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The Best and Worst Foods for Your Acne Diet

Some research has shown a correlation between acne and increased consumption of certain foods, but the impact is not so cut and dry.

Acne is primarily caused by trapped sebum (oil), bacteria, and dead skin within pores. Therefore, the consumption of certain foods most likely cannot lead to acne. Nonetheless, some foods, like white bread or sugary snacks, may exacerbate inflammation and could potentially worsen pre-existing acne. Other dietary choices, like drinking plenty of water and eating foods high in nutrients for acne, like Omega-3 fatty acids, can help the skin maintain a healthy balance of moisture and may stave off pimples.

No food will completely cause your acne or completely get rid of your acne; however, there are some ways to formulate an acne plan involving diet and skincare. This includes limiting foods that lead to inflammation, increasing hydration and fatty acids, and finding a skincare routine that balances effective science and soothing natural ingredients.

Candies, gummies, and sweets.

What Research Says About the Acne Diet

A review of studies published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2007 proves a link between diet and acne. A few specific dietary culprits are shown to lead to an increase in inflammation, a leading cause of acne. Another, more recent review of the data, corroborates this finding.

There is still much research to be done to prove these findings. However, some minor dietary adjustments may help you to better eliminate your acne when incorporated healthfully and used in addition to a robust skincare routine.

Foods That Can Help Acne


Water alone won't get rid of your acne, but a 2015 study did find that skin health was improved when people drank a healthy amount of water each day.

The same study also found that drinking enough water aids with skin hydration, and hydrated skin is less likely to become inflamed. With less inflammation, fewer pimples may crop up and existing pimples may become less noticeable.

However, it is also worth noting that an excess of water consumption is unlikely to help your skin. That means that if you are already drinking enough water, don't try to push the limit in hopes that it will clear up your acne. Instead, turn to a complete skincare routine like the ones we have set up with our kits at Exposed to treat your acne.

So how much water is really enough? International dietary guidelines recommend somewhere between two and three liters, depending on your build and activity level.

Fish and Fish Oil

There is some evidence that shows that fish and fish oil are foods that help clear acne.

Fish and fish oil contain the Omega 3 fatty acid, a nutrient that has been shown to reduce inflammatory responses. Itchy, scaly skin is associated with an omega-3 deficiency, showing that these fatty acids may be able to balance the skin's sebum production.

Foods that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids include:

  • Fatty, cold-water fish like sardines, tuna, and salmon

  • Seeds and nuts

  • Plant oils like canola oil or soybean oil

Decorative plates of seafood.


For those looking for a hormonal acne diet change, the inclusion of spearmint tea may help. This herb may fight acne by modulating hormones called androgens that can lead to acne.

Spearmint tea is an anti-androgen that several studies suggest can safely help suppress androgens.

However, some of these studies have only been carried out on animals, and more research is needed to confirm spearmint's effectiveness in treating acne in humans.

Foods That Can Worsen Acne

Sugars and Processed Carbs

The link between sugary foods and acne has been illustrated by various studies.

The glycemic index indicates how quickly a food will be processed and metabolized into glucose. Foods with a high glycemic index include but are not limited to white rice, white and wheat bread, sweetened snack foods, and some fruits.

When one's body processes a high glycemic load, the insulin that is created can stimulate androgens, which leads to increased production of sebum. This in turn can contribute to the development of acne.


There have been a few studies that show a correlation between increased milk intake and acne, but these survey-based studies have been relatively small. This makes them less reliable than large, double-blind experiments, but still something to consider.

The same study linked above clarified that researchers have found a connection between drinking milk and acne, but there still is no evidence to suggest that consuming dairy products like yogurt and cheese have the same effect (good news for pizza lovers).

It’s true that acne breakouts can occur when our hormones fluctuate significantly. If you are looking to implement a hormonal acne diet, be sure to pay attention to dairy consumption. There isn't much evidence that directly points to hormones in milk as a cause of hormonal acne, but dairy products do contain various hormones, including bovine growth hormone (BGH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). There is a chance that these hormones could affect your hormone balance, or otherwise impact your body.

A jug of milk.

Your Diet Helps, but the Best Way to Reduce Acne is Still a Consistent Skincare Routine

The best thing anyone could do for acne-prone skin is incorporate a skincare routine that uses gentle treatment products. Our Exposed Skincare Expanded Kit is designed to regularly exfoliate the skin, kill bacteria, and moisturize.

Exposed Expanded Kit.
Exposed products bring together science and nature to treat acne so your true skin shines through.

The Expanded Kit contains a Facial CleanserClearing TonicAcne Treatment SerumClear Pore Serum, and Moisture Complex. We combine natural ingredients like tea tree oil, aloe vera, and green tea extract with scientific ingredients like glycerin, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid to give you clear skin without causing irritation or forcing you into a strict diet.