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Foods for Healthy Skin and Foods that Trigger Acne

In keeping our skin clear and our confidence high, it is good to know the foods for healthy skin and those that are not.

In 2010, Skin Therapy Letter published an article that showed results of a 27-study analysis. There were 21 observational studies, and 6 were clinical trials that analyzed the effects of foods on acne breakouts. One exciting discovery was that cow’s milk could increase acne occurrence and even severity. Results also showed a link between high glycemic foods and acne growth.

Woman with acne on cheeks and chin
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In 2007, a study was published that showed similar results. Australian researchers involved young men of 15 to 25 years old with mild and moderate acne. Their skin improved when they switched from eating the typical American diet – or foods with white bread and highly processed breakfast cereals – to healthier foods with vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean meat.

The team’s senior author said, “The acne of the boys on higher-protein, low-glycemic index diet improved dramatically by more than 50 percent, which is more than what you see with topical acne solutions.”

What are the foods that are not good for the skin?

Recent research focused on the foods that can make your acne worse. The following are some foods that can increase the risks of acne breakouts. Consequently, try to avoid these foods for about a week and observe if you notice a difference.

Cow’s Milk

cows milk being poured into glass
image credit: Pezibear/Pixabay

Although early studies reported that there was no link between milk and the growth of acne, recent studies have said that there is a link between diet and acne. This is especially true in the case of milk and dairy products. In a 2005 study, researchers examined data from the Nurses Health Study II and learned that participants who had more milk during their teen years had higher rates of severe acne compared to those who drank little or no milk as teens.

Additionally, a study in 2010 found a link between acne and cow’s milk. Results showed that cow’s milk could increase blood sugar, also leading to inflammation and resulting in pimples. Researchers also reported that cow’s milk increases insulin levels, which could result in the production of sebum.

Refined Grains and Sugar

refined grains and sugar
image credit: Healthy Kitchens

Recent studies reported that there might be a link between sugar and acne occurrence. But this does not mean that if you eat a cookie, you are going to have pimples. It is more about how much sugar you eat every day that triggers the growth of acne. Researchers said that if you drink soda and eat a candy bar, there is a high risk of increasing your blood sugar levels, which can lead to breakouts later. If you observe that sugar affects your acne, try to reduce or cut back from sugary foods every day and see the difference.

Studies also claim that individuals with acne are likely those who consume more refined carbohydrates compared to those with little or without acne. Note the following foods loaded with refined carbohydrates:

  • White rice and rice noodles
  • Bread, cereal, crackers, or sweets made with white flour
  • Sweeteners including sugar, maple syrup, agave, cane sugar, or honey
  • Soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks
  • Pasta made with flour

Increased risk for the growth of acne is linked with the effects of refined carbohydrates on blood sugar and insulin levels. Refined carbohydrates are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, which leads to increased blood sugar levels. Thus, when sugar rises, insulin levels also rise and help spike blood sugar from the bloodstream and into your cells. Consequently, these high insulin levels are bad news for those with acne.

Science explains that insulin helps androgen hormones become active and raises insulin-like factor 1 or IGF-1, leading to the growth of acne. This happens by making your skin cells grow more quickly and by increasing the production of sebum. Hence, a low-glycemic diet does not increase blood sugar or insulin levels and is believed to be a contributing factor in minimizing the severity of acne. Therefore, choosing foods for healthy skin instead can make all the difference.

High-Glycemic Foods

high-glycemic foods
image credit: WebMD

We are talking about foods that trigger hormonal fluctuations and inflammation that spikes the growth of acne. Examples of these high-glycemic foods are processed breakfast cereals, white bread, cakes, cookies, white rice, potato chips, pretzels and the like. We recommend low-glycemic foods such as fruits and vegetables, sweet potatoes, and whole grains as foods for healthy skin. Drink plenty of water and maintain a healthier diet to keep your body balanced.

Fast Foods

fast food hamburger and fries not good for acne
image credit: Stripes Europe

Fast foods feature greasy meals that increase chances of inflammation in the body. Studies have associated fast foods with some conditions such as childhood asthma because of its properties that can raise inflammation in your body. This inflammation results in pimples. If you are in a restaurant or any fast food chain, you can choose a salad or sometimes even fruit.

What are the foods for healthy skin?

Stay away from foods that are mentioned above for clearer and healthier skin. According to recent studies, five foods can help us achieve clear skin:

Flaxseed or Fish

omega-3 fatty acids foods
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Generally, a typical Western diet is loaded with omega-6 fatty acids, which are associated with inflammation. You can instead choose foods with omega-3 fatty acids. Found in fatty fish and flaxseed, these help improve acne breakouts and inflammation.

Green Tea

green tea for acne
image credit: StyleCraze

Centuries have proven that green tea is rich in antioxidants. These can shield us from environmental stressors. Recent studies also showed that green tea could help minimize inflammation, which causes acne.


oysters for acne
image credit: fanny-fan/Pixabay

Some studies reported that mineral zinc might minimize the effects of acne. Health experts recommend that it is best to get zinc from the foods that we eat: oysters. However, take note that getting this mineral in supplements (like more than 100 mg every day) may trigger side effects.

Try oysters, roast beef, squash seeds, and roasted pumpkin. You can also try toasted wheat germ (drizzled on salads and steamed vegetables), dried watermelon seeds, and veal liver.


natural juice for acne
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Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits are proven to help clear up acne. Juicing is another way of doing it. Most of these foods have beta-carotene, which naturally helps minimize skin oil and is anti-inflammatory. Dark-colored berries have phytonutrients that are good for the skin. Those dark, leafy green help remove impurities from our body that triggers the growth of acne.


strawberry in yogurt cup
image credit: OnHealth

We know that not all bacteria are bad for us. Probiotics are live and friendly bacteria that are good for our health and skin. They help us digest food, fight against environmental damage, and boost the immune system. These friendly bacteria minimize inflammation in the gut and can also aid in reducing acne.

Some studies showed that intestinal microflora may affect inflammation in our body and might have some effects on acne breakouts. Scientists suggest getting more probiotics in your diet through yogurt, dark chocolate, kefir, miso soup, sauerkraut, microalgae, pickles, kombucha tea, tempeh, and kimchi.

These are all wonderful foods for healthy skin that can support your whole body.

What about chocolates?

chocolates are not good for acne
image credit: HomeSoGood

Many suspected that chocolates triggered acne until just recently when a study from the Netherlands was published in 2013. The study reported a link between chocolates and skin changes that lead to acne. The researchers gathered blood from 7 healthy people before and after they ate 1.7 oz of chocolates every day for four days.

These researchers exposed the blood cells to bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that causes acne when they develop inside the clogged pores. They also introduced Staphylococcus aureus, another bacteria that triggers acne.

After consuming chocolates, the blood of the participants generated more interleukin-1b, an indicator of inflammation, when exposed to Propionibacterium acnes. Chocolates also increase the growth of another immune system factor known as interleukin ten after it is exposed to Staphylococcus aureus. This interleukin ten is believed to reduce the defense of our body against microorganisms, and therefore, higher degrees might allow bacteria to infect pimples and make them worse.

The study suggests that chocolates may increase inflammation and boost bacterial infections, thus making your acne worse. This study from the Netherlands may be tiny, but it started more studies to confirm or negate this.

However, dark chocolate has health-promoting antioxidants. Yes, it is one of our foods for healthy skin! How much chocolate we eat each day is a factor. While we are waiting for other studies, be observant of how your body responds to chocolates. If you think you may be sensitive to chocolate, try cutting it for one week and observe if there is a change in your skin.


Our diets always play a vital role in making and keeping our skin healthy and clear. Some would say, “you are what you eat,” and we agree. Always remember that. When you eat, make sure to choose foods that are good for your skin and your overall health. Review the list of foods for healthy skin and foods that trigger acne. Whatever you do and eat, it is your decision.

Make sure to wash your face with one of a Facial Cleansers

Also, protect your skin with one of these Moisturizers

Now It’s Your Turn

I hoped you enjoyed my Foods for Healthy Skin and Foods that Trigger Acne post.

Now I want to hear from you:

Which of these in this post are you most excited to try?

Are you going to use any of them? Or do you have a suggestion for something that has worked for you?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment.

What do you think?

Written by Maria

My passion is helping other people overcome the pain and embarrassment of acne. I have dealt with acne since my teenage years and know first-hand how hard it is to suffer from this condition.

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