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Can a Bad Diet Cause Acne?

By: Dr. Wang Skincare Education Team

Aug 12, 2019

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Acne breakouts are one of the most common skin concerns for many teenagers and adults. While the underlying causes of acne are numerous, breakouts are most frequently caused by skin with unhealthy levels of oil and/or dead skin cells, leading to clogged pores.

So where does the diet come into play? It can be tempting to think that greasy foods will lead to greasy skin. 

In reality, food’s impact on skin health are more complex. The relationship between food and skin health is multifaceted, but thankfully it is easy to put these concepts into practice. 

Today, we will explore the link between diet and acne, identify some foods to avoid, healthy diets for healthy skin, and some holistic methods for clear and beautiful skin.

Greasy Foods and Acne: Does Greasy Food Lead to Greasy Skin?

The number one myth surrounding acne is that greasy food causes greasy skin. Healthy fats in the diet have been stigmatized for years, with this mindset only recently being challenged in the mainstream by modern nutritionists.

So no, eating that pizza or those buffalo wings are not going to cause or worsen your acne. However, there is a small catch. 

Oil and grease from foods which makes it onto your skin can certainly cause breakouts. This can be true of restaurant employees who might work in a kitchen and come into contact with excess amounts of oil. It can also be true of messy eaters who get a bit more than they should on their face.

To sum this one up: fatty foods do not cause acne, though they should be enjoyed in moderation for other health reasons.

Avoid these Foods that can Cause Acne

If greasy pizza isn’t to blame, are there any foods which can cause acne? While each body will handle foods differently, the short answer is yes. 

Consider cutting or reducing the following food groups to help with your acne breakouts:

  • Dairy and dairy products: Scientific research has repeatedly shown that dairy consumption is shown to worsen or cause acne, most notably in teenagers. The exact reason for this relationship is not currently known, though there are several theories including dairy’s effect on insulin levels and some dairy ingredients.
  • Sugars, refined grains, simple carbohydrates: Sugars and refined carbohydrates have replaced fat as the number one most wanted food groups according to nutritionists. Blood sugar and insulin level spikes can be caused by these ingredients, which has been linked to acne breakouts.
  • Foods to which you are sensitive or allergic: Last but most certainly not least, food sensitivities and allergies should be carefully observed. Food allergies have the potential to cause or worsen skin conditions including acne.


    A Better Diet for Clear Skin

    Here are some healthy food choices which may have a positive impact on your skin health and reduce your acne breakouts:

    • Foods high in fiber: A diet with healthy levels of fiber has shown to improve acne symptoms. This may again be linked to fiber’s ability to control healthy blood sugar and insulin levels.
    • Foods rich in omega-3s: An issue we did not touch upon earlier is the prevalence of omega fatty acid imbalance in many modern diets. Acne has been shown to be helped by omega-3 rich foods such as salmon, walnuts, and eggs. Omega 6 foods to avoid include cured meats, fast foods, and potato chips.

      It is important to understand that your diet is likely not going to cause nor clear your acne on its own. 

      However, adhering to these fundamental tips for a healthier diet will not only lead to an overall improvement in help, it might assist your body’s natural functions to help you achieve clearer, healthier skin.

      Other Anti-Acne Tips for Skin and Holistic Health

      Continuing with that point, diet is not the primary way to clear your acne. There are many other ways to control and even eliminate acne. 

      If you have severe acne, you should consider seeking a dermatologist’s advice. If you have mild acne and prefer self-care, consider the following:

      Cleansing without over-cleansing is key for acne treatment. This can be accomplished by using non-irritating cleansers once or twice per day. Gentle exfoliation is possible with the help of a charcoal konjac sponge

      Provide your skin with nutrients and the healthy oils it needs. Yes, your skin can still benefit from moisturization when going through an acne breakout. Consider our Nourishing Youth Serum which delivers vital nutrients to your skin without oversaturating pores. 

      Finally, it is a great idea to work on your overall health. Proper hydration, healthy sleep schedules, and healthy levels of exercise all will improve your body’s ability to take care of itself. This holistic approach may not be a magic bullet cure-all, but it certainly can’t hurt!

      Clean, Beautiful, and Healthy Skin with Dr. Wang Herbal Skincare

      Dr. Wang Herbal Skincare is a family business started by Steven Wang, MD and Gui Wang, LAc. Our co-founders have been working together for over two decades to offer holistic, innovative, and effective skincare products. 

      We are guided by three primary principles: formulate skincare products with proven efficacy to promote skin health, harness the power of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and utilize the latest modern medical breakthroughs.

      To learn more, view our family of products or read what publications like The New York Times and Reader’s Digest have to say about Dr. Wang Herbal Skincare.



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