What Foods Help With Acne?


Acne is one of the most common skin conditions, affecting around 85% of people at some point between the ages of 12 and 24. While acne is most common during puberty, it can continue into adulthood for many people.

Acne forms when hair follicles get clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells. This allows bacteria to grow in the pores and cause inflammation. There are many factors that contribute to acne, including hormones, genetics, and lifestyle factors like diet.

What Foods Help With Acne

Can the foods you eat really help fight acne? Research suggests that certain nutrients and foods may help prevent acne by reducing inflammation and hormones that lead to clogged pores.

In this article, we’ll cover the top acne-fighting nutrients, along with 15 of the best acne-fighting foods to add to your diet.

What Causes Acne?

Before diving into the top foods for clear skin, let’s look at what causes acne in the first place. This way we can better understand how different nutrients work to fight acne.

Acne forms from a combination of factors:

  • Excess sebum (oil) production - When oil ducts in your pores get clogged with excess sebum and dead skin cells, it creates the ideal environment for bacteria growth.
  • Bacteria - The bacteria Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes) thrives in a clogged hair follicle, leading to inflammation and acne lesions.
  • Hormones - Androgens like testosterone increase sebum production, which is why acne flare-ups are common during puberty. Certain hormones may also impact how your immune system regulates bacteria.
  • Inflammation - As your body tries to fight off the bacteria, it triggers inflammation. This causes redness, swelling, and pain associated with pimples.
  • Genetics - Some people are more genetically prone to acne and excess sebum production.

Diet and nutrition come into play because certain nutrients can influence these underlying causes of acne. For example, antioxidants fight the inflammation. On the other hand, foods with a high glycemic index can increase insulin levels and inflammation.

Let’s look specifically at the top 15 nutrients and foods to eat for clear skin.

1. Zinc

Zinc is one of the top nutrients for clear skin. This essential mineral regulates your oil glands and controls sebum production. It also fights acne-causing bacteria and reduces inflammation.

In one study, oral zinc supplements reduced acne by around 50% after 12 weeks. The recommended daily intake for zinc is around 11mg for men and 8mg for women.

The best food sources include:

  • Oysters
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Spinach
  • Beef
  • Chicken

Aim to get at least 15mg of zinc per day from your diet to help combat acne. Limit to 40mg per day to avoid side effects like nausea.

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients that may help regulate oil production. Getting more omega-3s can help tame inflammatory acne lesions and reduce redness.

The best sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3s are fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. Aim for 2-3 servings per week.

Plant-based foods like walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, and brussels sprouts also provide alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) that your body can convert to usable omega-3s.

3. Vitamin A

Vitamin A deficiency can lead to excess sebum production. Getting enough vitamin A and its precursor beta carotene is important for preventing clogged pores by normalizing how your oil glands function.

Foods rich in beta carotene include sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, and broccoli. Animal sources like beef liver, eggs, and dairy provide active vitamin A (retinol).

4. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation involved in acne. Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E. Other sources include sunflower seeds, spinach, avocado, and shrimp.

5. Vitamin C

Like vitamin E, vitamin C is an antioxidant that fights the inflammatory response and free radicals associated with acne. Citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and kiwi offer a high dose of vitamin C.

6. Vitamin D

In addition to its role in immune health, vitamin D appears to control proliferation and differentiation of skin cells. Some research shows acne patients have lower vitamin D levels.

Get your vitamin D from regular sun exposure, fatty fish, and vitamin D-fortified foods like milk, cereals, and orange juice. Those at risk of deficiency may want a vitamin D supplement.

7. Selenium

The antioxidant mineral selenium contributes to skin health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. Brazil nuts are by far the best source of selenium. Other good sources include tuna, eggs, and mushrooms.

8. Probiotics

Emerging research shows a connection between acne and gut health. Probiotics may help fight acne by reducing skin inflammation and improving gut microbiome diversity.

Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and other fermented foods. Consider taking a probiotic supplement for added gut health benefits.

9. Prebiotics

Prebiotics serve as fuel for probiotics and healthy gut bacteria. Getting prebiotics in your diet provides nutrients that enhance “good” bacteria to improve gut health. Consider adding more prebiotic foods like garlic, onion, leeks, asparagus, bananas, and apples.

10. Antioxidants

Antioxidants like vitamins C and E, selenium, flavonoids, carotenoids, and astaxanthin fight acne by reducing inflammation and neutralizing free radicals. Focus on eating different colored fruits and veggies to load up on various antioxidants.

11. Green Tea

Thanks to its antioxidants called catechins, studies show green tea can reduce sebum production and inflammation associated with acne. The polyphenols in green tea also exhibit antimicrobial effects against P. acnes bacteria. Drink 2-3 cups of unsweetened green tea daily.

12. Turmeric

The active compound curcumin in turmeric displays antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent and treat acne. Add turmeric powder to dishes like curries, soups, and smoothies.

13. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel provide anti-inflammatory omega-3s and vitamin A for acne prevention. Aim for at least two 3.5 ounce servings per week. Light tuna and sardines are other great options.

14. Walnuts

Walnuts are packed with skin-clearing nutrients like zinc, selenium, vitamin E, and healthy fats. Enjoy a small handful as a snack, in salads, or blended into smoothies.

15. Sweet Potatoes

Orange vegetables like sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta carotene, providing nearly 4 times your vitamin A needs in just one medium spud. The vitamin A gets converted to retinol to balance your oil production.

Diet Tips for Clear Skin

Beyond eating more of the acne-fighting foods listed, there are some other important diet strategies to follow:

  • Lower your glycemic load - Stick to low glycemic foods like non-starchy veggies, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins. Limit added sugars and refined carbs.
  • Stay hydrated - Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily. Proper hydration keeps skin more supple and can improve circulation.
  • Take a probiotic - Look for a quality probiotic with strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium to promote good gut health.
  • Supplement wisely - Zinc, omega-3, and vitamin D supplements can provide skin-clearing benefits if you struggle to get enough from food.
  • Pop a vitamin E capsule - Using vitamin E oil from capsules can accelerate skin healing and fade scars when applied topically.
  • Watch dairy intake - Limit dairy like milk, ice cream, and cheese since the hormones may worsen hormonal acne.
  • Minimize sugar - Cut back on sugary foods, soda, and candy. Sugar can spike insulin and trigger inflammation.

The Bottom Line

What you eat can influence acne by impacting hormones, inflammation, gut health, and more. Follow an anti-inflammatory diet rich in vitamins A, E, and C, omega-3s, zinc, selenium, and probiotics. Avoid refined carbs and sugars. Stay hydrated and take supplements if you have deficiencies.

While food alone won’t cure acne, nourishing your body with the right nutrients supports clear skin from the inside out. Along with proper skincare, adjusting your diet to include more acne-fighting foods can keep breakouts away.

Frequently Asked Questions About Foods That Help With Acne

What are the main causes of acne?

Acne forms when hair follicles get clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells. This allows bacteria like C. acnes to grow and cause inflammation and acne lesions. The main factors involved are:

  • Excess sebum (oil) production
  • Bacteria growth
  • Inflammation
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Genetics

How exactly does diet impact acne?

While acne is not caused by diet alone, certain nutrients can influence the underlying factors like hormones, inflammation, and bacteria growth. For example:

  • Zinc and vitamin A regulate oil/sebum production.
  • Omega-3s fight inflammation.
  • Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation.
  • Vitamin D balances cell growth and renewal.
  • Probiotics improve gut health and related skin inflammation.

Which vitamins help prevent acne?

Key vitamins for clear skin include:

  • Vitamin A - Regulates sebum production
  • Vitamin C - Powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation
  • Vitamin D - Helps balance cell turnover; may influence hormone related acne
  • Vitamin E - Anti-inflammatory antioxidant that promotes skin healing

What minerals are good for acne?

Zinc and selenium are two minerals vital for clear skin:

  • Zinc - Controls oil gland function and fights acne bacteria
  • Selenium - Antioxidant that reduces oxidative damage and inflammation

Do fatty acids help acne?

Yes, omega-3 fatty acids are strongly anti-inflammatory. Getting more omega-3s from foods like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed oil can reduce acne redness and lesions.

What probiotics are good for acne?

Probiotics like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium improve gut health and related skin inflammation. Eat probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha. You can also take a probiotic supplement.

Which foods make acne worse?

Foods linked to worse acne include:

  • High glycemic foods - refined carbs, sugar, soda
  • Dairy - milk, cheese, ice cream
  • Trans and saturated fats - fried foods, fatty red meats
  • Soy, whey protein, and chocolate have been linked to breakouts for some people

What should you avoid eating for clear skin?

To prevent acne, avoid sugar, refined grains, factory-farmed meats, fried foods, and too much dairy. Limit higher glycemic fruits like bananas and stick to lower glycemic berries and citrus. Avoid junk food and eat a clean, anti-inflammatory diet.

What food helps remove acne scars?

Vitamin C rich foods like citrus, bell peppers, and broccoli can help fade acne scars quicker. Vitamin E and olive oil also improve scar healing when applied topically.

How much water should you drink for clear skin?

Stay hydrated by drinking at least 64 ounces (8 cups) of water daily. Proper hydration supports skin cell regeneration, improves circulation, flushes out toxins, and keeps skin supple.

Should you take supplements for acne?

Supplements like zinc, vitamin D, probiotics, and omega-3s may provide added benefits if you struggle to get enough from food. Topical vitamin E oil helps heal scars. But food sources should be your main focus.

What is the best diet for getting rid of acne?

The best acne diet focuses on anti-inflammatory foods rich in vitamins A, C, E, and zinc along with omega-3 fatty acids from fish and plants. Eat plenty of low-glycemic fruits and vegetables. Stay hydrated and limit sugar, dairy, and refined carbs.

Can you completely clear acne with diet?

For moderate to severe acne, diet alone may not completely clear skin. However, optimizing your diet by getting more acne-fighting nutrients can help improve breakouts. Diet works best alongside proper skincare and acne medications if needed.

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