What Foods Affect My Skin?

When we hear someone is dieting or watching what they’re eating we automatically think they’re trying to lose weight. However, what we’re putting in our body affects more than just our figure. Changing up your diet will also change how your skin looks. Determining what you can and cannot eat to achieve your goal does look slightly different depending on if you’re dieting to change your figure or dieting to change your complexion. When you’re trying to target a specific skin issue, it’s not as simple as cutting out carbs or following a Keto lifestyle. To give a better idea of what this “skin changing” diet looks like, here are some foods that have been found to cause acne breakouts according to the Food Revolution Network:

  • Dairy
  • Refined Carbohydrates and Sugar
  • Fast Food
  • Chocolate

Before we panic about that last one – here’s why chocolate can in fact cause acne if you’re acne prone: Chocolate has many, many benefits to it. However, much of the chocolate manufactured today has dairy and sugar added to it in order to make it sweeter. At the top of the list, we see that both dairy and sugars are our main culprits when it comes to causing acne breakouts. If you’re a chocolate enthusiast, it may just be better to binge on the chocolate that doesn’t include a bunch of additives. That being said, it’s okay to indulge every once in a while. Which brings me to a quick disclaimer that I want to get out of the way before we continue to talk about how these kinds of food aren’t good for us:


It’s okay to treat yourself!


As a food lover myself who has tried and tried to be as restrictive as possible to achieve what I felt I needed to, it’s not worth it! Healthy food can be tasty, but let’s be honest, nothing beats a good, greasy burger. So yes, while these foods may be causing you to break out, I want to make sure my point gets across that this is by no means telling you that the only way to get rid of your acne is to cut these foods out completely. Rather, “everything in moderation” is the way to go.

With that in mind as we carry on, let’s talk about the foods that may not be treating us as kindly as we hoped. If you looked at the acne map in the previous blog post, then you’ll see where we see acne arise based off of problems with digestion. If you struggle with forehead acne, then paying closer attention to your diet and how much you consume these kinds of food will be especially important.

At the top of the list, we have dairy. In my personal experience, cutting out dairy made the biggest difference in seeing a change in my forehead acne. When I say “the biggest difference,” I mean the BIGGEST difference. Within weeks my forehead became completely clear, and I didn’t see so much as even one pimple. This is possibly because dairy promotes insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and increases the activity of an enzyme called mTORC1. Both IGF-1 and mTORC1 have been found to cause acne as well as other health issues. It’s best to go with dairy substitutes such as almond milk, oat milk, hemp milk, etc. and any products that replace dairy with said substitutions. Fortunately, we live in a world that’s found a number of ways to replace dairy with a healthier, non-dairy alternative.

Refined carbs and sugars also have been found to cause acne. Refined carbohydrates are known to cause more sebum production as well as already having a higher glycemic index. Think white bread, white pasta, and sugary beverages like soda. Replace refined carbs with foods like quinoa, millet, and oats. In general, the only time foods with a higher glycemic index are only really helpful when it comes to recovering energy after exercise. Otherwise, focusing on foods with a low index are going to help you feel better and possibly clear up your skin.

A not so shocking food group that follows on the list is fast food. Often enough, fast food contains dairy, refined carbs, and sugar. Add in the grease and you now have quite a few contributors to a few potential acne breakouts. Not only does fast food typically contain certain kinds of foods that are known to already cause acne, but that grease that makes a McDonald’s burger so good can also clog the pores around your mouth/chin.

Perhaps the foods known to cause acne aren’t very shocking. They are, however, convenient kinds of foods. To cut all of these foods out is difficult, trust me, I know from experience. That is why I emphasize “everything in moderation.” Everyone’s body reacts differently to certain things as well. Perhaps dairy doesn’t do anything to your skin but a large fry from your nearest fast-food joint does. It takes a bit of experimenting to know what works for you and what doesn’t. What we can look at, though, is what foods are GOOD for our skin:

  • Zinc
  • Green Tea
  • Turmeric
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Vitamins A, E, and D
  • Antioxidants
  • Probiotics and Fermented Foods

Many of these known pro-skin foods can be found in supplement form. To save time, however, just eat more plants! Leafy greens and berries are going to be high in vitamins and antioxidants that are good for both your body and your skin. A major, major help in what cleared my skin was in fact zinc. I’ve been applying zinc topically while also taking it internally for a while now. I’ll touch on how zinc works as a topical solution in a future blog, but if you’re not one to take pills then you can find the vitamin in wheat germ, whole grains, nuts, and beans. Another important thing to note about this group of skin-happy food is how important probiotics and fermented foods are to digestion. If you haven’t gotten it already, keeping a healthy digestive tract is one of the top things to consider when trying to clear up your skin. Cutting out foods that gunk up our intestines and focusing on foods that give us good, clean energy is going to make it a whole lot easier on your body when it comes to keeping you in tip-top shape.

Harvard Health Publishing. “Glycemic Index for 60+ Foods – Harvard Health.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health, 14 Mar. 2018, www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods.


  • Kaycee Diel

    I really enjoyed reading this post! As someone who struggles with acne, I’ve been told to cut dairy out of my diet, and while I did for a little bit of time, it’s really hard for me to do so. It did help my acne for a little bit though. I have started drinking green tea recently and it has made my skin better in my opinion. This article gave me a lot of insight into what I put into my body and how it relates to my skin!

  • Jenna Weinfurt

    I loved this post! it was informational and educational but was interesting and fun as well! I loved how you had facts to back up your points on unhealthy foods for the skin! As a stressed college student, i could definitely use the tips in this post for my eating habits!! Great job, cant wait to see what else you post!

  • Xiola Schneiderman

    This post was super informative on what foods can cause acne as well as foods that can contribute to healthy skin. I always knew that a healthy diet would promote skin health, but never really thought about the vitamins that would enhance this. I love that you listed these out so it is clear for the reader to understand which elements in food can help fight acne. I also think it is important that you added in a disclaimer that everything can be in moderation.

  • Prestyn Kloskey

    I loved everthing about this post. When I started struggling with acne about a year ago I started to look at what in my life do I need to change besides just my skincare routine. This post is informative and gave really helpful tips and suggestions. I love how you broke it down into both simple terms and scientifically! Great job!

  • Cecilia Goudanis-Huebner

    This is such a helpful post! I feel like this is a really friendly approach to explain everything. I always forget how much food affects our skin, and I love how you explain how everything is related. Great post!

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