Foods That Can Trigger Acne Breakouts


girl - chocolate bar - acne(Photo : Vecteezy/Stefan Amer)

While research hasn’t definitively proven that diet causes acne — a common skin condition characterized by the presence of pimples, blackheads, whiteheads or cysts — scientists and researchers have looked at certain foods that may be associated with breakouts. 

Recent research has suggested that some foods can contribute to the development of acne due to their effects on inflammation or specific hormones. 

It’s important to note that experts are still exploring the impact of diet on acne. This remains a topic of debate, and further studies are necessary to establish conclusive evidence that certain foods are a direct cause of acne.

Taking this into account, here’s a list of popular foods that can potentially trigger acne breakouts, according to some studies.

1. Chocolates

While substantial evidence that chocolate consumption actually causes acne remains insufficient, some studies support a link between the two.

A 2014 study observed a correlation between frequent chocolate intake and increased acne occurrence in males prone to this condition.

Furthermore, another study suggested there is a connection between the consumption of chocolate and an elevated likelihood of developing acne.

2. French Fries

A 2020 study suggested that the Western-style diet — which includes fast food items such as French fries that are rich in calories, fat, and refined carbohydrates — may promote acne development.

MDacne also noted that there is evidence indicating that both salt and hyperglycemic foods can heighten acne breakouts.  

French fries belong to the group of high glycemic foods. These foods can cause a spike in blood sugar levels after eating. 

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) explained that spikes in blood sugar can prompt body-wide inflammation and an increase in the production of an oily, waxy substance on the skin called sebum. This combination of inflammation and excess sebum may contribute to the development of acne.

However, as the AAD pointed out, more research is needed to prove there is a connection between a high glycemic diet and acne.

3. Milk

Some research found that dairy products, like milk, may elevate insulin levels, potentially exacerbating acne.

One study also suggested the consumption of milk can potentially exacerbate acne lesions in both number and severity.

Another study published in 2004 found a “positive association” between drinking total milk and skim milk and having more acne in teenagers. The researchers suggested that the connection might be because of the hormones and bioactive molecules in milk.

4. White rice

White rice is as a staple food in numerous Asian countries, with many households eating it twice or three times a day. However, research suggested that white rice, which is a refined carbohydrate and categorized as a high glycemic food, might contribute to acne breakouts.

A study published in Acta Derm Venereol revealed a correlation between the consumption of white rice and heightened severity of acne.

This connection stems from the high presence of refined carbohydrates in rice, which has been linked to the development of acne, as indicated by another research.

5. White Bread

Similar to white rice, bread created from white flour is deemed a high glycemic food and thus could potentially cause acne breakouts, according to Premier Dermatology Partners.

6. Hamburgers

Just as French fries can contribute to acne breakouts, hamburgers are also associated with acne.

Contrary to popular belief, the connection between hamburgers and acne, similar to the association seen with French fries, isn’t rooted in their grease content. Instead, it’s their classification as high glycemic foods that links them to acne breakouts, as noted by the AAD.

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