Acne, diet and sleep

There is no research to suggest that diet or sleep alone causes acne. However, many people we spoke to felt dehydration and lack of sleep impacted their skin. Some thought food could affect their acne but were unsure about whether changing their diet made their skin better. Others felt worrying too much about diet and sleep could cause stress which wasn’t good for their skin. Most people tried to find a balance between a ‘healthy’ diet, late nights, and living life without too many restrictions. As Marga said, “I don’t want to let it [acne] affect my life completely”.

People often received confusing information on how diet affects acne, if at all. Some people got dietary advice from friends, family, and online forums, and were told to avoid dairy, refined sugar and oily/fatty food. On the other hand, fruit, vegetables, and keeping hydrated were thought to improve skin. Becky and Will got dietary advice from their doctors. However, Tom, Rachael and Sarah were told that there was no clear link between food and acne.
Most people tried to maintain a “balanced” diet or eat less foods considered ‘bad’ for the skin, such as pizza and chocolate. Many tried to eliminate dairy, which had a big impact for Harriet and Deborah.
Changing diet didn’t work for everyone. Sarah tried excluding gluten and milk but it didn’t make her skin any clearer. Marga ate fresh yeast, but it “tasted disgusting,” and she doesn’t think it made a difference. Hester thinks that acne should be seen as a medical condition rather than something caused by eating “a lot of bad food”.

Some people said that, because acne can fluctuate on a day to day basis and flare-ups can have multiple causes, changing diet alone won’t necessarily mean clear skin. This is why some people felt that instead of trying to control their acne through their diet, they would rather enjoy their food, accepting that it may have an impact their skin. Becky thinks that not eating chocolate “reduces a lot of fun” in her life. Similarly, Ollie feels that the best way to deal with acne is “to get treatment, as opposed to just sort of eating less pizza”.

For most people we talked to, their acne did not disturb their sleep. A few said it could affect them in different ways though. Devan said that large spots on his back could be painful and wake him up. Rachael and Hester sometimes had to sleep on their backs to avoid putting pressure on spots on their faces. Eli sometimes scratches her acne in her sleep which can wake her up and damage her skin. Abbie and Kosta mentioned that some creams they put on before bed irritate or sting which makes it harder to sleep, but Abbie felt this “wasn’t a massive deal”. The stress of having acne and not knowing what to do about it could also affect sleep. Some people had time-consuming skin care and treatment routines at night. Becky, Alexandra and Shu En thought a lack of sleep could make their acne worse.


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