Anti-acne Diet: What To Eat For Clearer And Healthier Skin

Written by Ramona Sinha, Certified Skin Care Coach

Acne is a complex condition influenced by multiple health and lifestyle factors, and diet is one of them. Therefore, following an anti-acne diet and controlling your food choices are crucial in managing the symptoms. Diet is closely related to your skin health. While healthy food choices may not make the inflammation and zits go away overnight, they will benefit your skin in the long run. Keep reading to understand how diet influences acne and what foods can help you keep the breakouts in check.

What Causes Acne?

If you are thinking that not taking proper care of your face gave you that ugly acne, dump that thought. Because your hormones influence the occurrence of acne. They make your skin produce more oil. And when a layer of dead skin cells accumulates on the  pores, you get acne.

For a few people, acne diminishes with age, and for some, it gets severe, and this is due to the function of your immune system and other genetic factors (1).

Diet And Acne: The Link

Research doesn’t deny the link between acne and your diet. What you eat shows up on your face, and a healthy diet helps you get rid of acne. A review of several studies found that specific diet and food items can aggravate or reduce acne (2).

Now, let’s see how you can control your acne breakouts with an anti-acne diet.

The Acne Diet: Diet For Acne-free Skin

  1. Low Glycemic Index (GI) Diet
  2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  3. Foods Containing Vitamins A, D, And E
  4. Antioxidant-rich Foods
  5. Diet Enriched With Zinc-containing Foods
  6. Controlled Dairy Intake
  7. Chocolate And Acne
  8. Other Best Supplements To Clear Up Acne

1. Low Glycemic Index (GI) Diet

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What Does Research Say?

Several studies were conducted to find out the effectivity of a low glycemic index diet. Glycemic index (GI) is a measure where food items are ranked as per their effect on your blood sugar levels. In other words, foods that do not escalate your blood sugar levels have a low glycemic index. Clinical studies and controlled trials found that a low glycemic load diet reduced the free androgen index (i.e., controlled the release of a hormone called androgen, which is one of the primary causes of acne), thus reducing the severity of acne (3), (4).

Food Items With Low GI

  • Oat bran and rolled oats
  • Whole wheat
  • Brown rice
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Nuts and raisins
  • Peanuts
  • Lentils (red and green)
  • Carrots (raw and boiled)
  • Eggplant (aubergine or brinjal)
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushroom
  • Red peppers
  • Coconut
  • Kiwifruit
  • Oranges

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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What Does Research Say?

These fatty acids are mostly found in protein sources, such as eggs, fish, and a few plant sources. A study published in Lipids in Health and Disease reveals that omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, and those who included omega-3s in their diet experienced reduced levels of acne severity (5).

Food Items High In Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • Fish such as mackerel, herring, sardine, and salmon
  • Cod liver oil
  • Oyster
  • Caviar
  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Grass-fed dairy products and meat

3. Foods containing Vitamins A, D, And E

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What Does Research Say? 

Vitamin A (retinol) fights acne when applied topically. A study conducted on both men and women showed that retinol was highly effective in treating acne inflammation (6).

A 2014 study published in Dermato Endocrinology found that people who suffered from acne had low levels of vitamin D (7). Another study found that the people suffering from acne experienced an improvement in their symptoms after they started taking oral vitamin D supplements (8).

Also, vitamin E, along with vitamin C, helps in preventing the formation of comedones and the growth of acne-causing bacteria (9).

Food Items High In Vitamins A, D, And E

  • Sweet potato
  • Carrots
  • Egg yolk
  • Raw whole milk
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Caviar
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil
  • Tomatoes

4. Antioxidant-rich Foods

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What Does Research Say? 

Oxidative stress is one of the main reasons for acne. Your body has an antioxidant defense system, such as catalase (CAT) and the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) that regulates the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), thus maintaining the redox balance of the cells. High levels of ROS and low levels of antioxidants causes oxidative stress. So, consume foods that are rich in antioxidants to avoid acne (10).

Food Items High In Antioxidants

  • Dark chocolate
  • Berries (cranberry, mulberry, goji berry, blackberry, and wild blueberry)
  • Pecan nuts
  • Kidney beans
  • Cilantro
  • Artichokes (boiled ones)
  • Raisins
  • Green tea
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes

5. Diet Enriched With Zinc-containing Foods

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What Does Research Say?

According to studies, this micronutrient is crucial for the development of the skin and to maintain its proper function. Also, zinc is effective against acne-causing bacteria. Several studies concluded that people who were suffering from acne (both men and women) had significantly low levels of zinc in their bodies (11), (12). When consumed orally, it reduced acne inflammation significantly.

Food Items High In Zinc

  • Spinach
  • Chicken
  • Mushrooms
  • Yogurt or kefir
  • Lamb
  • Cashew
  • Chickpeas
  • Cocoa powder
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

6. Controlled Or No Dairy Intake

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What Does Research Say? 

Researchers suggest that dairy products can aggravate your acne (13). Why? It’s because the dairy cows are often given hormone injections to increase their milk production. And when you consume the milk or dairy products made from it, it causes hormonal imbalance in your body, which triggers acne (14).

Moreover, cow milk is intended for the calves to help them grow, and it is loaded with hormones and other steroids that are certainly not suitable for acne.

Milk Alternatives To Try To Avoid Acne

  • Rice milk
  • Soy milk
  • Almond milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Tiger nut milk
  • Macadamia milk

7. Chocolate And Acne

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What Does Research Say? 

A 2013 study found that chocolate could increase the severity of acne (15). Another study conducted in 2014 suggested that cocoa consumption could increase the acne symptoms (16). However, the evidence proving chocolate’s involvement in aggravating acne is very limited (17).

And it’s more likely that the sugar and other ingredients in the chocolate are to be blamed for your breakouts. If you are in a dilemma whether to eat chocolate or not, opt for dark chocolate and check the sugar and other carbohydrate content before consuming it.

8. Other Supplements To Clear Up Acne

  • Selenium: A study published in Advances in Dermatology and Allergology states that people suffering from acne vulgaris have low levels of selenium in their body (18). So, to boost your selenium levels, you can take supplements.
  • Vitamin C: This antioxidant is a savior for your skin. It not only boosts cell regeneration but also clears acne and minimizes breakouts (19).
  • Vitamin B3 Or Niacin: This essential vitamin is very efficient in treating acne (20).

Our food choices impact our skin health. However, diet and acne have a complex relationship. Only a doctor and nutritionist can guide you on how certain food choices may impact your internal health and acne. It is because diet can impact your hormones and other underlying factors, which may trigger or soothe acne flareups. The best acne diet includes consuming healthy and nutritious foods and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You may follow the suggestions in the article and work with your doctor to determine how you may manage acne through your diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods cause the most acne?

Refined grains and sugars, fast foods, dairy products, whey protein, chocolate, and processed foods are the common foods that can trigger acne.

How do you detox for acne?

Include lots of vegetables and fruits in the diet. Sip on detox tea, apply exfoliating masks, and clean your face twice or thrice a day.

Is coffee bad for acne?

Yes, coffee is bad for acne. Although it might not cause acne, it may aggravate acne.

Are bananas good for acne?

Yes, bananas are good for acne. They help reduce skin inflammation thanks to their vitamin A content.

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