How Does Food Influence Acne Prone Skin?

food & acne prone skin

Acne is the most common skin disease in the world, affecting more than 40 million people — over half of whom are women over 25 years old. Although acne symptoms are sometimes viewed as a superficial health concern, those of us who’ve had to deal with any of the different acne types are aware of the emotional and physical damage that breakouts and acne can cause. Several things contribute to whether or not someone has what I call Olivia type skin, or acne-prone skin. The acne causing culprits include hormonal imbalances, the type of foods you eat, contraceptives, as well as other medications.

Conventional acne treatments focus on topical treatments and prescription medications. Prescription medications are enticing because they promise a quick solution. It’s much easier to take a pill or use an ointment than it is to make the lifestyle changes necessary to heal your skin from the inside. While prescription and OTC medications have their place and can provide relief from acne symptoms, they come with several possible unpleasant and damaging side effects and are only meant to be a short-term solution. Unfortunately, these acne treatments only reduce acne symptoms — they don’t address the underlying root acne causes.

If you want to get rid of acne symptoms for good and in the process enjoy optimal health and reduced illness and disease — you need to address the root cause and use a natural approach that supports your whole body. As the title of my book Clean Skin from Within makes clear, I believe that healthy, glowing skin begins from within. The best way to stop acne is from the inside out. Today, I’m going to share a few of the most effective natural remedies to help you reduce and eliminate the acne causes and get rid of acne symptoms for good:

If you deal with acne, you probably realize it’s not just about what you put on your skin that is causing acne. Yes, it’s really important to use natural skin care products that are not harsh on your skin and are the right fit for your skin type. But, what you eat has a tremendous impact on your skin, so it’s also important to avoid the wrong foods that are going to trigger acne symptoms and eat the right foods that are going to help you address those underlying reasons for acne breakouts.

While food may not be the greatest influence in serious clinical acne cases — for the majority of people, the types of foods we put into our body are the ultimate acne treatment. Even for those that deal with severe acne symptoms, cutting out foods that trigger inflammation and hormone imbalance will help. Our skin is a magic mirror to what’s happening inside of our bodies. If you struggle with acne-prone skin it could likely be in response to the types of foods you are eating.

Below, I’ve highlighted some foods that are known to be acne causing. I recommend you take a few weeks to really look into how your body reacts to these foods, that way you can get a better understanding of what your body can or cannot intake.

Food Culprits That Cause Or Aggravate Acne Symptoms

acne causes


When I talk about how sugar is bad for acne prone skin, I’m not talking about natural sugars from things like fruit, which are healthy for the body in moderation. Processed sugars like high fructose corn syrup and sugars found in things like cereal, processed snacks, or mass-produced juices are harmful in many ways. One of those ways is in how it impacts acne production in our skin. If your skin is prone to acne, no matter your age, it’s probably a good idea to cut sugar out of your diet for the most part. The reason for this is that sugar holds no real nutritional value. The body breaks down sugar into glucose and causes an insulin spike in the body, which has been linked to breakouts in acne symptoms.

Simple Carbs

We have all heard about the negative effects that simple carbohydrates have on our bodies. Like sugar, simple carbohydrates immediately get broken down into glucose by the body. Again, an increase in glucose in the bloodstream can cause an insulin spike, which causes hormone cascades and contributes to acne symptoms. But what are simple carbs? Things like white bread, sodas, and highly processed foods are considered simple carbohydrates.


Another food category that can often cause negative side effects after consumption is dairy. Dairy is considered an inflammatory food and can cause bloating and other inflammation if eaten regularly. Since it comes from a lactating mammal, dairy contains hormones that can have a disrupting impact on our body’s hormonal balance, which is one of the big root causes behind acne symptoms. As an acne treatment for those with acne prone skin, I recommend trying to cut dairy out of your diet for at least 14 days to see how your skin responds to this change. If you find that your skin starts to clears up and is producing less acne after giving up dairy for 14 days, stick with no dairy for a while longer – this could be the problem!

Junk Food

Not only is junk food high in saturated fats, salt and processed ingredients that leave your skin dull and prone to acne symptoms – it provides little if any nutritional benefit and leaves you feeling sluggish. Your skin is your body’s largest organ and takes the brunt of the punishment from junk food abuse. What do you do if you succumb to a stress-induced moment of junk food indulgence? Counteracting your indulgence and help your body speed up the purge of the junk food by increasing your water intake and eating some antioxidant-rich foods like berries and protein. This will help your body flush out the toxins so your skin doesn’t get overtaxed by the detoxification process.

Good Foods for Acne Prone Skin

foods good for acne

If the thought of cutting out these aforementioned food categories to help reduce acne symptoms seems daunting, fear not! There are so many alternative healthy choices that are delicious and satisfying.

Sugar Substitute

Stevia is a delicious and naturally sweet extract that comes from the stevia plant leaf. It doesn’t increase your blood sugar so it’s not going to create a hormone cascade in your body. Erythritol is another great alternative and can be used to substitute sugar in baking.

Simple Carb Substitute

Substitute simple carbs with whole grains. Whole grains can provide both soluble and insoluble fiber that supports a healthy digestive system — which is good for clearing up skin breakouts. In my book, I discuss how gluten-containing grains are a trigger for some individuals. My favorite whole grain is quinoa because it is gluten-free and has a higher protein content than most grains, which is important for balanced blood sugar.

Dairy Substitutes

There are a lot of great alternatives to dairy products. A favorite is to substitute dairy with unsweetened coconut milk. Coconut milk is a nice substitute for dairy and is very tasty. You can use it on cereals (non-sugary cereals of course) and smoothies — all kinds of things. Other healthy alternatives to dairy are almond milk or oat milk. The choice of alternative milk is abundant. I would recommend avoiding soy milk to avoid the phytoestrogen properties. Also, instead of butter, you can substitute for coconut oil.

Junk Food Substitutes

Instead of reaching for that bag of chips, crackers, cookies – or whatever junk food you typically crave – try eating some crunchy veggies or whole-grain crackers dipped in hummus, or reach for some kale chips. Craving something sweet, try a small square of dark chocolate. Whatever your junk food cravings are – look to buy more healthy “junk food” alternatives. Also, when the cravings for junk food hit look at what may be triggering the cravings. Are you stressed or bored? Or maybe you’re just thirsty. Either way, look for healthy snack alternatives that hit the spot just the same.

The point is to clean up your diet and limit or eliminate the food categories that are major triggers for acne and acne symptoms. I recommend eating a balanced diet with a focus on more nutrient-rich vegetables, healthy fats (such as from fish, olives, avocados, and nuts/seeds) and fiber-rich legumes (beans and peas). To learn more about the root causes behind what causes acne and what you can do about it, take my free skin quiz. If you struggle with acne – you’re likely an Olivia skin type, but take the quiz to find out!

This is just scratching the surface on foods to avoid or include to address acne. You’ll learn more about what causes acne in my bestselling book Clean Skin from Within. Or check out the many great skin-loving food choices I recommend in my other blog posts that discuss balancing hormones, reducing inflammation, and helping you detoxify your body and boost your immune system from the inside out.

Also, check out this video for more information on what foods are good and bad for acne-prone skin:

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