Cystic Acne? You may be allergic to corn.

Do you suffer from cystic acne? If you do I feel for you. I really do.

I can empathize with you because I’ve had to deal with it for most of my non childhood life. For most people all they can do is suffer through it because there’s really nothing you can do for it. Not only is it just ugly to see, IT IS PAINFUL TO HAVE. I know first hand.

Hopefully I can help by telling you that your acne maybe an allergic reaction to corn. I’m no doctor, but I can tell you today, being free of cystic acne, that corn is the culprit – at least it is for me. And I suspect this maybe the case for some of you out there.

I found this out mainly through my own science, meaning one day I made an observation, from that I came up with a theory and I went out to prove whether that theory was true or not.

I don’t know for sure when exactly I discovered this or what food it was, but if I had to take a guess I’d say it was McDonald’s Apple Pie – oh so delicious and oh so deadly. You see, their apple pie, more than any other food I know gives me the worse outbreak. And it’ll work on me like clockwork. I’ll see the first signs of acne 3-4 days after eating one and it’ll grow for 2 weeks before it peaks and I’m able to pop it.

At first i had no idea what it was about a McDonald’s Apple Pie that caused my cystic acne, but it did start me on a journey to discover that corn was the root of my problems (if you didn’t know – corn is one of the eight major allergenic foods.)

Now, you may be saying, “I didn’t know you make apple pies from corn.” Well, you do when the sweetener you use is High Fructose CORN Syrup!

Now, HFCS has been getting a bad rap as of late (and I would say rightfully so,) but it’s not just HFCS you have to watch out for. It is anything, and I mean ANYTHING that is derived from corn. And you’d be surprised how many processed foods have corn or corn derived ingredients. Why is this? Because “corn is the top crop for subsidy payemnts” (Wikipedia)by the federal government here in the United States. And because our tax dollars make it so cheap it’s used as fillers in most processed foods.

Now, with that being said here is my ‘Guide to corn free living: the cure of my Cystic Acne.’

Processed foods that are sweet.

Any processed food that is sweet must be assumed to contain some kind of corn sweetener and is therefore OFF LIMITS.

The exception to this is if you have access to the ingredients list and can rule out corn or it states specifically it does not contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. But even then you have to be careful to watch out for sneaky ingredients – ingredients that are derived from corn but doesn’t have it in its name. Examples would include dextrose and maltodextrin, which I found out recently after drinking Gatorade and my acne started acting up. I don’t drink Gatorade anymore.

Processed foods that are fried.

I don’t think these foods are as prevalent as above but you should be aware that they’re out there. A popular culprit is potato chips. All the major brands use corn oil solely or in combination with other cheap oils. Stick with the premium brands like Cape Cod, and Kettle brand chips that don’t use corn oil. Also, Utz brand chips uses cottonseed oil (but they really aren’t a premium brand.)

I don’t eat that much fried food so I don’t know what everyone is using, so be on the safe side and ask what something is fried in before hand.

Processed foods that aren’t sweet or fried.

These foods aren’t obvious they may be tainted with corn, so you have no way of knowing without knowing the ingredients. One example I came across is Wendy’s Chili. I thought this was a safe food – not sweet or fried. Well, after a short period where I was eating it consistently, my acne started acting up again. Well, after a quick lookup on Wendy’s website and there it was – corn. So, no more of their chili for me.

Vinegar is another one I was surprised to find is/can be sourced from corn. It can be made from different sources such as grapes (balsamic vinegar) or rice, but you have to assume it’s made from corn unless it states otherwise.

You just have to be vigilant and make sure to get nutritional information on everything you eat regularly – as much as you can. I know that’s not always possible or fun, but a face full of cystic acne is much less fun.

And of course, whole corn itself.

Now this I don’t know for sure because I can’t remember the last time I ate whole corn itself. It’s just a logical assumption on my part. But I am open to the possibility that whole corn doesn’t have the same effect on me as isolated stuff from corn. Why? I guess my reasoning for this is kinda like the difference between drinking raw milk versus pasteurized milk. While “milk” (read pasteurized milk) is another one of those major allergenic foods, it doesn’t have the same negative effects in it’s natural raw form.

But I’ll be sure to update this post if I can ever bring myself to eat whole corn and risk a major acne outbreak.


Update (August 8, 2011)

Add beer to the list of things to stay away from. And I found this out the hard way too :/

I actually never had beer in my life except for just one sip when I was a teenager, but recently, I had two cans of Coors Light and for the past week I’ve been going through an outbreak of acne.

I would never have guessed that corn was used in beer because I’ve only heard of barley whenever I heard about beer making. Plus, there’s no ingredient list on the can so I figured it was all natural and only made with barley. But because the Coors Light was the only thing I remember having that was out of the ordinary for me, it was the most likely culprit for my most recent breakout. And I was right.

From the Wikipedia page on barley

Six-row barley is common in some American lager style beers, especially when adjuncts such as corn and rice are used…

And from the author reveals that ingredients aren’t listed on alcoholic beverages simply due to the fact that there is no law in both the United States and Canada that requires it, and with a few exceptions, all beers contain corn in some form.

38 Responses to “Cystic Acne? You may be allergic to corn.”
  1. Krystal says:

    Wow, great info here. i really think i might be allergic to corn. Lately I’ve been eating a lot of corn chips and my cystic acne has been flaring up like crazy. The chips are not what i usually eat so i think thats what triggered it…. that and eating peppermints non-stop all last week.

    im cutting out corn completely, starting today. im tired of being in pain!

    Is your acne under control now? How long did it take you to see results with out eating corn? I’m going to try out the Jojoba oil you talked about in your other post.

    Thanks for the help!

    • Steven Lam says:

      Hi Krystal ^.^

      Yeah, for sure, my acne is under control. I don’t get any unless I inadvertently eat something with corn in it.

      I’d say it takes about a week or two for any acne to fully develop from eating corn and then another two to three weeks for it to fully go away and heal, at least for me. So I’d guess a little over a month for your face to totally clear.

      How’s your diet right now? I think my diet is healthier than most, so it’s easier for me to eat corn free because I don’t eat a lot of processed foods.

      • Krystal says:

        I eat pretty healthy. Most of my meals I make from fresh ingredients. I was raised that way…never ate the processed foods. However, I started working at an elementary school this year and the cupcakes, candy, and chips are coming to me nonstop. I have no problem turning them down. Just once in a while I’ll have something and then i get the cystic acne that takes forever to go away 😦

        I stopped drinking soft drinks about 10 years ago and I noticed my acne cleared up right after that. I really think it was the corn syrup that made me break out. I’m 23 now so i really shouldn’t be getting acne.

        I’ve tried all the topic creams and antibiotics, even some hormone medication and nothing has worked. I haven’t been on Accutane and I never will.

        So now I’m checking the labels for corn, dextrose, and maltodextrin. Thanks for that, because I had no idea what those two were. So far, its hasn’t been so hard and the cystic acne I have right now has gotten better and no pain at the end of the day!

  2. Jenny says:

    I have cystic acne as well, and am searching for the culprit. I suspect it may be corn. My aunt showed me the following website, which has an extensive list of foods that contain or are derived from, corn.
    God bless

  3. abhi says:

    thanks a lot for the info .. i think i m allergic to corn too . i ve tried a lot of treatments and creams for several years, but none work , so now i ve started to focus in this direction , abt my allergy to several … foods , i think i can finally tackle my acne problem .. keep the good work going .. 🙂 🙂 THANKS

  4. It took me ten years to figure out that processed corn was the culprit. Glad you have posted this here. I often walk up to people whose faces are on fire with acne and say, “Do you love cereal?” Most of the time that is what they are eating two or three times a day that is causing them so many problems. The other day it was a guy who loved soda and corn tortillas. It’s always cereal, soda, candy, or corn tortillas. I will have to ask about those pies – McDonalds or otherwise – if I encounter someone who answers “No” to all my other questions. Another thing to ask is “What is your favorite food?” because when people have a reaction to a certain food they almost always LOVE the food that causes it.

    • Steven Lam says:

      I feel like doing the same thing when I see people with bad acne. I’m just too shy to walk up and talk to them about it, but it’s nice of you to do it!

      And, I can’t say that it’s just one thing, because corn is in almost everything. Maybe I’m just more sensitive to it – even the little bit of corn that’s added to BBQ flavoring for potato chips sets me off.

  5. Btw, I believe it is not the corn itself – but probably a fungus introduced during the processing of corn that causes the problem. I didn’t dare eat whole corn for years but have recently started trying it and I don’t seem to get any reactions from eat it it. Just an FYI – would like to hear from others if they find the same. Another thing – I was told Nutrasweet has corn in it – so diet soda is out too. I use Stevia instead.

    • Steven Lam says:

      It’s good to know you can eat whole corn without it affecting you – that gives me some confidence to try it myself.

      The Nutrasweet thing is news to me. I try to stay away from the artificial diet stuff as much as I can, but I still have it every now and then. If I have it again I’ll see if I have a reaction and make sure I add it to my post if I do.

  6. alex22 says:

    Corn gives me cystic acne too! As well as caffeine.

  7. JT says:

    I realized high fructose corn syrup caused large cystic acne on my face about 7 years ago. I have avoided it like the plague since then. A few years ago I stopped consuming any corn products because they too gave me acne to a varying degree. I’m 30 and I will still break out like a teenager within 1-4 hrs of eating something with a corn product. Through experimentation over the years I can usually tell exactly what corn product I’ve accidentally eaten just by the type of acne I get. Corn starch gives me lots of small white semi-solid filled pimples. Corn syrup will causes pimples about the size of an pencil eraser that are very red and mostly produce clear fluid with a little white stuff. Corn syrup solids mainly give me pimples on my upper lip (I have no idea why they are mainly in that location) High fructose gives me large cyst with mostly clear fluid with white semi-solid buried very deep in the skin. No acne medications or treatments seem to work and the only way to get rid of the pimples is for me to pop them. I know most people advise against popping them, but for me its the only way to get rid of them once the come to a head. A friend of mine who is an aesthetician recommend I use a diabetic lancet to pop them (finger pokers) That is what she uses in her practice. They are sterile, very thin, and sharp. They work wonderfully. I am thoroughly convinced the acne is cause by the enzymatic process used to manufacture corn products and derivatives. It is nearly impossible to avoid corn products because it is in EVERYTHING from bread to sausage. Cut out corn for a month or two and you’ll notice a world of difference. Beware of glucose syrup, glucose fructose syrup, maltodextrin, modified food starch, dextrose, and maltose they are usually corn products in disguise. Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now.

    • MJ says:

      Wow, I just found this page and can’t believe what you wrote, JT. It almost sounds like I wrote it myself.

      About 10 years ago, when I first started drinking pop, I noticed I’d get a huge pus-filled cyst or two on my face within a day. They didn’t respond to popping and took over a month to go away. Long story short, I identified HFCS/CS as the culprit and cut it out of my diet. I never get another one of those pus-filled bumps unless I mistakenly drink something with HFCS in it (think punch at a wedding), but I’m so careful about it now that it rarely happens anymore.

      I also cut out products with corn syrup solids in them. Every once in a while, I’ll eat something with solids, like crackers, and the next day I’ll have a few tiny hard bumps where the skin meets my upper or lower lip. I’ve told others this and they think I’m crazy, but it’s so heartening (and eerie) to read your exact same experience.

      I haven’t cut out corn completely–I still enjoy corn chips and regular corn once in a while and don’t suffer any ill effects. So I’m wondering if it’s indeed a corn allergy or some kind of reaction to the corn syrup itself. Waiting for the day when we have some answers…

      • John Frick says:

        Yep HFCS and corn syrup and corn syrup solids also cause me bad acne. HFCS by far the worst. My guess is that millions get acne from it but don’t realize it.

    • John Frick says:

      I also now am suspecting maltodextrin as one of the evil additives that cause me acne. Thanks for pointing it out.

  8. Lanie says:

    I never comment on these things. I’ve been a serial researcher on acne and it’s causes for several years, because mine just seems to get worse as I get older. (21 now)
    But I finally found my answer. I have a severe intolerance to corn, with all it’s additives and derivatives and everything else the devil invented.
    Thanks for posting this. People need to know. It’s so hard to deal with but the acne is far worse.

  9. John Frick says:

    I am not allergic to corn but HFCS causes me major acne breakouts. Just eating the small amount that comes in a hamburger bun can cause me to break out within 8 hours of eating it. To a lesser degree straight “corn syrup” also causes me to break out. Additionally, if I ingest 40-50 grams or more of cane sugar in one day I will break out slightly, but a mere 1 gram of HFCS will do to me what it takes 50 grams of cane sugar to do. Also, 10 years ago when I hadn’t figured the cause of my acne and drank a coke every day I tended to get bad migraines. Once I got off of HFCS my migraines went from once a week to once every 3 or 4 years.The stuff is super nasty!

    • I realised after years of suffering eczema and cystic acne that the culprit was processed, sugary foods. I also only get the cystic acne flare up on my back and the top of my thighs.

      It is painful! After a year of not going near McD’s, I did after work one night last week. I ate maybe 5 or 6 fries as the rest of the food smelled bad to me so I binned it. The same day, someone else had donuts at work for a birthday and I had a glazed one (again, not my usual choice. So maybe I wanted to really test my theory).

      A week on and I have 3 cysts on my inner thigh which I am spraying daily with Dr Murad’s acne treatment spray.

      It will take around 2 to 3 weeks to get these to go down. Never again!

  10. Larry Lippe says:

    Cystic acne is really annoying since the scars it leaves are very unsighty and very difficult to remove.^

    Our own internet page

  11. Glenn says:

    Food does effect ance – by way of effecting our hormone levels. Most corn syrup in processed foods these days is high fructose corn syrup. HFCS is sweeter to the taste buds than regular corn syrup (which is composed of glucose) as well as cane sugar (sucrose), plus it is economical.

  12. kika says:

    You are a God send! I knew I wasn’t crazy! I could drink a soda or some sort of juice and would have a painful cyst within hours. I started my own experiments in college and cut out sodas, but kept drinking “fruit juice”. My acne reduced only a little. Once I cut out juices that contained hfcs my acne reduced even more. I hadn’t considered other foods containing corn might be affecting me as well. I’m going to experiment and see if I reduce corn for a month will my face clear up completely. I am 38!! and still getting breakouts like a teenager! This has been going on since the age of 13. My family of all people would tease me about my breakouts…it affected my self esteem and was hurtful. So for those of you who have gotten this info early, bravo! I hope you live a happy, acne and pain free life!! God Bless!

    • Florian says:

      Perhaps I’m not as crazy as most people think when I talk about my allergy against glucose syrup.
      About three years ago at the age of 30 I did identify the product that caused my heavy acne which did not disappear when I stopped being a teenager. It was ice cream which made my face burn even burn while I still was enjoying it. I had a detailed look at the ingredients list and found glucose syrup on number 1. The same as in fruit gums which I enjoyed daily as I did regular coke. I decided to abandon all products with glucose syrup. Just three weeks later I was free of acne.

      Occasionally I try some food with it and two forms are definitely the worst ones: Fructose glucose syrup and glucose syrup that was never heated up in the process like in ice cream. Yes, it is hard to avoid at all, but I know replacements for most products which are good. Like hand made ice cream or most Ben&Jerry’s.

      If I had known this only 10 years earlier it would have saved a lot of damage from my self esteem…

  13. Juan says:

    I’ve noticed that staying away from fountain drinks help me control my acne. So If I have to have one, I”ll do it once a week. I recently ate popcorn for 4 days in a row and my skin is a mess. I also remember using an acne wash that had corn starch on it that also made me a mess. Funny thing is, when I was younger I had acne, but it wasn’t as bad as I have it now and I use to drink sodas everyday, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  14. Kyung Borowski says:

    Cystic acne, or nodulocystic acne, is the most severe form of acne vulgaris. Deep, inflamed breakouts develop on the face and/or other areas of the body. The blemishes themselves can become large; some may measure up to several centimeters across.;

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  20. Taly says:

    Im 21 and I have the exact same problem and it is sooooooooo frustrating let alone destroying my self esteem! Has anyone seen a doctor about this issue? My doctor doesnt believe me and wont give me the time of day for it! Is this a form of an allergy that could eventually evolve into a full blown allergic reaction (I have read about corn allergies, i would rather die than have one), just an intolerance or sensitivity? Is this something I would consult a dermatologist, or dietician? I am searching for a resolution and need answers or i am going to go nuts! All tips and facts much appreciated!! 🙂

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  22. Lanie says:

    I know this is an old post, but I wanted to add my two cents.
    Basically, me too. Corn additives are a huge problem for me, but I too can’t bring myself to eat whole corn. Depending on the additive, it takes 1-3 days for me to break out, and Citric acid is by far the worst.
    A few months ago, I accidentally ate pie with cornmeal in it. While there was no extremely obvious breakout (it’s hard to tell sometimes because other foods also make me break out, and I wasn’t eating clean at the time) I felt foggy within ten minutes and my heart started pounding so hard that I had to lay down. When your pulse goes up more than 16 beats per minute after eating a food, it means that you are intolerant to something in it. Mine went up about 30 bpm.
    So, if you’re reading this and you sometimes feel like your heart is pounding for no reason, look to your last meal. When you have a clean diet (I cook most of my food at home now) its much easier to tell when you’ve eaten something you don’t tolerate.
    One more note… Orange juice has citric acid added to it, and they don’t have to put it on the label. I found this out after breaking out horribly from orange juice. I stopped drinking it three days ago and my skin is finally calming down. Interestingly, oranges and other citrusy foods have no ill effect whatsoever.
    Be aware that citric acid is in spices, drinks, candy, and many, many foods. Always read labels.

  23. ashley says:

    Wow, I found this on accident trying find the connection between corn calluses and cyctic acne because I struggle with cystic acne for 4 years now and im only 22. These are my prime years being ruined 😦 anyways I has noticed on the bottle of the corn callus remover , that it is 17% salicylic acid and I found that interesting because my acne medication is only 2% salicylic and it does help but not much can help a huge painful cyst as you said. My boyfriend is very healthy and the last 2 moths we have been really watchn the ingredients in our breads and meat, but not the sweets. And I must say my face was doing great for 2 or 3 weeks. But that dosnt last long of course, good to know this new information about corn ot hfcs could be a major contribute because I love sweets and that is the only thing I dont wach. I actually watch the ingredients in our food because our country allows us to eat this terrible bullshit, russia and japan will not feed there peple our bread so that says something.

  24. Amy says:

    Thank you you soooooooo much for sharing you trials!

  25. Jess says:

    I should have known. I used to have cystic acne like crazy around 13 years old…never knew why. It finally got under control after lots of medications and the like (still had those darn breakouts of at least 1 large one per month). Fast forward ten years later and I’ve been pretty acne-free for about five years (have been eating wholesome homemade foods for years now)…that is, until a month or so ago. Having done research on intolerances, allergies, sensitivities, and the like, I realized it must be something I’ve been consuming. Sure enough, what did I start eating two months ago? Corn…in the form of popcorn, corn chips, in a gluten-free cereal, and even giant roasted corn. While I didn’t break out immediately from the multiple servings of popcorn, I noticed other symptoms: loose stools, hyperactivity, and others, which only worsened after eating corn chips and the other corn-based items. Mind you, these are all organic corn products as well, so it has nothing to do with GMO corn. I’ll have to put the blame on corn as I haven’t avoided it completely yet, not even a week. Also, I noticed that after I start eating corn, I can’t stop or I feel like I “need” it…another sure sign that I have some sort of intolerance, sensitivity, or delayed allergy. As a side note, I have less of a reaction to purple and blue corn.

  26. Hallie Hill says:

    I have a problem with corn too—but only corn starch, high fructose corn syrup, glucose syrup, maltodextrin, and corn oil. I can eat whole corn without a single pimple. Why is that?

  27. Joe says:

    It’s like a relief to read your comments and stories.
    Last years I started having really bad allergic reactions… without knowing why. I had large, painful, burned skin patches all around my eyes and neck…That lasted for months and months, always getting worse. I was feeling tired, had runny nose, inflamation, bloating, eyes pain, headaches… but the doctors where not able to tell me the reason. Since I was a teenager, i used to get some cystic acne, but instead of clearing up while getting older, it was getting worse… and worse.
    So i had acne, i had horrible rashes and was feeling sick.
    I was quite living healthy. Eating good food and exercising…but sometihing was wrong and had to find it. It was ruining my life.
    People around me were not really supportive..they don’t realy take you seriously after a while. And all the doctors I had to see were not able to find the problem.
    One day I realize the birth control pills i was taking were the culprit. I stop the medication and was getting better. I found that most of the drugs the doctors gave me were making my situation worse. At that time, i tought that soy was the problem. I quit all processed food and got better with time.
    But after I year, i still had some acne breakouts once in a while. i discoverd that each time I had corn.. i was feeling bad (tiredness, bloating, runny nose, difficulty breathing) …..So to all this misery… corn was the problem since the beginning.
    I quit corn and my acne and sickness cleared up. I can train as before and enjoy exercising without feeling weakness.

    My message is simple. It’s never easy. You have to be patient, believe in yourself and with time things will get better. For each try, you learn something. It’s a step forward. Corn or anything else. Don’t give up and keep up trying.

    I know what you are going through

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