Have you ever noticed your acne condition worsening after consuming peanut butter? Nuts are considered to be rich sources of healthy fats, Vitamin E, and antioxidants. While these are good for the skin, there’s more than what meets the eye when it comes to peanuts and its derivatives.
Unlike other nuts, peanuts can trigger acne or even make it worse . So, read on to know what makes peanut butter harmful for acne-prone skin, and learn how to eliminate peanut butter-associated acne.
What Does Peanut Butter Contain?
Peanut butter is made up of peanuts, molasses or sugar, and hydrogenated vegetable oils, like soybean oil.
Peanuts are the main component of peanut butter. This is a legume and has nutritional components similar to beans or lentils, rather than nuts. That makes peanuts an acne-causing food. Also, components such as omega-6 fatty acids, androgen-like materials, agglutinin, etc., may cause acne to worsen.
Sugar and molasses are pro-inflammatory ingredients that can trigger acne as well. Also, many kinds of peanut butter available commercially can contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils or trans-fat, which increases the risk of acne.
Does Peanut Butter Really Cause/Worsen Acne?
Though there is no scientific evidence showing a direct relation between peanut butter consumption and acne, many people claim that its consumption has worsened their breakout.As more than one component of peanut butter has inflammatory properties, there is a chance that it can increase the risk of acne. It can therefore trigger a breakout through inflammation, excess secretion of acne-causing hormones, leaky gut syndrome, digestive issues and even insulin-driven hormonal acne.
Components Of Peanut Butter That Affect Skin Acne
A close look into the components of peanut butter can indicate the issues that acne-prone skin can face due to peanut butter.
1. Omega-6 fatty acids
A high quantity of Omega 6 fatty acids in peanut butter can cause acne. While Omega-3 is anti-inflammatory and helpful for preventing acne, Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory and bad for acne. Peanuts are high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids, and lend these properties to peanut butter as well.
This food can therefore lead to chronic inflammation , where the immune system becomes hyperactive. As a result, you can experience redness, swelling, and protrusion, or a zit on your face.
A 2017 study titled Diet in pathogenesis of acne vulgaris also supports the theory that high levels of omega-6 in the diet can influence the formation of acne.
Did You Know?
One tablespoon of peanut butter contains about 2.5g of omega-6 fatty acids, which is higher when compared to other nuts (E.g. Macadamia nuts, etc.).
Lectins are another component of peanuts that can cause acne by damaging your gut. Some people's digestive systems find lectins problematic to break down. Passing through the intestine, lectins can damage the wall of your intestine, causing leakage.
The presence of foreign components in blood activates your immune system to trigger inflammation, ultimately leading to inflammatory acne. A comprehensive review on the Potential Role of the Microbiome in Acne showed that intestinal permeability could trigger acne.
Peanut butter also contains androgen-like hormones, and their presence can trigger hormonal acne.
3. Added Sugar
Commercially available peanut butter usually contains a good amount of added sugar. According to the U.S. Department Of Agriculture data, 100 gm of peanut butter contains 10.5gm of sugar. So frequent intake of peanut butter can increase the risk of acne .
The presence of molasses or sugar in peanut butter can also influence insulin secretion. Excess secretion of insulin can trigger the release of IGF-1, IGFBP-3, and IL-1. These three compounds contribute to enhancing the risk of acne.
- IGF-1 influences the production of sebum oil, which clogs your skin pores
- IGFBP-3 can increase new skin cell development, further blocking pores
- IL-1 contributes to inflammation, redness and ultimately, pimple formation
4. Added vegetable oils
Most peanut butter contains hydrogenated vegetable oils, like soybean oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, etc. As vegetable oils are rich sources of omega-6 fatty acids, they make peanut butter pro-inflammatory, ultimately increasing the risk of acne.
How To Cure Peanut Butter Associated Acne?
Acne is not long-lasting, and if the causing agents are removed, it usually self-heals within 3 – 4 weeks. There are multiple treatment options to combat those annoying red bumps and restore smooth skin.
1. Remove The Triggers
If you have peanut butter-associated acne, first, stop consuming peanut butter, peanut, vegetable oils, chocolates, dairy products, etc. Also avoid a high-glycemic-load diet, which can play a critical role in acne aggravation.
2. Maintain Good Hygiene
Wash your face with a cleanser containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to remove dirt and excess oil. Don't pop the pimples and keep your hand away from them. Otherwise, it can worsen acne.
To prevent acne, wash your face at least twice a day with gentle soap and avoid scrubs and other harsh products. It will be good to avoid direct sun exposure and use sunscreen.
3. Over-The-Counter Medicine
A few standard OTC medicines can help you to reduce the spread and symptoms of acne. A few ingredients to look out for include,
1. Glycolic Acid:
This alpha-hydroxy acid works as an exfoliator to remove dead skin cells and surface impurities . This will help stop your pores from clogging and prevent further breakouts.
2. Benzoyl Peroxide:
This is one of the main ingredients  in multiple anti-acne facial cleansers and lotions. Benzoyl peroxide goes into your pores to remove excess oil, dirt and debris (acne-causing agents).
It is the most effective topical component in acne treatment . Retinoids help diminish sebum (excess oil), bacterial infection, and other acne-causing agents from your skin. Dermatologists also prescribe this powerful drug to stop acne scars from forming and further breakout.
4. Home Remedies
There are multiple home remedies to reduce acne. These include:
- Application of apple cider vinegar
- Spot treatment with tea tree oil, aloe vera
- Taking a zinc supplement
Apart from the remedies mentioned above, stress reduction, sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and a balanced diet can help reduce skin problems. Don't forget to consult a dermatologist if your skin condition does not improve within 4 - 6 weeks.
What Are The Alternatives To Peanut Butter?
When you find peanut butter is making your acne worse, switching to an acne-safe alternative to peanut butter is best. Here are some of the alternatives.
1. Butter Alternatives
A few options of nut butter that are acne-safe include almond, cashew, Barney butter, macadamia butter, etc. All these nut butters contain lesser inflammation-causing omega-6 fatty acids. Alternatively, you can also go for butter without added sugar options to be on the safer side.
2. Cooking & Salad Alternatives
You can also replace the usage of peanut butter in cooking and as a salad dressing with better alternatives like extra virgin olive oil, grass-fed butter, coconut oil and avocado oil. However, do ensure that the alternatives you use are without the impurities of canola oil, soybean oil and rapeseed oil.
When looking for acne-safe food options, cutting down on wheat and processed foods, in general, is a good idea. Some components of these foods can cause a lot of inflammation in the body and suppress good gut bacteria. Enjoy fresh fruits and veggies, low oily foods, organic/grass-fed meats, and so on as an alternative.
What Is The Recommended Peanut Butter Quantity?
Choosing the right kind of peanut butter and following a recommended intake can help your condition. When having acne, opt for peanut butter without added sugar or other sweeteners. Look for a simple ingredient list that includes just peanuts and salt.
Most people can consume 1 – 2 tablespoons of peanut butter per day, which is about 16 – 32 grams.
Peanut butter can influence your acne breakout as it is high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. It also contains lectins, which can damage the gut and trigger acne. Even the added sugar of peanut butter can trigger insulin-driven hormonal acne.
When you find your peanut butter is triggering acne, stop consuming peanut butter and opt for acne-safe food alternatives. This is especially important if you have oily skin type and are prone to acne.
1. Diet and acne: a review of the evidence, Published on 19 April 2009
2. Omega-6 fatty acids and inflammation, Published on May 2018,
3.Acne: Prevalence and relationship with deitary habits, Published on November 2011,
4. Implications for the Role of Diet in Acne, published on Jun 2005,
5. How To Treat Different Types Of Acne,
6. The Effect of Glycolic Acid on the Treatment of Acne in Asian Skin, Published on 19 June 2013,
7. Benzoyl peroxide: a review of its current use in the treatment of acne vulgaris, Published online: 17 September 2009,
8. Topical Retinoids in Acne Vulgaris, Published on: 10 September 2012,
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