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Relationship between Insulin and Acne

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

By Dr. Shreya Batra, ND

Do you ever have an extra slice of cake or indulge in 1 too many cookies or sugary treats and then notice a flare-up of acne the next day? What about when you have foods high in simple carbs (beautiful large plate of pasta, I’m talking to you!)?

There is a biological reason for this – and if you suffer from chronic acne, then it is possible that insulin resistance may be an underlying reason (perhaps among other reasons).

Let’s go through the process of this in your body:

  1. You consume a food item high in sugar/simple carbs

  2. The food enters your bloodstream and is broken down into glucose

  3. Pancreas gets the signal to release insulin to help drive the glucose into the cells so that the glucose can be used as energy

  4. Too much glucose in the bloodstream will trigger more insulin to be released (and keep releasing based on the amount of glucose)

  5. The excess insulin will trigger IGF-1 which triggers increased androgen production

  6. Increased androgen in the blood increase sebum (oil) production which results in increased acne

What may cause or worsen insulin resistance?

  1. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

  2. Type 2 Diabetes (or a family history)

  3. Chronic Stress

  4. Chronic use of certain medications (statins, steroids…etc)

How can you support your diet if you have concerns about adult acne and insulin resistance?

  1. Limit simple carbs as they are high in sugar: white breads, white pasta, sweeteners, sodas, white rice and noodles, cereals, desserts

  2. Limit dairy intake: Milk has the ability to increase insulin levels and cow’s milk has also been shown to increase IGF-1 which will trigger androgen production, as described above.

  3. Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish, avocados, olive oils, nuts and seeds). This will help reduce the inflammation causing the acne and preliminary studies also indicate that omega-3 could have a role in reducing insulin resistance in the body.

  4. Increase fiber intake (nuts, seeds, green veggies, flax seeds…etc). This will help balance blood sugar levels and hence insulin levels and promote healthier skin.

What else can you do specifically for insulin resistance?

  1. Exercise – aerobic exercise can specifically improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin.

  2. Stress reduction – stress and particularly your stress hormone: cortisol, makes it difficult for your body to utilize insulin and increases glucose in the bloodstream.

  3. Sleep – ensure that you are getting at least 7-8 hours of restful sleep. Blood sugar metabolism is greatly affected in those who have reduced sleep.

  4. Supplementation – Berberine, Inositol, NAC, acetyl-L-carnitine are all great supplements which may benefit your insulin sensitivity. However, please speak to your ND for appropriate dosages and to ensure safety.

What else can you do specifically for your acne:

  1. Change your sheets and pillow cases every day or every other day.

  2. Be mindful of the chemicals you apply to your face

  3. Limit make-up where possible

  4. Try ice or wash with cold water on your acne lesions to reduce the swelling and inflammation.

What’s Next?

If you are struggling with your acne or have symptoms of insulin resistance, book a complimentary 15 minute meet and greet and let’s see how we can make a treatment plan specific to you!



Please note that content on this website is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional, not is it meant to diagnose or treat a health problem, symptom or disease. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read on this website. Information provided on this website DOES NOT create a doctor-patient relationship between you and any doctor affiliated with our website.

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