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This week Dr Zac Turner looks at how your diet can affect your skin, in particular acne.

QUESTION: Hi Dr Zac, after reading your column about the dangers of sunscreen chemicals, I began to read all the bottles in my bathroom and realised so many others are filled with crap too! Can you tell me some other common lotions/products we use that are riddled with chemicals?

I’ve found my acne treatment to be filled with chemicals, is long-term use of these good or bad for my skin?

Also, I recently discovered dairy to be a trigger for my acne. I was wondering if you knew why dairy would be a trigger? Are there any other classic triggers? What natural remedies can you recommend for alleviating acne? – Will, 22, NSW


ANSWER: Hi Will, to answer your first question: yes, you would not believe how many items in your household contain harmful chemicals and additives. Especially acne treatment and other products aimed at changing your skin’s natural processes. Always read the ingredient list on the back of products, I cannot stress that enough. I would have to say moisturisers are the worst of the bunch. They are almost always oil-based and riddled with harmful chemicals and additives.

Look out for mineral oil in your moisturisers and lotions, it’s been known to be a human immune system intoxicant. This is extremely common and is derived from petroleum. For someone in your position who has to moisturise due to acne products making your skin dry, moisturisers with mineral oil can cause acne flare ups. You’ll put yourself into a gruesome negative feedback loop if you don’t read your ingredient list.

The Dr Zac word of advice when it comes to beauty products is if it isn’t natural, it usually isn’t the best for your body’s natural processes. Our skin is like a delicate ecosystem, with its own ways of dealing with external stimuli. You don’t want to keep attacking your skin with a barrage of chemicals. It may solve a problem like your acne temporarily, but it will cause other problems later on in life.

Now, to get to the cause of your acne troubles. Acne is a result of the sebaceous glands in your skin producing an excess amount of sebum – which is an oil that lubricates hair and skin. Hormonal teens often create far too much sebum, which leads to clogged pores and subsequent acne. Each person is unique and so certain things have been linked to acne in studies.

Dairy is very common in flaring up some people’s reactive rosacea acne. Whey and Casein proteins are found in cow’s milk, which is the base ingredient in all dairy products. These two proteins stimulate hormone production in cows, and surprise surprise, it causes the same in humans. Extra hormones lead to extra sebum production leading to acne flare ups.

  • Stress and anxiety – cortisol production from stress is linked to acne flare ups. Feel good, look good.
  • Sunburn – damaged skins causes excess oil production leading to clog pores.
  • Frequent touching of skin – don’t touch your face, your hands are dirty! Best advice for those with acne is to refrain from touching your face entirely.
  • Chocolate and greasy foods – mixture of high dairy and high glycerin in diets has been linked to some types of acne flare ups

Will, you are going to have to say goodbye to pizza and ice-cream. Live like a lactose-intolerant person and eat some yummy vegan dairy products. My favourite is coconut yoghurt in the morning with fresh, organic berries. And I am known to have some vegan pizza every now and then. Enjoy!