Hygiene is a factor, but pales in effectiveness compared to improving both your diet and your lifestyle.
On this website we make many recommendations for the healthiest foods, but you will probably want to make some improvements on your own. Self-experimentation is a great idea and one that I firmly recommend for many aspects of health…
…but you have to be vigilant, and not be taken in by phantom health foods. There are numerous foods which are touted by either governmental health bodies or advertisements as being healthy, but are actually only healthy in a certain form, or are just a plain old marketing scam.
In the process of damaging your health many of these foods can give you acne, so it is vital that you detect and avoid them. Hence, here are some of the most villainous foods lurking under the banner of healthy.
Don’t be fooled! Margarine is not healthy for your heart and it’s a lot worse for your skin.
Margarine is the unofficial mascot of the trans-fat industry. Trans-fats are man-made industrial fats and margarine is loaded with them. Trans-fats are notorious for increasing your levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol and thus causing heart disease.
One of their other main effects is insulin resistance. There’s no sugar-coating the situation: if you are trying to keep your heart healthy by eating margarine, then all you’re doing is dramatically pumping your insulin levels up and thus giving yourself oily skin. Trans-fats also trigger a big inflammatory response and can block the receptors of brain-boosting omega 3s.
Margarine companies were supposed to have removed trans-fats, after study after study showed how deadly they are, but they still contain small amounts. Remember that a food displaying “zero trans-fats” on the label means nothing: food producers can say that if the real quantity is below 0.5 grams.
Therefore, you must avoid margarine at all costs. Not only will this “healthy” choice wreck your skin, but it will destroy your general health too.
Margarine is not even better for your cardiovascular health; it was the introduction of trans-fats at the beginning of the 20th century that caused the massive rise in heart disease.
What to eat instead – eat good old fashioned butter! Butter is not unhealthy at all. It’s claimed that butter is behind cardiovascular failure, but Europeans ate butter for centuries before heart disease really kicked off. Butter is also high in nutrients like vitamin A and vitamin K2, and contains an antioxidant called butyrate that has been linked to improved weight loss. Finally, butter also tastes great, especially compared to margarine which tastes like tire grease.
Tomatoes themselves are a pretty healthy food. They’re a decent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and they contain antioxidants too.
They are especially famous for the antioxidant lycopene, which as well as having anti-cancer benefits, can protect your skin from the sun and thus allow you to make more vitamin D without getting burnt. They’re a decent food to eat not necessarily to fill you up, but to give you a good health boost.
However, canned tomatoes are the opposite. The problem is not the food itself, but the fact that the can contains BPA. BPA is a mildly toxic, highly inflammatory chemical used widely in the food industry and food cans are notorious for containing it.
When tomatoes are stored in the BPA-lined cans for long periods of time, the BPA begins to leech into them and it thus enters your body when you eat the tomatoes. Tomatoes are particularly notorious for this process as they are very acidic, which encourages the leeching.
What you end up with is a product that still contains nutrients and health benefits, but is loaded with so much inflammatory BPA that for the sake of your skin, it’s not worth it. Avoid canned tomatoes at all costs!
What to eat instead – eat real tomatoes! They contain no BPA, they are just as nutritious, and they’re a lot more convenient to eat. Tomato passata is also acceptable, which is just pure tomato sauce with no added ingredients (and no BPA).
Agave nectar is a sweetener sourced from Mexico. It’s become popular as an alternative to standard white sugar and many health catalogues and magazines recommend it.
The claim goes that while agave nectar is still very high in sugar, it contains a large amount of nutrients that make it better than regular sugar. But these health masterminds forget one thing – agave nectar is very different from the fluid it’s made from.
Agave nectar comes from the agave plant, which grows in Mexico. To produce it you must press the plant and extract the fluid. This fluid is high in sugar and contains antioxidants and minerals…
…but then things go wrong; to produce agave nectar the fluid is then heated and heavily processed. All the compounds are destroyed and what you are left with is basically another type of sugary syrup.
What really makes agave nectar deadly is its massive fructose content. The original fluid contains compounds called fructans, which have actually been associated with health benefits. But when you process and heat the agave, these fructans break down into fructose. The result is that the sugar in agave nectar is about 85% fructose compared to only 15% glucose.
In case you don’t know, all sugar is bad in high amounts, but glucose is far healthier than fructose. The problem with fructose is that when you eat more than a moderate quantity per day, it can wreak havoc with your liver. The liver is the only body part that can convert fructose to energy (glycogen) and when there’s too much, some of the fructose gets converted to fat instead.
It then builds up and reduces the liver’s function; this can result in acne-related problems such as insulin resistance. Fructose is perfectly safe in moderate amounts but agave nectar gives you far too much. It is far worse for your skin than regular table sugar (also known as sucrose), which has a glucose to fructose ratio of 1:1.
Not only is agave nectar devoid of all its touted nutrition, but it’s also worse than nearly any other sweetener.
The solution – eat honey instead! Honey has a slightly poorer ratio of fructose to glucose than regular sugar, but it’s so small that it makes no difference. The ratio is vastly superior to agave nectar.
Most importantly, honey also contains antioxidants, trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, and a ton of healthy compounds like methylglyoxal, bee-defensin, and many which are not identified yet. Honey is one of the most powerful medicinal foods of all time – no food has surfaced in the annals of history quite as much.
Honey also tastes excellent and if you have a jar around, you can apply it to your face as well.
PS: remember to buy raw honey, because pasteurisation destroys the benefits. Raw honey is my default sweetener for making nutrition-packed homemade chocolate. I’ve used a few different brands, but the one that combines great taste with good value for money is this Y.S. Eco Bee Farms Raw Honey. You get so much in a tub (22 ounces) that it’ll last you months. It’s a good brand for applying topically as well.
Farm raised salmon
Salmon is one of the most widely praised foods as it delivers a healthy dose of omega-3s, it’s full of vitamins, it doesn’t have any heart attack causing problems that beef supposedly does, etc. But salmon can be very bad for your acne if you buy the wrong type. The salmon market is divided into two groups; these are wild salmon caught straight from the ocean, and farm-raised salmon, which can be deadly for your skin.
As you might guess, farm raised salmon are raised in a kind of ocean farm, an aquaculture, in the water where they are fed fish feed and heavily controlled by the farmers. Unfortunately, the production process is so heavily controlled and industrial that numerous chemical contaminants end up in the fish. One such chemical is dioxin, which has been linked to increased inflammation as well as a number of other disorders. Dioxin levels have been found to be eleven times higher in farmed salmon than the wild variety.
Then there’s numerous other dibutylins (linked to inflammation), antibiotics, and Canthaxanthin, so toxic that it’s been banned in the UK.
These problems would be enough for you to avoid farm raised salmon but it also has a poorer nutritional content; its ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats is far poorer, and the quantities of minerals are lower. This is all due to the rubbish diet they get fed. Wild salmon travels across endless miles of ocean, eating whatever varied sea plant life they fancy. The fish suck in a broad range of nutrients from many maritime environments.
Farmed salmon used to be OK; it was once fed fish feed based on seafood, specifically formulated for the salmon’s nutritional needs. But now they are fed nutritionally bereft corn just like other farmed animals.
Overall farm raised salmon should be avoided, unless it is from a great source. Even then you should avoid it; you never really know what’s going on in fish farms.
The healthy alternative – eat wild salmon! This is one of the best foods for your skin ever. It is slightly more expensive but is much healthier and free from acne causing problems. You can spot some wild salmon by its appealing bright red or orange colour. Farmed salmon is usually pink, and this is only the result of it being dyed. If dye wasn’t used then farm salmon would be an unappealing grey, due to the fish lacking antioxidants in their diet. Also remember that wild salmon is usually Alaskan whereas farmed salmon is more likely to be from the Atlantic.
Berries are one of the best fruits for your acne, and one of the best acne-clearing foods overall. They are extremely rich in antioxidants and antioxidants are vital for preventing blocked pores. But they have a dark side too; conventional berries are the world’s worst fruits when it comes to pesticide contamination. Every year the industry creates a dirty dozen list of pesticide foods and commercial berries consistently come out near the top.
Strawberries are particularly bad. They’ve been found to contain residues of 45 different pesticides. 6 of them are cancer causing (carcinogens), 16 are hormone disruptors, and 7 are neurotoxins. You can read about the specific chemicals on this website. Of course there’s no proof that they cause acne, but given what we’ve seen about similar chemicals like dibutylin, and given their other horrific effects, it is pretty smart to avoid them.
The alternative – buy organic berries. They will naturally be lower in pesticides and you can get all their antioxidants without worrying. Organic strawberries are also very cheap compared to most organic foods. If you want to go further, you could even pick your own berries. Wild blackberries are nutritious and are very common in North America and Europe. Some studies even suggest that wild berries contain more antioxidants than farmed varieties (although the farmed ones are still very healthy). They will, of course, be free from chemicals, as long as you don’t pick them from a polluted roadside.
Low fat yoghurt
Low fat yoghurt is similar to margarine – it’s designed to appeal to consumers who are worried about having a heart attack. But like margarine, it is far worse for acne than the product it replaced. Low fat yoghurts are pumped full of colossal quantities of sugar. If you’ve ever tasted pure low-fat yoghurt, you’ll know what it tastes like – nothing. Producers have to make consumers buy it somehow, so instead they sweeten it up by pouring buckets of sugar in. You do get calcium and magnesium from low fat yoghurts, but you also get too much sugar and thus chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, and acne.
The solution – just eat the full fat version! It tastes much better and it’s far healthier for you. That actually happens a lot more often than you think. You won’t get fat either; fat is very satiating and thus full fat yoghurt will reduce the urge for snacks later. It still contains some sugar but this is natural and there’s no extra added. Saturated fat is unfairly demonised and a recent study found no connection to heart disease whatsoever. If you want low fat dairy to cut down on calories, then at least get an organic brand without added sugar. PS: dairy is a nightmare for acne for some, but actually beneficial for many people.
Avoiding the foods above clearly won’t cure your acne, but it’ll certainly help and it’s always best to discover every morsel of knowledge you can.
This article should also teach you a valuable lesson; don’t blindly believe claims that a food is healthy. Always be sceptical, always do basic research, and never get swept up by the gurus and their hype machine.
Thanks for reading!