There is an old saying “you’re what you eat” which is absolutely true. In order to have a positive impact on your body, without a doubt you should adopt a healthy diet. The positive impact is not only on your body but also on your skin. The right kind of nutrients can make your skin healthy and their deficiency can make your skin worse. (1) (2) In this article, I’ll share 11 foods that can cause acne. But before moving forward, let’s see in brief what acne is.

What is Acne?

Acne is an inflammatory skin condition that affects your hair follicles and skin’s oil glands. There is a small hole (pores) in your skin that connects to oil glands under the skin. These glands produce n oily substance called Sebum. A canal called follicle connects the pores and glands. When your hair follicles become plugged with the oil and dead skin cells, it causes spots or pimples or acne which usually appear on your face. Besides that, it may also appear on the shoulder, chest, back, and upper arms. (3)

There are various factors that can cause acne and food can be one of them.

Here is a list of 11 foods that can cause acne.

1. Junk Food

According to research, it has been proved that acne prevalence is high among adolescents. According to the studies done, regular intake of junk foods or fast foods such as French fries, burgers, nuggets, hot dogs, cakes, pastries, etc may increase the risk of acne(4). 

Foods That Can Cause Acne

2. Spicy Foods

According to Dr. Downie at Cosmpolitan, there are two common ingredients in spicy foods, tomatoes, and peppers, they contain acidic lycopene- a somewhat common irritant that can throw off the skin’s PH levels and triggers breakout around the mouth.

3. Refined Carbohydrates and Sugar

According to research conducted on 64 participants suggests that people who have acne consume more refined carbohydrates as compared to people who have less or no acne. (4)

Foods that are rich in carbohydrates are:

  • White Rice
  • Cereal, bread, desserts, cakes made with white flour
  • Pasta, Noodles, Spaghetti made with white flour
  • Sodas and other sugar beverages
  • Ice cream, candies, chocolates
  • Sweetener such as maple syrup, sugarcane, etc

4. Dairy Products

According to studies performed on 47,355 women who completed the questionnaire on the high school diet in 1998 suggests that there is a positive relation between acne and intake of whole milk and skimmed milk. It also concludes that other dairy items such as cottage cheese, frozen yogurt, butter, and cream cheese also result in causing acne. (5)

In another study, it has been conducted that young adults who frequently consumed milk or ice cream more likely can suffer from acne. (6)

Sadly, many dairy products have hormones and antibiotics.

Foods That Can Cause Acne

5. Non-Organic Meat

To increase the growth rate of animals, natural or synthetic steroid hormone drugs which include estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are used. (7)

The hormones found in meat can trigger acne. Therefore, as fas as possible try to consume organic or antibiotic-free meat. 

6. Fried and Processed Food

Fried foods such as french fries, potato chips, onion rings, doughnuts, etc and other processed foods such as ready to eat foods, frozen food, etc can also be responsible for causing acne. 

They also contain other high-glycemic food that increases your blood sugar levels quickly and causes inflammatory conditions such as acne. 

7. Alcohol

While there is no link associated with alcohol and acne, however, the researcher has performed various studies where it shows the effect of alcohol on hormone levels in humans. As hormone plays a vital role in acne development, it’s important not t ignore it. 

Excessive amounts of alcohol may cause acne. Therefore, if you can’t eliminate it take it in a minimal amount.

8. Caffeine

According to research, it has been concluded that coffee reduces insulin sensitivity (8). When you drink coffee, your blood sugar level remains high for a longer period of time which may increase inflammation and can make your acne worse. Avoid drinking too much coffee. 

Foods That Can Cause Acne

9. Omega-6 Rich Foods

Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory whereas Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. To maintain good health, it’s very important to eat the right balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids. 

When it comes to a western diet, a typical diet has a high level of omega-6 fatty acids and a low level of omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils and cooking oils such as soy oil, cottonseed, corn oil, sunflower oil. (9) (10)

The imbalance of omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids increase the inflammation which worsens the acne. 

Don’t eliminate the intake of omega-6 fatty acids rather control the intake of processed foods and foods cooked in vegetable oil. Oil such as coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, mustard oil is low in omega-6 fatty acids. 

10. Whey Protein Powder

Whey protein is rich in amino acids leucine and glutamine and is a popular supplement for diet. These amino acids present in whey protein make skin cells grow and divide more quickly which may result in the formation of acne. (11)

There is a research which states the link between whey protein consumption and acne in male athletes. (12

11. Energy Drinks or Soft Drinks

Energy drinks are very popular among young people. It contains a high level of sugar, caffeine, glucose, taurine, vitamin and other ingredients (13). The level of sugar present in energy drinks can increase the blood glucose level. In a study, it was found that daily intake of soft drinks can significantly increase the risk of moderate to severe acne in adolescents. (14) . There reduce the intake of energy drinks or soft drink. 

While there is a need for more research when it comes to the relation between food and acne. However, avoiding certain foods can help in reducing the risk of cancer. On the other hand, adding certain foods can make your skin healthier and clear. 

Foods That Can Cause Acne

What to eat for clear skin?

1. Turmeric

Turmeric contains anti-inflammatory polyphenol curcumin and often used in most Asian dishes. It has also been used a therapeutically for hundreds of years. The presence of anti-inflammatory polyphenol curcumin in turmeric can help regulate blood sugar, improves insulin sensitivity and prevent the growth of bacteria that causes acne.

What to eat for clear skin?

2. Omega-3 fatty acids

As mentioned earlier, omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that help in reducing acne. Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids are flaxseed, chia seeds, salmon, walnuts, seaweed, kidney beans, etc.

What to eat for clear skin?

3. Green Tea

Because of the presence of polyphenols, green tea acts as anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agents. There is some evidence that shows that polyphenols help in reducing the production of excess sebum and inhibit the growth of acne. (15)

What to eat for clear skin?

4. Zinc

Zinc has an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial property that can clear up the skin (16). Foods that are high in zinc are seeds, nuts, eggs, legumes, green beans, kale, potato, and so on.

What to eat for clear skin?

5. Vitamin A, D, and E

Vitamin A, D, and E helps in maintaining skin health. 

Vitamin A is found in carrot, pumpkin, dark leafy green vegetables, sweet potatoes, etc. 

Vitamin D can be taken through sunlight or you can also have vitamin D supplements.

Vitamin E is found in peanuts, broccoli, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.

What to eat for clear skin?

6. Foods rich in antioxidants 

Antioxidant-rich foods can also help in preventing acne. Some of the antioxidant foods are berries, citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, grapes, etc.

What to eat for clear skin?

7. Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean diet includes fresh vegetables, proteins, fruits, legumes, fish, whole grain, and olive oil. It reduces the risk of acne. (17)

What to eat for clear skin?

What we eat plays an important role in our overall skin health. You can’t completely avoid all the foods but you can start making some changes slowly. Start by avoiding processed food and junk foods and replace them with natural foods.