GET YOUR FIRST TREATMENT KIT FOR FREE get started

GET YOUR FIRST TREATMENT KIT FOR FREE get started

Dermatologist Recommended

Your Cart is Empty

Start your journey to clear skin.
Take the quiz
Shop all products

The Best and Worst Foods for Acne

Acne, an age-old nemesis, is more than just a cosmetic issue — it often takes a toll on one's self-esteem and mental well-being. While topical treatments help combat acne from the outside, our skin health is largely influenced by what we feed our bodies. Contrary to popular belief, pizza and chocolates may not be the only culprits. So, let's dive into understanding how our food choices can either fan the flames of acne or help extinguish them.

Scientific evidence for the creation of acne and food.

A study exploring factors that influence acne severity found a notable connection between having moderate to severe acne and a family history of acne in first-degree relatives. Additionally, individuals with a lower body mass index (BMI) tended to have a reduced risk of developing acne, with this effect being more evident in males than in females. There was no significant link found between smoking and acne risk.

Diet also appeared to play a role in acne prevalence. Higher consumption of milk, significantly more than three portions per week, was associated with an increased risk of acne. This association was stronger for skim milk as compared to whole milk. Conversely, eating fish was linked to a reduced risk of acne. The study did not find a significant relationship between menstrual variables and the risk of acne.

Worst foods for people with acne

1. Refined Carbohydrates and Sugars:

Foods like white bread, pasta, and sweets can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, leading to inflammation. This process can stimulate the production of sebum, an oily substance that can clog pores and promote acne. Moreover, these foods can alter gut bacteria and negatively affect digestion, which has been linked to skin health. Thus, reducing the intake of refined carbs and sugars may help manage acne.

2. Dairy Products:

Dairy, especially skim milk, has been associated with acne development. It is hypothesized that the hormones and growth factors in milk might play a role in exacerbating acne. Furthermore, dairy can increase insulin levels and make skin more prone to acne. Therefore, individuals with acne might want to consider limiting dairy intake.

3. Fast Foods:

Fast food items like burgers, hotdogs, and french fries are high in unhealthy fats, carbohydrates, and sodium. These foods can cause inflammation in the body, potentially leading to breakouts. Additionally, fast food is typically low in nutrients necessary for maintaining healthy skin. A diet high in fast food may, therefore, contribute to acne.

4. Milk Chocolate:

Although the relationship between chocolate and acne isn't fully understood, some studies suggest that cocoa could exacerbate acne in individuals already prone to it. Chocolate, particularly milk chocolate, also often contains high amounts of sugar and fat, which can contribute to inflammation and acne. It's important to note that more research is needed in this area, but if you notice a link between your acne and chocolate, it might be worth reducing your intake.

5. Alcohol:

Alcohol can dehydrate the skin and disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, impacting skin health. Additionally, alcohol can cause inflammation throughout the body, which may lead to acne breakouts. Some alcoholic drinks are also high in sugar, further promoting inflammation and acne. Limiting alcohol consumption might help to manage acne.

6. Caffeine:

Caffeinated drinks like coffee and energy drinks can increase stress hormones in the body, potentially worsening acne. Caffeine can also disrupt sleep patterns, leading to more stress and inflammation, contributing to acne. Additionally, many caffeinated beverages are high in sugar, which can promote acne. Reducing caffeine intake may help some people manage their acne.

7. Spicy Foods:

Spicy foods stimulate sebum production, producing oily skin and clogged pores. They may also cause sweating, which can lead to acne breakouts. Furthermore, they can inflame the digestive system, potentially exacerbating acne. If you notice a correlation between eating spicy foods and acne flare-ups, consider cutting back on spicy foods.

8. Greasy Foods:

Although eating greasy food does not directly cause oily skin and acne, a diet high in unhealthy fats can increase inflammation, leading to breakouts. Moreover, working in a greasy area, like a fast-food kitchen, can put oil in the air, which can settle on the skin and clog pores. So, limiting the intake of greasy foods and maintaining a clean environment to reduce acne is best.

9. Saturated and Trans Fats:

Foods high in saturated and trans fats, like fried foods, baked goods, and processed snacks, can increase inflammation in the body. This can increase sebum production and clogged pores, leading to acne. These fats also negatively affect blood sugar regulation, further contributing to acne. Limiting consuming foods high in these fats is advisable for managing acne.

10. Shellfish:

Shellfish, like shrimp, crab, and lobster, are high in iodine, which can cause acne in some people when consumed in large amounts. The iodine in these foods may trigger flare-ups in individuals who are susceptible to this element. It's important to note that not everyone is affected the same way by dietary iodine, so this may not be a problem for everyone. However, if your acne worsens after eating shellfish, it might be worth reducing your intake.

Foods Your Skin Loves

You may think, "If milk, cheese, and my favorite snacks are off the table, what's left to eat?" Worry not; there are plenty of skin-loving foods to incorporate into your diet.

1. Avocados

Rich in healthy fats, avocados are a wonder fruit for skin health. They contain essential fatty acids that help maintain moisture in the skin, keeping it hydrated and less prone to breakouts. Avocados are also a good source of Vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps fight free radicals and inflammation associated with acne. Plus, the presence of Vitamin C aids in collagen production and aids skin repair.

2. Probiotic-rich Foods

Probiotics in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi help maintain a healthy gut microbiome, which is closely linked to skin health. They help regulate the immune response, reduce inflammation, and can help control the production of sebum, a leading cause of acne. By maintaining your gut health, probiotics may indirectly help prevent acne. Plus, yogurt, in particular, is a good source of iodine, a mineral known to promote healthy skin.

3. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, are packed with skin-friendly nutrients. They're rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce acne breakouts. Additionally, they contain Vitamin E, zinc, and selenium, which play significant roles in skin health, including cell growth and wound healing. Regular consumption of nuts and seeds can lead to healthier and more radiant skin.

4. Berries

Berries, including strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, are a treasure trove of antioxidants. These antioxidants combat free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, which can contribute to acne. Furthermore, berries are packed with dietary fiber, which aids in regulating insulin levels, potentially decreasing the risk of acne breakouts. Their high Vitamin C content also promotes healthy, glowing skin.

5. Green Tea

Green tea is not just a beverage; it's a boon for your skin. Rich in antioxidants called catechins, green tea helps reduce inflammation and regulates hormones that can trigger acne. Green tea can also reduce sebum production, preventing clogged pores and acne breakouts. Moreover, its antimicrobial properties can fight acne-causing bacteria, making it an excellent addition to an acne-prone skin diet.

6. Turmeric

Turmeric, a popular spice in Indian cuisine, offers many health benefits, including its potential to improve skin health. Its active ingredient, curcumin, has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help mitigate the inflammation associated with acne. Turmeric may also help regulate oil production in your skin, preventing clogged pores. Including turmeric in your diet could help manage acne and promote overall skin health.

7. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body - a nutrient essential for skin health. They help prevent the overproduction of cells in the outer layer of the skin, where excess oil and dead skin cells can mix to clog pores and cause acne. Sweet potatoes also have anti-inflammatory properties and are packed with fiber, keeping your blood sugar levels steady and potentially reducing acne breakouts.

8. Olive Oil

Thanks to its high antioxidant content, Olive oil is highly beneficial for skin health. These antioxidants help fight inflammation and the damaging effects of free radicals. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil can also help to keep the skin moisturized, preventing dryness and reducing the risk of acne. Incorporating olive oil into your cooking and salads can potentially support healthier skin.

9. Whole Grains

Whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa, can positively impact your skin. They have a low glycemic index, which means they slowly release sugar into your bloodstream, helping maintain balanced blood sugar levels and preventing hormone fluctuations that can trigger acne. They're also rich in B vitamins, vital for skin health, and contribute to cell repair, growth, and overall radiance.

10. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate can benefit your skin, particularly with a high percentage of cocoa. Cocoa is rich in antioxidants that help reduce skin inflammation, potentially minimizing acne's appearance. It also contains high amounts of magnesium, which may improve your skin's appearance. However, moderation is vital, as it also contains sugars that, in excess, could contribute to acne.

FAQs

Q1. How do milk and dairy products influence acne?

A1.Milk and dairy products like cheese can stimulate the sebaceous glands in the skin, leading to the overproduction of oil and the formation of acne. This reaction is primarily due to the hormones present in cow's milk. Moderating dairy intake or switching to plant-based milk alternatives such as almond, coconut, or hemp milk could potentially improve your skin health.

Q2. What is the impact of refined carbohydrates on acne?

A2. Refined carbohydrates, including sugar, salt, and white flour, can trigger acne. These foods can cause inflammation and hormonal fluctuations, which exacerbate acne. Replacing these with healthier, whole-grain alternatives could help manage your acne.

Q3. Are there any foods that my skin might love?

A3.Several foods benefit skin health, including avocados, probiotic-rich foods, nuts and seeds, berries, green tea, turmeric, sweet potatoes, olive oil, whole grains, and dark chocolate. These foods contain various nutrients and antioxidants that can help maintain moisture in the skin, reduce inflammation, and promote overall skin health.

Q4. Which foods should people with acne avoid?

A4.Certain foods might exacerbate acne, including refined carbohydrates and sugars, dairy products, fast foods, milk chocolate, alcohol, caffeinated drinks, spicy foods, greasy foods, and foods high in saturated and trans fats. It's also worth noting that shellfish, high in iodine, can trigger acne flare-ups in some individuals.

Q5. Can switching to a plant-based milk alternative help with acne?

A5.Plant-based milk alternatives such as almond, coconut, or hemp milk could potentially benefit individuals with acne. They do not contain the hormones in cow's milk that can stimulate the sebaceous glands in the skin, leading to oil overproduction and acne.

Q6. How can whole grains help manage acne?

A6.Whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa can positively impact your skin. They have a low glycemic index, meaning they slowly release sugar into your bloodstream, helping to maintain balanced blood sugar levels and preventing hormone fluctuations that can trigger acne.

Q7. What is the link between gut health and skin health?

A7.Gut health is closely linked to skin health. A healthy gut microbiome can help regulate the immune response, reduce inflammation, and control sebum production, a leading cause of acne. Probiotics in yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi can help maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

Q8. Can dark chocolate benefit my skin?

A8.Yes, dark chocolate, particularly with a high percentage of cocoa, can benefit your skin. Cocoa is rich in antioxidants that help reduce skin inflammation, potentially minimizing the appearance of acne. However, moderation is key as dark chocolate also contains sugars that could contribute to acne in excess.

Q9. Can my favorite fast food be causing my acne?

A9.Fast food items like burgers, hotdogs, and french fries can lead to acne. They are high in unhealthy fats, carbohydrates, and sodium, which can cause inflammation, potentially leading to breakouts. Also, fast food is typically low in nutrients necessary for maintaining healthy skin.

Q10. Can spicy foods trigger acne flare-ups?

A10.Spicy foods stimulate sebum production, producing oily skin and clogged pores. They may also cause sweating, which can lead to acne breakouts. If you notice a correlation between eating spicy foods and acne flare-ups, you might want to consider reducing your intake of spicy foods.

Conclusion

Battling acne is more than just a topical affair. Our diet significantly impacts our skin health, and choosing foods that help rather than harm our skin can make a big difference. Remember, it's not just about cutting out certain foods, but more importantly, incorporating more skin-friendly foods into your diet. By adopting a holistic approach that includes dietary changes, a good skincare

More info:

Which food causes acne?
Do you have adult acne? Avoid these 19 types of food.
Best vitamin supplements for people with active acne
Best supplements for adult and hormonal acne

References:

  1. Family history, body mass index, selected dietary factors, menstrual history, and risk of moderate to severe acne in adolescents and young adults. Di Landro A et al. ,J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012 Dec;67(6):1129-35.
  2. Burris J, Rietkerk W, Woolf K. "Acne: The Role of Medical Nutrition Therapy." J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Mar;113(3):416-30.
  3. Spencer EH, Ferdowsian HR, Barnard ND. "Diet and acne: a review of the evidence." Int J Dermatol. 2009 Apr;48(4):339-47.
  4. Penso L, Touvier M, Deschasaux M, et al. "Association Between Adult Acne and Dietary Behaviors: Findings From the NutriNet-Santé Prospective Cohort Study." JAMA Dermatol. 2020 Jul 1;156(7):854-862.
  5. Melnik B. "Linking diet to acne metabolomics, inflammation, and comedogenesis: an update." Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015 Jul 15;8:371-88.
  6. Kucharska A, Szmurło A, Sińska B. "Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris." Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2016 Apr;33(2):81-6.

To find the right acne treatments for your unique skin, take the free skin assessment by clicking here.

Image callout

Start your journey
to clear skin

  • Custom acne treatment cream, cleanser and moisturizer
  • Unlimited Dermatologist support
  • Ongoing skin monitoring