5 Acne-Causing Foods to Eliminate from Your Diet for Clear Skin

As per usual, I have to preface this by stating that I am not a dermatologist nor a trained skin care specialist. The information I am providing below is knowledge I have gained through years of research and trial-and-error. I have spent the last few years helpless and convinced that I would never get rid of my acne. I still haven’t found the solution to getting rid of all my skincare problems, but I have made a lot of progress. At first I was hesitant to eliminate certain foods from my diet out of fear that I would get into restrictive habits again, but I have been able to avoid that by keeping my ultimate goal in mind. The only reason why I am (temporarily) eliminating certain foods from my diet is to see whether or not this would visibly reduce my acne, and it has. Keep in mind that everyone is different and what works for me might not work for you. 

Below I have provided a list of foods I chose to exclude from my diet and have noticed a difference in the number of active breakouts I get because of it. Doing this also made me realize that the most expensive skincare products can only get you so far; the solution to fighting acne starts from within. You need to consider things like...are you drinking enough water? Does your diet consist mostly of greasy, fatty foods? Are there deeper hormonal issues that might be causing your acne? There is no “one size fits all” solution, but through experimentation and research, you too can find what works best for you.

1. Peanut Butter

One of the main causes why peanut butter may trigger acne is because of its high levels of omega-6 fatty acids that are generally known for triggering inflammation. I ate peanut butter every day and never thought I could give it up, but if I can do it, so can you.

2. Soy products (soy milk, tofu, edamame, soy yogurt, etc)

I was hesitant to stop eating soy because it was one of my main sources of protein, but I managed to find other ways to get my daily protein intake. Too much soy can cause phytoestrogens from plants to block your bodies’ natural estrogen receptors from doing their job, leading to estrogen dominance and hormonal acne. 

Learn more about how soy products can cause acne.

3. Dairy products 

I decided to cut dairy products out of my diet around five years ago when I decided to adopt a pescetarian/dairy-free diet. Cutting dairy out of my diet was one of the best things I could have done for my skin because I noticed an immediate reduction of active breakouts. Several theories as to why dairy products may cause acne exist. The most common one is that the artificial hormones in milk may throw off your natural hormone balance, therefore triggering acne. 

4. Honey/added sugars

In an effort to cut any added sugar out of my diet, honey went along with it. I can’t say for sure that pure honey caused me to break out, but generally, consuming too much sugar can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. A rise in blood sugar levels results in an increase in insulin, which boosts sebum production and ultimately causes acne. 

5. Chocolate

I have a major sweet tooth and although I don’t indulge in dessert that often, I always liked to finish off my dinner with a square of dark chocolate. The sad thing is that switching to a dairy-free/vegan alternative did not seem to stop my breakouts. Some research has been able to support a link between chocolate consumption and acne but remains inconclusive of whether chocolate actually causes acne; in my case, it does.

Other factors to consider:

  • Are you changing your pillowcases at least 2-3x a week?

  • What is in your skincare products? (sometimes the products you think are supposed to help your acne can make it worse instead)

  • Have you been to a professional to determine the cause of acne?

I hope sharing my experience as a college student trying to clear her skin proves useful for those of you who may be experiencing the same thing. I know how helpless it can feel when it seems like nothing works, but I encourage you to keep trying! Don’t let a pimple or bad skin day define who you are! I don’t care how cheesy it may sound, but you truly are beautiful just the way you are.