Top 6 Foods That Can Cause Acne


Do you know that feeling of having those pimples on your face? They are painful. They don’t look nice. You lose your self-confidence and don’t want to go out?

We know how you feel, and it’s time to get rid of that and give yourself a break. Do you know that the food you eat may be the cause of your acne? And if you avoided certain types of food, you would help your skin?

Can Food Cause Acne?

Research studies have found that having acne-prone skin is genetic as your genes determine how your skin looks like and even how these teeny-weeny cells of your skin look like and behave.

However, recent studies have shown that there are still some environmental factors affecting acne formation, causing acne, or making it more severe [Source]. Although these environmental factors contribute to only 19% of acne formation and/or severity, they are important, significantly affecting your acne, and studying these has enabled researchers to know how to control acne [Source].

One of these important environmental factors is diet, and even those with perfect, flawless skin may develop acne if they eat certain types of food [Source]. People say, “if it tastes good, it’s bad for you.” Is that right?

Researchers have found that people having acne are much fewer in rural, unindustrialized societies than in modern Western societies. So, the more we become modern, the more acne we have on our skin!!

In rural rea, diet usually consists of vegetables and fruits, while in modern areas, people eat more fatty, sugary, processed food. Research has found that people who eat these have more acne, even if they don’t have the genetic makeup of acne-prone skin. Yup, your skin structure can transform from normal skin to acne-prone skin by what you eat [Source].

Let’s know more about these types of food.

1. Chocolate


The main culprit?! When you hear chocolate, you will think of acne right away. It’s known that chocolate makes you break out more, but is that true?

It’s not clear yet if chocolate causes acne or not, but research studies have found no association between chocolate and acne formation. They tested whether having chocolate daily caused acne, and the results were the same among those who had chocolate and those who didn’t. It didn’t affect their acne at all or even increase oil production in the skin [Source], [Source], [Source].

Although research studies have shown that chocolate doesn’t cause acne, make it more severe, or affect it by any means, researchers and dermatologists still don’t know how to guide us, chocolate lovers, yet so afraid of acne, on this topic [Source].

However, some researchers criticize these studies and say that they used dairy-free chocolate in these studies and that chocolate may cause acne if they contain milk and so, it’s still true that chocolate still has an effect on acne, causing it or making it more severe, and so, they recommend avoiding these chocolate products that aren’t dairy-free [Source].

So, maybe milk is the main culprit, after all? Let’s know more about milk and acne.

2. Milk


Can milk and dairy products cause acne?? A study at Harvard University has shown that there’s an association between milk consumption and acne. But why? Milk comes from pregnant cows, and just like humans, pregnant cows have high levels of hormones in their bodies that can be transferred to their milk.

And these hormones aren’t created to be consumed by us in our teenage or adult years. These hormones include steroids, progesterone, a precursor of testosterone, insulin, etc. And all of these hormones disrupt the normal structure of the skin and increase oil production in the face, resulting in the formation of acne or making your acne worse [Source].

Another research study has found that acne is more associated with skimmed milk, suggesting that it’s not the fat in the milk that causes acne. Whole milk contains more estrogen, which tends to reduce acne and skimmed milk contains more whey protein than whole milk in order to make it of the same consistency as whole milk, and that whey protein also disrupts the normal structure of the skin, making the skin acne-prone [Source].

Although milk is found to cause more acne, the American Academy of Dermatology state that there’s no evidence that milk products, like yogurt and cheese, can increase the risk of breakouts [Source].

3. Fatty Food

fatty food

We are surrounded by fatty food everywhere. They are cheaper, and they are easier to get than healthy food. But would eating too much fatty food affect your skin? Yes, it would.

Research studies have found that eating oily, fatty food causes an increase in the oil production in the face as after digestion, little particles of fat (fatty acids) would go through the blood and reach the skin, secreting more and more oil. And this would eventually cause more acne and breakouts [Source].

The reason why acne is associated with fatty food is still under research, and we don’t know much about it yet. However, some researchers suggest that oily food disturbs the levels of our hormones, and it also modifies our genes’ expression, transforming our normal skin into acne-prone skin [Source].

So, experts recommend avoiding greasy, junk food in order to get that clear skin you want to have [Source].

4. Carbs

carbs pasta

It’s a trend now to cut down carbs, but do they affect your acne? Yes, they do, and they even work in the same way as fatty food. Researchers have found that high carbohydrate intake makes your skin more oily as it increases the oil production, and this would cause acne to develop, and if you already have acne, it may even worsen it [Source].

Carbs also work through increasing the levels of insulin in the body. When you eat lots of carbs, they raise your blood sugar level, and that’s why insulin is secreted then in high amounts in order to keep your blood sugar under control and make the sugar leave the blood and enter the cells.

High insulin levels make testosterone more active and also increases the blood level of a substance called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and both testosterone and IGF-1, increase oil production and disrupt the normal structure of the skin, making the skin more acne-prone [Source].

However, another study was done in which they tested the effects of total carbohydrate deprivation on the skin, and they found that it reduced the oil secretion in the skin by 40%, and this suggests the association between high-carbohydrate food and acne formation [Source]. That’s why it’s recommended to avoid high-carbohydrate diets if you want to have the skin you are dreaming of.

5. Sugar


Research studies have shown that sugary food causes acne and that people who have lots of sugar in their diet are at a 30% greater risk of developing acne [Source]. It’s still not clear how it does so, but researchers assume that sugar increases the inflammation in the body, and not just in the skin but in the whole body. So, it causes more inflammatory lesions in the skin, including acne [Source].

Also, it’s suggested that sugar causes acne in the same way as carbs. Sugary food increases the sugar level in the blood, increasing insulin levels in the body, as mentioned above, which makes testosterone more active and increases insulin-like growth factor 1. Both testosterone and IGF-1, increase the skin’s oil production and change the normal structure of the skin into an acne-prone one [Source].

So, dermatologists recommend cutting down sugary food in order to control your acne condition [Source].

6. Foods You Are Sensitive To

Acne is primarily an inflammation. Acne can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, and people who have acne have high levels of inflammatory molecules in their blood. And so, some researchers assume that when there’s inflammation in the body with high levels of inflammatory molecules in the blood, acne may develop.

And one-way food contributes to inflammation is through food sensitivity. When you are sensitive to a certain type of food, an inflammatory reaction develops inside your body, and so, some researchers suggest that food sensitivity can lead to breakouts.

Although the role of food sensitivity in the formation of acne is still under research, it’s recommended to always listen to your body and see if you are sensitive to a certain type of food and avoid that food for the sake of the health of your skin [Source].


In the end, it seems that the effect diet has on acne is significant, and that diet doesn’t just affect the health of our bodies but also affects the health of our skin. Unfortunately, many of us suffer from acne and breakouts, and even if you have a pimple now and then, it’s still annoying.

So, always listen to your body and see which type of food your acne flares with and avoid these and also listen to the advice dermatologists have been telling us “to eat healthy for our skin”. Don’t eat too many sugars, carbs, and junk food, lead a healthy life, and enjoy beautifully clear skin.

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