What's the scoop on diet and acne?

One of the most frequent questions I get in my practice as a dermatologist from my patients is about whether or not what someone eats is causing their acne.  Interestingly, the dermatologic community's thoughts on this issue have gone back and forth over the past few decades.  Today, there appears to be increasing scientific evidence that diet may play a role in exacerbating acne.

It was once thought that, because those with acne often have oily skin, eating oily, greasy foods might make acne worse.  This gave rise to the commonly-held belief that eating chocolate or pizza will cause acne to flare.  Flawed studies conducted decades ago seemed to support this, until better studies done more recently put this to rest; eating fat does not cause acne.

Acne is caused by genetic and hormonal factors. Usually, one’s diet does not cause acne, but may contribute to its severity. This is still somewhat controversial, and more research needs to be done to elucidate exactly which dietary factors make acne worse and how modifying one’s diet can be helpful.

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Will Zinc Improve My Acne?

With the current enthusiasm for products and treatments that are considered to be "natural", I've had a number of patients ask me whether zinc can treat their acne. I've also recently seen zinc added to over-the-counter moisturizers intended for oily skin.  Does taking zinc tablets or using zinc-containing skin care products lead to improvement in acne? Let's review a little background about zinc and its role in treating skin conditions.

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How do I choose an over-the-counter product for my acne?

If you have mild acne that is not causing scarring it is reasonable to try an over-the-counter (OTC) product before seeking medical attention.  Most over-the-counter acne products contain either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Acne products are found in drugstores as washes, astringents/toners, medicated pads, lotions, gels and creams.  The product you choose should depend on the type of acne you have and how oily or sensitive your skin is.

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