Guess what? You can still have sugar without having to worry about it contributing to your acne and causing massive breakouts. Here are 4 tricks to try:
Generally speaking, hormonal acne responds incredibly well to a diet that is low in – or that eliminates completely – white carbs, sugar and dairy. The reason is that these three foods are the worst offenders in terms of spiking insulin. High insulin in the blood initiates a hormonal chain reaction that ends with lots of acne-causing androgens being released.
(Be careful, because there are some types of hormonal acne (certain PCOS subtypes) that actually need to INCREASE carb intake. And there are other foods that cause hormonal imbalances as well, such as red meat and phytoestrogens.)
While cutting out all sugar and dairy is usually undeniably effective, it can be hard and emotionally taxing. So here are some loopholes for you to use (preferably in addition to legitimately trying to adjust your diet to be less sugary).
1. It’s not what you eat, it’s WHEN you eat.
You might have heard that diet plays a role in acne, especially hormonal acne, but did you know that being mindful of how much you eat and what you eat in the morning vs the evening also makes a huge difference?
Insulin is a hormone that triggers hormonal acne breakouts, so eating a diet that helps increase insulin sensitivity and keep insulin from spiking is key – more on this in a sec.
But did you know that insulin sensitivity is higher in the morning? By about 30%! That means that in the am, you can get away with larger meals and meals that have more sugar and carbs.
A study showed that eating most of your calories early (you’ve heard the saying “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper!”) reduced acne causing hormones while a normal diet with a large dinner had no effect.
So – you can have your cake and eat it too – just do it for breakfast, not as dessert after dinner! 🙂
2. Small and steady vs. all in one go
If you flood your body with a ton of sugar, you’re guaranteed an insulin spike. But if you “drip” the sugar into your system over a period of time in tiny doses, you can avoid ever setting off that huge spike.
So for example, if there’s a slice of cake you want to eat, leave it in the fridge, and pull it out 4-5 times per day, eating only a bite or two at a time.
Bonus – you’re increasing your pleasure (since we all know the first bite tastes the best!) and getting to have a lot of mini treats instead of one big one that may or may not come with a stomachache and a sugar crash – in addition to a blast of acne-causing hormones.
Another way to have your cake and eat it – just pace yourself!
(BTW: Same thing goes for having small meals vs. big ones – it’s better to have multiple snack-sized meals, than 2 or 3 meals where you eat to capacity, when it comes to keeping insulin regulated.)
3. Use strategic food pairings
So you love white rice and can’t get down with brown. If you pair it with foods high in fiber, protein and fat (like in a burrito bowl), the body will digest the sugars in the rice much slower than say, if you had a plain bowl of white rice.
So anytime you want a food that can cause an insulin spike (again, white, processed carbs, sugar (all forms including maple syrup and honey), and dairy, try to pair it with protein, fat, fiber, or ideally a mix of all three.
This can look like adding nuts or bran to your yogurt, always eating rice or potatoes with veggies and meat, and even taking a fiber supplement with meals.
(I would be careful about adding protein powders to shakes and smoothies though, since these tend to have hidden sugars added, and too much protein is also problematic.)
4. Use topical skincare
Did you know that very little skincare addresses hormonal (ie adult) acne topically? However, at moss, we use ingredients like evening primrose, green tea, pumpkin seed and saw palmetto to inhibit acne-causing hormones in the skin. These ingredients are know to block a-reductase activity, which means that testosterone in the skin can’t convert to its super powerful (and acne havoc wreaking) version, DHT.
If you’re skeptical about whether topical skincare works, studies have shown that skincare with saw palmetto extract did in fact reduce acne lesions in participants. And while you can take supplements internally, there is no guarantee they will ever make it to the skin – the skin is the last organ in the body to receive nutrients, so applying them topically is actually a smart move.
All our products at moss contain at least one, usually more, ingredients that help inhibit acne causing hormonal activity in the skin.