Although the debate about the link between food and acne rages on, there's growing evidence that some foods, such as citrus fruits, can help to improve acne, or make it worse. Citrus fruits include lemons, oranges, grapefruit, clementines and kumquats. These fruits contain many essential nutrients, such as vitamin C and phytonutrients, that keep skin healthy. However, there's also a chance that citrus fruits may trigger breakouts.
How Citrus Fruit Can Aggravate Acne
Food allergies can play a role in adult acne, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If you have a food allergy to citrus fruits, your immune system is responding to a protein in citrus fruit and causing reactions such as hives or itching. If you've experienced either of these symptoms when eating citrus fruits, you likely have an allergy. However, you should be tested by an allergist to confirm the diagnosis. If you are allergic to citrus fruits and notice your skin gets worse after eating them, try eliminating them from your diet to see if your acne improves.
How Citrus Fruits Can Benefit Acne
Nutrients in citrus fruits such as bioflavonoids, fiber, potassium and magnesium help fight inflammation in your body. Inflammation is a key player in acne, particularly the cystic kind characterized by large pimples with pus. However, one of the most important nutrients in citrus fruits for acne and skin health is vitamin C. It is essential for building collagen and elastin, the key building blocks of skin. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant, which means it protects your skin from free radicals that damage skin and increase inflammation. One cup of raw, white Florida grapefruit contains 85 mg of vitamin C, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. This is more than the amount of vitamin C non-pregnant, non-breastfeeding women need daily, based on guidelines from the Office of Dietary Supplements.
Consuming Citrus Fruits to Improve Acne
Women should consume at least 75 mg of vitamin C daily and men should consume at least 90 mg, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding you need between 85 and 120 mg of vitamin C. You can consume these amounts of vitamin C by eating one large orange of any variety, which provides nearly 98 mg vitamin C, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. However, vitamin C is a very unstable nutrient and the lower required amounts are not sufficient to maintain vitamin C levels in skin tissue, according to Nicholas Perricone, a dermatologist and author of "The Acne Prescription." He recommends taking a vitamin C supplement of 500 to 1,000 mg daily in addition to getting vitamin C from foods such as citrus fruits. Consult your doctor before taking any supplement to help fight acne.
Because citrus fruits provide nutrients that are vital to your health and skin, especially vitamin C, you should not eliminate them from your diet to improve acne without seeking advice from your doctor or a nutritionist. Vitamin C deficiency can cause a condition known as scurvy. You will need to increase your intake of other vitamin C-rich foods such as strawberries, broccoli, cantaloupes and red bell peppers.
- “American Osteopathic College of Dermatology”: Acne
- “Prescription for Drug Alternatives”; James F. Balch, M.D., et al.; 2008
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Acne
- Information to Pharmacists: Bioflavonoids from Citrus Fruits May Reduce Inflammation
- “The Acne Prescription”; Nicholas Perricone, M.D.; 2003
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
- USDA National Nutrient Database