How Does Food Impact Acne Prone Skin?

For years we have been told that food has no impact on acne. Remember hearing when you were a teenager that eating chocolate and drinking pop would not make your skin break out? Well I am here to challenge those thoughts today. It’s not that simple. I am sure most of you know many people who eat or ate all kinds of “junk food” and had perfect skin! But like everything to do with the body, the way your body responds is unique.

Our skin is like a window that allows us to have a sneak peak at what is going on inside the body. Did you know that many cases of eczema are caused by eating a food that the body is reacting too? The same goes for acne. Acne is often the first sign that something is off balance within the body.

What causes Acne?

This is not a simple question to answer, as many things cause acne. In my practice the “Big 4” are:

  • Hormonal Imbalance
  • Food Sensitivities
  • Inflammation
  • Stress

With respect to hormonal imbalance, the hormone that is most often the cause of acne is testosterone. When we have too much testosterone, relative to estrogen and progesterone, it signals for the skin to make more sebum, which is the food source for the bacteria Propionibacterium acne, resulting in increased breakouts. There is so much to cover with hormonal imbalances and acne, especially acne that starts for the first time in your 30’s, that I will do another blog post on this next week.


So how does food play a role? We talked about how much of a role testosterone plays in acne. One of the ways testosterone gets increased is by eating foods that are high in sugar! When you eat foods that are quickly converted to sugar, it makes your body have to spike its insulin levels in an attempt to bring your blood sugar back down, as the body is always fighting to stay in a state of homeostasis or balance. When insulin increases, testosterone follows suit, which leads to acne.


The Worst Foods For Acne Prone Skin

  • Sugar: causes an insulin spike, which increases testosterone. All sugar is not created equally. The worst offenders are simple sugars (candy, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice/pop). These spike the blood sugar very fast, as they do not contain any protein, fat or fibre to slow the release of sugar. This is why eating the whole fruit is still ok for people with acne. The fibre provided in the fruit helps to slow the blood sugar spike. If you find yourself in a situation where you know you are going to be consuming a lot of sugar, make sure you at least eat protein and fat with it in an attempt to slow the insulin spike
  • Simple Carbohydrates: things like white bread, pasta, rice, spike the blood sugar in pretty much the same way as eating sugar does. These foods should be removed from your daily diet.
  • Dairy: this is a tricky one. Most dairy contains a decent amount of protein (cottage cheese, cheese, milk), but the proteins from dairy act like a carbohydrate in the body. What this means is they act like sugar! They spike insulin levels, which in turn increases testosterone. Dairy is an inflammatory food for most people, and contains natural growth hormones. The first thing I do with acne patients in my practice is take them fully off of dairy for 3-4 weeks. This resolves their acne in 70-80% of cases.
  • Foods You are Sensitive To: If you have a sensitivity to a food, it is going to mount and inflammatory response in the body. This inflammatory response will increase insulin, and you guessed it, increase testosterone.

 The Best Foods For Acne Prone Skin

  • Nuts/Seeds- provide healthy fats that help with the skin’s ecosystem to not allow the overgrowth of Propionibacterium acne. Their protein content helps to reduce insulin and testosterone spikes
  • Avocados- also provide healthy fats and protein.
  • Vegetables- eating a wide variety of different vegetable of varying colours (red, purple, green) helps to provide the skin with the antioxidants it needs
  • Berries- a low sugar fruit that provides antioxidants, and do not spike insulin levels
  • Water- dehydrated skin is more prone to acne


The biggest messages I want you to take away from today are

  • Ditch the Dairy: if your skin is breaking out, this is the first thing to try
  • If you must eat sugar, make sure to also eat protein and fat with it.

I hope this blog post helped with your understanding of the connection between food and acne. If you have any additional questions, feel free to email me or comment below


Dr Alexis

Dr Alexis practices in Kanata, and is currently accepting new patients. To schedule your appointment, click here.

Naturopathic Medicine is covered by most extended healthcare benefits.


PS: Our Oily Skin Moisturizer is designed specifically for acne prone skin!

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment