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Do Certain Foods Cause Whiteheads?

By Lisa Finn ; Updated December 05, 2018

What you put into your body usually shows on the outside. If you eat burgers and fries every day, you're likely to gain weight; smoking dries out your skin and encourages wrinkles. The same holds true for proper nutrition and whiteheads. It has been debated whether food plays a role in acne, but the evidence seems apparent: what you eat can have an affect on your pores, oil production and hormones. Because of this, it's important to make healthy food choices and steer clear of overeating certain suspected culprits like dairy and high-glycemic foods.

Whitehead Basics

Whiteheads are a combination of oil, dead skin cells and sebum that blocks the skin's sebaceous gland and inflames the pore. When the pore stays open, it creates a little white bump; when it closes a blackhead forms. The way to get rid of whiteheads is by following a strict cleansing routine: Use a face wash containing benzoyl peroxide, tone with salicylic acid and applying acne-fighting products with retinol. If this doesn't help, visit a board-certified dermatologist who can assess the whiteheads and prescribe antibiotics or topical ointments.

Hormone-Filled Foods

The addition of hormones in foods can cause your body to create an over production of sebum. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, there are enough natural saturated fats and hormones in dairy and milk -- in addition to those added by farmers -- to affect your skin. In addition, skim milk contains even more hormones than whole milk. Instead of drinking cow's milk, opt for soy or almond milk in your coffee, smoothies and cereal.

Foods to Avoid

Foods high in sugar can raise insulin levels which then creates more testosterone in the body. The testosterone then stimulates oil-gland activity and whiteheads are more likely to occur. Avoid eating sugary snacks and carbohydrates, such as bread, refined grains, pasta and dried fruits. Dark chocolate, however, is said to actually decrease acne inflammation. Also try to limit highly saturated and processed fats, such as deli meats, soda and chips. These can increase arachidonic acid levels, compete with the healthy omega-3 fats in your body and cause more inflammation and acne.

Helpful Foods

While certain foods have been linked to the underlying causes of acne, others actually help improve whiteheads once they appear. Salmon, beans, turmeric, ginger, green tea, nuts, blackberries, green leafy vegetables and eggs are said to help balance out the body's hormones. According to New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Francesca Fusco, it's important to eat whole grains and lean protein in addition to antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Also try adding a teaspoon of flax seed into a high-protein smoothie to help reduce whitehead inflammation.

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