Acne and diet. Which foods are best?

Acne and diet. Which foods are best?

Here’s a quick look at the foods you should put in, but also those you should keep out.

Foods that can aggravate acne.

Refined Carbohydrates.

It’s pretty well accepted that refined carbs aren’t the greatest for your overall health. Less well known is that they’re also not the greatest for your skin health either. People with acne, spots, blemishes, call them what you will, tend to consume more refined carbs than people without acne1,2. Foods high in refined carbohydrates include:

  • Bread, crackers and cereal made with white flour
  • Pasta made with white flour
  • White potatoes (especially when they are turned into fries)
  • White rice and noodles
  • Sugary drinks
  • Honey, cane sugar and syrup

Essentially, it’s the usual suspects. Foods that are High GI (Glycaemic Index). Studies have found that people who consumed a lot of added sugar were 30% more likely to develop acne while people who ate pastries and cakes were 20% more likely3. Refined carbs are absorbed more quickly into the blood stream, raising blood sugar levels. This causes an increase in insulin which, unfortunately, is no friend of acne.


Skim Milk

Go figure? There are a number of studies that suggest that dairy, while not necessarily causing acne, may aggravate it. Amongst the broader category, there seems to be consensus on the fact that skim or low fat milk is the main culprit. The reasons for this are complex and quite technical. Cow’s milk contains the proteins whey and casein. When we digest these, they release a hormone similar to insulin, called IGF-1. This is known to trigger outbreaks4. In full-fat milk, IGF-1 is matched with a protein molecule that binds to it and deactivates it. This protein is removed from skim milk allowing IGF-1 to aggravate your acne. If you consume a lot of skim milk, try avoiding it for a while and see how your skin responds.

(Some) chocolate

We have good and not so good news. The good news is that cacao is packed with vitamins A, C, E and zinc, which are all really good for the skin. The bad news is that a lot of chocolates have a small percentage of cacao and higher percentages of sugar and dairy, which we’ve already highlighted as foods to avoid. So stick to dark chocolate high in cacao and avoid milk or white chocolate.

Whey Proteins

Good on you if you’re a gym junkie. If you’re a gym junkie who supplements your workouts with protein shakes, then a word of caution. It could be that the amino acids in whey protein can cause the body to produce more insulin, and as we mentioned earlier, insulin is no friend of acne6.

Foods high in Omega-6 Fats

Omega-6 fats are found in the likes of corn and soy oil, typically part of the modern Western diet. These oils are linked to increased levels of inflammation and acne.

Probably best to avoid a combination of all of these foods.

Having read through the above list, it’ll come as no surprise to you that something like your obligatory ‘Value Meal should best be avoided’. High GI, high fat, high sugar and a heap of salt. Even if you go the veggie patty option, this is pretty much a perfect storm for acne. If you can’t avoid the temptation, try, try, try to keep it to a once every blue moon occasion.

Foods that are great for you and your skin.

While the list above may make it seem like putting anything in your mouth can set of your acne, there are lots of delicious and nutritious foods that can help in the good fight against spots, blemishes and blackheads.

Low GI foods.

An apple a day, as they say. Or some beans, carrots, oatmeal. All are great low GI foods that are delicious and plentiful.


Actually, anything containing omega-3 fatty acids. They are anti-inflammatory and linked with lowering the risk of acne.


While not everyone’s cup of tea, if you love them, you’ll love that they contain zinc which is great for the skin and at killing off bacteria that causes acne. Another plus is that zinc is also an anti-inflammatory.

Green Tea.

Talking about cups of tea, this is the pick of the bunch. The polyphenols found in green tea reduce inflammation and lower sebum (oil found in the skin) production.


Almonds, peanuts, Brazil nuts all contain antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium, associated with fighting acne. Plus they’re tasty. Hey, needless to say, if you have a nut allergy, stay away from nuts, no matter how bad your acne is.


Is there anything turmeric can’t heal? A broken heart maybe? Apparently it’s also great for acne sufferers as it can help regulate blood sugar, improve your insulin sensitivity and inhibit the growth of bacteria that can cause acne.


There’s a lot of research out there that seems to show that what you eat and drink does play a big part in triggering and exacerbating your acne, if not causing it outright. But as you’ll hear us saying a lot at Skin Shark, everyone’s skin is different and everyone will respond differently to different foods. Try making changes to your diet in bitesize chunks (boom tish). For example, see if adding green tea to your diet helps. Or not drinking skim milk. Monitor as you go and hopefully you’ll find out what helps and what hinders your skin. Good luck.

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