Blog Nutrition What Foods Cause Acne? Food To Avoid When Creating An Anti-Acne Diet

What Foods Cause Acne? Food To Avoid When Creating An Anti-Acne Diet

No matter how committed one may be to their skincare regimen, they may not notice a difference in their acne. Due to a lack of insight on its causes, it may take months or years trying to clear it up, yet to no avail. This is a common case among individuals who do not realize that their diet may be impacting their skin. So what foods cause acne?


What Is Acne And What Causes It?

Acne is a type of a skin condition that occurs when your oil (sebaceous) glands are clogged with bacteria, dead skin cells, or both (2). The glands may also be blocked by too much sebum, an essential oil that prevents the skin from drying (2).

When these pores are clogged, you may experience inflammation, leading to pimples or different types of lesions (2). Of importance to note is that the symptoms vary from mild to severe and from person to person.

Acne is not caused by only one factor. It is caused by several factors, including hereditary factors, hormones, not removing cosmetic products, dirt, medications, environmental exposures, and diet (5). Some of these factors like medications, diet, and skincare routine can be controlled, but others like hormones and hereditary factors cannot.

Does Your Diet Cause Acne?

Health experts have always advocated for good nutrition. It has been linked to good cardiovascular health, reduced risk of diseases, and overall good health. As a result, many people are making dietary changes.

See also
2-Week Meal Plan To Kick Off Your Clean Eating Journey

That said, there are so many factors about diet that have to be considered, depending on goals. For example, you have to determine whether you are looking for a weight loss plan, foods for diabetic individuals, a low glycemic diet, or foods that prevent acne.

Before you determine foods that prevent acne, you must identify those that may be causing or contributing to it.

Read More: Benefits Of Red Cabbage: Surprising Reasons You Should Add This Vegetable To Your Diet

What Foods Cause Acne?

A lot has been said about the relationship between diet and acne. In between these are several misconceptions and running theories have been developed about the foods you should get rid of to avoid acne. Here are the research backed-up foods that food experts have linked to acne:

what foods cause acne

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate has numerous benefits, including providing a rich source of antioxidants, reducing cardiovascular risk, and helping with blood flow and pressure control. But unfortunately, one of its drawbacks is its contribution to acne.

A 2016 study was conducted to determine if dark chocolate exacerbates acne, as is the running theory. So, the researchers gave twenty-five acne-prone male participants 25 g of 99% dark chocolate daily for four weeks (3).

The researchers discovered that the participants had already reported acne by the second week. The acne remained until the end of four weeks, and the researchers concluded that dark chocolate contributes to acne in male subjects with acne-prone skin.

See also
What Is A Calorie Deficit And How Can You Create One?

The researchers could not identify the ingredient contributing to acne. It is typically assumed that the sugar in chocolate is the culprit, because sugar and other high glycemic index foods are believed to cause or worsen acne.

Whether you’re looking to simply pep up your fitness routine, jazz up your diet with mouth-watering low-calorie recipes or want to get your act together and significantly drop that number on your scale – BetterMe app has got you covered! Improve your body and revamp your life with us!

what foods cause acne

Foods With A High Glycemic Index (GI)

A glycemic index is a number that shows how fast your body breaks down carbohydrates in food to glucose and raises your blood sugar levels (4). Experts reveal that a smaller number means your food has little to no impact on your blood sugar levels (4). There is evidence from scientific research suggesting that high GI foods contribute to or exacerbate acne. The following categorizations can help you evaluate a  particular food (4):

  • 55 and lower- low GI 
  • 56-69- medium 
  • 70 or higher- high GI

Some of the foods with high GIs include (4):

  • Instant cereals like grits and oatmeal.
  • Some fruits and vegetables, such as pumpkins, melons, potatoes, and pineapples.
  • Pieces of bread like white bread and bagels.
  • Sweetened breakfast cereals, such as puffed rice, bran and corn flakes.
  • Short grain white rice.
  • Snack foods like popcorn, pretzels, and rice cakes.
  • Enriched pasta such as rice-based pasta.
See also
2100 Calorie Meal Plan: The Perfect Eating Plan For Cutting

Read More: Seaweed Salad Benefits: 8 Reasons Why You Should Add It To Your Diet

Dairy Products

According to Medical News Today, dairy products also result in acne because they may stimulate  a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) (2). Studies show that IGF-1 increases sebum production resulting in clogged pores, which leads to acne symptoms (2).

So, to prevent this breakout, it is better to keep away from dairy products, such as milk, ice cream, cheese, and yogurt (2). If you are still interested in consuming dairy products, talk to your dermatologist and let them establish if there’s a connection between dairy and your acne.


Foods To Help Acne

As we have seen from above, several foods may result in acne or make it worse. So, it would be best if you avoided them or consumed them in moderation if you have acne-prone skin. Luckily, some foods have the opposite effect. Instead of causing acne, they prevent it and help you get clearer skin. Some of these foods include:


Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids that significantly help improve your skin. For example, they lower inflammation in your body which may help keep acne at bay (1). Similarly, they lower IGF-1 and improve balanced hydration that subdues acne and breakouts (1).

See also
Frozen Fruit Vs. Fresh Fruit: Which Is Better For You?


This and other cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent premature skin aging and inflammation that causes acne (6).

If you struggle to even flirt with the idea of giving up your favorite foods or working out till your legs give way – BetterMe app is here to breathe a fresh perspective into the way you view the weight loss process! Check out the app and experience the fun side of fitness and dieting with BetterMe!


They have a high zinc concentration that kills bacteria which cause certain kinds of acne (1). Zinc also prevents your body from producing chemicals that cause inflammation, another risk factor for acne (1). Even so, remember to consume no more than  40 mg of zinc daily for adults as anything beyond this limit is harmful (1).

Red Grapes

These grapes contain resveratrol, a compound that studies have shown is toxic to acne bacteria and inhibits acne for the long haul (6). It may also keep your skin highly moisturized, protect it against UV damage, premature aging, and damages like liver spots and wrinkles (6).

what foods cause acne


Soy products like soybeans contain isoflavone that may decrease acne lesions and pimples (6). Some studies also show that consuming soy products might reduce wrinkles and increase collagen production, promoting skin integrity (6).

See also
Best Foods For Brain Health: 12 Ways To Boost Memory And Neurological Function Through Diet


Nuts are filled with essential nutrients for the skin, such as vitamin E and selenium (1). These nutrients prevent your skin from cell damage and infections (1). However, consuming them in moderation would help because they are calorie dense.

Acne ABC’s

Understanding the food and acne relationship is vital for acne treatment. However, it would help to comprehend other essential factors about acne. Some of them include (1):

  • Acne is manageable at home by properly washing your face using less aggressive products on your skin.
  • You should not pick, scratch, or touch the pimples.
  • Acne can affect your self-esteem and confidence and lead to stress or depression (6).
  • Early treatment can prevent scarring and the worsening of acne.
  • You should seek treatment if you do not see any difference after the home treatments.

The Bottom Line

Acne is caused by several factors, such as hormones, genetic factors, occupation, dirt, and diet. So what foods cause acne? They are dairy products, foods with a high glycemic index, and chocolate.

You can treat acne at home by regularly washing your face using less aggressive products on your skin. Similarly, you can consider consuming foods that help your skin, including soy products, salmon, oysters, broccoli, nuts and red grapes. Consult with a dermatologist if you do not spot a difference despite enacting these measures.



This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Best and Worst Foods for Acne (2021,
  2. Can dietary changes help acne? (2018,
  3. Dark chocolate exacerbates acne (2016,
  4. How to Use the Glycemic Index (2021,
  5. What Are Acne Causes and Treatments? (2021,
  6. What to eat and avoid for clear skin (2021,
150 million people
have chosen BetterMe

I've struggled to maintain programs…

I've struggled to maintain programs before, but somehow I've been able to stick with this. I enjoy the workouts and have made healthy changes to my diet with the challenges. Its nice for something to really have stuck and worked. I did the sugar free challenge and it's really changed how I relate to the signals my body is giving me about the food I'm eating.

Our Journey

This has been an awesome journey for my wife and I. Not only are we losing weight , but we are living a new life style. Our eating habits have been reformed by following the meal plan and our bodies have become stronger by simply doing the ten minute, sometimes twenty minute workouts. It really has been easy and convenient to transition into a healthier routine and has truly re energized our lives moving forward into the future.

It Works! This program is working for me!

lynne R.
This program is working for me! After a little over a month, I have lost 10 pounds. Slow, but steady. Guided exercises are done daily and there is an option to do other routines beside the one chosen for the day. It is very helpful having the recipes for all meals plus a snack. Would like if we could know the ingredients the day before. Makes preparing alot easier. I like the fact that alternative foods are suggested in case you can't eat(or don't like) the recipes listed. This is a very good program. Stick to it and YOU will see results. I have!