Delicious Abominations: 10 Foods That Trigger Acne Breakouts

You are what you eat, so avoid these acne-inducing foods and become acne-free!

Published On Dec 06, 2023 | Updated On Mar 05, 2024


Adult acne is a menace. Just when you think you have outgrown your teen spotty self, you are once again bombarded with a barrage of ugly bumps and blisters on your face. Acne not only exacerbates the quality of your skin but also affects the quality of your life by harming your confidence and causing a lot of anxiety. However, your skin health is very closely related to your gut health and you can improve one by changing the other. By reducing the consumption of food that causes pimples, you can once again have a healthy and glowing skin that is backed by a sated and soothed stomach. Following is a list of the most notorious 10 foods that cause pimples in adults. 

Sweet foods can contribute to acne development through their impact on blood sugar levels and inflammation. When you consume sugary stuff, it causes a rapid spike in your blood sugar. To manage this surge, your body releases insulin, a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar. Elevated insulin levels can stimulate the production of skin oils, or sebum, which can clog pores and create an environment that fosters acne-causing bacteria.

Did you know that over 70% of Indian adults are lactose intolerant? Lactose intolerance means that your body cannot probably break down the nutrients present in milk and its derivatives, which can then cause irritation to your bowels. If you are sensitive to dairy, consuming milk, cheese, and yoghurt can exacerbate acne because of the hormones and growth factors present in dairy.

It’s sad but true, chocolate is not good for you. Chocolate has long been a subject of debate when it comes to its potential link to acne. While the relationship between chocolate and acne is not yet fully understood, some studies suggest that certain chocolate products may contribute to acne breakouts in susceptible individuals. The key culprits in chocolate that might be responsible for this connection are the high sugar content and the presence of dairy. 


It is no secret that highly processed foods are bad for you, not only because of what they contain but also because of what they don’t, that is, most essential nutrients. Highly processed and junk foods are often laden with unhealthy fats, sugars, and additives, which can cause inflammation and subsequently, acne breakouts. Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury or infection, but chronic inflammation can lead to various health issues, including skin problems. 

Fried foods are notorious for containing high amounts of unhealthy oils, such as trans fats and saturated fats. These fats are pro-inflammatory and can lead to increased inflammation throughout the body, including the skin. This can trigger or worsen acne breakouts, making it essential to limit the consumption of deep-fried and greasy foods to maintain clear and healthy skin.

While all fats are not bad for you, like monounsaturated fats, which can actually help you maintain stable energy levels throughout the day, most fats hamper your health. Foods high in saturated and trans fats, such as fatty cuts of meat and certain processed snacks, can easily trigger inflammation and negatively affect skin health.

Salt that has been supplemented with iodine is another dietary factor that can impact acne, especially in individuals with a sensitivity to iodine. Excessive iodine intake from iodised salt and iodine-rich foods like seaweed can lead to acne breakouts. Iodine can also irritate the skin and trigger inflammation, potentially worsening existing acne or contributing to the development of new acne lesions. 

Whey protein is derived from milk and contains the same growth factors and hormones that can influence skin health, just like other dairy products. The consumption of whey protein supplements can potentially exacerbate acne symptoms. If you're prone to acne and use whey protein supplements, you may want to consider alternatives or consult with a healthcare professional to explore potential alternatives for your protein supplements.

Acne is not always the result of inflammation. There are also many other factors that impact it, including the hormonal balance in your body. Soy contains compounds that can mimic oestrogen in the body and affect hormonal balance, potentially influencing acne development. The phytoestrogens in soy can disrupt the body's natural hormonal balance. In some cases, this disruption can lead to increased androgens (male sex hormones), which are associated with higher sebum production. Elevated sebum levels can also clog pores and contribute to acne formation.

While caffeine itself does not directly cause acne, excessive caffeine consumption can lead to increased stress hormone levels, such as cortisol. Elevated stress hormones may stimulate sebum (skin oil) production and inflammation, which can contribute to clogged pores and acne. Additionally, caffeine can dehydrate the skin, potentially worsening skin conditions. While caffeine's role in acne is indirect and varies among individuals, moderation in caffeine intake and proper hydration can help maintain healthy skin.

When it comes to nutrition, balance is key. While foods like sugar, chocolate, soy, and more can cause acne, it is not recommended to completely stop consuming them. You can have the occasional chocolate cake, your daily morning cuppa jo, and the protein you need to build and maintain muscle, however, never overdo it.  The problems of the skin and body are rooted in excess. Too little of something is just as bad as too much, especially when it comes to foods that cause pimples. Worry not, you can live an acne-free life once you have established the necessary balanced diet.

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