5 Foods That Cause Acne & The Clear Skin Diet

Your diet and the foods you eat have an impact on every part of your life, including your skin. Many people look for years for the solutions to common skin issues, only to find out that their diet could have been causing acne or dryness all along. Learn more about how your skin reacts to common irritants and find out how you can improve your skin, from the inside out.

Table of Contents

My Story
5 Foods That Cause Acne
Sugar and processed carbs
Trans fat and saturated fat
Soy and Tofu
The Clear Skin Diet
Drink more water
Increase your vitamin A consumption
Increase your vitamin E consumption
Increase the Omega-3’s in your diet
Increase probiotics in your diet

My story

I still remember my first heartbreak. He was gorgeous, and I was head over heels. We dated for about a year, and I thought we were destined to be together forever. But of course, all good things must come to an end, and he broke my heart.

It was so tough. I called up my best friend, ordered a large cheese pizza, and I ate it all by myself. I felt so defeated and down. The pizza helped in the moment, but of course, it ended up making me feel even worse.

To add insult to injury, the breakouts I woke up with the next day made me feel so much worse about myself. Having skin issues my whole life has added so much unnecessary stress to my life, especially following a brutal breakup. Feeling self-conscious about my skin always brought me down, and there seemed to be nothing I could do to change it. I could never go out without makeup on, and having itchy, dry skin from using harsh anti-acne medicine was so frustrating.

On my quest to help improve my troublesome skin, I began to work in the skincare industry. It was then that I realized it was no coincidence that my acne got so much worse after eating that greasy, large pizza, it was science. The greasy, saturated fats on the pizza were making my skin oily, greasy, and clogging my pores and I didn’t even know it.

I began to see a pattern in how what I put into my body was affecting my acne and overall skin health.

The skin care industry makes us believe that only what we put on our skin has effects on our skin. This is not true. Diet, stress, and living environment all play a massive role in the health of our skin. Our skin’s quality is the holistic product of everything we put into our bodies, from our faces to our stomachs.

To properly diagnose and treat skin issues, you have to consider all aspects of skin care and lifestyle, which involves everything from the pollution levels of the air to your ethnic background. Your age, diet, and where you live can dictate how your skin shows signs of aging, or how well it heals from a bad breakout.

That’s where Y’OUR comes into play. We take into consideration your background, ethnicity, skin type, concerns, lifestyle, diet and more. This allows us to find the best natural products made to help your skin shine. Take the Y’OUR skin quiz now and find your personalized routine.

5 foods that cause acne

We all know that we are what we eat and that the food we eat affects our bodies in almost every way. Unfortunately, the effect of nutrition on acne is one of the least researched areas. Part of our mission is to understand exactly how food affects our skin so we can best advise our customers on how to get clear skin the most natural, effective way.

Below, we outline 5 foods that have been shown to have correlation with causing acne. These foods affect three areas that trigger breakouts and clogged pores: inflammation, hormones, and sebum texture.

Everyone’s skin chemistry is different and because of this, everyone processes food differently. Some foods might affect your acne more than others, and everyone’s skin sensitivity varies. A great way to figure out what might be affecting your skin is to keep a food journal and detail what you eat so you can identify patterns between the food you eat and your acne.

1. Sugar and processed carbs

Alone, sugar and processed carbs do not cause acne. They cause inflammation of the skin, which can exacerbate your acne and cause breakouts.

Inflammation is part of your body’s natural healing process. It is your body’s way of signaling for the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue, as well as defend your body against foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria. On its own, inflammation isn't bad, but excessive inflammation to acne-causing bacteria cause your skin to overcompensate and make your breakouts worse.

Sugar’s oxidative properties can provoke excessive acne and breakouts. Sugar and foods high on the glycemic index, which means that foods convert quickly into glucose and cause your insulin levels to rise, lead to a burst of inflammation that goes throughout your entire body.

Foods high in sugar and saturated fats - like white bread, candy, fried foods, ice cream, sodas, and anything else with a main ingredient of processed sugar - cause spikes in your body's insulin levels that further exacerbate inflammation.

Sebum is the foundation of our skin natural protective barrier. When our skin is inflamed, it increases the production of skin oils to strengthen its natural protective barrier. Unfortunately, this process contributes to the clogging of follicles, which can worsen skin complexion.

2. Trans fat and saturated fat

The root cause of acne is clogged pores. Clogged pores that are not inflamed are blackheads and whiteheads. Clogged pores that get inflamed are red pimples, cysts, and acne. Our pores get clogged from many different ways, whether it comes from your skin producing too much oil, your skin not excreting dead skin fast enough, or the texture of your sebum is too sticky.

Our sebum contains both saturated and unsaturated fats. The ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat determines the texture of our sebum. Thick, sticky sebum is more likely to get clogged, and thin sebum doesn’t get clogged as easily. It is able to flow out and condition our skin.

The composition of sebum is a major factor in how our pores become clogged and how our skin reacts to and heals from breakouts.

The fats we consume through our diet can affect the composition of our sebum. Eating more trans and saturated fat can increase the saturated fats in our sebum, making it thicker and more likely to get clogged. Avoiding trans fat and saturated fat is not only good for our hearts but also our skin.

3. Dairy

Most evidence-based studies agree that acne can be triggered by dairy. We see a high correlation between dairy consumption and acne. We don’t exactly know why but most likely because cows are usually treated with hormones to allow them to produce milk for longer. This hormone residue gets into your body and disrupts your body’s natural hormones.

Staying away from milk is not enough, we need to stay away from milk products like cheese, cream, yogurt, and other milk products. The classic breakouts we get after eating a big, yummy, cheese pizza are from this hormone imbalance.

Cheese is even more dangerous than milk because we can now choose milk made from non-hormone treated cows but there are not a lot of options for cheese made from non-hormone treated cows.

Avoiding dairy doesn’t have to mean altering your diet completely, there are now plenty of dairy-free alternatives to our favorite dairy products, like cheese and ice-cream.

4. Soy & Tofu

A lot of people choose soy alternatives to milk, but for some, this can make acne even worse than before. Similar to dairy, soy affects our body’s natural hormone levels.

Soybeans are high in phytoestrogens, which can reduce the amount of estrogen in the body. If you have balanced estrogen levels, eating foods high in phytoestrogen can throw your levels off balance, leading to increased cystic acne.

Soy affects everyone in a different way, so it is important to keep an eye out if you think your tolerance to soy might be causing issues with your acne.

5. Peanuts

Regularly eating peanut butter and seeing acne? Peanuts might be to blame. Some acne is developed in response to hormonal changes, like a rise in androgens such as testosterone. The rise in androgen levels can trigger a process of higher sebum production, changes in skin cell activity, inflammation, and colonization of bacteria resulting in acne.

Peanuts contain a natural androgen-like substance that can increase sebum production. This can make your skin oilier and increase your skin’s tendency to break out. Need a good peanut alternative? Try almonds and cashews-- they don’t affect androgen levels.

The Clear Skin Diet

Luckily, the clear skin diet is not only good for your skin, but also for your health and overall lifestyle. Here are some ways to alter your diet and lifestyle for better skin, and a better you.

Drink more water

When your skin is dry, it produces excess oil to prevent water from evaporating. If you want your skin to produce less oil, make sure your skin is hydrated.

The easiest way to hydrate your skin from the inside is drinking enough water. 8 glasses of water per day are recommended.

In addition to staying hydrated, by using the correct moisturizer, you can make sure to keep the moisture inside your skin.

Take our skin quiz and find the best type of moisturizer for your skin, based on your environment and skin care history.

Increase your vitamin A consumption

Did you know that Accutane - the prescription anti-acne drug- is a form of concentrated vitamin A? While too strong a dose of vitamin A can be toxic and have side effects like drying out your skin and damaging your liver, naturally occurred vitamin A is a lot safer. The reason is that naturally occurred vitamin A is usually in the form of pro-vitamin A (beta carotene).

Beta carotene is a red-orange pigment found in plants and fruits, especially carrots and colorful vegetables. When you eat beta carotene, your body converts beta carotene to vitamin A. Our body only converts as much beta carotene as it needs, so there is a low chance of overdosing on beta carotene. That said, too much of anything is harmful, and it is important to keep your body in balance.

Beta carotene can be found in foods like carrots, kale, sweet potatoes, broccoli, pumpkins, and more. Despite all the wonderful benefits of vitamin A, it should be avoided during pregnancy because it has been known to cause birth defects. Before you start any new supplement, it is a good idea to always consult your doctor first.

Vitamin A (or retinol) can also be good topically for your skin. There are many great benefits from applying a vitamin A, such as clearing acne, regulating sebum production, and evening out of your skin tone. Just like in your body, an excess of vitamin A can cause dry skin, peeling, or irritation.

Many people avoid vitamin A for these reasons because they use too high a concentration and get burned, We know vitamin A is hard to use so let us help you find the perfect dose of vitamin A for your skin in our skin quiz.

Increase your vitamin E consumption

Vitamin E is made up of four tocopherols proteins and four tocotrienol proteins and is praised for its ability to treat acne because of its anti-inflammatory effects. The red pimples we get aren’t red because of the acne bacteria, but because our skin gets inflamed in reaction to the bacteria. By reducing inflammation levels, you reduce the chance of having red, inflamed, pimples.

Vitamin E also has antioxidant effects, which help to prevent signs of premature aging. Like other vitamins, too much vitamin E would not be good for you. Try to get your vitamin E from natural sources like nuts, seeds, avocados, and dark leafy greens. Consult your doctor before adding vitamin E supplements into your diet.

Vitamin E, like vitamin A, can also be used topically. Because vitamin A contains fat-soluble compounds, it might not be good for some types of skin.

Vitamin E is usually applied in the form of thick oil, and using it will only add another layer of oil to your skin. If you have already oily skin and your skin doesn’t need more oil, another anti-inflammatory ingredient might be better for you.

Take our skin quiz to find out if vitamin E could help your skin, based on your skin’s unique history.

Increase the Omega-3’s in your diet

Omega-3 is a fatty acid that has a variety of benefits for your body and brain. It can also help with common skin ailments. Omega-3 is found in oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. It is also found in some plants such as flaxseed, avocado, and more. Most of us don’t have enough Omega-3’s in our diet naturally, and adding a supplement can help that.

Omega-3’s are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. The worst types of acne are inflamed acne, like red inflamed pimples and cystic acne. Inflamed acne is our body’s response to excess sebum and bacteria. By reducing inflammation, we are reducing the amount of inflamed acne, reducing the red pimples that cause us stress.

Our skin cell membranes are essentially made of essential fatty acids, which include Omega-3. If your Omega-3 stores are depleted, your skin cell membranes can’t replicate properly, which means your skin can’t heal acne as fast.

Omega-3 also helps reduce acne by regulating sebum production. Sebum contains both saturated and unsaturated fats. A higher composition of saturated fat makes sebum thick and clogged, while a higher composition of unsaturated fats makes sebum thin and flow out and properly condition our skin. Because Omega-3 is unsaturated fat, consuming it will not only improve our heart health but also improve the composition of our sebum making us less likely to have clogged pores and acne.

Skincare can also help to regulate sebum texture by increasing the composition of unsaturated fat and thin out your sebum. Using a moisturizer that is made with oils high in unsaturated fats like rosehip seed oil, grape seed oil, squalane, and jojoba seed oil can help balance your skin’s sebum. To find the perfect moisturizer for your skin, try taking our skin quiz.

Increase your intake of probiotics

Probiotics are living, gut-friendly bacteria that can benefit our overall well-being by smoothing our digestion, fighting potential pathogens or environmental damage, and even strengthening our immune system. Probiotics are most often found in yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. We owe a lot of our immune system to the good bacteria in our bodies. Inflammation-related skin disorders like acne, rosacea, and eczema can flare up when our gut’s balance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria is out of order.

Eating probiotics can increase the good bacteria in our gut and reduce inflammation. If you have hormonal acne, it might be best to stay away from yogurt and eat other probiotic foods.

Beware of cosmetic and skincare products that claim to contain probiotics. Products that contain live cultures will not stay good in room temperatures. Imagine leaving a yogurt out in room temperature, it would go bad very quickly. Probiotics in skin care are usually dead bacteria so that they can stay good for a long time without being stored at low temperatures. There is no benefit to putting dead bacteria on your skin, this ingredient is often just placed there for marketing purposes.

To find natural skin care products with the right balance of ingredients, take our Skin Quiz and let us find the perfect regimen of natural products with nutrients designed for your skin.


Following a “healthy skin diet” is so much more than working on improving your skin. Focusing on incorporating healthy fats and vitamins into your daily diet allows your entire body to stay balanced, hormonally and nutritionally.

Staying hydrated and including these proven healthy skin foods helps your skin shine, from inside out, increasing your quality of life in the process. This, along with applying the right products, can drastically improve the overall quality and health of your skin, no matter your issue.

Back to SKIN CARE 101

Take The Skin Quiz