What Foods Cause Acne?: Understanding the Connection Between Diet and Skin Health

What Foods Cause Acne

Acne can be a complex condition that affects millions worldwide, regardless of age and gender. While genetics, hormones, and environmental factors play significant roles in its development, the impact of diet on acne is a topic of growing interest and debate among scientists and those interested in dermatology. The connection between what we eat and the health of our skin suggests that dietary choices influence the presence and severity of acne.

How are diet and acne connected?

There has long been discussion about the link between diet and acne. Still, recent research offers compelling evidence that our dietary habits can indeed influence skin health and should no longer be overlooked. This connection primarily revolves around how specific foods affect the body’s hormonal balance and inflammation levels, essential for acne development.

Hormones can increase sebum production, leading to clogged pores, pimples and breakouts. Foods that cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels can trigger hormonal fluctuations. When we consume high-glycemic foods, our body responds by producing more insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). These hormonal surges can increase sebum production and promote skin cells to multiply, creating the perfect environment for acne to flourish.

Inflammation is also linked to acne development. Certain dietary choices can aggravate inflammatory processes in the body, leading to redder and more swollen acne spots. Diets high in sugar, dairy, and saturated fats have been linked to increased levels of inflammation, while foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce it.

Foods That Cause Acne 

The diet-acne connection highlights several foods and food groups that might trigger or increase the risk of developing acne in some individuals. Understanding these triggers is essential for anyone looking to manage acne through dietary adjustments.

Milk and Acne

Milk and dairy products are often scrutinised for their potential role in developing acne. The main concern revolves around the hormones in milk rather than the milk itself, which can mimic human hormones and influence the body’s natural hormonal balance. These hormonal disruptions can increase sebum production and increase the likelihood of acne. Studies have shown a correlation between dairy consumption, especially skim milk, and the prevalence of acne in teenagers and young adults.

Fast Food and Acne 

Fast food, known for its high levels of saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, is a staple of a typical Western diet and another dietary culprit linked to acne. Fried foods can lead to spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, contributing to hormonal fluctuations that trigger acne development. One study found that as well as a fried diet, a diet of high-fat content can cause inflammation, further aggravating acne symptoms.

Sugar and Acne 

Sugary foods and beverages can directly impact acne due to their effect on blood glucose levels and subsequent insulin response. A diet high in sugar means consuming foods like bread, pasta, fizzy drinks and sweeteners. More frequent consumption of these leads to rapid increases in insulin, which can stimulate sebum production and increase the chances of acne production. Limiting sugar intake may help stabilise hormonal activity and reduce acne.

Chocolate and Acne 

The debate over chocolate and acne has persisted for years, with mixed research findings. While chocolate itself may not directly cause acne, one study found that eating chocolate promoted skin peeling and increased bacterial production, which could contribute to acne. The high sugar and fat content in many chocolate products can contribute to the conditions that foster acne development, such as insulin resistance and inflammation.

Foods That Promote Clearer Skin and Combat Acne 

In contrast to foods that trigger acne, certain dietary choices can support skin health and potentially reduce the severity or occurrence of acne. Incorporating these foods into your diet may help mitigate acne by stabilising hormonal levels, reducing inflammation, and supporting the body’s natural healing processes.

Low- Glycemic Diet 

High-glycemic diets have been linked to the risk of acne, whereas a low-glycemic diet consists of foods that have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels. Such foods include whole grains, legumes, and most fruits and vegetables. By stabilising blood sugar and preventing insulin spikes, a low-glycemic diet can help manage the hormonal fluctuations contributing to acne, making it a beneficial choice for individuals struggling with skin issues.

Zinc-Rich Foods

Zinc’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties can significantly benefit skin health. Foods high in zinc, such as pumpkin seeds, lentils, and beef, can help reduce the redness and swelling associated with acne. Zinc also supports the immune system, helping to fight off bacteria that can increase acne breakouts.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts, are known for their powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Including omega-3-rich foods in your diet can help reduce the inflammation associated with acne, potentially lessening the severity of breakouts.

Probiotics and Gut Health

Emerging research suggests a strong connection between gut health and acne severity. Probiotics, found in fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, can help balance the gut microbiome, which, in turn, may improve skin health and reduce acne symptoms.

Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Vegetables

Antioxidants fight inflammation and protect the skin from damage. Consuming various fruits and vegetables, such as berries, carrots, and leafy greens, can provide a rich source of antioxidants, supporting skin health and potentially reducing acne.

Herbal Teas

Certain herbal teas, like green tea and spearmint tea, contain anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants that can benefit the skin. Green tea, in particular, is rich in polyphenols that can help reduce sebum production and fight acne.


Staying well-hydrated is essential for maintaining healthy skin. Water helps flush toxins from the body and can aid in transporting nutrients to the skin cells, keeping the skin hydrated and less prone to acne.

Healthy Fats

Incorporating healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, and olive oil, into your diet can help maintain the skin’s moisture barrier and reduce inflammation, contributing to healthier skin and potentially fewer acne breakouts.

Understanding Your Skin Type and Acne

Recognising that acne is not a one-size-fits-all issue will help you to manage it better and more effectively. Skin types react differently to various foods, environmental factors, and treatments. Identifying your skin type—whether it’s oily, dry, combination, or sensitive—and understanding how it reacts to specific triggers can guide you in making dietary and lifestyle adjustments that benefit your skin.

  • Tailoring Your Diet to Your Skin Type: For those with oily skin prone to acne, reducing intake of high-glycemic foods and dairy may help manage sebum production. Individuals with dry or sensitive skin should focus on hydrating and anti-inflammatory foods that support skin barrier function and reduce irritation. Regardless of skin type, a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals can promote overall skin health and resilience.
  • Personalised Nutrition: Just as skincare routines are personalised, so should your diet for managing acne. Paying attention to how your skin responds to certain foods can help you identify potential acne triggers. A food diary can be a helpful tool in tracking your diet and its impact on your skin, allowing you to make more informed choices about what to eat for clearer skin.
  • Lifestyle Changes for Acne Management: Beyond diet, several lifestyle factors can influence acne. Stress, sleep quality, and physical activity all affect skin health. Managing stress through mindfulness practices, ensuring adequate and restful sleep, and maintaining regular physical activity can help reduce the severity of acne. These lifestyle adjustments complement dietary changes, creating a holistic approach to acne management.
  • Professional Guidance and Acne Treatments: While dietary and lifestyle changes can significantly impact acne management, they may not be sufficient for everyone. Severe acne or persistent breakouts may require professional guidance and treatment. Your GP or pharmacist can offer personalised advice, prescribe medications, and recommend topical treatments that target acne more directly, like retinoids, antibiotics or hormonal treatments. 

Prescription Acne Treatment with Click2Pharmacy 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by acne, you’re not alone. At Click2Pharmacy’s online acne treatment clinic, we understand that each individual’s skin is unique, as are the solutions for managing acne. Whether you’re struggling with occasional breakouts or more persistent acne, our online clinic offers a convenient way to access expert care, support, and treatment plans to help you achieve clearer, healthier skin.

Take the first step towards understanding your skin better and discovering the best treatments. Don’t let acne control your life – contact Click2Pharmacy today and start your journey towards clearer skin.