How To Tell If Your Diet Is Making Your Acne Worse

Let us explain how your diet affects your acne flare-ups and why you need to pay attention to it. Also, get to know about the worst acne triggers, the best alternatives to them, and the foods to include in your anti-acne diet for smooth, clear skin.

Acne is typically triggered by hormonal imbalances in our body, which lead to the overproduction of oils in the skin. This excess oil clogs the pores by clumping together with dirt, dead cells, and other impurities accumulated on the surface of the skin. This leads to acne breakouts and inflammation.

avoid fatty foods in your diet: burger on white plate with side sauce.

There are a number of factors (chronic stress, poor lifestyle, certain health disorders, etc.) responsible for the changes in hormone levels in our body. But you may also end up developing a skin reaction just by relishing your all-time comfort food or having a sip of your favourite beverage.

Though the relationship between diet and acne has always been controversial, the latest research has proved that it is not a mere myth. Your food sensitivity can actually make your acne worse. Even the simplest foods with the highest levels of nutrition can give you ugly acne bumps.

Want to know if your diet is breaking you out?

Let us delve deeper to figure out how the diet can aggravate acne.

How Does The Diet Affect Acne Flare-Ups?  

What you eat is reflected by your skin.’

From annoying pimples to nasty acne marks, your diet plays a crucial role in managing each of your skin conditions. But how do you wake up to breakouts just by indulging in certain food items?

Though the true link between diet and acne is yet to be revealed, it is proven that bad food habit or poor nutrition can make acne-prone women even more vulnerable to breakouts.

Glycaemic Index

Based on the impacts on the blood sugar levels, our foods are categorized into three different levels of the Glycaemic Index (GI). The GI values are typically measured in a scale of 0-100, where ‘high’ is ranged from 70 to 100, ‘medium’ falls between 56 to 69, and ‘low’ measures under 55.

woman pouting whilst rubbing cream into her under eye, wearing a pink towel to hold up her hair.

The standard American diet is heavily based on high GI foods, which elevate blood sugar and trigger spikes in insulin. These not only raise the levels of sebum-secreting hormones in our body but also increase the chances of developing inflammation by causing a free radical cascade inside.

In addition, a high GI diet contributes to a metabolic process called ‘glycation’ that impacts the appearance of our skin by interfering with the natural state of balance of our body.

An inappropriate diet is also known to disrupt the delicate pH balance in our body, thereby making it too acidic. This prompts the immune system to respond in an adverse way, which affects our health by distressing different organs and causing a reaction to the skin. However, your diet can aggravate acne only if you are already having problems with it.

a woman standing in front of a white brick wall whilst exfoliating her face with a white scrub.

You can have no acne at all even after following a terrible diet. But if you are an acne sufferer, you must consider food sensitivity seriously and cut certain foods out of your diet in order to prevent acne from getting worse.

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Which Foods Can Trigger Ugly Acne Breakouts?

Be it chronic acne or just a sudden flare-up, identifying the ‘culprits’ is essential to prevent inflammation and clear up the complexion. Figure out which of the following foods are working as triggers for you.

Refined Carbs

Refined or processed carbohydrates include white rice, white bread, white flour, cereals, white pasta, pastries, dried fruits, etc. Your body breaks them down into sugar pretty fast and causes a dramatic spike in blood sugar levels. This can aggravate acne by increasing sebum production and clogging skin pores.

avoiding fatty foods in your diet: burger and chips on red tray.

Sugary Items

When food sensitivity gives us a hard time, all sugary items work as major offenders for the skin. It can be refined sugars like table sugar or cane sugar, candy, etc. or sweetened beverages like soda, corn syrup, soft drinks, sports drinks, and bottled fruit juices. They can worsen your acne by increasing the levels of sugar in your bloodstream and stimulating the production of sebum in your skin.

Dairy Products

Skim milk and dairy products like butter, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sherbet, and milkshakes can wreak havoc on your acne-prone skin. This is because the insulin-like growth factor or IGF-1 and whey protein in them lead to increased oil production and provoke breakouts.

Milk Chocolate

Your love for milk chocolates can shoot your acne lesions up significantly. It is not the presence of cocoa but the abundance of dairy, refined sugar and Trans-fats that make them one of the biggest triggers for zits.

Processed Foods

Deep-fried foods, processed items, and pre-packaged junks are basically void of nutrition. As these greasy foods mostly contain inflammatory fats i.e. saturated fats and Trans-fats, indulging in them can only exacerbate your acne flares.


Not only soft drinks but also alcoholic cocktails (mojitos, margaritas, etc.) come loaded with sugar. Moreover, alcohol acts as a diuretic and dehydrates the skin, thereby clogging the pores and causing a reaction.

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dairy in your diet: a glass bottle of milk sat beside a short tower of chocolate brownies.

Which Are The Best Alternatives To Acne-Causing Foods?

While you cannot put a stop to food sensitivity, you can certainly make some thoughtful dietary changes to control how your skin behaves. Check out some healthier alternatives to the acne-causing foods that can help you steer clear of zits, marks, and scars.

Whole Grain Carbohydrates

Swap refined grains for whole grains, such as brown rice, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, oats, quinoa, etc. Being much less processed, they do not lose fibres and other vital nutrients. Therefore, your blood sugar levels remain stable and your skin does not develop any reaction.

Non-Dairy Alternatives

Whole milk is a good option to stay away from acne and inflammation. But it is even better to choose different kinds of non-dairy milk, such as soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and rice milk. You can also opt for dairy-free alternatives like vegan cheese, tofu, etc.

Healthy Fats

Instead of gorging on deep-fried items, opt for baked, grilled, broiled, or poached foods. Also, switch to healthy fats like olive oil for preparing dishes at home.

Fresh `Vegetables

Avoid pre-packaged junks and embrace a natural diet containing plenty of fresh seasonal vegetables. Both dark leafy greens and colourful veggies come filled with essential nutrition. They not only help in cleansing the internal system but also regulate the blood sugar levels effectively.

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Whole Fruits

Pick fresh whole fruits (less ripe ones), especially dark-coloured berries, bananas, mangos, etc. to beat the sugar rush and satisfy your sweet tooth at the same time. They are rich in phytonutrients and beta-carotene, which help in maintaining the health of the skin by minimizing the risk of acne.

Dark Chocolate

Consider good quality dark chocolates as your best friend. We are talking about the milk-free, unsweetened version of chocolates that contain 70%-100% cacao. Munching on them not only leaves your pimply cheeks unaffected but also provides lots of antioxidants to your skin cells.


Do not let alcohol sap fluid out of your skin and aggravate acne. Rather, keep yourself hydrated by drinking enough plain water or fresh limewater throughout the day.

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Water is important in your diet: running tap water into a tall glass, at the sink.

What to include in your diet for Clearer Skin?  

A natural, wholesome, and balanced diet can give your health a significant boost and offer some major clearing benefits to your skin at once. However, when it comes to following an anti-acne diet to avoid food sensitivity, there is no be-all and end-all.

Here is how to eat right to help your skin the most.

Low-Glycaemic Foods

Foods with a low glycaemic index (GI) can give you clearer skin. This works by lowering the rates of inflammation and fighting against acne blemishes. A low-glycemic diet mostly includes whole grains, legumes, beans, yellow and orange fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, etc.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Up your intake of omega-3 fatty acids to prevent unwanted skin reactions and get a flawless skin. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc., and fish oil supplements are its greatest sources.

Other sources include organic coconut oil, lean poultry, and unseasoned nuts and seeds.


Harness the power of antioxidants to get rid of impurities and prevent acne lesions. Indulge in more antioxidant vitamins (A, C, E), berries, green tea, and red wine.

Colourful fruits and vegetables like apricots, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, etc. are also high in antioxidants.

tea pouring from a teapot into a clear glass below.


A deficiency of zinc in your diet can aggravate acne. So, make sure that you get your recommended dietary allowance of the mineral.

Oyster, crab, turkey, etc. come loaded with zinc while kidney beans, lentils, cashews, quinoa, and dried or roasted seeds are some of its best plant-based sources.


Probiotics help in drawing toxins and heavy metals out of the body, thereby reducing acne flare-ups to a large extent. Fermented and cultured food items are rich in these friendly bacteria, which inoculate the gut and improve stomach function.

Some of the best options to consider are raw yoghurt, kefir, microalgae, kombucha tea, miso soup, kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, and fermented veggies.

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