Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

These 10 Foods Could Be Causing Your Breakouts

The health and appearance of your skin is directly linked to the food that you eat, meaning that your diet could be responsible for your breakouts

Want to know which foods you need to cut out?

Here are 10 foods that are common culprits when it comes to triggering acne:

Dairy Products

The link between dairy and acne has been known about for quite a while now, and there are an increasing number of studies available that prove the strength of this connection.

However, there is still so much more to learn…

Although it is understood that dairy products can trigger acne, scientists are still to understand exactly why this is.

Current theories include:

  • Hormones – milk contains growth hormones that cause the skin’s sebaceous glands to go into overdrive when it comes to oil production. Those same hormones also trigger the skin to produce more skin cells. This, plus the extra oil, can quickly clog up pores and lead to breakouts
  • Insulin – when dairy products are consumed, the body’s insulin levels rise. This then leads to increased sebum production, resulting in breakouts
  • Blood Sugar – milk, along with other dairy products, cause blood sugar levels to spike when consumed. This causes inflammation in the body, which then leads to acne

There is so much more research that needs to be done, especially when it comes to the different types of milk and dairy products out there. Some studies have found that skimmed milk is especially responsible when it comes to dairy-related breakouts. 

Fortunately, with so many dairy-free products now available, avoiding dairy has become easier than ever. Here are a few to try:

  • Dairy-free milks, such as almond, oat, hemp, cashew and rice
  • Dairy-free cheeses, whether this may be sliced, grated or creamed
  • Dairy-free desserts, from ice creams to cakes 
  • Dairy-free yogurts and probiotics


It can sometimes be difficult to figure out whether sugar is behind your breakouts.


Because breakouts can often occur hours after the sugar has been consumed, meaning that you will not make the immediate connection.

However, when you sit back and think about it, it is likely that sugar plays quite a big role when it comes to your acne.

Selection of sweet baked goods, including muffins, donuts and waffles

How exactly does sugar trigger breakouts?

Whenever you eat something laden with sugar, be this a soft drink, a chocolate bar or anything else, you cause a spike in your blood sugar levels. This then leads to a rise in your insulin levels, bringing out a number of different hormones and growth factors.

What do they do?

Some of these hormones stimulate your sebaceous glands into producing more oil, causing blocked pores and breakouts. Others, such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), also cause your skin to over-produce skin cells, therefore clogging up your pores.

Current studies show that consuming added sugars gives you a 30% greater chance of a breakout, meaning that cutting sugar out of your diet could be quite a simple way of treating your acne.

Of course, simple doesn’t mean easy, especially with all of the sugar-filled foods that fill store shelves these days.

Fortunately, as people are becoming more and more aware of the negative impact that sugar is having on their health, sugar-free versions of foods are also becoming more popular. However, if this means that you are replacing sugars with harmful sweeteners, you may be best off making a completely different food choice instead.

It does take quite a bit of commitment to cut back on sugar, but it will only take a small reduction each day for you to soon notice a difference in your acne.

Refined Grains

When it comes to acne, refined grains have a similar effect to sugar.

When they are consumed, the body does not take long to digest them, meaning that they enter the bloodstream extremely quickly. This then causes a spike in blood sugar levels, along with insulin levels, leading to an increase in sebum production and a higher chance of breakouts.

Wondering what refined grains actually are?

They are processed grains that have pretty much been stripped of all of their fiber, minerals and vitamins. This is why many people refer to them as empty calories. While this may be the case, they are still a big player when it comes to the modern day diet. 

Some examples of refined grains would include: 

  • White flour
  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Pastries
  • Sodas
  • Breakfast cereals

Don’t get the wrong idea – some carbs are actually great for you. Just go for whole grain foods instead, rather than foods that have been heavily processed.

Fruit Juices 

You are probably thinking…

Fruit juice can’t be causing my acne! It’s healthy, especially when it is fresh!

Yes, while there are several health benefits that come from drinking fruit juice, don’t forget that fruit is also a source of sugar. When you juice the fruit, you end up concentrating all of the sugars from the fruits you have used into one drink, which you likely consume in one go.

Even though these sugars may have come from a healthy, natural source, this still triggers a spike in your blood sugar levels. As discussed earlier, it doesn’t take long for this to lead to breakouts.

Don’t want to go without your fruit juices?

You may not have to! Just try cutting them out for a little while to see if that makes any sort of difference to your breakouts. You can always replace them with vegetable juices instead, as those don’t tend to be quite as high in sugar.

Alternatively, try snacking on some whole fruit!

Fast Food 

Just like with pretty much every other food on this list, there is still so much research that needs to be carried out on the connection between fast food and acne. Although it is understood that the connection exists, the reasons as to why this is are still unknown.

However, whether you like burgers, hot dogs, fries, nuggets, or anything else, research has found that fast food dramatically increases your chances of a breakout.

Beef burger and pizza

One study in China found that regular fast food eaters experienced a 60% increased risk of developing acne, while a Turkish study found that men who regularly ate sausages or burgers experienced a 24% increased risk. 

Of course, there are several theories as to why this is. Fast food contains everything from high amounts of sugar and salt to certain oils and dairy products, all of which have been linked to acne themselves.

Corn and Soy Oils

You may not realize it, but a large amount of the food that you eat likely contains corn and soy oils.

What’s wrong with this?

Both corn and soy oils are extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids.

You’re probably thinking…

Hold on, I thought omega-6 fatty acids were great for the skin!

They are, but only when your body contains the right balance of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids.

Unfortunately, so many popular foods in the modern day Western diet are high in omega-6 fatty acids, without containing any omega-3 fatty acids. Soy and corn oils are one of the biggest culprits of this, and they are found in so many packaged foods.

What actually happens to the body when its omega-3 fatty acid and omega-6 fatty acid levels are not balanced?

It leads to inflammation. As you already know, inflammation quickly triggers breakouts, along with several other health problems.

So, what can you do about this?

A few things, such as:

  • Eating whole foods rather than packaged foods that contain corn or soy oil
  • Increasing your intake of foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish and walnuts
  • Taking omega-3 fatty acid oral supplements, which have been found to reduce inflammation, along with breakouts 

Non-Organic Meat

You may think that spending more money on organic meat is pointless, but this is something that your skin will really thank you for.

Wondering how non-organic meat is linked to breakouts?

It all comes down to the antibiotics that non-organic animals are regularly fed. They are also frequently treated with growth hormones in order to speed up their growth. As mentioned earlier, these growth hormones trigger your skin to produce more skin cells and your sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, both of which can contribute to breakouts.

The hormones and antibiotics in meat can also lead to the formation of bacteria in the body, something else which can lead to acne.

Fortunately, there are now so many options out there when it comes to organic meat, making this an easy dietary change to implement.


Many people don’t realize that alcohol can indirectly cause acne, but, if you regularly drink, this could be the reason behind your breakouts.

How are the two connected?

In quite a few ways:

  • Alcohol decreases the number of protective cells in your immune system, making your more susceptible to acne-causing bacteria
  • Alcohol interferes with your body’s hormone levels, which them triggers your oil glands into producing more sebum
  • Alcohol causes inflammation in the body, which is one of the main causes of acne
  • Alcohol dehydrates the body, which then causes the sebaceous glands to produce extra oil to make up for the dryness. This then leads to an increased risk of breakouts
  • Binge drinking can lead to liver damage, preventing your liver from properly filtering out toxins, therefore leading to inflammation and breakouts

Of course, one small drink here and there isn’t going to do much harm…

Pouring alcohol into a small glass

The danger comes from regularly and frequently drinking.

While all the above may sound alarming, alcohol alone is unlikely to be the main cause of your acne, but it could still be contributing to breakouts in a big way.

Shrimp and Lobster

Certain shellfish, particular lobster and shrimp, contain high levels of iodine.

Iodine is an important mineral when it comes to the health of your body, as well as your skin.

So, what’s the problem?

Some people have a sensitivity to iodine, with many of these sensitivities remaining undiagnosed. Even those who don’t have sensitivities but eat a large amount of shellfish could still be prone to breakouts because of the iodine.

The connection between iodine and acne is so strong that cosmetic researchers often make use of iodine to create acne for them to study.

How exactly does iodine cause breakouts?

When you consume more than your body needs, your body excretes the extra iodine through your sweat glands. On its way out, the iodine ends up irritating your pores, resulting in inflammation and flare-ups.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to give up shellfish completely. Just regulate your consumption of it, and try to opt for varieties that are lower in iodine. Occasionally swapping out your shellfish with oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel or sardines, would do your skin even more good.

Whey Protein Powder

Whey protein powders have become so popular, and they really are a great way to give your body a boost of protein before or after a workout. 

However, whey is a byproduct of milk. Not just regular milk either, but skimmed milk. As discussed earlier, skimmed milk in particular has been strongly linked to breakouts.

There is another problem with whey protein powders too…

They are a source of amino acids, which wouldn’t usually be a problem. However, when it comes to your skin, these extra amino acids cause your skin to produce more skin cells, causing blockages in your pores and leading to breakouts. The amino acids also trigger an increase in your insulin levels, which, again, can cause a breakout.

The connection between the food that you eat and acne is so strong that it only makes sense to examine your diet if you have been experiencing breakouts. Whether they may be down to dairy, sugar, cooking oils, or anything else, once you know the triggers behind your acne, you can then take the necessary steps to cut those out of your life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.