Acne Diet

 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)

An Acne Diet has shown to be effective among some people struggling with mild to moderate acne.

Acne (pimples) has some relationship with nutrition, however there is little credible research providing links between certain food groups and acne.

As an acne sufferer it is a process of trial and error. However there are some dietary guidelines that may be useful.

Foods That May Cause Acne

acne-dietAs part of an acne diet, these foods should be avoided.

  • Foods with saturated fats and trans fats can contribute to oily skin. Saturated fats are found in most animal products – such as meats, dairy, and poultry. However the body does still require other essential fatty acids – such as from fish,Β  flaxseed or hempseed oil.
  • Some believe that a high calorie intake (i.e. eating too much) can lead to increased hormone levels, and subsequently more ‘break-outs’ – but this is unproven.
  • Refined sugars and carbs. It is believed that high sugary diets helps to feed the bacteria that cause acne. Many who have “cleaned” up their diet have seen improvement.
  • Soft Drinks. Cutting out soft drinks as part of an acne diet has also been linked with improved skin as long as the soft drinks are replaced with plain water.
  • Processed foods. These foods are laden with refined carbs, sugars, salt, and preservatives, which affects the health of many organs including the skin.
  • High levels of iodine in the diet does impact some acne sufferers – by causing new outbreaks of acne lesions. Note that very salty (iodized salt) foods such as chips etc, contain high levels of iodine and should be avoided.

What About Chocolate?

Many believe there is a direct relationship between eating chocolate and increased acne.

However this is unproven – although chocolate can have a high proportion of saturated fats. When eating chocolate choose the variety with the highest percentage of cacao you can tolerate (i.e. 70-90% dark chocolate). This will also have a lower percentage of added sugar.

Acne Treatment Methods

Besides an acne diet, there are some treatments that have been shown to be effective.

  1. Anti-Sebum Cream w/ Green Tea – reduces oil, clears pores and kills bacteria associated with acne.
  2. Proactive – A topical treatment system developed by dermatologists.
  3. Some people have found that Vitamin A and Zinc have helped with acne.
  4. In addition Green Tea could also be incorporated into the acne diet (as it leads to a decrease in androgen production).

Foods ThatΒ Help Treat Acne

Adversely, an acne diet that includes the following foods may help to heal acne.

  • A higher protein intake may assist in acne control.
    This may be to do with the decreased production of a certain enzyme that can cause more oil production, and increased clogging of pores. A diet with 60-70% carbohydrates may be too high in carbs. Diets like The Paleo Diet may help.
  • Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit.
    These foods are full of vitamins and minerals and nourish your skin properly.
  • Drink plenty of water.
    Water helps to flush away toxins and hydrate the skin. Aim for at least 8 glasses a day.


Medline Plus acne information

American Academy of Dermatology


  • Goulden, V., Stables, G. I., & Cunliffe, W. J. (1999). Prevalence of facial acne in adults. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 41(4), 577-580. link
  • Caperton, C., Block, S., Viera, M., Keri, J., & Berman, B. (2014). Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Assessing the Effect of Chocolate Consumption in Subjects with a History of Acne Vulgaris. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 7(5), 19. link
  • Williams, H. C., Dellavalle, R. P., & Garner, S. (2012). Acne vulgaris. The Lancet, 379(9813), 361-372. link
 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)
Last Reviewed: January 22, 2015. Disclaimer


  1. David

    I just did the master cleanse for 10 days. It wasn’t until a few days afterwards that my skin got gradually clearer. I took it for granted and slowly went back to coffee and protein bars. I work out so I try to get my protein in. I’ve noticed protein powders and bars make my skin worse. I’m planning to go on a strict diet of only vegetables and start slowly adding other healthy choices to determine what is really causing my breakouts. I’m almost tempted to go on another cleanse but that would not be a sustainable cure for my acne. For those out there debating a cleanse for clear skin I definitely recommend it, the master clense did it for me. The tricky part is not to go back to all the crappy food once you get off fast. I actually noticed scars I had for years start to fade away. Good luck all. I’m starting to be a strong believer that adjusting our diet is our best defense against acne. I’ll try to post an update in a few weeks.

  2. Ebby Le

    Hii Guys,

    Usual 20yr old whom ONCE suffered from severe BAd acne!!

    Well once upon a time I suffered severe acne but these days my skin is great with only very few occasional breakouts.
    I do have old scars and large pores but besides that im happy compared to how i use to feel πŸ™‚

    A few tips to aid acne which have helped me would be ..

    #1 Honey, apple cidar vinegar and Sugar scrub πŸ™‚
    This is great for shedding dead skin cells and aids in healing the skin.

    #2 Bi-carb soda is GREAT!! After i use make up I remove it then apply bi-carb soda to make sure my skin is stripped of any make up remaining. It does dry the skin but its not to be used to often so shouldnt matter so much.

    #3 GREEN TEA !!! the ultimate !!! Alot of people worry as it contains caffeine but its caffeine containment is very LOW.
    I drink 8 cups a day and my skin is amazing.
    Its a natural and also is good for detoxing your insides.

    And alot of people dont think drinking lots of water helps but it does! For extra benefit add lime or lemon πŸ™‚

    Hope this helps guys πŸ˜€

  3. cinnamon

    I have been an acne sufferer for almost 20 years. Last year it got so bad that I had to do research about my condition. I have tried all sorts of medicine but I was scared to go on accutane. So I tried changing my diet. First I consumed mostly raw foods like salads with olive oil based dressings, fruits and fresh fruit juices (buy a juicer!) and nuts (except peanuts). It took about 2 weeks to notice that my skin was clearing up. Next I slowly introduced cooked vegetables and fish. I also made my own rice milk or if I can’t, I use coconut milk which is tastier. I can also eat sweet potatoes and other carbo like bread or noodles but in moderation. By doing this you can find out about your allergies. I noticed that dairy and egg would make me break out so I stay away from these. I also stay away from sugar, pork and beef. Drink a lot of tea. Chamomile and ginger tea are great. Take them after dinner. Never forget to eat raw foods every day. I always start my day with fresh fruit juice. Now, my skin is so much clearer. Do not believe dermatologists who tell you that diet has nothing to do with acne!!!

  4. from Dinah

    Matu, you may try this diet plan for acne.

    God bless!

  5. Laura

    I have also noticed that consuming lots of carbs (even whole wheat noodles) breaks my skin out. Also sugar. I am interested in trying green tea although I am very sensitive to caffeine. I suppose I could get decaf but I read on line somewhere that it doesn’t work as well as the regular kind with caffeine. I also was told by my herbalist/iridologist to avoid anything that has gone through the decaf process. I have had acne for twenty years and have tried everything including accutane. My derm gave up. I was always told it had nothing to do with my diet. My herbalist says it is a combination of my diet, constipation, yeast overgrowth (candida), and hormones. I was told to follow a low gi diet. I’m also thinking about giving up dairy and wheat. And peanut butter which slows digestion that I have eaten on an almost daily basis for decades.

  6. K

    Hi guys, this comment page has been a great help to me and reassured me that I’m not the only one going through having terrible skin!! I’ve suffered bad skin since I was about 13 and I’m not 18. I’ve realised that my problem is almost certainly internal, therefore am going to change my diet and work with the advice you’ve all given!

    Will be sure to change my diet and see how I get on.
    Thanks for all the help & advice – will let you know how I get on!

  7. SME

    Okay my acne didn’t start until I was about 20….and I’ve struggled with it for about 4 years…tried it all proactive, dermatologists, every over-the-counter acne med u could think of…bottom line: NOTHING WORKS BUT CHANGING YOUR DIET!….caffeine (I use to work night shifts so I was like O-Ding on the stuff!) and dairy break me out the worse! I cut the caffeine (coffee, energy drinks) and dairy completely out of my diet and POOF! Acne almost completely gone! :)….I still get the occasional pimple here and there which I think mainly comes from PMS @ this point….but when I completely cut out sweets (donuts, cookies) and fast food is when my skin looks the best and I actually get compliments! It’s crazy!….I changed my diet to lose weight and I lose weight AND my acne! :-)…I eat fruit, veggies, tuna and almonds thats about it! :)…and I’m never hungry! You’d be surprised as to how little you can eat and still be satisfied!….lastly I know it’s REALLY bad but tanning REALLY clears my skin as well!!!! GOOD LUCK EVERY1 P.S. acne prone skin is usually oily skin and ppl w/ oily skin age better!!! haha…b/c the oil keeps our skin hydrated and in turn we keep youthful looking skin longer! so there IS a bright side!!! Google it if you don’t believe me! πŸ™‚

  8. Lisa

    To answer Sash March 16th blog, I bought a Aloe Vera plant. It must say Aloe Vera on the label. There are all kinds of aloe plants out there. It is helping my son’s acne. He has a very bad case of it. Cut a stem off and then cut a small piece from it and slice it open and take the meat out of the plant and apply it to all areas. First I have my son use a very hot wash cloth to open the pores, then we apply the aloe. It is helping alot. I also have started giving him aloe capsules to help detoxify his body. You can get them through I’ve used it for 9 years now for another reason. It’s expensive, but it works. We’ve also started doing the clear liquid, alternating between water and lemon water for a day and then going to fruit the second day including water before each fruit. Good luck

  9. Tom

    I had acne for 10[yrs] due to bad genes(30%), bad diet(60%), & bad personal habits(10%). Experimentally determined foods/liquids to avoid in order of importance: any fast food, all dairy, soda, coffee, almost all tropical fruits(avocado, banana, pineapple, mango), wheat(bread, noodles), oils(vegetable, canola, olive),olives, oatmeal, alcohol, corn, rice, green tea, garlic, potatos. Foods to eat in order of importance: cucmber, celery, red leaf lettuce, beans(lima, kidney, black), soy milk, tomatoes, 3 herbal teas per day(chamomile, white, rooibos, not green), seeds(pumpkin), onion, grapefruit, apple, grapes, eggs, fish, chicken, quinoa. It seems like there is not a lot of variety of foods to eat! True, but once your skin has started to recover an occasional splurge will not hurt you. The key is to avoid dairy and gluten (eat mostly alkaline and low glycemic index level foods in you can), eat all of the right types of vegetables and fruits that you want, and use some other hygienic and personal practices to diminish the environment in which acne flourishes. Luck!

  10. Kim

    you are what you eat; let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food; everything in moderation. eating fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains is a good thing. the main focus for acne is fats. eat good fats like nuts, avocado, olives, olive oil, pumpkin seeds, eggs. i drink a lot of soymilk (chocolate silk). make sure to keep saturated fats like dairy products, fatty meats, junk food low (less than 20 grams a day). you have to consume more good fats than bad. be prepared for the detox period though; my skin got a lot worse for a while. the damage that has already been done has to be undone and this takes time. if you need more help, you can e-mail me at kimu216@yahoo.

  11. Taylor

    This doesn’t help me so much. Could you maybe mention some foods that we can try eating to reduce acne? Such as meats, fruits, veggies, etc. Whatever foods that are good for the skin and body…. Thanks!

  12. carmen

    I have had an acne problem for 12 years already and feel like ive tried everything. Different products, chemical peels and even dermatologists medication. It all seems in vain though. Would really appreciate any advice that could possibly be the end to this problem. Thanks

  13. Kim

    The most important thing to concentrate on with your diet is saturated fat (also the trans fats–hydrogenated oils). YOU MUST keep your saturated fats low. You must also make sure that you keep your good unsaturated fats high or higher than the saturated fats you consume. For example, if you consume 65 grams of fat: 45 poly and mono unsaturated/20 saturated. Good fat and bad fat compete. If your body does not have adequate amounts of good fat, it will use the bad saturated fat to produce oil. This fat is sticky and clogs your pores just as it does arteries. When unsaturated fats are available, your body will first use these. These fats are actually calming to the skin and fluid. They do not clog pores because they remain fluid. Yes, I’d recommend eating as healthy as possible but this is where your concentration needs to be. Other factors can contribute to acne, but if you keep the fat levels consistently healthy…there will be no acne to contribute to. The other factors are all secondary to fats. The bad news is it will get worse before it gets better. Acne doesn’t happen overnight although it feels like it does. It took my skin about 16 weeks to completely clear; however, I had acne for probably 20 years. It may take people more or less time depending on the severity and length of time he/she has had acne. The good news is…it’s permanent as long as you continue to watch your fats. Your skin will change DRASTICALLY over time. I had extremely bad skin to now having awesome skin. I actually get compliments all the time. It’s pretty ironic. Most important thing…hang in there while you’re going through the process. Your skin has to detox. It’s worth it in the end. I can help you with any diet information you might need regarding good and bad fats. It works!!!

  14. Getsu

    These links really helped me out a lot πŸ™‚–d_n073pc

    in combination with a healthy diet, these methods can do wonders! helped me out a lot. research a bit more about apple cider vinegar if you’re interested.

  15. Sash

    OK, so ive pretty much understood all the foods i mustnt eat but without sounding silly….what can I eat? Im almost underweight anyway so dont want to stick to a fruit/veg/water diet that will make me unhealthily underweight. Ive already cut out meat, dairy, sugar, processed foods and Some people are saying no bread, potatoes, rice, pasta….Any meal ideas i could stick to? one other thing, anyone know a food that can assist the skin to heal? my spots seem to take weeks to come up and then to go away…and then scar!! thanks

  16. Jonathan

    My acne has been a constant mid-tolow-level thing for 20 years, since I was a teen, recently I saw a dermatologist here in the UK who told me to avoid nuts, cheese, chocolate, and high-sugar soda. For good measure I also chucked out oily foods, donuts, cookies, anything with significant amounts of wheat. And lo and behold, on my follow-up appointments, their department is furious with me because my face is clear! They think I’m a complete timewaster! Of course that upsets me but I should look at it as a bit of a joy too – the change that this diet shift has wrought.

    I read the above comments, and would take issue with Diane who wrote that “low fat cheese, … nuts” should be UPPED – I would avoid those.

  17. REX

    At the onset of puberty the body changes the way it handles secretions and excretions. Nutrients are extracted from the diet to produce semen for males and nutrients are extracted from the diets of females to produce eggs. With certain people when this shift occurs certain toxins that would normally be excreted begin to be secreted through the skin, usually on the face and back. Because of the time in which it occurs this is commonly mistaken as acne. It is not.

    It is an allergic reaction to your diet.
    If you have oily skin you most likely are a sufferer, if you love fast food you most likely are a sufferer, if you love dairy products, and if you love spicy foods you most likely are a sufferer.

    For more than ten years I have had no less than four breakouts a week and countless scars on my face. It wasn’t until last year staring at the mirror wanting them to just go away that I remembered something my dermatologist had said. “Getting rid of one pimple is like mopping up the floor with the water still on”. With that I began to catalog my meals and breakouts within 2 weeks a pattern emerged.

    Anything: Oily, Cheesey, Spicy, or containing high amounts wheat (for some reason noodles are okay). would break me out in no less than 8 hrs!

    After a week or so of maintaining a diet without any of those things i noticed that when ever i relapsed on it (midnight drive-thru snack)I would break out in 4hrs! As soon as my body digested it, it was trying to get rid of it!

    Ive maintained this diet thoroughly for over 4 months now and I havent had skin this clear since my 13th birthday! I can go a day or two without even washing my face (although i seldom do, paranoid)and not have so much as a white head.

    So if youve tried all the pills the latest proactive been to the dermatologist and haven’t gotten any relief, try making a change in your diet for just a WEEK. Youve got nothing to lose but your acne.

  18. slimjim

    has anyone had experience with trying to cut out caffeine in their diet to prevent acne. I did a quick google search on it and there seems to be some discussion of it going on.