There are certain foods that are very controversial when it comes to your skin’s health, and whether or not that particular food will aggravate your acne.
Garlic seems to be one of those foods that is either listed in acne treatment resources as your friend – a great way to treat your acne, or your foe – a food that has the ability to make your acne worse. So which do we believe?
The diet guidelines that I live my life by are the result of reading a collection of diet and acne books, talking to medical and health professionals, and through trial and error on my own skin and body (basically seeing what happens when I eat certain foods). Through all of this I’ve discovered what I call ‘danger’ foods, foods that I know WILL aggravate my acne. One of these being garlic.
Why garlic is bad for your skin when taken internally
It’s really important to note here that I’m talking about eating garlic, not using it as a topical. I’ll talk more about garlic and topical treatments later.
I have had differing opinions with the food garlic, which is why I think it’s one of those very controversial foods. I went to a naturopath about my skin once, and she actually recommended that I eat lots of onion and garlic to help my skin heal. I actually didn’t follow her advice because I don’t like to cook with these two foods (for other reasons) and I’m glad I didn’t! Because I’ll share a garlic related story with you that made me realize that yes, garlic is not good at all for the skin when taken internally.
A few months ago I’d arranged to go for a long walk for exercise, and then dinner with a friend. I had a quick …okay long …look at my skin before I went out and was happy. My skin was looking fairly clear and with just a small dusting of mineral makeup you could hardly see any of my acne scars. I didn’t have any new pimples forming either which was great. I remember at dinner even bringing it up with my friend. I told him that my skin was doing great and asked him what he thought. He looked at me and confirmed that yep, he couldn’t see a single spot on my face! I was soooo happy.
So we ate at a really nice restaurant close to where I lived then. I ordered a fish dish that came out on a bed of mash and roasted vegetables, including a ton of roasted garlic. I never would normally eat whole garlic cloves like that but I thought screw it, they’re weaker when they’re roasted so I hoed into it and ate the whole lot. AND I have to tell you, it tasted awesome.
The next morning I woke up with very aggravated skin. I had a heap more comedonal acne, my skin was a little reddish and blotchy, and already there were new pimples forming. I had an appointment with my Chinese herbalist (who is also a medical doctor) that day which was good because he was helping me clear my skin at the time. I think if I didn’t have that appointment I would have panicked! So I turn up at my appointment, and one of the first things he noticed was the garlic smell coming off my skin from all the garlic I’d eaten the night before. Hey, I couldn’t smell it!
He then asked me, “Do you like garlic?” which I responded with, “Normally no, but I ate a ton of it last night when I went out to dinner with a friend!”.
He shook his head and said, “Garlic will aggravate your acne and cause pimples you know.”. He then suggested that the next time I go out to eat I should ask the chef to not put any garlic in my meal. It was that moment that I realized that garlic taken internally IS bad for your skin and I would try to avoid it at all costs.
You see, in Chinese Medicine it is said that acne is caused by too much heat and dampness in the body. So what we want to do essentially is cool our bodies down. Every time I visit the doctor he tells me to stop eating ‘hot’ foods. This doesn’t mean temperature, it means foods that create heat in your body. Like chili, garlic, onion, peppers, cinnamon etc. I once asked him how I could tell that a food is ‘hot’, and he told me to put a little bit on my tongue, and you will know if it’s a hot food. Err, I haven’t really tried this yet, but I am very disciplined with staying away from spicy foods, chillies, peppers, garlic and anything that is
Keep in mind that this doctor I respect a lot. He’s practiced conventional and natural medicine for over 35 years and he’s damn good at his job with a huge waiting list. So I listen to him!
If you’re wondering that perhaps I just have a garlic food allergy, you’re wrong. I later wondered this myself and went and got tested. The results were negative, I have no garlic allergy. So, garlic is just one of those acne aggravating foods.
Avoiding eating garlic
I don’t think you should ever have to avoid eating any foods 100%, I think this is just about impossible, and can make you sometimes antisocial and a little boring :) I do however now avoid garlic as much as I can. This means I never cook with it at home, and when I’m cooking with a friend at their house, I mention that I can’t eat garlic because it gives me pimples …and they always leave it out for me (how nice).
Eating out is a little harder and since I’m travelling now I’m eating out at least twice a day. All I do is make sure I don’t order anything that has ‘garlic’ in the description of the food. If what I’ve ordered comes out with a very garlic taste, then so be it. I’ve found it’s okay if I eat it every now and again, and as long as I don’t eat whole entire cloves like I did before.
Garlic used as a topical
This is a whole different thing altogether, and while I can’t speak with personal experience, I’ve read a lot of reviews in forums on the net, and I’ve even been emailed by a couple of my High on Health readers that say that garlic used as a topical has done great things for their skin.
My skin has become quite clear now, I have a few small reddish scars that are fading and one pimple on my cheek that’s on its way out. This is all great because I feel more confident in helping you all out when I’ve managed to completely clear my own skin, but at the same time I feel like I can’t experiment on myself anymore! So unfortunately I’ll have to go on others reviews of using garlic as a topical, and you may need to try it yourself. Just remember to start something new slowly, because even natural substances used on the skin can aggravate or cause cosmetic acne for some people. It’s better to start slowly than to freak your skin out by using too much at once.
How to use garlic in your skin care routine
Garlic is one of those magical foods that is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral …which is why it does so well on our skin. This is similar to the healing properties of apple cider vinegar and coconut oil.
I got an email from Susan, one of my blog readers the other day. Susan is awesome, she’s found her own acne cure which involves a few natural treatments that are working wonderfully for her. You can read her post here:
I thought I’d share with you her garlic topical because it is working just so well for her.
Susan’s Garlic Mask / Spot Treatment
- 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 spoonful maluka honey
- a dash of turmeric powder or freshly grated turmeric
Combine ingredients then apply to freshly cleansed face directly onto acne and acne prone areas. Leave on your skin for 10 – 30 minutes then wash off with warm water. Apply a moisturizer.
Note: Please use turmeric with caution. It can stain the skin yellow if you use too much. If you have pale skin like me, please use only a very
There are a heap of other home recipes for masks and spot treatments on the web. All you need to do is a Google search :) But I’d like the sound of this one because Susan has had so much success with it.
So I guess garlic is both our friend and our foe!