Diet can elevate acne – hormones

Recently, researchers have discussed a lot the role of diet in the development of acne. In special, they have discussed the role of carbs because they  stimulate the secretion of two hormones directly implicated in the development of acne. These hormones are: insulin growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and androgens.

If you were figuring out where does your acne come from, these substances play a big role in the development of new lesions.

What kind of food are we talking about?

According to this, eating food like bread, milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, spaghetti, soft drinks, and corn,  may precipitate acne. On the other hand if you trade them by things like meat, chicken, quinoa, tuna and Greek yogurt could reduce the number of lesions.

What is my personal view about low-carb diet in acne up to this day?

My recommendation would be to try this 3-4 times a week and give a break with a regular healthy carbs-based diet. There are things to consider such as the calculation of calories and macros per day so it would be smart to  educate yourself on that or contact a nutritionist.

This type of approach is interesting and it might help to some extent in cases that are not too severe. I think that combining this approach to topical treatment could increase the chances to improve the number of lesions.

Warning: you will lose weight, therefore, it is not a good idea to try it if you are underweight.



Paoli A, Grimaldi K, Toniolo L, Canato M, Bianco A, Fratter A.
Nutrition and acne: therapeutic potential of ketogenic diets. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2012;25(3):111-7.



Reading at a magazine while waiting at the doctor’s office I found an article that talked about chocolates and acne. The article explained how a group of teens were put to eat chocolate while another group ate a similar product that didn’t contain chocolate. The results: teens that ate chocolate group didn’t have any significant worsening of their acne condition.

I was actually 15 by the time I read that article, since then I have elaborated the idea, I have read other people’s opinion about it, and I have commented the results with my patients.  However once in a while I have found people emphatically telling me that they would always get more pimples after eating chocolates or other high caloric food.

The truth is that in the past couple of years, there has been an increased interest on the effects of diet in acne. Results suggest that low glycemic index diets can actually decrease the size of the sebaceous glands. Regarding chocolate itself, investigators have communicated they may actually trigger the immune system to release mediators that may cause inflammation on the skin.

These findings are still accumulating but in the meantime it is good to get become familiarized with the high and low glycemic index food in order to choose the best type of food that help you get less lesions and actually have a healthier lifestyle.

According with the American Diabetes Association carbs with high glycemic index include sugar, white bread, white rice, corn flakes, bran flakes, bagels, pumpkin, pretzels among others. That’s the type of carbs you want to stay far from. Low glycemic index food include dried beans, corn, yam, oat meal, all non-starchy vegetables, sweet potatoes, most fruit, and many whole grain breads and cereals. That is the good carbs you want to choose.

High GI carbs rise a hormone called insulin in a way that may be dangerous for your skin and your health in general in the long term. Eating low GI carbs not only may help to reduce the number of pimples but it certainly prevents other diseases such as diabetes.

GI food



Napolitano M, Megna M, Monfrecola G. Insulin Resistance and Skin Diseases. ScientificWorldJournal. 2015;2015:479354.

Melnik BC, John SM, Plewig G. Acne: risk indicator for increased body mass index and insulin resistance. Acta Derm Venereol. 2013 Nov;93(6):644-9.


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