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Is your diet causing oily skin?

asian women dabbing blotting paper on oily skin
What actually causes oily skin, could it be down to your diet? We also look into the best food for clear skin and best ways to prevent an oily t-zone.

We all have our own challenges when it comes to our skin, and it is important to not only understand how to care for it, but also what causes its imbalances.

When someone suffers from dry skin, there are a lot of conditions that could be behind it, as well as ready-made solutions designed specifically for it.

However, when it comes to oily skin, the reasons behind it can be a little more complex and a little less obvious, so sufferers sometimes have to dig a little deeper for solutions.

One thing that oily skin sufferers are often told is that the problem could be linked to their diet.

So, how true is this and what can you do to help?

What causes oily skin?

Oily skin is recognisable as it can look shiny and greasy and it can often lead to breakouts and enlarged pores.

Oily skin can also mean that make-up does not stay on well.

As with any skin type, there can be all sorts of reasons for it, and genetics, stress and hormonal changes will always play a part.

Oily skin comes about as a result of excess sebum which is released from the sebaceous glands beneath the skin and hangs on the skin.

Sebum is made from fats, and we do not want to eliminate it from our skin entirely, as it helps to protect and moisturise the skin and prevents it from becoming irritated.

However, when we get too much of it, pores can become clogged and create spots, blackheads and acne.

This extra moisturisation does have one good point though, as the suppleness means that wrinkles are kept away for longer!

The T-Zone is the area of greatest concern for oily skin types. This is the forehead and nose, creating that t-shape across your face.

This area has more active oil glands that may produce excess sebum and it can be the case that this area is oily whilst the rest of the face is normal or dry, creating combination skin.

Which foods cause oily skin?

We know that what you put into your body often shows on the outside, in terms of your weight and health, but there are also some foods that can make an oily skin situation worse.

One of these is the kind of processed carbohydrates that you might find in white bread, rice and cereal.

These are broken down quickly by your body and stimulate a rise in insulin which is thought to increase sebum production.

It is not a surprise that salt leads to dehydration, but did you realise it creates oily skin too?

That is because the dehydration leads to water retention and swelling, as well as increased oil levels while the skin tries to combat the dehydration.1

  • Skimmed milk

Skimmed milk is also thought to be a contributor to an oily skin problem.

This is possibly due to the possible hormone imbalance within it, alongside the biological changes that take place when the milk is being produced and the whey proteins that are added.

  • Red meat

Who likes a nice juicy steak? How about a bacon sandwich? Sadly, if you are an oily skin sufferer, these might be off the menu for you.

Red meat can be high in saturated fats, which increases inflammation in the skin. This, in turn, leads to excess oil production.

  • Vegetable oils

When you cook, what type of oil do you use? Vegetable oils contain a high number of omega-6 fatty acids. It is believed that these can have an inflammatory effect which is linked to the development of acne.

  • Sugar

Sugar has been painted as the bad guy of our diet for some time, and it is guilty of yet more problems when it comes to oily skin.

If a food is high in sugar then it can increase the production of a peptide hormone which can cause an overproduction of sebum.

How do you stop oily skin?

Processed foods contain many of the foods that are thought to lead to excess sebum production, including salt, sugar and processed carbohydrates.

It is therefore a good idea to steer clear of too many takeaways and ready meals, as well as avoiding adding extra salt to your food.

You could also try substituting your lamb chops for poultry or fish and swapping your chocolate bar for some fruit.

As you care for your skin, trying to avoid scrubbing the skin, as this treatment is often too harsh.

There is also a tendency to try and dry out the skin but stripping the skin of moisture will only stimulate the oil production and make the problem worse.

When it comes to reducing your sebum production, you do not have to cut out all of these foods at once.

Try limiting them one at a time to see which ones make the most difference, and then plan your diet around the results.

Cutting out these foods might not seem like much fun, but we are confident that your skin will thank you for it!

To find out more, you might like to browse our Health Hub articles ‘How oily skin can benefit from omega-3,’ ‘Oily skin: what you need to know’ and ‘A guide to oily skin.’

Last updated: 18 March 2021

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