What are the Worst Foods for Acne?


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You remember the rumors going around the halls of your high school:

“Eating pizza will give you a pizza face!”

“Chocolate will only give you pimples…”

“French Fries are the worst for your skin!”

Well, it turns out there is a nugget of truth in these myths. You may be taken aback by the foods that made our list of the worst choices for acne. They include dairy, nuts, and – surprise! – sushi. We also included a bonus list of some little-known acne healing foods at the end of the article.

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Worst Foods for Acne


Until just recently, the idea that chocolate causes acne was considered a simple myth among scientists. However, in 2013 a small study from the Netherlands was published connecting chocolate to skin changes resulting in acne. As it turns out, eating chocolate causes inflammation. Plus, chocolate lowers the body’s defenses against microorganisms, so bacteria can infect pimples and worsen them.


Here is another rumor that has been proven true. Eating simple carbohydrates causes acne. These are high-glycemic foods that cause spikes in your blood sugar, because the sugars are quickly digested and then dumped into your bloodstream all at once. The resulting high blood sugar causes hormonal changes and inflammation that leads to acne.

French Fries

Yes, this one is true as well. When you eat greasy, high fat foods like French fries, the foods travel down the digestive system to be broken down and used for energy. But high-in-saturated-fat fries can lead to hormonal reactions which cause acne.


We’ve already established that high glycemic foods can contribute to acne breakouts. This is because they encourage an inflammatory response, in turn triggering the release of acne-promoting hormones. Well, did you know that there is a glycemic index that rates foods according to their effect on your blood sugar? There is, and a rating of 20 and above is considered a high-glycemic food. On this scale, sushi rice receives a 17 (which is pretty high.) So, if you are eating sushi regularly, as many of us do, you might want to consider cutting back.


Nuts are high in protein and fat, which makes them difficult to digest. If these fats and proteins don’t properly digest, the immune system may create antibodies that inflame sebaceous glands and cause pimples.


There is no definite link between dairy and acne, but there are theories about it. One theory is that milk contains components related to the hormone testosterone, which may stimulate oil glands in the skin, setting the stage for acne. Something to consider is that distinct kinds of dairy may affect your skin in different ways. If you find that cow’s milk causes breakouts, try yogurt or kefir. Or, you can switch to an alternative milk like goat’s milk or any number of nut milks widely available today. If cheese is a problem, try a vegan variety!

Spicy Foods

In regions where the people consume a lot of spicy foods, like South Asia and Latin America, it is a common conception that eating spicy causes acne. But is it true? Well, yes. Spicy foods often contain tomatoes and peppers, which contain acidic lycopene that can be an irritant to some people, throwing off their skin’s pH levels and triggering breakouts.

What Helps Acne

A healthy, well-rounded diet and steady exercise routine will do wonders for your skin. But there are some little-known foods that are especially great if you want a pimple-free, healthy glow.

Fatty Fish

Salmon, Sardines, and Tuna all feed your body Omega-3s. They allow your skin to build new, healthy cells, making it look better. Don’t like fish? Take a fish oil pill daily. A 2012 study showed that taking fish oil helped improve the complexions of people with moderate to severe acne by controlling inflammation.

Probiotic Rich Foods

The most commonly known sources of probiotics are yogurt or kefir, but there are many non-dairy alternatives. Have you ever considered sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, or tempeh? These are all great sources of the beneficial bacteria. Research in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology shows that consuming probiotics may stymie the release of inflammatory proteins and decrease sebum production, preventing plugged pores.


What’s that you say? Spirulina is blue-green algae that is super nutritious and high in Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is an essential fatty acid with anti-inflammatory properties. That’s great news if you want to get rid of acne. You can find Spirulina at your local health food market. Add it to your morning smoothie, sprinkle it on your cereal, or mix it into a salad.

Acne Scar Removal in Los Angeles

Dr. Simon Ourian at Epione Beverly Hills offers Acne Scar Removal, Microdermabrasion, and Laser Treatments for Acne Scars. To create the flawless skin you have always envisioned, come see Dr. Ourian today. Call 310.651.6267 to request a consultation.