Worst Foods for Acne

Woman with acne eating a chocolate bar Worst Foods for Acne

It’s no secret: the Standard American Diet (SAD) is loaded with all kinds of ingredients that can wreak havoc on our bodies. From chemicals to preservatives to artificial ingredients, most Americans are eating foods that their bodies can’t properly process. This can lead to multiple troubling conditions. While your diet isn’t the only thing responsible for breakouts, it can definitely contribute to acne. Here’s what to avoid if you’re trying to curb your breakouts.

What Are the Worst Foods for Acne?

Sugar and Refined Grains

In general, foods that rank high on the glycemic index scale aren’t good for your bodily processes. The glycemic index is “a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels.” But foods that are often considered “healthy” can be high on the glycemic index scale. For example, watermelon and pineapple -- which boast multiple nutrients -- are very high on the scale because of how much fruit sugar they have.

How does this relate to acne? When we consume more sugar than the body needs, inflammation occurs. The body produces the hormone insulin, which causes blood sugar to spike. Increased insulin and inflammation can both increase the sebum (natural oil) production in the skin. This leads to pores, open follicles on the skin’s surface, becoming clogged and resulting in blackheads and whiteheads.

Many refined carbohydrates are high on the glycemic index scale too, which is why monitoring your consumption is a good practice if you want to avoid breakouts. White rice, white flour pasta, and cereals and breads made from white flour are best avoided -- as well as sugary desserts and sodas.


In addition to the high sugar content in most alcohol, it’s been shown that estrogen and testosterone levels are altered with drinking. Hormonal imbalances that come with drinking too much or too frequently can cause excess sebum production leading to -- you guessed it -- clogged pores and breakouts.


Cutting down on your dairy consumption -- especially in high-dairy foods like milk and cheese -- can help reduce your acne. Often, the bovine hormones found in dairy products can contribute to hormonal imbalances when ingested. You don’t have to go dairy-free (though some people find that it helps!), but taking steps to reduce your dairy consumption can benefit you.

Greasy Foods

While greasy foods like potato chips, french fries, and fast food aren’t directly responsible for acne, the way we eat them can be! Often, grease from these finger foods lingers on our hands and is transferred to the face through conscious or unconscious touching. It’s best to limit the frequency of these foods in your diet.

Acne Treatment

If you’re suffering from regular breakouts and want to explore your treatment options, start by seeing a dermatologist for acne. Doctors that specialize in treating acne can help you determine your specific triggers and make an action plan to reduce breakouts. Getting regular chemical peels for acne can be immensely helpful in keeping skin continuously exfoliated and rejuvenated.

And as an added bonus, chemical peels can reduce acne scars as well.

Contact Vanguard Dermatology

Tired of your acne and need some help managing it? If you’re in the greater New York City area, contact Vanguard Dermatology today for an appointment with one of our board-certified dermatologists who can help treat your breakouts.

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