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For those who will be #TeamAcne in the #GlowIn6 Challenge, you may have to slightly modify your diet. I’ve written previously about foods to avoid for each skin type but I’ve never really gone in-depth on why you should avoid certain foods if you have acne. The TL;DR is that acneic skin types should avoid: sugars, salts, whey/soy, peanuts, and *some* dairy.


When it comes to sugars, you want to avoid the processed and natural kinds. This is the hardest to avoid because everything seems to break down in our bodies as sugar. If you have acne, sugars can elevate testosterone levels which can then create a snowball effect for hormone-related issues that cause acne. When we eat more than the typical amount of sugar we should be consuming daily, our bodies produce more insulin than normal which then leads to inflammation and inflammation will show up as acne. You know how you’ve heard that specifically eating chocolate or candy, for example, leads to breakouts? Well, that’s not entirely true. Here‘s a study from 2014 in which researchers found my beloved carbs (!) to be the primary culprit in acne. Because the list of high sugar foods is so vast, I’m just going to focus on good, sweet foods you actually can eat.

In general, your skin can benefit greatly from a low-glycemic diet. Low-glycemic fruits and vegetables that are currently in season (it’s winter at the time of writing) are: cranberries, grapefruit, avocados, apples, bananas, oranges, swiss chard, kale and collard greens. You can replace the bad carbs for “smart” carbs. These include: nuts/seeds, healthy grains (oats, rye, buckwheat, quinoa), lean meats. For actual sweeteners, there isn’t a solid recommendation that will actually be “sweet”. Agave is very low on the glycemic index and honey is in the medium range. If you’re used to cane sugar in your coffee or teas though, I can’t guarantee you’ll like either of those options.


I see many clients who are always trying the “next big thing” in dieting. They’re vegan, they’re vegetarian, they’re pescatarian, they work out all the time, they are doing Keto diets or—the one that seems to be really big right now—they’re intermittent fasting. On paper, all of these things are supposed to be good for us to some extent. But, all of a sudden, these can start wreaking havoc on the skin. What could be the reason? Well, salt—or better yet—our penchant for seasoning.

Iodine/Iodides are actually the culprit here. When we take the proper amounts in moderation, iodides can actually be helpful in maintaining our naturally functioning metabolism. But when there is too much, or too little, in our system the result is often a hormonal imbalance which often results in acne. In addition, Dr. James Fulton found that excess iodine in the body gets excreted through the skin and it may irritate the pores as a result.

Kelp has the highest amount of iodine with seaweed not too far behind. So, sushi and kimchi might not be great snacks during the challenge. Instead of using iodized salt, try to use sea salt, uniodized salt, or celtic salt. Instead of shellfish (shrimp, crab, scallops, etc.), opt for fresh water fishes. You also want to take a good look at the labels of any supplements you may currently be taking. Iodine is in many vitamins.

Whey and Soy Protein

This may only apply to those who are also on a New Year, New Body challenge but still helpful for anyone with acne. Whey and Soy proteins can exacerbate acne. Whey proteins can trigger a peptide within the gut to increase insulin levels and sebum production in the skin. Soy protein can disrupt the bodies natural production of estrogen and increase androgen production. This process makes acne worse.

Instead of using any of the above mentioned proteins, give pea protein, egg white powder, and hemp protein a try. Make sure they don’t have any iodides or added sugars.


The main problem with peanuts is that they have a lot of androgens which increase sebum production. So, basically, you’ll only go from bad to worse when you eat high peanut content. Other nuts to try would be walnuts, cashews, almonds pending you’re not allergic to any of them, of course.


Okay, some of you may be reading this like “why wasn’t this the first thing on the list?!” and it’s because not all dairy is the culprit. When it comes to dairy, the biggest offenders are Cheese, Butter, and Whole Eggs (Egg Yolk). A little yogurt or milk here and there isn’t going to cause your face to erupt (unless you’re allergic or maybe have a lactose intolerance). You can substitute for nut cheeses, nut butters and simply using egg whites only. And, as always, you want to continue to use the substitutes in moderation.

So, this is the complete list of foods you want to avoid (or seriously limit) if you have acne. Talk to your doctor, dietician or nutritionist if you have more questions or concerns about these foods and your skin health.