Ice Cream, Donuts & Acne: How To Bulletproof Your Skin With Epigenetics

Ice cream gives you and me acne, but not other people – here’s why.

Back when I suffered with acne, I would look around and notice everyone else’s clear skin.

It’s like when you buy a new car and all of a sudden you start noticing that same car everywhere on the road.

Can you relate?

Well… because I had a warzone on my face I was hyper aware of everyone else’s skin.

I would ask myself questions like, “How do my friends eat like shit, not have skin routines, barely clean their face, and yet have baby smooth skin?”

It was unbelievably frustrating.

Here I was a slave to a time-consuming (and expensive) morning and evening skin routine while my college friends would go out and party until 3am… only to wake up with JLO flawless skin.

Or they’d sit around and eat donuts and ice cream all day without getting a single breakout.

I swear… they could take a nap in a puddle of mud and wake up 100% clear in the morning!

They put zero attention towards caring for their skin yet they had the clear, perfect skin I dreamed about.

It wasn’t until many years later that I finally realized what was going on.

No, it wasn’t luck. It was something else… something that hasn’t yet made its way into mainstream media… something that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves…

And that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about in this post.

Was I just dealt a bad genetic hand?

After I tried everything under the sun to get rid of my acne without success (while burning through wads of cash), I came to the conclusion that I had just been dealt a bad genetic hand.

I was ready to accept my fate as a lifelong acne-sufferer.

In my mind, blaming it on genetics made logical sense. My uncle and a few other family members had horrible acne, so I likely inherited the dreaded “acne gene.”

But wait a second… if I was cursed with the “acne gene” how on earth was I eventually able to get clear? Did I just “grow out of it?”

Perhaps… but I never had acne as a teenager so that didn’t make sense.

It wasn’t until years and years after I was clear did I understand exactly WHY some people simply don’t get acne while others do, and also why some people develop acne earlier in life and some later.

It isn’t genetics… it’s epigenetics

I first heard the term “epigenetics” from Dr. Bruce Lipton. I was listening to a podcast while driving in my car and literally had to pull over because I was so bewildered by what I had just heard.

Dr. Lipton has been studying the field of epigenetics for a while now, but unfortunately this emerging field of science hasn’t yet made its way into mainstream media.

As a result, not many people know about it.

To understand epigenetics and how it works, let’s first look at the prefix “epi.”
“Epi” means above, over, or on[1] .

Put together (epi + genetics) and it means “above” or “over” genetics.

Blending everything together, the field of epigenetics is defined as the study of the way in which the expression of heritable traits is modified by environmental influences or other mechanisms without a change to the DNA sequence[2] .

What the f*** does that mean?

It means that the behavior of your genes (known as gene expression) is NOT set in stone and can instead be influenced by how you interact with your environment.

That’s right… you can literally influence how your genes behave!

Take a second to wrap your head around that. Most of us grow up in the mindset that we are stuck with whatever genetic hand we were dealt at birth.

We use it as an easy out: “Oh, my parents had horrible acne so I do too and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

This is a disempowering mindset. But before epigenetics, what other option did we have?

While you may have a certain genetic hand you were dealt at birth, you can influence the expression of that genetic hand by how you interact with your environment

Then epigenetics comes along and says not so fast… while you may have a certain genetic hand you were dealt at birth, you can influence the expression of that genetic hand by how you interact with your environment.

For example, you may have been dealt the gene for obesity at birth. But just because you have the obesity gene doesn’t mean you’ll develop obesity. After all, you aren’t born obese.

Whether or not this obesity gene gets “expressed” or “turned on” depends largely in part by how you interact with your environment[3] :

  • What you eat
  • Where you live
  • Your relationships
  • What you breathe
  • What you drink
  • Your stress levels
  • Your exercise habits (or lack thereof)
  • How you sleep
  • Your age
  • Etc.

The same line of thinking applies to acne.

Now… whether or not there is actually one specific gene (aka the “acne gene”) related to the development of acne is up for debate. But current research leaves us with some clues:

  1. An article published in the Journal of Dermatology states, “Hereditary factors play an important role in acne. Neonatal, nodulocystic acne and conglobate acne has proven genetic influences[4] .”
  2. Another study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology looked at over 1,000 pairs of twins to determine if genetics play a role in acne. The results suggest “81% of the variance of the disease was attributable to additive genetic effects.” The study goes on to mention, “Family history of acne was also significantly associated with an increased risk[5] .”

So what exactly does all of this mean? It means that although the link between acne and genetics may not be crystal clear, there is some link.

In other words, genetics and acne are related, we just aren’t sure to what extent.

For simplicity, let’s refer to these genes as “acne genes” moving forward.

Imagine your acne genes like light switches on the wall in your home. Epigenetics tells us that how you interact with your environment determines if those switches are either on (acne) or off (no acne).

It’s important to understand that the default healthy state of your acne genes is OFF.

Think about it… you weren’t born with acne, were you?

That means at some point in your life due to how you interacted with your environment, your acne genes got “turned on” or “expressed” and you developed acne.

This insight should feel liberating because it shows that YOU are in control of your acne, not your genetics.

Yes, genetics play a role. But since you are largely in control of which genes get expressed and which genes get silenced (by how you interact with your environment), you are largely in control of whether or not you get acne.

Remember when we said epigenetics means “above” or “over” genetics? This means that you are “above” or “largely in control” of your genetics.

The best part? As an acne sufferer you can reverse your acne genes back to their normal, healthy state by changing how you interact with your environment.

In other words, you can turn off your acne genes and get the clear, glowing skin you want!

How some people have clear skin while eating ice cream and donuts

To fully understand how some people have clear skin while eating ice cream and donuts all day long, we need to dig deeper.

In epigenetics, everyone is born in a different epigenetic state (see Figure 1 below). As you age and as you interact with your environment, your epigenetic state changes[6] .

At some point along this epigenetic spectrum, disease manifests. This is what’s known as the “disease threshold.”

If your epigenetic state crosses over the “disease threshold,” you develop that particular disease.

In this graph the threshold is labeled as the acne threshold, but you could easily apply this concept to Type 2 diabetes, obesity, etc.

Figure 1 – The acne threshold and how some people develop acne while others don’t.

Let’s use Bill (red line) as a reference point. As Bill ages and interacts with his environment, he eventually hits the acne threshold and develops acne around age 25.

Now look at Sue. Sue was dealt the same genetic hand as Bill. But because she lives unhealthy compared to Bill, she hits the threshold and develops acne sooner in life around age 12 (Figure 2).

Figure 2 – Sue’s epigenetic state.

How about Rick? Rick was dealt the same genetic hand as Bill and Sue. But because Rick lives a healthy lifestyle, he remains below the acne threshold and thus never develops acne (Figure 3).

Rick had the same genetic starting point as Bill and Sue, but a much different result because of his environment.

Figure 3 – Rick’s epigenetic state.

Mary isn’t as lucky as Bill, Sue, and Rick. She was dealt a poor genetic hand.

Notice her starting point on the graph. It lays much closer to the acne threshold (Figure 4).

So even if Mary lives the same lifestyle as Bill, she’s going to develop acne at age 15 (10 years sooner than Bill) because of the genetic hand she was dealt.

Figure 4 – Mary’s epigenetic state.

Now here’s where things get really interesting…

Evan was dealt a similar genetic hand as Mary and thus ends up developing acne in his late teen years. BUT… after he develops acne he makes changes to his lifestyle.

His epigenetic state changes direction and crosses back down below the acne threshold (Figure 5).

The result? He gets rid of his acne and develops clear skin!

Figure 5 – Evan’s epigenetic state.

Because Evan continues to live a healthy lifestyle, he maintains his clear skin later in life.

Notice the time gap between when Evan begins making changes to his lifestyle and when he actually develops clear skin.

Many people tend to get frustrated when they do not get clear skin right away after making changes to their lifestyle. This is normal, and will differ for everyone.

Do you see the power here? YOU are in control of your skin (not the other way around). You can be just like Evan.

I did it, and so have several thousands of other people who have cleared their acne through diet or other lifestyle means.

Think about it… how are some people able to reverse chronic health conditions like cancer, diabetes, ADHD, asthma, etc.? Is it some sort of dark magic?

No. It’s epigenetics.

No, you don’t get to choose the genetic hand you are dealt. But this is merely a starting point.

Where you go from there is up to you.

Finally, let’s look at Sarah. Sarah is your friend who eats donuts and ice cream all day without getting acne.

She was lucky enough to be born so far away from the acne threshold that despite living an unhealthy lifestyle, she never develops acne (Figure 6).

Sarah was simply dealt a great genetic hand and no amount of unhealthy behaviors will lead to her developing acne.

Figure 6 – Sarah’s “lucky” epigenetic state.

BUT… just because Sarah can’t possibly develop acne doesn’t mean that she isn’t at risk for other diseases. In fact, if Sarah continues eating donuts and ice cream every day she will most likely develop some other disease such as cancer, diabetes, etc.

As an acne sufferer, yes, you were probably dealt a bad genetic hand when it comes to developing acne. You are like Mary and Evan.

BUT at least it is acne and not cancer or diabetes.

However, if you fail to listen to your acne (hint: it is a warning sign) you could very well develop these other serious diseases down the road.

Conclusion

While you may not be able to control the genetic hand you are dealt at birth (your starting epigenetic state), you are 100% in control of where you go from there.

You can start living a healthier lifestyle today and begin to reverse your condition. It’s 100% possible. As I mentioned above, I did it and so have thousands of other people.

If you found value in this post, please leave a comment and let me know your biggest takeaway. I’ll read and respond to every comment.

About Tim Ponticello

Tim suffered with soul crushing acne for several years in his early 20’s. After trying what seemed like every product on the market, he was able to permanently clear his acne with diet and lifestyle changes. Through his blog at journeytoclearskin.com he works to help other acne sufferers get clear. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his fiancé, two daughters, two cats, and a dog.

Sources (click to expand)

  1. “Epi-.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/epi- ^
  2. “Epigenetics.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/epigenetics?s=t ^
  3. “A Super Brief and Basic Explanation of Epigenetics for Total Beginners.” What Is Epigenetics?, WhatIsEpigenetics.com, 30 July 2018, www.whatisepigenetics.com/what-is-epigenetics/ ^
  4. Herane, M I, and I Ando. “Acne in Infancy and Acne Genetics.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2003, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12566802 ^
  5. Bataille, V, et al. “The Influence of Genetics and Environmental Factors in the Pathogenesis of Acne: a Twin Study of Acne in Women.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12485434 ^
  6. Latham, K E, et al. “The Epigenetic Lorax: Gene-Environment Interactions in Human Health.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22920179 ^
Master your acne in 4 weeks or less
  • Fix the root causes of your acne: fluoride, diet, sleep, stress & more
  • Exclusive forum access with 4,000+ members
  • Food Explorer App with skin safety ratings of 450+ foods
  • 96% of customers satisfied

{ 51 Comments }

  1. kaleigh phillips says

    Starting to use the “teccino” chicory root based coffee replacer and let go of the coffee drinking. What are your thoughts on this ? Different sources I found state it as good for the gut because the chichory fiber is a prebiotic. Any thoughts?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Kaleigh! Prebiotic fiber can provide great food for beneficial gut bacteria for sure. It’s essentially a root brew decoction, which have been used medicinally for ages. I’ve started making herbal tea in the mornings from bulk herbs (goldenrod, calendula, chamomile, pine needles, fir tips, etc.), many of which we’ve collected ourselves (but many of which we get from the co-op). I definitely feel way better when I wake up, and am not so stressed out later, since dropping coffee!

  2. Sam says

    Hi Devin,

    How low PUFA diets do you recommend? Do you think you can get all the PUFAs you need from eating beans, whole grains and whole milk? I have always felt terrible every time I have eaten seeds, fish oil and other EFA supplements.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Sam! Yeah, definitely. Very low PUFA is good. It’s all about quality and freshness with PUFA – most fish oils, seeds, supplements, etc. are totally rancid by the time you ingest them. Yes, the Inuit traditionally eat tons of seal blubber (high in PUFA), but it’s extremely fresh and non-oxidized when ingested, and they also eat thyroid glands of seals, which provides loads of iodine and thyroid hormone to block lipid peroxidation of that PUFA.

      How do you feel with raw oysters, have you tried that? They’re a prime acne-busting food, with lots of zinc and also super-fresh DHA.

  3. Brooke Turley says

    Ok, you’re officially talking crappy science, in light of this article about marigolds and chickens. Apparently it very much does indeed improve eggs to have marigolds in the chickens’ diets.

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/scialert.net/fulltext/amp.php%3fdoi=ijps.2017.11.15

    I certainly hope that no one has gone and altered either their own diet or that of their poultry, just because of your half-baked scare tactics. Good grief. “ Fake orange” in nature, indeed.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Brooke! Wow, color me (majorly) wrong. Thanks for pointing this out! That was really sloppy – I don’t know what I thought that marigold color would not be related to an antioxidant carotene. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. I’m sorry about this carelessness – I have removed this from the post after following up on the articles you linked! I will try to be more careful next time.

  4. Brooke Turley says

    Hi, I hate to burst your anti-marigold bubble, but the thing is, marigolds are orange themselves due to caratenoids! They’re full of nutrients, actually, and there’s no such thing as “fake orange” in nature.

    (Unless I count the time that my dad consumed massive quantities of beta-carotene in his heroic search for a natural “fake tan”. That time, “fake orange” definitely fit the bill.)

    Here’s an article that details the nutritional profile of marigolds:

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756464612000734

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Brooke! (Just duplicating the response here to your other comment) Wow, color me (majorly) wrong. Thanks for pointing this out! That was really sloppy – I don’t know what I thought that marigold color would not be related to an antioxidant carotene. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. I’m sorry about this carelessness – I have removed this from the post after following up on the articles you linked! I will try to be more careful next time.

  5. tom hennessy says

    Researchers in a recent study took 60 women with hyperandrogenemia which has cystic acne as a major symptom, and reduced the iron in 30 by phlebotomy, and gave the ‘standard of care’ to the other 30, found, phlebotomy to reduce iron levels was as effective as the drugs used in the ‘standard of care’.

    Effect of phlebotomy versus oral contraceptives containing cyproterone acetate on the clinical and biochemical parameters in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. J Ovarian Res 12, 78 (2019).

    https://doi.org/10.1186/s13048-019-0554-9

    There seems to be more to the iron than we fully realize ..

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Tom – whoa, that’s fascinating! Great find! Amazing that phlebotomy brought on normal menstruation in 44% of subjects – I bet if they also added 3,000 IU of retinol, it would have improved results even more (vit. A boosts ceruloplasmin production to bind excess free iron).

    • Sean says

      Hey Rey, do you consume Magnesium through supplements or are you making an effort to eat Magnesium rich foods?

      (just curious)

  6. Luo says

    Stress can induce a series of negative effects on the human body. Many people are easily depressed under pressure, which has a bad influence on the treatment of acne.
    Some people overeating under pressure, too much sugar can easily induce acne.
    And stress can make people unable to sleep, and lack of sleep has too much effect on the skin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Master your acne in 4 weeks or less
  • Fix the root causes of your acne: fluoride, diet, sleep, stress & more
  • Exclusive forum access with 4,000+ members
  • Food Explorer App with skin safety ratings of 450+ foods
  • 96% of customers satisfied