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Foods That Can Cause Breakouts & Make Acne Worse

by Christine GlasgowJune 2, 2017

Foods That Cause Acne – Is the Connection Between Food and Bad Skin for Real?

There is, researchers agree, a proven link between a poor diet and poor skin, including acne. Heated arguments continue to rage however over whether certain specific foods are acne triggers or not.

Some of the foods that were once thought to be absolute no no’s for those with acne prone skin- chocolate springs to mind immediately – are proving not to be quite the acne triggers they were once thought to be, although chocolate is not quite in the clear as an acne trigger, but we’ll discuss that in a little while.


Why Can’t Scientists Agree on Acne Causing Foods?

Science has made amazing, huge strides over the last 100 years. And yet some of the simplest questions posed to it have yet to be answered. Questions like what foods really are acne triggers.

The problem is that for something to be considered scientifically proven years and years of different, credible research must be conducted, and then those studies have to be followed up and peer reviewed. All of this takes time and effort and a lot of discussion. Sure, you may see an article claiming that a certain study has found that X food is bad don’t take it as ‘gospel’, as the chances are that it was a small study conducted over a short period of time on a tiny group of people. In other words, its possibly a good start but lots more work needs to be done.

There is however some agreement about certain foods and food types that researchers are beginning to think it’s fairly safe to assume really are things that those with acne prone skin should think twice about before they add them to the menu. Let’s have a look at some of them and be warned, some of these will probably really surprise you!


Rice Cakes

Rice cakes are super healthy surely? You’ll often find them in the ‘healthy food’ sections of the grocery store and hey, don’t supermodels practically live on them? Yes, on all counts, for the most part, but if you have acne prone skin they may not be such a great addition to your diet.

That’s because, several studies have found, the large number of simple carbs they contain are metabolized by the body in such a way that collagen is damaged in the process, potentially leading to worsened acne scars, a lack of skin elasticity, an increase in the time an acne pimple will take to heal and yes, even those nasty fine lines and wrinkles you hate every but as much as pimples.


Hard and Gummy Candies

Some acne sufferers avoid chocolate because they fear it might trigger an acne outbreak, so they indulge their sweet tooth with hard and gummy candies instead. The fact is though that as delicious as they are these little treats are loaded with sugar, and it’s the not very healthy at all refined sugar most of the time.

The links between excessive consumption of refined sugars and acne keep getting stronger. Researchers have found that the spike in blood sugar levels it causes hormonal imbalances that can trigger acne breakouts, inflammation that can make them worse and even skin based yeast infections that add bacteria to the pores that no acne prone person needs.

Can’t kick that 3pm sweet craving? Oddly enough your best bet may be a square (but only a square) of dark chocolate (but really dark, with at least a 70% cocoa content) Its far lower in sugar and some researchers have even suggested it may be good for the skin, thanks to the zinc and B Vitamins it contains.



Milk may do a body good, but according to a growing number of skincare scientists and dermatologists it really isn’t a great friend to acne prone skin. The problem is not the milk itself though, but the way it is processed in the modern Western world.

Most commercially available milk – including the low fat and skim versions by the way – still contains hormones that were given to the dairy cows to stimulate milk production. Once ingested by a human these hormones can trigger both inflammation and increased sebum production in the skin. The potential result? Blotchy, pimply, red looking skin that looks far from healthy or attractive.

Because it is good for other bodily systems, especially the bones, giving up milk altogether may not be the best idea though. Although it is still a bit pricey organic – or even raw milk if it’s sold in your state – is a far better alternative to the standard supermarket fare, for your acne prone skin anyway.


Other Possible Acne Trigger Foods

There are a number of other food stuffs and food types that, some studies claim, are potential acne triggers for those already prone to pimples. The evidence for this is limited however, and certainly may not apply to everyone. These include


  • Spicy foods – A 2006 Jordanian study that was published in the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, showed that acne patients tend to link spices to worsening of acne and greater inflammation of pimples. This was a small study however and has yet to be corroborated.


  • Peanut butter – The logic that a few researchers have used to link peanut butter to an aggravation of acne is once again the high levels of sugar that most store-bought peanut butters contain, even though they may not actually taste that sweet. Once again though, the evidence is limited and opting for an organic nut butter will reduce the amount of sugar consumed anyway.


  • Milk chocolate – The chocolate causes acne argument has been around forever, and for many years acne sufferers were warned away from the stuff with little scientific explanation. If there is a link however it’s likely to be due to the high fat and sugar content rather than to the actual chocolate itself.

Milk chocolate is singled out by some as ‘worse’ than dark for the skin because of its dairy content, which brings up the same acne risk arguments we just explained for regular milk.


So, What Should You Eat to Protect Acne Prone Skin?

Trying to battle acne is not easy. There is a lot of conflicting and unclear information out there and the number of product choices available to try to treat acne can be hugely confusing too. Then this issue about good and bad foods for acne makes things even more complicated!

The fact is that although some foods may seem to be more unfriendly to acne prone skin the limited scientific findings that exist certainly won’t apply to everyone, making coming up with the perfect ‘anti-acne diet’ for everyone almost an impossibility.

The best thing to do is really to maintain a healthy diet in general, making sure of all of the following:

  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day
  • Eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables daily
  • Avoid to many processed sugars.
  • Avoid fast food burgers and fries. They really are the nutritional equivalent of eating the box they often come in and the high fat content, combined with the fact that many of the foods are deep fried, is a recipe for disaster for your body in general, let alone your skin.


The one thing you can do in regard to specific foods and your acne is learn to keep and interpret a food diary. This will allow you to see if certain foods do seem to make your pimples more prevalent. This is how it’s done:

  • In your diary note down everything you eat every day. Try not to miss anything out, including little snacks and beverages.
  • Make a note of the condition your skin is in acne wise every morning and every evening
  • Follow this routine for at least three weeks, always being honest with yourself

After a while, reviewing this food and skin journal may very well allow you to begin to see links between what you eat and the condition of your skin. Armed with this information, your very own little acne research project, you will then be able to create a unique eating plan that is best for you personally.


In Conclusion

There is little daunt that diet can affect every aspect of your health, including your skin. Finding the right anti acne foods is a personal quest though, and one that will call for some trial and error and more than a little effort. Won’t it be worth it though, to get clearer skin?

Finally, we’d like to hear from you. Are there foods you have found seem to make your acne worse? Or foods that seem to make it better? If you have advice, experience or simply an opinion on this issue to share feel free to do so, we’d love to hear from you.

Christine Glasgow
Canadian girl addicted to beauty and fashion. I'm a Blogger, Entrepreneur and web influencer 👑 I mostly talk about anything related to skin care and beauty. I created this site to share science-based information on skin conditions, treatments and skin care.

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