Foods That Cause Acne (and the Best Acne Prevention Diet)


Acne vulgaris, commonly known as acne, is classified as an inflammatory superficial condition affecting the oil-secreting glands of the skin. As a teenager, I had intense acne attacks and I was always confused by what caused those blackheads, whiteheads, and the redness on my face and skin.

The complexity of the interaction of hormones, hygiene, sebum, and bacteria is believed to be a primary cause. The hormone androgen begins to rise at adolescence, which allows the oil glands under the skin to grow, producing more oil. The cellular walls are broken down in your pores by excessive sebum, which causes bacteria to grow.

At any given time, approximately 17 million Americans have acne, according to Brown University. It is estimated three-quarters of people between the ages 11 and 30 will get acne, and it affects every race as well as both men and women. Young adults and adolescents are the most common people to get acne; however, 50-year-olds have still gotten those irritating bumps as well. For my acne bouts, I took acne meditations and within about a year, my acne had fully disappeared, but what are we all doing to cause this skin disaster?

Causes for Acne

Possible triggers for acne are hormonal changes, hormone disorders like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), stress, tumors, extreme weather changes, swimming in chlorinated water, pore-blocking creams and lotions, and especially your diet! Yes, what you are eating is a main contributor to your skin breakouts and your skin creams won’t change the food you’re eating; only you can do that. Chocolate is a common food known to cause your zits but there are more foods to avoid if you want to prevent acne:

  • Factory-Farmed Animal Products: The antibiotics, steroids, and growth hormones within factory-farmed animal products are all known to trigger acne bouts. This includes beef, poultry, seafood, and especially dairy products like milk and cheese. The testosterone hormone in milk may stimulate the oil glands in the skin.
  • Refined Carbs, Sugar, High-Glycemic Foods: It is recommended that foods high on the glycemic index are avoided (in general, people shouldn’t be eating foods that are over 80 on the glycemic index). Not surprisingly this includes processed breads, fried foods, sugary foods, refined grains, and baked potatoes. Refined carbs are known to spike insulin levels, which lead to increases of sebum production and clogged pores.
  • Caffeinated Beverages: Caffeinated beverages are considered acid forming, which can create stress and inflammation in your body, and reduce the ability for your body to repair damaged cells. Inflammation can cause pus-filled pimples in cystic acne. Coffee and cola are among the culprits when it comes to caffeinated beverages that cause acne.
  • High-Iodine Foods: Too many foods high in iodine are known to cause acne breakouts and too little iodine may also be a culprit as well; however, studies that claim that iodine is related to acne tend to be outdated, and mostly from the 1960s. Dairy, egg yolks, seafood, cured meats, canned vegetables, soy, broth, molasses, and chocolate all contain high amounts of iodine. A lot of these foods are processed and should be avoided anyway.
  • Saturated/Trans Fats (Fried Foods): Anything fried is known to be a culprit for your acne breakouts. If you want to avoid pimples, put away those French fries, chicken wings, and anything else greasy or deep fried. Anything processed may contain saturated or trans fats. According to Acne Can Be Cured author Dr. Gustave H. Hoehn, the fats that typical Americans eat (trans and saturated) make them more prone to acne than other countries.