Top Foods that Trigger Acne

Try to avoid foods that trigger acne.It’s common to think that if we could just identify which are the foods that trigger acne, that we could reduce breakouts and clear up our skin. Discovering the causes and triggers of acne can help us to prevent acne and pimples rather than simply feeling helpless. If you’ve ever searched for the top foods that trigger acne, chances are you may have found inconclusive evidence and differing opinions.

“It’s possible that the modern diet may also play a role in the formation of acne,” explains Adelaide Hebert, M.D., professor of dermatology and pediatrics and director of pediatric dermatology at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

In one study seeking factors and foods that trigger acne, investigators researched inhabitants on an island where no fast food existed and found that those who lived there had no acne at all. Hebert says that other factors still may have come into play.

“I’m not going to say that fast food is 100 percent correlated with acne, but today, there are more hormones in the milk that our children drink, more antibiotics and other chemicals in products that children consume,” she says, “so, it’s a different era than perhaps 50 years ago, and it may have some influence.”

Despite some evidence suggesting that fast food can be one of the foods that triggers acne, possibly when combined with other factors, some skincare experts still find that there are no foods that trigger acne specifically.

According to Dr. Ramzi Saad, a board certified dermatologists at South Shore Skin Center, “Acne is caused by overproduction of sebum (oil), which is regulated by hormones, coupled with the obstruction of the pores. People can get acne at any age, but teens are most likely to experience it because it is triggered by hormone changes. Stress and some prescribed medications can contribute to hormone fluctuation. Acne is not caused by foods such as chocolate and greasy French fries. In fact, severe acne is hereditary.”

Q. What are some kinds of foods that trigger acne? Why?


Do french fries cause acne?A. Erika Schwartz, MD, Medical Director of Cinergy Health: “While there are not specific foods that trigger acne, it is safe to say that if you eat sugary, fried, starchy, heavy dairy and processed foods frequently, your skin will not be as smooth and clear as it should be. The ingredients in processed, chemical laden foods are toxic to our bodies and as they work their way through our digestive system instead of being absorbed and disposed of through the gut and urinary tract, they become toxic to our skin.”

Q. Many doctors and scientists say chocolate doesn’t cause acne, but if I stop eating chocolate, my skin clears up. What gives?

A. Erika Schwartz, MD, Medical Director of Cinergy Health: “Chocolate may not cause acne on its own. If you eat chocolate every day in combination with other unhealthy, processed, nutrient free foods then it would make sense that you are breaking out. If you maintain a daily balanced diet with protein, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lots of water and have your sweets in moderation, then your skin should not be affected.”

Q. Anything else you would like to add about acne and foods that trigger acne?

A. Erika Schwartz, MD, Medical Director of Cinergy Health: “Acne and pimples are caused by hormone changes and fluctuations that are often not under our control. The best way to keep hormones in balance is to be conscious of what you put in your mouth every day. Eating poorly, drinking alcohol, caffeine, smoking cigarettes, and ingesting other toxins will have a detrimental effect on your skin, on your mind, and on your body. Take care of yourself; no one else can. Eat well, sleep at least eight hours a night, exercise regularly and be happy.”

About the Experts:
Erika Schwartz, MD, Medical Director of Cinergy Health is a general internist, an authority on preventive health and a patient advocate. She is a 25-year health industry veteran, working in both an ER as well as a private practice. For more information on Cinergy Health, please visit

Adelaide Hebert, M.D. is professor of dermatology and pediatrics and director of pediatric dermatology at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

Dr. Ramzi Saad, M.D. is a board certified dermatologist at South Shore Skin Center, which cares for thousands of patients south of Boston. Founded in 1984, South Shore Skin Center is one of Massachusetts’ most progressive dermatology practices offering a wide range of medical, surgical and cosmetic services.


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