Can Weight Loss Cause Acne?
According to the Mayo Clinic, acne is a “skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells.” For millions of Americans, acne is much more than what can be represented by a dry, clinical definition – it’s an embarrassing ailment that lowers your self-esteem, mars your physical appearance, and makes you more introverted and less apt to engage in social experiences. Acne, in short, can prevent you from living your life to the fullest.
After decades of scientific research, dermatologists and other medical experts have pinpointed the three main factors that contribute to the development of acne:
- Bacteria buildup
- Excessive production of sebum, or natural skin oil
- Irritation of hair follicles, stemming from the irregular elimination of dead skin particles
Of course, plenty of other factors contribute to these ones, ranging from hormonal changes to your dietary choices. Some individuals have even noticed increased acne amounts while undergoing weight loss. Could weight loss be a real contributing factor to acne formation, and an important consideration for acne treatment, or are other related factors to blame?
Is There a Medical Link Between Acne and Weight Loss?
In short, no scientific studies have indicated that losing weight will increase your likelihood of developing acne. In fact, a recent study published in the Archives of Dermatology showed exactly the opposite.
During the study, 3,600 teens were examined to determine whether there was a link between their Body Mass Index (a comparison of height and weight) and whether or not they had acne. After compensating for factors such as diet, age and developmental stage, the researchers concluded that teens with a higher BMI were also significantly more likely to have acne. The link was stronger in girls than in boys.
A similar study conducted in 2006 came to the same conclusion. In that study, researchers concluded that those in the upper 5% of BMIs for their age were “significantly” more susceptible to acne development. In fact, even those with lower BMIs that were still above average were more likely to have acne than their average peers.
However, this research does not eliminate the possibility that factors related to weight loss may play a part in acne development. In fact, some of the changes your body undergoes, as well as the activities in which you participate, could contribute to acne formation as you lose weight.
Related Factor #1: Diet
It’s long been suspected that dietary choices have something to do with acne development, and those suspicions were confirmed in 2011 when it was discovered that sugar and dairy product consumption can lead to acne.
Creating a balanced, calorie-conscious dietary regime is an important component of any weight loss plan, but these recent developments mean that you’ll need to be careful when doing so in order to avoid acne. In particular, it’s believed that the hormones found in milk are to blame, and some studies have even indicated that drinking skim milk is more likely to cause acne than drinking 2% or whole milk, basically eliminating fat as a possible contributing factor.
Meanwhile, studies have also shown that eating a diet rich in sugar and refined carbohydrates (both of which have a high-glycemic index, meaning they cause your blood sugar to spike) can lead to acne. The solution, then, is to eat whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead of processed foods that tend to be high in sugar and refined flour. Start by making simple swaps like trading white bread for whole grain bread, and making sure that you get a serving of veggies or fruit at every meal.
Surprisingly, two of the foods that were once believed to cause a spike in acne – chocolate and greasy fried foods – seem to have no real effect on acne formation, so long as they’re eaten in moderation. The bottom line is that food will only affect your acne if it also causes a sudden spike in your blood sugar, or if it affects your hormonal balance, as is the case with milk.
Related Factor #2: Hygiene
As mentioned earlier, two of the primary contributing factors to acne formation are bacteria buildup and excess oil production. Both of these factors can be controlled, at least to some degree, through your hygienic practices.
If you’re losing weight, chances are good that you’re doing so at least in part with an exercise program. When you exercise, your body and face will sweat. If your pores are already clogged, or if you allow the sweat to dry without cleaning it off, this could directly lead to the type of bacteria buildup that’s known to cause acne. The solution is to wash your face and other problem acne areas before and after working out.
At the same time, it’s very possible to take your hygiene too far, worsening acne in the process. This is due to the fact that scrubbing your skin too vigorously or using harsh, chemical-based cleaners will actually irritate your skin and increase the likelihood of acne formation. Using a simple cleanser with as few artificial ingredients as possible should be the extent of any cleaning regimen designed to prevent acne or improve an existing case of acne.