I grew up with acne, and at that time, I didn’t have much knowledge about or belief in holistic cures or medicinal foods. I was put on a drug, Accutane, that dried my skin into a flaky mess. I would wake up with lips so chapped that they’d bled through the night, and I essentially went through two more years of severe acne before it had “cured” me, which is to say I got off the medicine and had less zits than before. Seeing as that’s kind of how puberty works, that might have happened anyway. Ironically enough, that’s something I often hear alot about medicinal foods: “That might have happened anyway”. The only thing is that Accutane has also been linked to horrific health issues including: birth defects, massive gastrointestinal problems (including Crohn’s disease) and serious psychiatric effects. Given the choice again, I’d gladly try to use food—the best medicine—to help with my acne problem before subjecting my body and mind to that, and here’s what I’d try:

Foods Rich in Selenium


Selenium is an anti-oxidant that is believed to help with skin issues. It works as anti-inflammatory for damaged cells and helps to maintain skin elasticity. Plant-based foods that are particularly high in selenium are Brazil nuts, garlic and whole grains. Here are a few recipes for upping your selenium intake.

Foods Rich in Zinc


 It’s still a bit of mystery as to why zinc prevents acne, but it’s definitely a part of the medicinal vitamin mixture. It helps the body absorb vitamin A, which is important to skin care. Plant-based dieters get zinc from legumes (beans and peas), as well as nuts and seeds. Try these good eats for booster shot of zinc.

Foods Rich in Vitamin A


 With special attention to foods high in beta-carotene, foods with a lot of vitamin A help selenium do its job. It is the “A” in the well-known acne medication Retin-A, though retinoid is from animal-based sources. Carotenoid is from plants and is often converted into retinoid by the body. Thus, a healthy supply of sweet potatoes, greens and carrots are good idea.

Foods Rich in Omega-3


There are a many myriad of reasons to get more omega-3 fatty acids into a daily diet, and acne prevention adds one more. While it’s helping the brain function better (as opposed to what Accutane does), omega-3 also aids the skin cells with inflammation problems, which will in turn subdue acne flare-ups. Luckily, the food list looks much the same: seeds, leafy greens, and beans. So, add a couple more recipes to the list.

Ultimately, a balanced plant-based diet with an emphasis on whole food sources of protein (legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds) and plenty of fruit and veg, but equally low in refined sugars and fats, is a pretty good start at battling acne without the horrific side-effects. And simultaneously, it makes the rest of the body healthier, which is much different than what I experienced.

And, while we’re at it, we might as well address scarring issues caused by acne. Foods rich in vitamin C (citrus, tomatoes, peppers) and E (dark green leaves, nuts and whole grains) will help with healing and preventing skin damage.

And, just for a little more face-melting info, there are some foods that work just as well on your skin as in your body. Olive oil rubdowns lessen oiliness, oatmeal scrubs exfoliate, and apple cider vinegar will do away with dead skin cells. And, that’s only a few: avocados, coffee grounds and many more do wonders as a slather and lather rather than a food.

Image Source: Creamy Zinger Garlic Spread