foods that help clear acne
While food isn’t the only cure for acne, what you eat can go a long way in helping you clear your skin

Acne isn’t just a problem for teenagers. It can continue well into adulthood. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), adult acne is an ever-increasing problem, with about 15% of women complaining of breakouts. 

Americans spend billions of dollars a year on over-the-counter skin care products in the form of creams, gels, and masks. However, no amount of expensive products can give you flawless skin if your acne is caused by other factors.

What causes acne?

Acne can be caused by a variety of factors:

  • Genetics
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Skin type
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Diet
  • Skin care habits
  • Topical products

While some experts aren’t sure how much diet affects acne, there are some foods that can aggravate your skin by increasing oil or sebum production and inflammation.

Below, we list foods to eat and foods to avoid when it comes to clearing acne.

6 foods that help clear acne

  • Fiber: Eating a diet high in fiber can help, since fiber helps to control your blood sugar levels and therefore controls the amount of oil your skin produces. Try including more fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.
  • Fatty fish: Studies show that eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids can improve your acne over time. Omega-3 fatty acids help lower inflammation and reduce the production of a protein involved in the release of insulin growth factors. You can find these fatty acids in fishes like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna.
  • Healthy oils: Consider using healthier oils like walnut, soybean, and canola oil. These also contain omega-3 fatty acids that can help keep acne at bay.
  • Nuts: Nuts are a good snack option, since they are chock full of antioxidants that people with acne are often lacking, such as vitamin E and selenium. While there is no definitive data that proves the link between nut consumption and clear skin, there is no harm in including these healthy foods in your diet, as long you eat in moderation.
  • Zinc: Zinc has been shown to have promising results when it comes to clearing up acne. Rich food sources of zinc include oysters, poultry, nuts, beans, whole grains, and fortified cereals.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics help balance gut bacteria, which may have many beneficial effects including an increase in anti-inflammatory fatty acids in the blood.


Skin Health: How to Get Clear Skin See Slideshow

What foods should you avoid with acne?

  • High glycemic foods: Sugar and carb-rich foods like rice and pasta have a high glycemic index, meaning they cause your blood sugar levels to spike and stimulate the release of insulin. Hyperinsulinemia often influences the levels of other hormones involved in sebum production.
  • Milk: Milk, especially skim milk, is often pointed to an acne trigger, although scientists are still unsure as to why. One of the potential reasons is because milk contains certain hormones. If acne is a concern for you, consider switching to organic dairy products or plant-based milk.
  • Chocolate: Studies have found that breakouts are linked to chocolate consumption, although cocoa is likely not the culprit. If you do have chocolate, go for dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, as it contains less sugar and milk.
  • Saturated fats: Foods high in saturated fats, such as red meat, cheese, butter, and hydrogenated oils, cause high concentrations of insulin growth factors in your blood. These insulin growth factors stimulate the production of hormones that trigger acne.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/15/2021
Cleveland Clinic. Want Healthy Skin? Limit These 5 Types of Foods.

American Academy of Dermatology. Can the Right Diet Get Rid of Acne?

Baldwin H, Tan J. Effects of Diet on Acne and Its Response to Treatment [published correction appears in Am J Clin Dermatol. 2020 Dec 26] Am J Clin Dermatol. 2021;22(1):55-65.