Types of Food That Cause Acne

by Lilly Wallace ; Updated September 28, 2017

Foods containing high amounts of sugar are among the worst for your complexion.

Lilly Wallace

Although the correlation between diet and acne is still being researched, studies show connections between certain triggering foods and acne flare-ups. Diet may be a key player in both resolving and worsening symptoms.


A study from the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that dairy products, and in particular skim milk, may trigger acne breakouts. While more rigorously collected data is needed to confirm the correlation, evidence shows that certain dairy products may aggravate acne because of their hormone and bioactive molecule content.

Cows receive hormones to increase milk production, and residues of those hormones pass to humans in the milk. This can cause an increase of sebum (oil) production, which clogs pores and allows bacteria to grow on the skin, leading to skin inflammation and acne breakouts.


Sugar is justifiably considered the cause of many food-related health problems, and it is also considered a possible trigger for acne flare-ups. Eating sugar causes the level of blood sugar to rise, and that stimulates the production of the hormone insulin. Constant spikes of insulin in the blood can lead to insulin-resistance, which enhances sebum production and the development of acne symptoms.

Foods With High Glycemic Index

The glycemic index indicates how fast a carbohydrate enters the bloodstream. A study suggests that a low glycemic load diet may improve not only the symptoms of acne vulgaris, but also the insulin sensitivity of the patient. Eating foods with a high glycemic index, such as refined carbs like pasta, cause a spike in blood sugar, which leads to excess insulin generation and consequently, to inflammation.

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About the Author

Lilly Wallace is an Italian certified health and nutrition coach. She writes about beauty and wellness on her website GenuineGlow.com. Passionate about skin care, nutrition and fitness, she loves to inspire her readers to pursue a healthy, eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle.