Acne isn’t fun. In fact, the experience can be painful, both physically and emotionally. It makes your face unworthy for selfies. And it’s sometimes a sign that something is out of whack with your body.

While most people think of acne being a result of stress, the environment, or age (especially if you’re a teenager), what you eat plays a huge role in the condition of your skin. After all, the skin is the body’s largest organ, isn’t it?

In fact, there is a growing number of nutritionists and skin care practitioners who are looking to food as one of the main causes of acne. Resources such as Wendy Rowe’s Eat Beautiful also prescribe the best ways to achieve glowing, beautiful skin through healthy eating.

So, unless you have a medical condition, you can get rid of acne and enjoy healthier-looking skin by tweaking the way you eat. Take control of your diet, and you can help curb your chances of getting acne.

What causes acne?

First things first – how do you get acne in the first place? Basically, pimples form on your skin when its hair follicles become clogged.

You see, your skin is covered with hair follicles. These hair follicles are connected to the oil glands, also called sebaceous glands. The sebaceous glands secrete a kind of oil called sebum. Sebum is supposed to keep your skin and hair moisturized and to protect your skin from bacteria.

When your sebaceous glands secrete excess sebum, that sebum can trap dirt and dead skin cells in the hair follicles. This causes the follicles to clog and attract bacteria. The resulting bacterial infection then leads to the formation of acne on your skin.

What triggers oil glands to secrete excess sebum?

The oil glands on your skin don’t overproduce sebum on a whim. Certain conditions can trigger it.

Drugs that have androgens, corticosteroids, or lithium in them can make your skin’s sebum production go on overdrive. So if you’re taking medication and you’re having a breakout, you can ask your doctor if your meds are responsible for it.

Testosterone imbalance is another condition that can lead to acne. This is why it’s no surprise that suffering from acne is considered a normal part of being a teenager.

Puberty is when testosterone production in both boys and girls goes haywire. You can also get testosterone and other androgen hormones from the food you eat.

An excess of the hormone insulin in the blood stream is another factor to consider when you’re going through a breakout. Insulin is supposed to help your body control its blood sugar levels.

When your blood sugar levels are too high, the pancreas secretes more insulin to balance out and process that sugar. The higher your insulin levels are, the more likely you are to get acne.

Certain types of fats in food can also affect your likelihood to have acne. Too much bad fat, such as saturated fats and trans-fats, can cause internal inflammation in your body, especially of the heart. That internal inflammation can manifest externally as pimples.

Top foods that cause acne

Clearly, some of the foods you eat can trigger your acne. It’s generally enough to stick to a healthy diet to keep your skin clear of the dreaded red bumps on your skin. But if you’re highly prone to acne, it’s important that you stay away from specific foods that can lead to a red bump breakout.

What foods should you avoid eating to prevent an acne breakout?

1. Dairy products

If your skin is prone to acne, you should try to stay away from using dairy products like milk, cheese, butter, and yoghurt. Cows’ milk is chockfull of androgens like testosterone, as well as other growth hormones that can spike your insulin levels. After all, cows’ milk is designed primarily to get baby calves growing fast and strong, not really to provide nourishment for humans.

If you can’t imagine cooking without cheese or butter, or if you simply can’t stay away from ice cream, choose dairy-free alternatives. Coconut milk and milk from processed nuts are good alternatives to dairy milk. Coconut oil is an awesome substitute for butter. These dairy alternatives may not have the creaminess of dairy, but they make up for it in lightness and flavor.

2. Candy

Candy may satisfy your sweet tooth, but it won’t do your skin any favors if you’re prone to pimples. Candies are often made with simple sugars. Simple sugars are readily absorbed by the body and can easily cause your insulin levels to rise.

If you can’t keep your hands off candy, you can try sugar-free alternatives. Or you can get your sugar fix from dried fruits like raisins and dates. Sure, they still contain sugar, but the insulin spike you’ll get from them won’t be as high. They’re also a lot more nutritious.

candy foods that cause acne

Avoiding acne is just one of dozens of health and diet reasons why you shouldn’t eat candy.

3. Sugary baked goods

Cake is awesome. So are doughnuts, cupcakes, and brownies. They’re especially good if they have frosting, sprinkles, chocolate chip minis, and whatever little things that makes them tasty and sweet.

Indulging in these baked goods one night can cause pimples to sprout on your skin overnight. That’s because these baked goods are often made with dairy products like milk and butter, as well as sugar.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ever touch baked goods anymore. You can opt for dairy-free and sugar-free goodies. They can be rich and delicious even without butter or sugar. And you won’t wake up with zits on your face after eating them.

4. Highly refined foods

What do white rice, white pasta, and white bread have in common? They’re so highly refined into whiteness, so much that they contain very little nutritional value. These “white” foods are little more than empty carbohydrates. Worse, the body easily converts them into simple sugars. Simple sugars cause insulin spikes.

Instead of eating these highly refined foods, why not switch to whole-grain or multi-grain alternatives? Whole-grain pasta and bread, for instance, have more flavor to them. They’re also loaded with fiber and other nutrients.

And while they’re still made up of carbs, their carbohydrate content is much denser. They’re not easily convertible to simple sugars that trigger insulin overproduction. You’ll also feel a lot fuller much longer when you eat whole-grain stuff.

5. Fatty meats

That slab of marbled steak pan-seared in butter is mouthwatering. So does that roasted mutton. That pork tenderloin cooked slowly in its juices is fantastic. Fatty red meat is so good that you’d gladly go on a food coma indulging in them.

But if these fatty red meats form a big part of your diet, then you can expect to wake up with zits a few days after eating them. Red meats contain Omega-6 fatty acids. These acids can raise your cholesterol levels and cause inflammation inside your body. As we’ve mentioned earlier, internal inflammation can show up externally as pimples.

If you’re prone to acne, then you need to avoid eating fatty red meats. You can get your animal proteins from lean meats instead, like chicken or turkey. Fish is a good alternative too. But if you can’t stay away from red meats entirely, the least you could do is to cut back on your red meat intake.

6. Deep fried food

Who doesn’t love finger-licking, gob-smacking deep-fried buttermilk chicken? What about the classic British fish and chips? Or French fries? Finger-licking and gob-smacking they may be, stuffing your face in them can put pimples on your face after a day or two.

Fried food is loaded with grease at fat. Again, as we’ve stated above, eating fatty food can cause internal inflammation in the long run. They also trigger a hormonal response that can lead to pimples.

Instead of deep-frying your food, you can oven-fry them instead. Oven-frying means prepping your food as you would in deep-frying.

The difference is you get to drizzle them with oil and let them cook in the oven until they’re crispy and golden. Oven-frying is healthier than deep-frying. The food is just as crispy and delicious, but not as loaded with grease.

7. Fast food

Fast food is quick and convenient. It’s a life-saver for those instances when you’re starving and, for whatever reason, unable to cook. But a diet full of fast food can clog up your pores really badly and cause you to have that unfortunate pizza face.

Again, fast food is usually full of fat, not to mention highly refined and highly processed ingredients. These ingredients can set off a hormonal response in your body. This hormonal response can, in turn, cause an acne breakout.

If you really must have that burger or French fries, try to make them at home instead. By cooking your version of your favorite fast food, you control their ingredients. That way, you get to be sure that you’re eating healthy stuff.

And if you want further proof of just how much of a difference eating healthy can make on your acne, check out this interview with Brian Turner, who overcame a serious case of cystic acne by changing what he ate:

Keep your skin clear with healthy eating

If you want to keep your skin clear and acne-free, there are many ways you can do it. But one of the easiest is healthy eating. We recommend the aforementioned Eat Beautiful for practical information that helps you achieve amazing skin naturally through food.

You don’t have to do anything radical to your diet. To eat healthy, all you need to do is to eliminate the foods named in the list above. Or if you can’t avoid eating those foods altogether, the very least you can do is to cut back your intake. Your skin will thank you for it later on.

Acne isn’t fun. It’s painful, it doesn’t look good, and it can be a sign that something’s wrong with your body. But by avoiding or limiting your intake of certain trigger foods, you can have clearer skin that’s healthy and pimple-free.