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How Does Diet Affect Acne

Foods That Cause Acne And Breakouts

How Does Your Diet Affect Acne? | Acne Treatment

Ever wake up in the morning to an unsightly pimple? Weve all been there. No matter your age, acne can flare up when you least expect and be the cause of much embarrassment. Whether youre heading to an important job interview, getting ready for a hot date or even just meeting friends for a night out its the last thing you want to see in the mirror. Despite many years of debate, recent studies prove that what you eat can play a significant role in the health and appearance of your skin with certain foods that can increase the frequency of your acne breakouts by as much as 10%. Although there are some great acne treatments out there, its also important to be aware of some of the primary acne-causing foods that are best to avoid!

How Does Diet Affect The Skin

One thing that can affect your skin is diet. Certain foods raise your blood sugar more quickly than others.

When your blood sugar rises quickly, it causes the body to release a hormone called insulin. Having excess insulin in your blood can cause your oil glands to produce more oil, increasing your risks of acne.

Some foods that trigger spikes in insulin include:

  • pasta
  • white bread
  • sugar

Because of their insulin-producing effects, these foods are considered high-glycemic carbohydrates. That means theyre made of simple sugars.

Chocolate is also believed to worsen acne, but it doesnt seem to affect all people, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology .

Other researchers have studied the connections between a so-called Western diet or standard American diet and acne. This kind of diet is based heavily on:

  • saturated fats
  • trans fats

According to research reported in the Journal of Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, these kinds of foods stimulate the production of hormones that can cause excess oil to be created and secreted by oil glands.

Theyve also found that a Western diet is linked to greater inflammation, which can also contribute to acne problems.

Eating low-glycemic foods made of complex carbohydrates may reduce your risk of developing acne. Complex carbohydrates are found in the following foods:

  • whole grains
  • legumes
  • unprocessed fruits and vegetables
  • salmon, mackerel, and other kinds of fatty fish
  • nuts

Is There A Diet To Cure Acne

While research on diet and acne is still ongoing, avoiding potential trigger foodsdairy and sugar and other refined carbohydratesmight be a good place to start if youre looking to reduce flare-ups. Consult a dermatologist for more personalized guidance.

Anecdotally, Forks Over Knives has heard from people who have had success in clearing up their skin after adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet:

This may be because a whole-food, plant-based diet is free of dairy and highly processed foods and/or because plant foods are high in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Additionally, a diet rich in plant foods is high in fiber to help stabilize blood sugar and ward off hormonal shifts that can lead to acne. The fiber also feeds good gut microbes, which can help reduce skin inflammation.

Check out our Plant-Based Primer to learn more about adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet.

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How Does Diet Play A Role In It All

To say that diet has no effect on your acne is actually incorrect. Believe it or not, diet does affect acne and causes outbreaks, but not in the way myths will have you believe. It all boils down to low-glycemic and high-glycemic diets.

Foods with a high-glycemic-index include your basic carbohydrates like white potatoes, white rice, white bread, potato chips, french fries, doughnuts, soda, and other sugary drinks. Pretty much any foods that you should consume in moderation have a high-glycemic-index. Low-glycemic foods, however, include natural, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.

Researchers and scientists hypothesized that there was a direct correlation between a low-glycemic diet and reduced acne. The theory was that low-glycemic foods would keep your blood sugar from spiking.

Its this spiking that can force your body into producing more sebum while also causing inflammation. Keep in mind that inflammation is often a result of a build-up of dead skin cells. The combination of inflammation and overproduction of sebum can lead to acne.

To put this to the test, researchers placed 2,258 individuals on a low-glycemic diet made popular by the weight-loss program South Beach Diet. As a result, 87% of the patients experienced reduced acne and 91% reported that they used less acne medication and treatment than they had previously used before the study.

This proves that proper regulation of your diet can indeed improve and reduce your acne.

Can Your Diet Cause Acne

How does your diet affect your skin?

Blackheads, whiteheads, cystic pimples — all types of acne can be frustrating. If youre struggling to clear up acne prone skin, its easy to feel discouraged. However, a dermatologist can help you pinpoint the cause of your acne and recommend treatment. And in some cases, a change in your diet might help.

Also Check: How I Cleared My Acne

Which Carbohydrates To Choose For Acne

Based on the above pathways, a high intake of sugary foods and other foods that have a high glycaemic index may aggravate acne.

In fact, many studies have confirmed that the excess of consumption of food with a high glycaemic index is a major promoting or exacerbating factor on acne

Avoiding sugary food and high glycaemic index foods like white bread, white pasta and white rice, and other refined carbohydrates, may therefore be beneficial for acne.

Substituting these for foods with fibre and a lower glycaemic index, such as brown rice, brown bread and brown pasta as well as legumes and vegetables would seem like a reasonable change in diet for acne.

How Does Dairy Affect Acne

Several studies have suggested that for some people, dairy products may flare acne even though milk has a low glycaemic index.

This is because dairy products including milk contain hormones such as steroids, alactalbumin, and IGF1 which may stimulate androgens within the body. Androgens cause increased sebum secretion, clogged pores and can contribute to worsening development of acne.

Although studies do suggest that milk proteins could exacerbate acne it is important to be aware that swapping to milk alternatives may not be the complete answer.

For instance, a number of oat milks and rice milk products have a high GI index compared to unsweetened hemp, almond, cashew and soya milk.

It may be more sensible to reduce the total amount dairy in the diet and keep a healthy balance to help control acne.

Read Also: Why Do I Have Acne

Processed Carbohydrates And Sugar

Theres a clear correlation between a high-carbohydrate diet and acne especially when it comes to highly processed carbs and sugar.

Foods with a high glycemic index are foods that cause your blood sugar to rise quickly. The measure of a foods glycemic index, plus the amount of the food you consume makes up the glycemic load of that meal.

The more your blood sugar rises, the higher the glycemic load. And theres some evidence that a high glycemic diet may contribute to the progression of acne.

When you eat foods that increase your blood glucose, an increase in the hormone insulin follows. High insulin levels increase your levels of IGF-1 as well as androgens, two hormones that can lead to excess sebum production and the buildup of tissues that cause acne.

Insulin may also reduce proteins that bind androgens and IGF-1, which means higher concentrations of these acne-causing hormones in your body.

In contrast, a low-glycemic diet can improve acne.

In one study, researchers gave 32 patients with mild to moderate acne either a low-glycemic diet or a control diet for 10 weeks. At the end of the trial period, they found that the low-glycemic group significantly improved both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions, reduced the size of their sebaceous glands, and decreased overall inflammation.

Acne & Wrinkles: Does Diet Affect Your Skin

Does Diet Affect Acne?

In the pursuit of clear, glowing skin, does what you eat matter? Chocolate and French fries, salmon and water whether your problem is acne or wrinkles or both, there seems to be a whole list of things you should or shouldnt eat.Great skin is something a lot of women chase their entire lives, said Ashley Johnson, a licensed aesthetician at Samaritan Plastic, Reconstructive & Hand Surgery in Corvallis. It starts with acne in the teenage years and ends with wrinkles, sometimes with no break in between the two. But your body is a system and everything is connected which means that what you eat can certainly affect what is happening with your skin.

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What Are The Risk Factors For Developing Acne

Myths about what contributes to acne are quite common. Many people believe that foods such as chocolate or French fries will contribute to acne. While theres no scientific support for these claims, there are certain risk factors for developing acne. These include:

  • hormonal changes caused by puberty or pregnancy
  • certain medications, such as certain birth control pills or corticosteroids
  • a diet high in refined sugars or carbohydrates, such as bread and chips
  • having parents who had acne

People are most at risk for developing acne during puberty. During this time, your body undergoes hormonal changes. These changes can trigger oil production, leading to an increased risk of acne. Hormonal acne related to puberty usually subsides, or at least improves when you reach adulthood.

Foods That Might Make Acne Worse


A recent meta-analysis of nearly 80,000 children, teenagers, and young adults showed that the intake of dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and other milk products was linked to a higher chance of developing acne. This link was found with all fat contents of dairy, yet full-fat dairy was linked to a lower likelihood of acne compared to low or nonfat dairy.

A common theory behind the link between dairy and acne has to do with hormones present in milk. Dairy cows are often treated with growth hormones that affect their milk supply. In addition, many dairy cows are pregnant and pass hormones, including estrogen, into their milk supply. These hormones can throw the body’s hormones off balance and can trigger acne.

Many holistic health practitioners trained in functional medicine also credit non-organic dairy to contributing to inflammation inside the body. The milk sugar known as lactose, as well as one of the main proteins in milk, called casein, are often both difficult to digest and poorly tolerated in many people. However, this intolerance may go unnoticed or be attributed to other things, and end up as hidden inflammation.

In addition, some research suggests that the saturated fat and hormones present in cows milk may be linked to inflammation, while fermented dairy products such as kefir are thought to be anti-inflammatory. Since acne is an inflammatory disease, any foods that can promote inflammation may make acne worse.

Sugar and high glycemic foods


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Myth #: All Chocolate Causes Acne

Chocolate has long been lumped together with greasy foods and junk food as snacks to avoid if you want to get rid of your acne. While the sugar and dairy content in milk chocolate may contribute to skin problems, dark chocolate is probably safe. In fact, the antioxidants in dark chocolate may even help your skin.

If you suspect something in your diet is causing breakouts, keep a food diary and make an appointment with Dr. Fromowitz to learn how to effectively treat your acne.

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Myth #: Greasy Foods Cause Breakouts

Does Diet Affect Acne?

Because acne is caused by an increase in sebum, which is an oily substance, people have long assumed that eating greasy foods makes your skin greasy, leading to an acne eruption.

This has never been scientifically proven, so you dont need to worry about eating fried or greasy foods when it comes to your skin. However, there are plenty of reasons you should still limit these types of foods, especially when it comes to your heart and your waist circumference.

Although eating greasy foods do not promote acne, touching your skin after eating may contribute to clogged pores and breakouts.

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Can Nutrients Affect Acne

However it is very obvious that Hippocrates ancient but very wise statement should hold some truth when applied to acne, given that the most efficacious current therapies for acne are retinoids. Oral administration of isotretinoin or topical application of its isomer and natural retinoid, tretinoin, are used as anti acne therapies, 13-cis-retinoic acid is the only drug that targets all four pathogenic factors of acne and is the most efficient in sebum suppression. 13-cis-RA is a retinoid that could derive from the metabolism of Vitamin A. Although several websites proclaim that it is found in small quantities naturally in the body without citing a reference, we know that at least the natural isomers of retinoic acid also affect the disease. With that in mind, we can certainly predict an association between diet and acne.

Vitamin A plays an essential role in skins health. Vitamin A deficiency causes abnormal visual adaptation to darkness but also dramatically affects the cutaneous biology as dry skin, dry hair and broken fingernails are among the first manifestations of vitamin A deficiency. This nutrient, which is stored in the liver, is found also in the skin, particularly in the sebaceous glands, known to express retinoid receptors., Lets also not forget that most dermatologists are influenced by nutritional studies to recommend ingestion of isotretinoin with fatty foods. Retinol , carotenoids and retinoids are absorbed better with parallel intake of vegetable oils.

Foods That Might Help Improve Acne

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of essential fatty acid proven to display anti-inflammatory properties. As described, acne is an inflammatory condition, and so a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and have a positive impact on acne.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce insulin-like growth factors levels and may be beneficial in treating acne. Some studies have shown that people who eat more fish or who supplement their diet with omega-3 fatty acids have a smaller number of acne lesions.


Probiotics are beneficial, living microorganisms that help fight harmful bacteria, support gut function, boost immunity, and perform many other important functions. There are hundreds of different strains of this beneficial bacteria, with each strain serving unique purposes.

Probiotics can be taken in supplement form and are also found naturally in foods such as:

  • Fermented yogurts

  • Kimchi

  • Pickled vegetables

Evidence is growing for the use of probiotics in treating acne. Probiotics have been shown to produce antibacterial proteins that directly inhibit the C. acnes bacteria. Using probiotics topically has also been shown to improve the barrier function of the skin while also increasing the antimicrobial properties of the skin.

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Effects Of Diets On Acne Treatment Efficacy

For an oral medication to be effective, it must be absorbed, enter into the circulation, and be delivered to and absorbed by the target tissue . This is influenced by inherent drug characteristics as well as the presence of gastrointestinal contents and their specific composition. Drug absorption characteristics of importance include solubility in the gastrointestinal tract and permeability into the enterocytes. Gastrointestinal contents can modify absorption of medications, drug solubility, stomach-emptying time, and gastrointestinal pH levels as well as form indigestible complexes and compete for enterocyte transportation . All of these factors can influence adverse event profiles as well .

The US Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has categorized drugs into four classes based on solubility and permeability . Oral acne medications such as minocycline and doxycycline are considered as Class I as both have high solubility and high permeability . Spironolactone and isotretinoin, in contrast, are Class II with poor solubility in stomach contents but high permeability . Accordingly, it is recommended that both spironolactone and isotretinoin be taken with food to increase absorption in particular, isotretinoin should be administered with a high-fat meal .

How Does Diet Affect Acne

Does Diet Affect Acne?

Diet plays a huge role in achieving and maintaining beautiful, healthy skin. It the key to increased energy, a healthy BMI, and reduced risk of several diseases. In addition, it also plays a huge role in the condition of your skin, hair, and nails.

Now, lets take a closer look at acne. Acne forms when excess sebum gets trapped in pores, or when dead skin builds up and is not exfoliated or cleared. While everyone secretes their own amount of sebum, it can worsen or get out of hand if youre not eating a balanced diet.

If you consume a diet thats low in essential nutrients, youre missing out on a powerhouse of nutritional aid that can help you manage your acne holistically. Such nutrients are complex carbohydrates, zinc, Omega 3s, and Vitamins A and E.

Moreover, consuming sugary foods regularlysuch as simple or refined carbohydrates , sugary drinks, and candyyoure not helping your case. Sugar absorbs quickly into your bloodstream, which raises your blood sugar and increases insulin levels. This, in turn, causes inflammation, which is the culprit behind acne flare-ups and a host of other undesirable side effects.

One common misnomer is that greasy food, such as potato chips, fried food, and other junk food, causes acne. This is actually a myth, despite the fact that these same foods may cause other health complications. Studies do show, however, a correlation between consumption of dairy products and acne flare-ups.

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