The Ultimate Anti-Acne Diet: What to Eat and What to Avoid

. 4 min read

Acne is the most common skin condition that affects a range of age groups, but it’s still not completely understood. It is a medical condition that requires treatment of medications prescribed by dermatologist, but it can be affected by your lifestyle as well. Diet is an essential part of your lifestyle and can hurt or heal your skin. In this blog post, we have listed foods that aggravate or alleviate acne specifically.


  1. Refined Grains and Sugars:
    Experts say that individuals who are vulnerable to acne breakouts consume more refined carbohydrates compared to people who experience little to no acne. In simple words, refined carbs are sugars and refined grains that have been stripped off their bran, fiber and nutrients. Refined carbs are grain products that have been processed by a manufacturer resulting in the whole grain not being intact. Examples of these foods include: white bread, white flour, pizza dough, white rice and most cereals.

Refined carbohydrates can negatively affect skin as they are absorbed into the bloodstream quite quickly thereby rapidly increasing the blood sugar levels. The increase in blood sugar levels causes an increase in insulin levels as well so the sugars are transported from the bloodstream and into the cells. So how does that affect acne? Insulin activates male hormones called androgens, increasing what is known as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). This factor triggers acne because it allows rapid growth of skin cells by increasing the production of sebum.

Pimples are considered to be an inflammatory disorder of the pilosebaceous gland. The pilosebaceous gland are tiny glands in the skin that secrete sebum. Sebum is generally helps in lubricating your skin, protecting it from losing moisture but too much of it causes acne!

If you are prone to acne, here are some foods that contain refined carbs that you should avoid:

  • Bread, desserts or pasta that are baked/made with white flour
  • White rice
  • Rice noodles
  • Sugary drinks like carbonated sodas
  • Hidden sugars (explained in our previous article: What To Eat For Healthy And Glowing Skin like maple syrup, honey or cane sugar.
  1. Dairy Products:
    Studies have found links between dairy products and the increase of acne severity especially in teenagers.

Milk increases insulin levels which can worsen acne. Bringing back IGF-1 into play, milk also stimulates the release of the growth factor from the liver. Summary: IGF-1 → increased sebum → acne. Try to stay away from indulging too much of milkshakes, ice-creams, heavy creams while cooking and too much milk.

  1. Fast Food:
    It is a common notion that fast food a.k.a oily and greasy foods causes breakouts, but do you know why? Junk foods disrupt the levels of hormones in your body, causing them to go haywire. Often, puberty causes breakouts because of the fluctuation of hormonal levels, the same concept applies here. Besides making individuals more vulnerable to heart disease or increased cholesterol levels, junk food can cause breakouts as well.

Here are some (obvious) foods that you should limit in your diet:

  • Burgers
  • Nuggets
  • Hot dogs
  • French fries, samosas, and other fried snacks
  • Sodas and milkshakes
  • Street foods: samosas, chaat, pau bhaji, shawarmas


  1. Low glycemic index foods:
    Low glycemic foods are made of complex carbohydrates that reduce the risk of developing acne. According to the Glycemic Index Foundation
    “The glycemic index or glycaemic index is a number associated with the carbohydrates in a particular type of food that indicates the effect of these carbohydrates on a person's blood glucose level.”


The reason why foods on the low glycemic diets are linked with reduced severity of acne is because it does not dramatically increase the levels of blood sugar and insulin. Here are some complex carbs that you should add in your diet:

  • Whole grains
  • Legumes such as chickpeas and beans
  • Unprocessed fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts

Pro tip: Stay away from foods that are higher on the glycemic scale like potatoes, white rice and white bread or maida naans.

  1. Foods that reduce inflammation:
    Acne presents with a lot of inflammation as well - redness, swelling and pain are the main symptoms. Inflammation increases the severity of breakouts and your diet can contribute to increased inflammation. However, there are foods that reduce inflammation allowing breakouts to heal efficiently.


Add these foods to your diet to help with inflammation:

  • Vitamin A & E: fish oil, salmon, carrots, broccoli, spinach
  • Vitamin E: almonds, avocados, pine nuts and various oils like - almond oil, sunflower oil
  • Antioxidants: fresh fruits and vegetables, citrus fruits, eggs
  1. Skin-friendly choices:
    There are foods that benefit skin naturally either by helping it heal from breakouts, reducing aggravation or preventing breakouts by providing vitamins and nutrients.


To help you get started here are some foods that can make your skin happy:

  • The oranges and yellows: carrots and apricots
  • The greens: spinach and leafy veggies
  • The reds: tomatoes
  • The blues: blueberries
  • The whites: whole-wheat bread
  • The browns: brown rice and quinoa
  • The meats: turkey and salmon
  • The seeds: pumpkin seeds

Pro Tip: Indian dishes that have beans, peas and lentils are great happy skin foods! Stick to simple mixed vegetable sabjis, dal and even soups.

In general, remember that foods have different reaction on different people - you may not react the same as most. The foods above have the potential to reduce the severity of acne but if you suffer from ANY reaction, please stop consuming the food and see a professional immediately. Acne-prone people should always plan their diet with the help of a professional, so consult a dietician before you add or remove foods from your diet. Make sure you mention your food allergies or sensitivities to your doctor for a customised plan to suit your body’s and skin’s needs.

If you want to learn more about how you can switch to a healthier lifestyle, fill up Remedico’s questionnaire detailing your diet habits and our dietitians will be with you on your journey to a healthier lifestyle! From general diet advice to specific health targeting tips, Remedico is here for you.

Next week, we dig deeper into tanning and pigmentation - don’t forget to keep a lookout.