Food for thought: Former acne sufferer Dale Pinnock has created a cookbook with recipes for alleviating skin complaints

ACNE. It's something you probably thought you had seen the back of in your teens, along with bad haircuts and crushes on pop stars

But an increasing number of adults are still suffering from big, fat breakouts of grown-up spots (while quite a few are waiting to grow out of the other two complaints as well).

Earlier this month, unflattering photographs of actress Hilary Swank were published in the press, revealing the extent of her painful-looking adult acne. And Cassandra Bankson, a 19-year-old from California, has so far clocked up more than two million YouTube hits after she filmed tutorials on how to use make-up to cover the unsightly evidence of acne. So it’s fair to say this is a pretty widespread complaint.

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You wouldn’t know to look at him now – all smiley and super-confident – but Dale Pinnock was once so plagued by spots he was cringingly self-conscious. From the age of ten, just as he was moving from primary to secondary school, his skin produced the kind of zits that have children yelling, “Pizza face” across the playground. “It was a bit of a traumatic time,” he says, laughing.

“I got topical antibiotics, oral antibiotics, vitamin A preparation, all sorts of strange lotions and potions, and nothing made much difference.”

Then, when he was 15 and at a friend’s house moaning, his friend’s mother piped up. “Look,” she said, “unless you sort out what’s going on in the inside, nothing’s going to change on the outside.”

Welcome advice? Not at first. “Obviously as a teenage boy my first reaction was, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ But she gave me a book, Fit for Life by Harvey Diamond, a real 1980s cult classic, and I read it cover to cover over the weekend. All of a sudden it made sense – we can actually change what’s going on in the body just by changing elements of our diet and lifestyle.”

Fortunately for Pinnock, he has always loved food and cooking. “From the minute I was able to cook – around the age of four – I was in the kitchen, getting involved in making the family meals. I used to make the most amazing cakes – I’d beat the rest of my family hands down. I just had a knack.”

So it didn’t take much for him to take control of his teenage diet. He gave up meat and dairy foods – though he stresses that’s not necessarily right for everyone – and hasn’t had one of his cakes in years. “Then I started introducing loads of plant-based foods. The transformation was incredible.”

His research led him to study herbal medicine and nutrition at university, and his expertise means he is now a regular on television shows such as Lorraine. “There are thousands of skin conditions,” he explains, “and there are a lot that diet will have no effect on. But there is strong evidence that points to real benefits with acne, eczema, rosacea and psoriasis. It won’t necessarily completely eradicate them but it can certainly improve the way they look.”

Eczema, for instance, is an acute inflammatory response. Pinnock says, “If you consume loads of sugary foods, that’s going to send your blood sugar all over the place. You’re going to get spikes of insulin, and that’s going to make the inflammation worse.”

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However, the dry skin condition is responsive to changes in the body’s fat intake, and a dose of omega 3 – found in oily fish and some seeds – can take down a flare-up within a couple of days. A low GL diet – foods that release sugar slowly – can also help. He recommends eating things like brown rice, which is full of B vitamins, sweet potatoes and flax and pumpkin seeds.

On the subject of acne, again omega 3 fatty acids, oily fish and flax oil treat inflammation, while reducing omega 6 – in things like sunflower oil and margarines – encourages the body to create more of it’s own natural anti-inflammatory response.

“The other part of the picture is infection,” says Pinnock. “Anything you can do to speed up the healing process is important. Zinc regulates the speed at which white blood cells move to the site of the infection and the speed at which they respond. Those two things alone – omega 3 and zinc – can make a huge difference to acne sufferers.” Acne-fighting foods include pumpkin seeds, prawns and sweet potatoes.

Take his advice, he claims, and you won’t just notice the difference on the outside. “The changes in my own life were incredible,” says Pinnock. “The acne disappeared, leaving not even the slightest mark. But beyond that, my body and mind were completely transformed and an entirely new person was born.” n

The Clear Skin Cookbook, by Dale Pinnock, (Right Way, £7.99) – buy Clear Skin Complex (£21.20) and Organic Clear Skin Oil (£15.50) by Viridian and get the book free