You might be thinking…
“Isn’t fat bad for you? Don’t fatty foods cause acne?”
We’ve been told that fat is unhealthy for years now. Low-fat products and “heart-healthy” whole grains fill the grocery store shelves while “unhealthy” saturated fats lie dormant.
The truth is, eating plenty of fat is absolutely crucial for clear skin. Not only do fats nourish and hydrate the skin, they’re also excellent sources of acne-fighting antioxidants and vitamins that you won’t find in other foods. They won’t “clog” your pores (unless you smear them all over your face, then they might). Best of all, fat doesn’t trigger a large insulin response like carbs or protein, so it can help stop hormonal acne dead in its tracks.
A healthy diet should always include plenty of fats. Unfortunately, most of the fats we eat are loaded with inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids that can cause chronic inflammation and create acne. Vegetable oils, including soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil, are loaded with these inflammation-causing fatty acids.
So, what fats should you be consuming instead? Here’s a list of 5 fats that’ll give you glowing, clear, beautiful skin (or jump straight to the infographic):
Coconut oil isn’t just great for your skin and hair, it’s great for your body too. In addition to containing lauric acid and MTCs that boost energy, coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. Best of all, coconut oil is low in omega-6 fatty acids that spur inflammation and can cause pimples to form.
- Low in omega-6 fatty acids (0.23g/tbsp)
- Safe for cooking at higher temps (320° F smoke point)
- Anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial
Coconut oil is about the safest fat you can consume when it comes to clear skin. Not all coconut oil is created equal though. It’s important to get virgin coconut oil, as it undergoes much less processing than refined coconut oil. I’d also recommend going organic too, especially since it’s not much more expensive than conventional coconut oil.
The great thing about coconut oil is that you can use it for just about anything. Sauteing? No problem. Frying eggs? Can do. Looking to spice up your coffee? Load up on coconut oil.
“I thought you said dairy caused acne!”
Yes, it’s true, most dairy is a nightmare for acne due to the high amounts of lactose, casein, and whey, along with the fact that dairy contains boatloads of hormones that cause acne (and triggers even more hormones in our body that cause acne).
Related: Why dairy causes acne
But guess what? Ghee is just pure butterfat, which means its lactose, casein, and whey-free. It has very little calcium, and because it’s absent of carbohydrates and protein it won’t trigger much (if any) insulin. It sidesteps all the issues of traditional dairy. Ghee isn’t just safe for your skin, it’s actually healthy for it thanks to antioxidants and plenty of fat-soluble vitamins.
- Low in omega-6 fatty acids (0.29g / tbsp)
- Extremely safe at high temps (450° F smoke point)
- Free of dairy protein and lactose that cause acne
- Contains antioxidants, vitamin A, D, and K
Definitely go for organic, grass-fed ghee whenever you can. If you want to save money or can’t find grass-fed ghee near you, making ghee is really simple, and Kerrygold grass-fed butter is (luckily) really affordable. Go to your local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, get some grass-fed butter, and check out this simple video on how to make your own ghee in less than a half hour.
Thanks to its incredibly high smoke point and delicious flavor, ghee is another very versatile fat. Fry eggs with it, stick it in your coffee or sear meat with it. Ghee is a great substitute for anything you’d normally use butter for.
Of all the fats on this list, olive oil is probably the only one that just about everyone can get behind.
Packed with antioxidants, safe for vegetarians and vegans, and fairly low in inflammatory fatty acids, there’s very little to be worried about with olive oil. Despite having a higher amount of omega-6 fatty acids than the other fats on this list, olive oil contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants that more than counteract the omega-6 content.
Long story short: Learn to love olive oil
- Excellent source of skin-clearing antioxidant vitamin E (9.6% DV / tbsp)
- Contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants oleocanthal, oleuropein, and oleic acid
- Increases the absorption of other nutrients (eat olive oil with your veggies!)
Try to go with organic, extra-virgin olive oil over regular olive oil when you can. It has fewer free radicals than regular olive oil and more antioxidants. Also, always try and get olive oil in a tinted bottle and store it in a cool, dark location – olive oil is very sensitive to light, and the omega-6 fatty acids can oxidize if not properly stored, making them a bombshell for your skin.
Extra virgin olive oil has a slightly lower smoke point and higher amount of omega-6s than the other fats listed here, so I’d generally recommend coconut oil, ghee, or beef tallow over olive oil for high-heat cooking. With that being said, extra-virgin olive oil is great for sauteing vegetables, low-heat cooking, or even using as a salad dressing. I use a combination of olive oil and apple cider vinegar instead of conventional salad dressings loaded with omega-6 fatty acids.
Hate the taste of olive oil or looking to cook at higher temps with a plant-based oil?
Avocado oil is probably your fat of choice.
It’s great for making mayo and salad dressings, or for higher-heat cooking. It’s pretty similar to olive oil in most regards, with several similar health benefits.
- Excellent source vitamin E (8.5% DV / tbsp) and vitamin K (15.6% DV / tbsp)
- Great source of anti-inflammatory antioxidant oleic acid
- Increases the absorption of other nutrients (eat avocado oil with your veggies!)
- Safe for higher-heat cooking (400° F smoke point)
Just like olive oil, you’re going to want to go for an organic, extra-virgin, and unrefined avocado oil whenever you can. It’ll contain more antioxidants and healthy fats than conventional avocado oil. Also, just like olive oil, store avocado oil away from heat and light to avoid damaging the omega-6 fatty acids.
Avocado oil has a pretty high smoke point at 400° F, which makes it a bit more versatile than extra-virgin olive oil for cooking. Saute vegetables, drizzle it on salads, or even glaze meat with it prior to baking. Because avocado oil has a decent amount of omega-6 fatty acids (1.71g / tbsp), you’ll want to avoid cooking at temps near 400° F or overdoing it on avocado oil. That’s a pretty good chunk of omega-6s without much omega-3s to counteract it.
“Really? You’re telling me beef tallow is healthy?”
Grass-fed beef tallow doesn’t have any insanely positive health benefits like olive oil or ghee butter, but there’s nothing really dangerous about it either. With an extremely low amount of omega-6s and a high smoke temp, it’s ideal for high-heat cooking. With considerably less omega-6s than lard, it’s really the ideal animal fat alongside ghee.
- Very few omega-6 fatty acids (0.40g / tbsp)
- Safe for high-heat cooking (420° F smoke point)
Just like ghee, buying grass-fed beef tallow is crucial. Conventional beef tallow is much higher in omega-6 fatty acids than grass-fed, making it less stable and likely to cause inflammation (which means more pimples).
Beef tallow is pretty mild in flavor and extremely stable, which makes it great for high-heat baking, sauteing, and frying.
Wondering if your salad dressing or fat of choice is safe for your skin? Drop it in the comments below!