Foods to Avoid in Acne

Just as important as it is to eat foods that will improve skin health there are certain foods to avoid in acne. Excess of processed foods, dairy produces, fried foods, fatty meats and sugar can cause irritation, boost sebum production or increase the growth of P.acnes bacteria.  Most studies regarding the effect of certain foods on acne outbreaks are inconclusive. However, some foods do increase acne symptoms and avoiding them during an outbreak maybe a good idea.

Paleo Diet

If you follow a ‘Dietary Cure for Acne’, there are certain foods that you will need to avoid for the 30 days of the program. This program has a strict schedule to follow. During the first 30 days, a strict diet avoiding certain foods will be followed. After this period, single foods can be added to the diet. During this time, you will have to carefully monitor acne outbreaks. If there are flare ups, you will know that these foods trigger acne and avoid them. This is called the ‘Paleo Diet’ and during this time, you will need to avoid all refined foods, processed foods, whole cereals, dairy products, legumes and refined sugars.

Foods to avoid during acne

  • Dairy foods – This includes all usual dairy products like milk, butter, cheese, ice cream and even dairy spreads, powdered milk, frozen yoghurt, non fat dairy creamer and processed dairy products.
  • Cereal grains – All wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn and rice and products made with them, wild rice, sorghum, millet and modified food starch.
  • Grain-like seeds such as buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa
  • Legumes – All types of beans, peas, soybeans and its products, garbanzo beams, black eyed peas and peanuts
  • Starchy tubers such as potatoes, tapioca, manioc and cassava root and their products
  • Baked foods like cakes and biscuits
  • Fermented foods
  • Processed foods including canned meats, fish, fatty meats like steaks, burgers, ribs, processed meats like deli meats, canned fish and meat
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Sweet products like candy, refined sugars, honey, maple sugar, syrups, dates, dried fruit
  • Vegetable oils, salad oils, shortening and margarine – these include all processed foods made with these products. 

This is a long list of foods to avoid in acne. Unfortunately these foods are instrumental in causing acne. Along with medications, it is good to avoid them as much as possible for a while till acne is under control.

Other Diets : Foods to avoidacne foods

Here is a general category of foods to avoid in acne even if you do not follow the ‘Paleo Diet’.

Dairy Products: Hormones are present in milk and milk products. Hence, although the evidence linking dairy products and acne is slim, avoiding these foods can help. Milk contains both IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) and androgens. IGF-1 helps with building body tissues. The body is stimulated to produce cells and there are increased levels of sebum production too. Androgen found in milk also has the same effect as IGF-1 factor.

Fatty / Oily Foods :This includes hydrogenated, saturated and unsaturated fats. It is considered that excessive intake of such foods can increase fat content and more sebum production.   People in countries where fatty foods or oil-rich foods are not consumed like Koreans, Japanese, Italians and Eskimos demonstrate lower incidences of acne. They use more of olive oil, fish oils or peanut oil in their foods.

Chocolate for centuries, it has been propounded by researchers that people prone to acne must avoid chocolates. However, in later years, dermatologists have dismissed this link. Modern scientists are conducting in-depth studies of foods to avoid in acne and this once again includes the effect of chocolate on the skin health of certain people.  

Foods with high glycemic index affect levels of blood sugar very quickly. This causes a condition called glycemia that can lead to diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. These foods can also increase acne outbreaks by increasing release of insulin. This triggers hormonal imbalance, leading to increased levels of testosterone, increased skin oil production and acne. Hence, foods to avoid in acne include those with a high GI like white bread, cakes, biscuits, foods with sugar, corn syrup, fructose or other sweeteners, processed cereals and breads, junk foods, snacks and almost all sweets.

Iodine: Processed foods contain high levels of iodine. These include fast foods, dairy products, chocolate, kelp, commercial bakery products, egg yolks, onions and dried fruits. 

Proteins: An excessive consumption of animal proteins can be highly acidifying. This encourages the growth of P.acnes bacteria. Packaged meats contain sodium nitrite and processed meats can cause acne outbreaks. Eat lean meats or organic meats to be on the safe side. 

High calorie foods : These are said to increase the androgen levels in the body that can increase sebum production and clog pores. People who consume low calorie diets invariably do not suffer from acne. When we follow an ‘acne diet’, we are automatically cutting out many foods. This reduces the calorie intake of ‘bad foods’ and therefore improves acne symptoms. 

Whole grains : While these are usually considered part of a healthy diet, they contain anti-nutrients called lectins or protease inhibitors that can cause inflammatory conditions, which promote acne outbreaks. Zinc supplements can overcome these inflammatory conditions. However, whole wheat products cause zinc deficiency. 

Foods to avoid in acne : Precautions

If you are unsure what foods to avoid in acne, it is best to follow an elimination diet. If you find that after consuming certain foods that your acne outbreaks increase, then eliminate these foods for a month. Slowly add them back a little at a time, while closely monitoring the status of acne outbreaks. 

Dairy products, fat, proteins are all needed by the body to promote tissue repair, build strong bones, help with cell regeneration etc. Hence, since there is no direct evidence linking these foods to acne outbreaks, you must be cautious when avoiding them. Consult a doctor, who will guide you as to the best diet to follow that will promote good all-round health and control acne outbreaks.