Diet and Acne: Do’s and Don’ts

Acne (Pimple) is a prevalent skin disorder in adolescents and adults with substantial physical and psychological morbidity.

If you suffer from pimples, I am sure you must have been given dietary advice right from your concerned neighbouring aunty to your nosy maid, whose only business seems to be somehow ridding you from acne!

Although previously considered unimportant, recent studies do implicate a definite role of dietary factors in the pathogenesis of acne.

This article presents the latest findings on a potential impact that diet can have on pathogenesis of acne.

Milk and dairy products 

It is believed that the possible comedogenic action of milk comes from its Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) content. IGF-1 stimulates the synthesis of androgens in the body. High blood levels of IGF-1 and androgens stimulate proliferation of oil-secreting glands in the skin, resulting in the development and progression of acne lesion.

Milk also contains other hormones which are precursors of DHT (Dihidrotestosterone) that stimulate acne.

And for those who swear by skimmed milk, many studies have shown that skim milk is more comedogenic than whole milk. There is a possibility that the hormonal balance of skim milk may be impaired during its processing. Skim milk contains less estrogen than whole milk. Estrogen is a hormone that may reduce acne.

Moreover, in order to maintain the proper consistency of skim milk manufacturers add to it whey proteins, such as α-lactoalbumin, which further increases acne.


Chocolate has always been considered as a factor that may contribute to exacerbation of acne, but there is a very limited amount of scientific evidence supporting this notion. However, dermatologists often observe that patients have new pimples a few days after ingestion of products containing chocolate, and are often seen advising their patients against their consumption.

Sugar foods

It has been proven without doubt that diets with high glycemic index (foods that increase blood sugar levels) aggravate acne.These include ice creams, juices with sugar, carbonated drinks, bread and white rice, corn flakes, puffed rice, instant oatmeal rice pasta, macaroni and cheese, popcorn, saltine crackers, melon, pineapple etc. (See more at:

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids (anti-inflammatory/ good) in diet helps in reducing acne. Some foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids include , flaxseeds, fish oil, chia seeds, walnuts, seafood, soybeans, and  spinach.


Studies have shown that acne improved with oral zinc supplementation in zinc-deficient patients. Later studies have confirmed that patients with acne often are deficient in zinc and its oral supplementation has a positive effect on treatment of acne vulgaris.

For vegetarians, the best option would be to include a handful of nuts in your daily diet. These can be a trail mix of walnuts, almonds, cashews and other dry fruits and nuts. Another way to add zinc to your daily diet would be to turn to seeds, especially, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, chickpeas, whole grains – these are enriched with zinc.

For non-vegetarians, fish, eggs, meat are good sources of zinc.


It has been suggested that oxidative stress may be implicated in the origin of acne and that drugs with antioxidant effects (or antioxidant supplements) may be valuable adjuvants in acne treatment. The most well known sources of antioxidants include foods with beta-carotene, the mineral selenium, the compound lycopene, and Vitamins A, C, and E.

Whey proteins

The short answer is YES.. they definitely aggravate acne. If you are breaking out from whey and need an alternative, try egg-white or hemp protein powder instead.


The impact of diet on the course of acne is still a very controversial subject, but can no longer be overlooked. I often encourage my patients to write in a food diary which dietary factors produce acne flare-up and exclude it from diet or limit its consumption.

Influence of diet on severity of acne still requires a lot of research but it should be no longer a dermatologic dogma to state that any association between diet and acne is a myth.

If you have any queries/ doubts, please feel free to mail me at or call on + 91 9867370009.



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