don’t have a random allergy to one of the many discovered or undiscovered compounds making up this fruit, pineapple is one of the better fruits for clearing acne.
They’re probably inferior to strawberries for acne as they have less vitamin C and far less acne-clearing antioxidants, but slightly better than apples, which are only notable for the surprising quantity of antioxidants concentrated in their skins.
Pineapple certainly beats green grapes, pears, melon and grapefruit for nutritional strength. Less ripe bananas are pretty acne-friendly but with an equal level of antioxidants and far more bromelain, pineapples are slightly superior. Pineapple is about equal to watermelon for acne, which has another unique acne benefit in the form of l-citrulline, which converts to nitric oxide in the body.
The sugar content of pineapple isn’t as staggeringly high as some paleo diet followers believe and is completely harmless for acne if you slot the pineapple into a designated moderate-sugar fruit slot, while keeping your sugar intake low outside of fruits.
Overall, I can give eating pineapple a firm recommendation for clearing acne.
Thanks for reading!