1. Can you eat your way to having acne? While the relationship between certain foods and acne is not fully understood, there is plenty of evidence showing correlation.
  2. Some foods, primarily those high in sugar, cause inflammation and spikes in insulin levels, which can worsen acne.
  3. When you eat foods that could cause acne, pay attention to your skin’s response. Elimination diets are a great way to determine which foods cause adverse reactions.

If you’re an acne sufferer, you’ve no doubt heard plenty of rumors about food and acne. And if you listened to them all, you’d have a laundry list of dietary no-nos, including pizza, chocolate, milk and pasta. But do these (delicious) foods actually make acne worse? In order to help you develop a men’s skin care routine that’s armed and ready to take on a whole smorgasbord, let’s untangle fact from fiction with regard to acne and diet. Skin can be improved by better lifestyle choices, and that includes your diet, but that doesn’t mean you have to swear off all your favorites.

Dairy Products: Do They Really Cause Acne?

Studies do show a correlation between acne and dairy, but scientists are still learning exactly why. For example, a recent Norwegian study examined adolescents consuming full-fat dairy products and skimmed dairy products. Their study uncovered a higher incidence of severe acne with full-fat dairy intake, with a lower prevalence among those with an intake of semi-skimmed or skimmed dairy products. That led scientists to deduce that, contrary to popular belief, skin may actually be worsened by fat, not lactose (which is present in both full-fat and skim dairy).

Another study determined that whey protein, a protein found in dairy products, is known to increase insulin levels and IGF-1. This increase actually diminishes the levels of a certain gene, called FoxO1, that plays a role in acne development. Without getting too scientific on you here, the significance of this gene is that it’s a key regulator of acne target genes. Deficiency of this gene has been linked to all major factors contributing to acne, including increased sebum and follicular inflammation, both of which lead to breakouts. These researchers believe that dairy products absolutely have an effect on clear skin and can cause acne. 

Different dairy products on a wood table

How About Chocolate?

Do you have to add chocolate to the list of off-limits food along with pizza and mac and cheese? Let’s look at the research to see. One study followed a group of 54 college students’ eating habits to determine chocolate’s effect on acne. Given that there is the belief that a correlation exists between higher insulin levels and acne, the researchers sought to prove whether it was the chocolate itself or the sugar content in chocolate responsible for causing acne.

The study pitted students consuming chocolate against students consuming jelly beans, which are high in sugar and would cause an insulin spike, similar to chocolate. The study determined that the jelly bean group did not show any increase in acne during the testing period, while the chocolate group showed a significant increase. Thus, there must be more to the story than sugar. The researchers’ theory is that chocolate triggers inflammation, which can cause flare-ups.

Pieces and shavings of dark chocolate

The Verdict

There is some evidence to suggest that two of our favorite foods can definitely worsen our skin, but developing a solid skin care regimen can offset any negative effects from your diet, especially if you choose an acne treatment that’s equipped with ingredients that soothe inflammation and help unclog pores. Our straightforward acne system includes all the tools your skin needs to handle serious daily abuse, even what’s thrown at it during dinner. If you’re certain that something you’re eating is causing your skin to break out, consider an elimination diet to pinpoint the culprit.