Diet is one of the pathways that we can have the biggest impact on acne.  Many acne sufferers still have no idea of the impact of diet and actually how it influences the skin and their sebum.  What you eat directly influences the amount of sebum you produce.  It also influences how sticky or free flowing it is.

The glycaemic load is a term that refers to the impact that food has on our insulin levels.  Glycaemic load is based on a typical portion size and how it influences blood sugar levels.  It is different to glycaemic index as there as some foods that have a high glycaemic index but the portion that would normally be consumed is so small that the glycaemic load is low.  So glycaemic load is a far more accurate indicator of how food influences our insulin levels.  The glycaemic load of our diet actually influences sebum production.  The first meal of the day being the most critical one as it influences the blood sugar levels for the rest of the day.  Eating a high carb breakfast is a disaster for acne sufferers.  They are better eating something like oats as it is slow release.

A study was done that examined thirty-one male acne patients (aged 15–25 years).  Their sebum was testing for 12 weeks following dietary intervention.  The experimental treatment was a low glycemic load diet, comprised of 25% energy from protein and 45% from low glycemic index carbohydrates. In contrast, the control situation emphasized carbohydrate-dense foods without reference to the glycemic index. Acne lesion counts were assessed during monthly visits. At baseline and 12-weeks, the follicular sebum outflow and composition of skin surface triglycerides were assessed using lipid absorbent tapes.


The more saturated fatty skin surface acids we produce the less sebum and acne we have.  The higher the levels of monounsaturated fatty acids of skin surface the more lesions and sebum is produced.  What they found was that those on the experimental diet which was low glycaemic had a vast difference in the sebum production and lesions.  Studies also conducted in Australia also verified that diet alone can result in 50% reduction of acne lesions with out changing anything they were doing topically.

The experimental group had increases in the ratio of saturated to monounsaturated fatty acids of skin surface triglycerides when compared to controls [5.3 ± 2.0% (mean ± S.E.M.) vs. −2.7 ± 1.7%, P = 0.007]. The increase in the saturated/monounsaturated ratio correlated with acne lesion counts(r = −0.39, P = 0.03). Increased follicular sebum outflow was also associated with an increase in the proportion of monounsaturated fatty acids in sebum (r = 0.49, P = 0.006).

Now if you are wondering why this is… is the answer.  Saturated fat usually doesn’t oxidize rapidly.  Monounsaturated fats can oxidize.  Sebum that oxidizes produces free fatty acids and this creates inflammation and stimulates the acne cycle.  So the next time you thing about that sweet treat beckoning….think about the effect on your skin.


About the Author

Jacine Greenwood is an internationally recognised educator who is known within the industry for her up to date knowledge and her ability to deliver training in an easy to understand method.

Jacine holds 6 Diplomas and a Bachelor of Nursing and her knowledge is well respected by her peers.  With over 19 years experience in the industry and a background of cosmetic formulation, Jacine has an immense knowledge of current trends in research and new developments in the industry.

Jacine has been continually educating herself in all aspects of skin function and cosmetic chemistry for the past 21 years.  Jacine’s knowledge is current and has a vast knowledge of the active ingredients that are being released onto the market.



Robyn N. Smitha, Anna Brauec, George A. Varigosc,  Neil J. Manna.  “The effect of a low glycemic load diet on acne vulgaris and the fatty acid composition of skin surface triglycerides” Journal of Dermatological Science Volume 50, Issue 1, April 2008, Pages 41–52.