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Fighting acne with food: Can what you eat worsen or help your acne? |

Acne is a very common skin condition. It affects about 90 million Americans and causes emotional distress among many who have it. The good news is that many acne treatments are available, and many of them are completely safe. However, some treatments can be harmful, so if you have acne, it’s important to know what your options are.

Acne can be a very annoying skin condition that can ruin your life. There are many things you can do to make it go away, but what you eat is one of the most important things you can do to fight acne.

Acne is a common problem that affects the face and body and can occur at any time of the year. While many forms of acne are due to the effects of hormones, excess oil, and dirt, some types are due to diet. Eating high-glycemic foods, such as sweets, starches, and high-fat foods, can trigger acne, either by increasing oil production in the skin or by increasing the amount of insulin produced by the body. On the other hand, foods that are high in fiber and low in fat can help reduce acne.

Acne is a multifaceted condition. While each situation is different, adopting a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle may greatly improve your chances of having clean skin.

What exactly is acne?

Our skin is our body’s biggest organ and a complex ecosystem with numerous layers and components.


Although the skin serves as a barrier between ourselves and our surroundings, it is semi-permeable, which means that certain chemicals may pass through it. Openings are provided by sweat glands and hair follicles.

Hairs grow from follicles in the subcutaneous layer, which is the deepest layer under the dermis. The sebaceous glands, which produce sebum, an oily substance that lubricates the hair and skin, are linked to these hair follicles. (If you don’t wash your hair, it will get greasy.) Triglycerides (40-60%), cerides (19-26%), squalene (11-15%), and tiny quantities of cholesterol make up the majority of human sebum.

Except for the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, hair follicles and sebaceous glands may be found all over the body.

Acne is caused by old skin cells clogging the pores, which is more prone to develop when the skin is greasy and the skin cells clump together. When you combine a high quantity of germs on the skin with systemic inflammation, you’ve got yourself a real acne feast.

Acne vulgaris is the kind of acne with which most of us are acquainted, and it is responsible for almost all instances of acne.

What factors play a role in the development of acne?

As a result, everything that clogs the pores and/or causes or aggravates an infection or inflammation contributes. The following are the major participants in the acne industry:

  • Sebum (oil) production from the skin that is excessive
  • Skin cells divide quickly.
  • Skin cell death and delayed separation
  • Bacteria on the skin’s surface
  • Inflammatory reactivity

Sebum, hormones, and inflammation are all influenced by the foods we consume and the fat cells in our body. Changes in hormones are likely to have the greatest effect on acne (think contraceptives, anabolic steroids and puberty).

Hormonal influences

IGF-1 and growth hormone

Growth hormone (GH) has a bigger role in puberty acne than testosterone and estrogen. The brain sends GH to the liver, where it causes the production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). IGF-1 stimulates skin cell growth and division, sebum production, luteinizing hormone (LH) activity, and estrogen production.

Insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels

Acne was characterized as a skin diabetes in a 1958 research published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association. And, in my opinion, everything was true in the 1950s.

Severe acne and increased sebum are linked to high insulin levels and insulin resistance (note: more body fat can lead to more insulin resistance). Acne is frequently reduced as a side effect of medications that decrease insulin levels and manage blood sugar.


The idea behind acne reduction and a low-sugar diet Costa, A., et al., Costa, A., et al., Costa, A., Acne and nutrition: Is it true or false? An Bras Dermatol 2010;85:346-353; An Bras Dermatol 2010;85:346-353; An Bras Dermatol 2010


Acne severity does not seem to be linked to overall androgen levels in the body. Androgens, on the other hand, play a permissive role in the onset or triggering of acne. Women with PCOS, for example, or women beginning an anabolic/androgenic steroid cycle. These people have higher amounts of circulating androgens and IGF-1, as well as lower levels of sex hormone binding proteins.

If skin cells have a large number of androgen receptors, androgens may act directly on them. Furthermore, androgens may boost sebaceous gland development and production.

The release of androgens in the body is aided by eating a lot of food. Animal-derived foods and saturated fats elicit the strongest response. A low-fat, high-fiber diet may raise the quantity of proteins that bind to sex hormones, lowering the amount of free androgens in circulation.

Inflammation and anxiety are two factors that contribute to stress.

Acne is an inflammatory condition. Inflammatory and cell signaling hormones rise as a result of acne, and the skin becomes a beehive of inflammatory activity.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that our bodies produce in reaction to a stressful situation. Acne sufferers have been shown to have an excess of cortisol production, which shows itself mostly in the sebaceous glands.

Acne is exacerbated by stress (physical or emotional stress) and inflammation (which is already present or caused by stress).

What makes acne worse is a lack of power supply.

Vitamins and antioxidant minerals are in short supply.

Acne may be exacerbated by a lack of vitamins C and E, zinc, selenium, and carotenoids. These nutrients aid in the battle against free radicals, which break down elastin in the skin, produce collagen, and heal damage. The caveat is that in order to benefit from them, you generally have to obtain them through entire meals.

Foods that have been processed

The findings reveal an ambiguous link between processed foods and acne. You’ll have a lot of insulin if you eat a large dinner with a lot of processed food. Large amounts of insulin lead to increased tissue growth and the production of androgens, both of which contribute to acne.

Foods that have been highly processed or cooked frequently include ingredients that cause oxidative stress and inflammation (see All about cooking and carcinogens). Inflammation and oxidative stress nearly always play a role in the development of chronic illnesses.


Although there has been a link between dairy consumption and acne since the 1800s, there is some evidence that this link does not exist.

Milk gives offspring a mix of growth factors, hormones, and specific nutrients. Milk consumption stops when rapid growth stops and the young can feed themselves (well, not in humans).

Dairy products increase insulin levels, increase hormone levels in the body, and alter inflammation, all of which contribute to acne’s negative effects.

IGF-1 levels in the body can be increased by 10-20% by drinking cow’s milk. IGF-1 from cow’s milk survives pasteurization, homogenization, and digestion in our intestines, allowing it to reach the body as an intact hormone (the sequence of IGF-1 from cow’s milk and IGF-1 from humans is identical).

The unfavorable correlations between dairy and acne were not seen in fermented dairy products, perhaps because the microorganisms in fermented dairy products eat IGF-1, leaving less space for absorption.

Because whey protein is a strong insulin stimulator, some experts believe it may have a role in the development of acne. Betacellulin (present in dairy products) may cause acne to worsen by increasing skin cell proliferation and decreasing cell death.


Alcohol intake has been related to acne in many studies.

Gluten and gastrointestinal problems

Acne is often linked to digestive system problems.

Acne sufferers are more likely to have gastrointestinal issues including bloating and constipation.

Chronic stress may wreak havoc on the stomach, causing inflammation and potentially leaky gut.

There may be a connection between gluten in wheat and acne (and between gluten and other skin conditions). For a month, eliminate all sources of wheat and gluten from your diet to see whether it helps.


Acne: The Role of Medical Nutrition Therapy, Burris J, et al. 113:416-430 in J Acad Nutr Diet.

What helps acne is the power supply.

Acne is a major issue. Although acne is caused by heredity (the mother seems to have a significant influence) and ethnicity, it appears that our everyday lifestyle also plays a part.

Over-the-counter acne products cost more than $100 million in the United States. Many non-Western individuals, on the other hand, do not have acne at all.

So you have two options: spend a lot of money on possibly hazardous medications, or alter your diet. Changing your diet is a far less expensive and risky place to begin.

Products made from the whole plant

A plant-based diet may result in slightly lower IGF-1 levels and slightly greater IGF-1-binding protein levels (resulting in less available IGF-1 circulating in the body). This may aid in the treatment of acne.

Consumes a moderate amount of food.

Sebum production is inversely proportional to food consumption.


These compounds, which may be found in foods like soy, may block the androgen-producing enzymes that cause acne, but they don’t seem to play a significant role in acne management.


Chocolate (in its purest form) does not seem to be linked to acne. Dark chocolate has been shown in studies to enhance insulin sensitivity, blood flow to the skin, and skin hydration. (Some companies are even using this study by including chocolate as an ingredient in their skin care products.) We haven’t tested it yet to see whether it works, but it smells nice).

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids.

Acne formation may be influenced by fatty acid levels in the skin. Furthermore, a pro-inflammatory Western diet (high in omega-6 fats) has been shown to aggravate acne. Overall skin health seems to be dependent on a well-balanced fat diet and enough omega-3. Acne may be treated with one gram of EPA from a dietary supplement (check the quantity of EPA in your fish oil).

Health of the gastrointestinal tract

As previously said, acne is strongly related to gastrointestinal tract health. Whole foods, soluble and insoluble fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, coconut, and cabbage (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, and other cabbages) may all enhance gut health and motility in certain instances. (Excess hormones that cause acne may also be binded by fiber and flushed out of the body.)

To see if it helps, try cutting off wheat, dairy, and sugar for a month. All of these signs and symptoms aggravate gastrointestinal issues, and acne is related to gluten enteropathy.


This may be of particular relevance to acne patients who are taking antibiotics. Our stomach is home to a plethora of bacteria, and if it isn’t in excellent shape, it may wreak havoc on our acne. Adequate consumption of these nutrients via food and/or supplementation may aid in gut health restoration and acne reduction.

Skin cells have been discovered to function as immune cells, signaling an overactive immune system. Inflammation in the skin indicates that the whole body is inflamed, including the stomach.


The interaction between gut and brain in acne Source : Bowe WP & Logan AC. Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis: back to the future? Gut Pathogens 2011;3:1.


Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and immune-boosting qualities are found in many spices (cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, etc.) and fresh herbs (basil, oregano, garlic, etc.). Cinnamon, for example, may help control insulin levels.

Green tea

Green tea may suppress the enzymes and androgens that cause acne to develop. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well.


These nuts may help regulate blood sugar levels and enhance fatty acids in the blood and skin. Monounsaturated fats have been shown to have antibacterial properties.

Vegetables and fruits with dark green and purple hues

They are high in antioxidants and minerals, which help to combat acne and inflammation. They may also stop the androgen-producing enzymes from causing acne.

Eggs from free-range chickens that are organic (or pasture-raised).

Chickens given a healthy diet (or, better yet, free roaming on pasture with insects and other small animals) produce eggs that are higher in nutrients (such as vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids), which may aid in the treatment of acne.


They have the ability to decrease IGF-1 levels in the body.


Grapes, red wine, peanuts, and blackberries all contain this compound.

B5 is a B vitamin (pantothenic acid)

Pantothenic acid (500-1000 mg per day) is a considerably safer alternative to commercially accessible medicines like oral contraceptives and retinoids.

Zinc and selenium are two minerals that are essential for good health.

The skin contains 6% of the total zinc in our bodies. Selenium is a very potent antioxidant. Getting them in the form of food is better.

Seafood, game, red meat, nuts, seeds, and mushrooms are all high in zinc. Nuts (particularly Brazil nuts), fish, poultry, meat, game, mushrooms, whole grain products, and eggs are all high in selenium.

Who doesn’t have a button collection?

Changes in eating habits over time may also reveal which foods are linked to acne.

Acne seems to be rare among non-Western cultures that eat a traditional diet. Inuit, Okinawan Islanders, Acehnese hunter-gatherers, Kitawan Islanders, Kenyan rural communities, Zambians, and Bantus are some of these people.

The following are the major meals seen in cultures where acne is virtually non-existent:

  • Tubers are a kind of tuber that is (e.g. taro, yam)
  • Fruit
  • Marine Mammals, Fish, and Seafood
  • Coconut
  • Vegetables
  • Game
  • Nuts and peanuts
  • Non-white grains that have been traditionally cooked (fermented or ash-treated), such as millet, barley, maize, or rice.
  • fungus, molds, and lichens that are helpful

They avoid processed foods, sugar, refined flour and wheat, refined oils, and a variety of dairy products. They also receive adequate vitamin D by being outdoors and/or eating the liver of fish.

Conclusions and suggestions

Acne is a complicated condition that affects each individual differently. There are, however, variables that exist in cultures that do not have acne. Use these suggestions and ideas as a starting point.

  • They consume raw, whole foods. This meal provides them with all of their nutrients. They don’t go together.
  • They walk outdoors to enjoy the sun (or, again, eat vitamin D in organic meat).
  • They often consume fermented foods, which are high in probiotics and beneficial to gut health.
  • They consume a lot of unprocessed and/or traditionally prepared plant foods, such as fresh or fermented fruits and vegetables and soaked/germinated/fermented grains, with the exception of the Eskimos.
  • Fresh herbs and spices, as well as nutritious mushrooms, are often consumed.
  • You eat a healthy amount of unsaturated fats.
    • They eat a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, which they get from fish, game, and even insects and snails. They eat just a little amount of omega-6 from vegetable or seed oils.
    • They consume cooked ground nuts (such as peanuts) and walnuts in the traditional way (e.g. walnuts and almonds).
  • They don’t eat a lot of dairy, and when they do, it’s fermented and/or from pastures.
  • They devour as much of each animal as possible, including dark and white meat, organ meat, connective tissue, and so on.

Self-experimentation has a lot of value.

Keep a diet journal if you have acne. Look for a connection between the meal and the rash, and keep in mind that a rash may take a day or more to appear.

Giving up wheat, dairy, and sugar for a month to see whether it helps is a wonderful experiment. Acne is most closely linked to these items. Tubers, fruits, and legumes/peggies may be used to replace carbohydrates. If this seems to be too tough, focus on one task at a time.

Other information

Excessive sebum production occurs during hormonal changes (e.g. puberty), most likely to protect hair follicle development.

Every 28-45 days, our skin is regenerated. Neuropeptides like endorphins have receptors in the sebaceous glands.

Sebaceous gland function may be affected by histamines and antihistamines.

Substances that are harmful to the environment

Pollutants in the environment may raise IGF-1 levels. Oxidation is also accelerated by pollutants, such as smoking. Acetylcholine is affected by smoking, and acetylcholine affects sebum activity.

Natural cures found in the area

Plant extracts from Azadirachta indica (neem), Sphaeranthus indicus (Hindi), Hemidesmus indicus (Sarsaparilla), Rubia cordifolia (madder), and Curcuma longa (turmeric) have anti-inflammatory effects and may inhibit acne-causing bacteria. Tea tree oil may be used topically in the same way.

Try egg yolk if you’re searching for a low-cost vitamin A cream. Apply it to the skin and let it on for at least 10 minutes, if not the whole night. (Don’t forget to wash it after you’re done.)

Teas made from chamomile and peppermint may help to relieve skin irritations. Make a strong chamomile and mint solution, soak your face in it, and leave it on your skin for a few minutes. Oatmeal soothes the skin as well. (Unless you’re auditioning for a zombie film, it was eventually.)

You may get a natural glycolic acid peel from fruit acids and enzymes. Wipe your face with a crushed pineapple or orange peel the next time you add fruit to your super shake. However, take it seriously. Plain yogurt is a probiotic as well as an exfoliating acid.

For you, individually.

KO Abulnaya, KO Abulnaya, KO Abulnaya, KO Abulnaya, KO Abulnaya, KO Abulnaya, KO Abulnaya, KO Abulnaya Indian Journal of Dermatology, 54:36-40, 2009.

RW Short, RW Short, RW Short, RW Short, RW Short, RW Short, R The impact of exercise-induced perspiration on upper body acne was studied in a randomized, single-blind pilot trial. Pediatric Dermatology, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 126-128.

Berra B & Rizzo AM. Glycemic index, glycemic load: New evidence for a link to acne. J Am Coll Nutr 2009;28:450S-454S.

Dietary Implications for Acne Development: A Paradigm Shift, Cordain L. 1–5 in the American Journal of Dermatology, 2006.

FW Danby, FW Danby, FW Danby, FW Danby, FW Danby, 598-604 in Clinics of Dermatology, 2010.

Dubrow TJ & Adderly BD. The cure for acne. Rodale. 2003.

Logan AC & Treloar V. The Clear Skin Diet. Cumberland House Publishers. 2007.

Nutrition and acne, Bowe WP, et al. 63:124-141 in J Am Acad Dermatol.

L. Cordain, L. Cordain, L. Cordain, L. Cordain, L. Cordain, L. Cordain, L 84-91 in Semin Cutan Med Surg, 2005.

A. Costa et al. Acne and nutrition: Is it true or false? An Bras Dermatol 2010;85:346-353; An Bras Dermatol 2010;85:346-353; An Bras Dermatol 2010

The importance of diet in acne: facts and debate, by BB Davidovici and R Wolf. Dermatology Clinics 2010;28:12-16.

Acne vulgaris prevalence in Chinese adolescents and adults: A neighborhood study of 17,345 individuals in six cities, Shen Y, et al. Acta Derm Venereol Epub 2011 Jun 28

Evidence for acne-stimulating properties of milk and other insulinotropic milk products, Melnik B.C. 2011;67:131-145 in Nestlé Nutr Workshop Ser Pediatr Program.

Acne vulgaris is a disease of Western civilisation, according to Cordain and colleagues. 1584-1590 in Arch Dermatol, 2002.

Prevalence, severity, and risk factors of acne in high school students: A community-based study. Ghodsi SZ, et al. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, vol. 129, no. 2, pp. 2136-2141, 2009.

Milk intake with acne in teenage males, Adebamowo CA, et al. J Am Acad Dermatol 2008;58:787-793.

New breakthroughs in understanding the etiology and treatment of acne, Kurokawa I, et al. Experimental Dermatology, vol. 18, no. 8, pp. 821-832, 2009.

Bowe WP & Logan AC. Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis: back to the future? Gut Pathogens 2011;3:1.

From anecdote to translational medicine: acne vulgaris, probiotics, and the gut-brain-skin axis. Arches et al. 185-199 in Benef Microbes, 2014.

Acne and diet: a review of the current research, by K. Steventon and F. Caudell. Dermatology Nursing, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 28-34, 2013.

Acne: The Role of Medical Nutrition Therapy, Burris J, et al. 113:416-430 in J Acad Nutr Diet.

Katta R & Desai SP. Nutrition and dermatology : The role of dietary intervention in skin diseases. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol 2014;7:46-51.

RN Smith, et al. A randomized controlled study shows that a low-glycemic diet reduces symptoms in acne vulgaris patients. 107-115 in Am J Clin Nutr, 2007.


Acne is not only a cosmetic problem: it can also cause a lot of discomfort, and there are few things that will help clear up acne better than good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.. Read more about diet to get rid of acne in a week and let us know what you think.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What should I eat to reduce acne?

Acne is caused by a variety of factors, including diet. Some foods that are known to help reduce acne include watermelon, celery, and cucumber.

What food should I avoid for acne?

Avoid foods that are high in sugar, such as cookies and candy.

How I healed my acne with food?

It is not recommended to use food as a treatment for acne.

Related Tags

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • diet for acne free skin
  • foods that help clear acne
  • hormonal acne diet
  • foods that fight acne
  • foods that cause acne