What foods cause acne and helpful diet tips

Acne is the most common skin condition in the United Kingdom. And GPs and dermatologists like Dr Mona Gohara, agree on what causes it: a hormonal spike that leads to an increase in oil production, which subsequently clogs pores and creates a perfect opportunity for acne bacteria that lives on our skin to settle in and cause the inflammation. This inflammation is what appears as pimples. In addition to hormones, oil and bacteria, genetics, and emotional stress are also key factors in one’s tendency towards acne flare-ups. Dr Gohara shares her insights with us to help us how diet affects acne-prone skin.

Foods that can cause acne
An acne trigger that has always been questioned is that of diet: do the foods we choose ultimately show up on our skin? Does that one piece of chocolate really spiral your skin into a pimply frenzy?


Recent studies show that foods with a high Glycemic Index (GI) - such as chips, cookies, cake, soda, white bread, pasta, rice, and other carbohydrates - can cause acne to flare up. It is the high spike of insulin levels in the blood that follows consumption of these foods that is thought to cause the breakout.

What to eat to avoid breakouts

One study was able to show improvement with a shift in diet from high to low GI foods. To help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels we recommend that you:

1. Eat small, healthy meals often (every 2-3 hours).

2. Eat a wide range of vegetables (steam instead of boil) each day to help inflammation and oxidative damage.

3. Eat a balanced diet with very limited amounts of simple carbohydrates.

Can dairy foods cause acne?

There is also new evidence suggesting a link between dairy and acne; for instance, the hormones found in skimmed milk has been identified as a potential acne trigger. Although more studies are needed to confirm a correlation, dermatologists may ask about your daily dairy consumption during a consultation. Generally, your GP or dermatologist will tell you that it is not a good idea to eliminate food groups from your diet, but if it is identified as a possible trigger, reducing daily intake may be suggested as part of the treatment plan.

In general, a good rule of thumb to remember is that the skin is your largest organ, and so it is important to treat it as such. Protect it and nourish it well with healthy foods. If it’s not good for your heart or brain, it won’t be good for your skin either!

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