Ask Jenny: Can My Diet Really Cause Acne?

Today’s Ask Jenny comes via AEDIT magazine, and I’m answering questions from their readers on diet and acne!

Is My Diet Really Causing My Acne?

  1. Is there a relationship between diet and acne?

Yes! Although this is still considered controversial and not necessarily widely accepted. From the 1960’s the relationship between diet and acne was dismissed, but recent research shows a clear link between the two, especially in relation to dietary intake of highly processed carbohydrates, inflammatory fats and low-fat dairy products.

  1. What types of foods or food groups are known to trigger acne or cause breakouts?

Typically, the more processed or refined a food, the more likely it is to cause breakouts. For example, foods with a high glycemic index (those that raise blood sugar very quickly) will affect two hormones, insulin and testosterone. When testosterone is raised it increases sebum levels in the skin, making it more oily. When insulin is raised it can lead to follicular hyperkeratosis, in which excess keratin is produced in the hair follicles and cellular turnover slows down. Oily skin plus blocked follicles can equal acne and breakouts.

Foods that trigger an inflammatory reaction in the gut can also lead to breakouts, and this is where we see a correlation between gut health and skin health. Again, a diet high in processed and refined foods can lead to increased intestinal permeability and an unhealthy microbiome (gut dysbiosis), which can then create food intolerances and a chronic inflammatory response. Part of this inflammatory response can be acne, eczema or rosacea.

  1. Do certain types of food cause breakouts cause breakouts on specific parts of the face or body?

Whilst there is no clinical evidence to support this as yet, I do think that certain types of foods can cause breakouts in specific areas. We know that hormonal imbalances cause breakouts along the chin and jawline, and in my experience, dairy can trigger forehead breakouts. People that eat a diet high in inflammatory oils will often experience breakouts on their back and shoulders.

4. What kind of diet do you recommend for people who are dealing with acne?

The number one recommendation I give to people is to eat a whole foods based diet, limiting the amount of processed foods and focusing on great quality proteins, 7-9 servings of vegetables and fruit a day, and some healthy fats. A low carbohydrate diet will help mitigate the insulin spikes that can lead to breakouts, and an abundance of vegetables and fruits will help lower inflammation and provide fibre for efficient detoxification. Healthy fats such as avocados, salmon and extra virgin olive oil can also help with inflammation and fatty acid imbalance. In addition, I love to add in what I call the skin saviors, which are collagen protein for skin and gut healing, turmeric and curcumin to lower inflammation, and fermented foods for gut health and minimization of damage from free radicals.

If you struggle with breakouts, acne, eczema or other skin issues then my 60 Minute Health Coaching Session is for you – and its just $100! Book yours here.

I’m a Holistic Nutritionist working in Boston, New York and London, and every week I answer one of your most pressing questions on gut health, weight loss, hormone balance, better sleep and more! Submit your questions to to have them answered on the site.