The link between diabetes and acne.

As we receive a number of enquiries from people who suffer from diabetes and acne,  we thought we’d take a closer look at the link between insulin resistance and acne.

Since the 1950s, scientists have referred to Acne as ‘diabetes of the skin’. Insulin is needed for your body to convert glucose into energy, but too much insulin in your bloodstream can cause an increase in insulin-like growth factor 1( IGF-1, 6) and this promotes skin cell growth.

Insulin-like growth factor 1, also called somatomedin C, is a hormone similar in molecular structure to insulin. It plays an important role in childhood growth, and has anabolic effects in adults, helping your body to build and repair muscle tissue. 

Research by the American Diabetes Association has found that around a third of people with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes at some time in their lives. In some cases, the onset of adult acne is actually one of the first visible signs of developing diabetes.

Diabetes and acne connection.

The connection between diabetes and acne becomes clear when we look at how diabetes and acne develop in the body. 

Diabetes is a condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level (glucose) to become too high because the body cannot process it properly. In a healthy body, insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, moves glucose out of the bloodstream and into the body’s cells, where it is broken down to release energy.

However, if you suffer from diabetes, your body is not able to transform the glucose into energy, because either there isn’t enough insulin present – termed Type 1 diabetes – or because the insulin doesn’t function properly – and this is termed Type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is classed as an auto-immune disease. The body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin, causing too much glucose to be left in the bloodstream. 

Type 2 diabetes – also known as insulin resistance – is the result of the body’s inability to produce enough insulin or when the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

Many people with type 1 diabetes suffer from acne well beyond their teenage years due to hormonal imbalances caused by their illness. In addition, diabetes affects the skin’s ability to heal itself, which means that blackheads, whiteheads, and spots take longer to heal. 

The glycemic index and acne.

The glycaemic index (GI) is a ranking system for foods that contain carbohydrates, showing how quickly each food affects your glucose (blood sugar) level. Carbohydrates with a low GI value of 55 or less are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised and cause a lower and slower rise in your blood glucose and, therefore your insulin levels.

It has long been acknowledged that if you have a diet high in sugar, salt, and processed foods this can increase your chance of developing type 1 diabetes and cystic acne.

When your blood sugar spikes, it can lead to inflammation, and this plays a role in the development of acne. Eating foods with a high glycemic index can also elevate hormones that increase the activity of oil glands in the skin, and this can contribute to the formation of acne.

For this reason, diabetes patients who suffer from acne often have difficulty getting their skin condition under control. 

However, just like any other acne sufferers, they are likely to see an improvement in their diabetes and prevent spots or get rid of spots by making simple changes to their diet.

Several scientific reports have shown that high intakes of refined, high-GI carbohydrates may be a significant cause of acne in Western countries.  Interestingly it’s been observed that acne is not seen in populations with diets with very low glycemic index values so switching to a diet with a low glycemic index can result in fewer acne lesions, less skin inflammation, and smaller oil glands.

In a 2015 controlled study of 243 patients with acne vulgaris and 156 healthy subjects into the link between insulin resistance and severe acne vulgaris, researchers concluded there is evidence to suggest that consuming a diet with a high glycemic load (HGL) may trigger acne by inducing hyperinsulinemia.

Hyperinsulinemia is associated with type 2 diabetes and means that the amount of insulin in your blood is higher than is considered normal.

Following a diet low in glycemic load (LGL)  may prevent hyperinsulinemia by lowering postprandial insulin, the exaggerated rise in blood sugar after a meal.

Getting the GI balance right.

Managing your diabetes and your acne might seem complex but following some simple guidelines should help you get the lifestyle balance right for you:

  • Look to follow a low GI diet by reducing your consumption of refined carbs and processed foods. The Glycaemic Index Food Fact Sheet is a useful resource to check when you are choosing foods with a low GI as it highlights that not all food with a high GI are bad and not all foods with a low GI are necessarily good!
  • Ensure your diet is high in fibre – both soluble and insoluble. Many foods with a low GI are a rich source of fibre.
  • Keep active and on a regular basis.  Sounds obvious but moderate daily exercise is particularly important if you suffer from diabetes as it can lower your insulin level which in turn will be beneficial in helping to control your acne.
  • HIgh blood glucose levels can increase the risk of dehydration so it’s important to stay hydrated.  Water is the best option for your glucose levels and your acne.

PRAVENAC help: clear skin® is a diabetic-friendly, acne treatment in natural supplement form.  

With antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties derived from the active ingredients lactoferrin, high extract aloe vera, oligofructose, and zinc gluconate, it’s an effective spot treatment.

These properties help PRAVENAC help: clear skin® target the symptoms of acne, reducing redness and inflammation, and with regular long-term use can reduce the appearance of acne scars.