The Diet and Acne Link: How Certain Foods May be Causing Your Breakouts

As many of you know, we encourage customers and visitors to our website and  Facebook page to send us their skin-care questions, which are then answered by Lexli founder  Dr. Ahmed Abdullah and other members of the Lexli Education Team. Last week, we received this one:

"Is there a cause-and-effect relationship between eating certain foods and developing acne?"

It’s not the first time we’ve been asked about the diet/acne connection. In fact, this topic is one of the more popular acne-related questions we receive. Therefore, we thought it worthwhile to dive into it and share the answer with all of you.

Direct Causes of Acne

Acne has four main direct causes, including:

  1. follicular keratinization (abnormally “sticky” skin cells)
  2. overactive sebaceous glands that produce excess sebum (skin oil)
  3. higher than normal levels of Propionibacterium on the skin (the bacteria that contribute to acne)
  4. skin inflammation

Many individuals who struggle with acne find that it can be stubborn to treat. The reason? For most individuals, the cause of their acne is genetic. In fact, a 2002 study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggested that genetic factors contribute 81% to the development of acne.

For those whose acne is hereditary, changes in diet and/or lifestyle have little impact. Instead, their best bet is to combat their skin’s natural characteristics through topical acne products and prescriptions.

The Lexli Acne Kit is formulated to address each of the four main causes of acne. Products in the Kit feature a base of soothing aloe vera in combination with other potent ingredients. With consistent use, the Lexli Acne Kit heals acne blemishes while reducing the potential for future breakouts.

Contributing Causes of Acne

In many cases, however, acne is exacerbated by indirect causes and, yes, diet is among them. This is because certain foods cause biochemical changes in our bodies that trigger one of the direct causes outlined above. Among the more popular dietary culprits are the following:


In recent years, several studies have examined the link between milk and acne. In particular, skim milk has been shown to worsen acne symptoms. It is suspected that the hormones present in milk interfere with the hormones in our own bodies, causing an increase in inflammation and the production of sebum. (For an in-depth read about this topic, consider Dr. F. William Danby’s commentary in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.)

High-Glycemic Foods

While the idea that consumption of greasy foods directly leads to acne has long been debunked, there is a linkage between the development of acne and the consumption of foods like potato chips, baked goods and candy. These foods are categorized as “high glycemic” because of their ability to cause blood glucose levels to spike and cause an increase in production of insulin. This increased insulin level in the body leads to inflammation, which increases the activity of oil glands in the skin. Ultimately, this increases the potential for acne.

Improving Your Diet to Improve Acne

Consider for a moment that acne has been found to be primarily a condition of the Western world, with diet being the main differing environmental factor between us and groups unaffected by the disease. In fact, an article by Dr. Loren Cordain in the Archives of Dermatology outlines the low incidence rates of acne in two non-Westernized populations, while a 1971 article by Dr. Otto Schaefer , a family practitioner who spent nearly 30 years treating the Inuit people, demonstrated that Canadian Eskimos didn’t experience acne until they transitioned to a Western diet. These facts give support to the importance dietary changes as a worthwhile effort to improve acne conditions. Keep in mind, however, that best results are achieved when dietary improvements are coupled with use of advanced topical skin care products formulated to address acne, like those in the Lexli Acne Kit.

Consider these guidelines when making dietary changes intended to improve acne symptoms:

DO Eat:

  • Fresh fish, especially fatty varieties like salmon, sardines and Albacore tuna, which are rich in omega-3s.
  • Fresh vegetables, especially leafy greens, which are loaded with vitamins and minerals
  • Nuts, which are a great source of antioxidants.
  • Probiotics, including full-fat yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and more, all of which help to reduce inflammation.

For best results, keep a food diary to help pinpoint any foods that contribute to acne development.

Foods to AVOID:

  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Sugary beverages
  • Candy
  • Baked goods
  • Refined “white” foods, including bread, rice, pasta and cereals

Simple Skincare, Beautiful Skin: A Back-to-Basics Approach

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