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Can Weight Loss Cause Acne?

If you’re overweight, getting on a healthy diet and trying to shed the excess lbs is always going to be a good thing for your body and health. But can weight loss cause acne? Some believe that the hormone changes caused by rapid weight loss can in fact cause acne breakouts. In this article, I’m going to discuss some reasons why weight loss might make you break out, and how to avoid it.

Does Weight Loss Cause Acne?

In short, no. But it’s a little more complicated than you might think. Technically, there is no scientific link between the loss of excess weight and the development of acne. Having your weight fluctuate typically has no direct impact on your levels of acne or breakouts.

So then why might you experience acne during a diet or weight loss program?

Basically, when you go on a restrictive diet, two things change. One, your body’s hormone levels fluctuate, which can cause acne. Secondly, your diet may change and you might be eating foods that previously weren’t part of your diet. The combination of these two factors can – potentially – lead to new acne breakouts. Let me explain: 

How Dieting Can Cause Acne

When you’re on a diet, it’s normal to switch up what you eat. But many of us want to shed the excess weight without drastically changing our diets or our budgets, so instead of switching to a clean, non-processed diet, we simply swap out high-calorie foods for their fat-free counterparts. Fat free yogurt, sugar-free soda – you know the types of diet foods I’m talking about. We’ve all eaten them, and I can totally understand why it might seem like a healthier option for someone trying to lose weight quickly.

The problem with this is that many sugar-free or “fat-free” diet foods are filled either with sugars or artificial sweeteners, many of which can spike your glucose levels and contribute to acne. Diet foods are a good example of “if it seems too good to be true, it is.” While you might not be drinking calories, your body is paying for the treat somewhere. There’s simply no way to drink a full bottle of soda without any ramifications.

So, if you want to lose weight without any pimply side-effects, one thing you can do is avoid the diet foods and “fat-free” alternatives and stick to a clean, whole food diet where possible. It’s also a good idea to be aware of so-called healthy “superfoods” that are actually super unhealthy and terrible for acne. I talk about these foods in my eBook, Unmasking Acne.

How Extreme Weight Loss Can Cause Acne

Another way weight loss can cause acne is by causing your hormones to fluctuate. When you lose weight rapidly, you might not give your hormones a chance to regulate themselves to your new weight. This new hormone imbalance can lead to the development of acne.  

Plus, when you’re on a highly restrictive diet – especially if you’re eating processed diet foods – it might be difficult for you to get the required nutrients and vitamins into your body. This can also have an impact on your skin, making it dull, tired and more acne-prone to boot.

Instead of going on a rapid calorie deficit, find a healthy way to cut weight and you’ll limit the toll of weight loss on your complexion. 

Another important point to make is that protein powders and extreme weight lifting are also both known to cause acne. Protein powders are often full of glucose-spiking sugars and caffeine, and extreme weight-lifting increases testosterone, which can temporarily cause breakouts. If your skin is sensitive to acne, you might want to leave the powders and heavy lifting and opt for some traditional cardio or toning exercises. 

Can Weight Loss Help Acne?

Yes! Don’t be discouraged by this article if you want to shed some excess weight. The main reason people develop acne during a weight loss regime is that they diet irresponsibly. Extreme dieting will deprive your body of essential nutrients and vitamins, while spiking its glucose levels with calorie-free artifical sugars.

Losing weight should actually help acne, as your hormones are more likely to be stable once you reach a healthy weight. This means less sebum and oil available to clog your pores. The key is just to lose weight healthily. 

The Bottom Line?

So, can weight loss cause acne? Yes and no. It all depends on how you go about losing the excess weight. Listen, I can totally understand those who put on weight over time and want to get rid of it as soon as possible. But is a lower number on the scale worth the detriment to your skin? 
To lose weight and keep acne at bay, lose the weight responsibly. Most nutritionists recommend 1-2 lbs per week for a healthy weight loss, as this gives your body, skin and hormones the time to adapt. You can also take a look at my eBook, Unmasking Acne, for a run-down on acne-friendly foods to incorporate into your diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can weight loss cause skin changes?

Yes, dramatic shifts in weight (either up or down) can cause hormone fluctuations. Whether your skin improves or worsens depends on how safely you lose or gain weight, and what changes you make to your diet.

Will losing weight help acne?

This completely depends on your current weight. If you are overweight and begin eating healthier, your skin will likely become more clear. However, if you lose too much weight and become undernourished hormone fluctuations could cause acne breakouts.

Originally Published: June 02, 2022

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood

Hi, I’m Sam Wood, the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach at GoodGlow, as well as a best-selling author for one of the top acne books on Amazon. I struggled with acne for over 10 years, and began studying the effects of diet on skin quality while pursuing a degree in Nutrition Sciences at the University of Missouri. After shifting from mainstream skincare trends to in-depth research in medical journals, I experienced significant personal success in managing my acne. This inspired me to start GoodGlow, where I simplify complex scientific findings into easy-to-understand advice. With over 10 years in the field, I’ve helped more than 2,500 people achieve clearer skin through natural, holistic methods, and I’m dedicated to personally assisting those seeking guidance on their acne journey.

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