Myth or truth: Do greasy foods cause acne?

Kristina Williams-Lee

| 3 min read

Let me just say this, right out of the gate: The majority of health experts label this a myth. However, I did find something interesting in my research that you may want to consider.
But first things first – if not on our face, where does the grease and fat go?
Here’s what happens: The food you chew, with hidden fat wrapped in every wondrous bite travels through your mouth, down your esophagus and into your stomach. Once it gets processed and exits your stomach, it piles into your intestinal cavity, where acids and enzymes break fat down into molecules small enough for your cell walls to absorb. From there, these tiny molecules find their way to the veins of your chest and fat stores throughout your body.
Sidebar: Unless we do the things necessary to eliminate fat from our system – exercising to burn it off and reducing our fat intake as much as possible – it never really leaves. But instead of surfacing on our skin, it takes the form of obesity, heart disease and diabetes – far worse than any facial breakout, right?
But I digress – back to the issue at hand.
Acne doesn’t come directly from the fat deposits that develop from the foods we eat. Breakouts originate in the ducts that connect the sebaceous (said seb-ay-shus) glands in the skin. These glands produce sebum, what our skin and hair uses to keep both soft and protected from the elements. When these glands get clogged with sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria, pimples and blackheads have the perfect environment to develop and multiply. The immune system responds, and that’s where the redness and inflammation of acne comes from.
That’s the process in a nutshell – and hormones increase the frequency of that process. So what affects the hormone levels that increase the frequency of the process that causes acne?
I’m glad you asked! Here are a few influences:
  • Puberty
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
  • Pregnancy
There are others, of course. Two of them, in particular, really have me thinking twice about the things I’m choosing to eat regularly – dairy & sugar.
It turns out that they raise androgen (hormones that promote male characteristics in humans) and insulin levels, both of which get that whole acne process started in the first place.
So, bottom line: Does greasy food show up on your face as acne? No. Does the food you eat influence your body’s chemistry, thereby promoting conditions like acne, obesity, heart disease and diabetes? Absolutely. We can’t go wrong with incorporating more raw vegetables, fruits and whole grains into our eating habits.
Photo credit: Old Shoe Woman

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