What Foods Heal Acne?


Are you struggling with breakouts and wondering if what you eat affects your skin? You're not alone. Acne is one of the most common skin conditions, affecting around 50 million Americans each year. The causes are complex, but emerging research shows a clear link between diet and acne.

The good news? Making strategic changes to your plate can be a simple, natural way to treat and prevent breakouts. Read on to learn about the best foods to eat (and avoid!) for clear, healthy skin.

What Foods Heal Acne

How Does Diet Impact Acne?

To understand which foods help acne, it helps to first look at the causes. Acne forms when dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria clog your pores. This leads to inflammation and the appearance of whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples.

While acne is often considered a teen issue, it affects adults too. Hormones are a big factor, but lifestyle choices also play a key role. Things like chronic stress, poor sleep habits, and nutritional deficiencies can trigger and worsen acne.

So how does food tie in? Here are three primary ways diet influences acne:

  • Inflammation - Certain foods trigger inflammation, which makes acne worse. Refined carbs, dairy, and sugar are among the biggest culprits.
  • Hormonal fluctuations - Foods that spike blood sugar and insulin levels increase hormone production, exacerbating acne.
  • Gut health - An unhealthy gut microbiome can drive skin inflammation. Key nutrients from foods help create a balanced gut environment.

By choosing the right foods, you can help tame inflammation, balance hormones, and support a healthy gut. This all equals clear, glowing skin! Now let's look at the best foods to eat for acne.

12 Best Foods to Heal Acne

Focusing on acne-fighting foods is one of the most effective natural remedies for clear skin. Here are 12 of the best options to add to your diet:

1. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel deliver omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation to clear up acne. Aim for at least two 3.5-ounce servings per week. Try salmon over a salad or mackerel in a pita for an easy lunch idea.

2. Green Tea

Sipping green tea protects skin in several ways. The antioxidants reduce inflammation, and the natural compounds help balance hormones linked to acne. Drink 2-3 cups per day for the most benefits.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice. Adding more to your diet, like a golden milk latte in the morning, helps control acne-causing inflammation. Turmeric also contains antioxidants that protect your skin.

4. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens are low-glycemic, anti-inflammatory foods. They help remove toxins from the body and provide key nutrients for healthy skin cell growth. Aim for at least one big serving per day.

5. Sweet Potatoes

Orange veggies like sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene, which gets converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A strengthens skin cell walls, supporting skin health. Roast sweet potato wedges and add to salads for an easy vitamin boost.

6. Avocados

Avocados are rich in skin-health promoting antioxidants and anti-inflammatory omega-3s. The healthy fats help your body absorb other acne-fighting nutrients too. Enjoy half an avocado daily for the benefits.

7. Walnuts

Walnuts contain vitamin E, zinc, and healthy fats that nourish skin and fight inflammation. Add them onto oatmeal, salads, or yogurt for an easy way to reap the benefits. Aim for a 1⁄4 cup serving 2-3 times per week.

8. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, an antioxidant that protects skin from sun damage which can worsen acne. Adding tomatoes to dishes like pasta, scrambled eggs, and chili gives you a healthy dose of lycopene.

9. Broccoli

This green veggie contains sulforaphane, a compound with potent anti-inflammatory effects that prevent breakouts. Lightly steam broccoli to boost sulforaphane levels. Have it as a side with dinner several times per week.

10. Kefir

This probiotic-rich drink supports a healthy gut to reduce skin inflammation from the inside out. Look for plain, unsweetened kefir from the grocery store and have a cup daily. Use it on top of fruit or blended into a smoothie.

11. Water

Staying hydrated flushes out toxins and keeps skin looking fresh. Aim for at least 2 liters of water daily, and more if you are active. Infusing water with fruits adds natural flavor.

12. Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral for skin health. Oysters are the best source, but you can also get it from beef, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, and nuts. Aim for 2-4 servings of zinc-rich foods weekly.

As you can see, there are many delicious foods that reduce inflammation, balance hormones, and promote clear skin. By focusing on these healing options, you'll nourish your body with exactly what you need for an acne-free complexion.

Now that we've covered the best foods to eat, let's look at which foods to limit or avoid if you are prone to acne.

5 Foods to Avoid for Clear Skin

Just as important as adding skin-healthy foods is reducing dietary triggers that worsen acne. Here are 5 of the biggest offenders:

1. Dairy

Dairy, especially milk, contains hormones that can interact with your body's hormones and exacerbate acne. Stick to small amounts of low-sugar Greek yogurt and limit other dairy products.

2. Refined Carbs

Pasta, white bread, cookies, and other processed carbs cause blood sugar spikes that stimulate acne-triggering hormone production. Choose whole grain options instead for steady energy.

3. Sugary Foods

Candy, baked goods, and desserts are packed with sugar which feeds acne-causing bacteria. Limit sweets and opt for naturally sweet foods like fruit when you need a treat.

4. Fried Foods

Greasy fried foods like french fries and chicken fingers promote inflammation. They also contain trans fats that studies show worsen acne. Stick to cooking methods like baking, broiling, and sautéing.

5. Alcohol

Drinking alcohol, especially in excess, disrupts hormone balance and dehydrates skin which can worsen acne breakouts. Limit alcohol, stay hydrated, and avoid binge drinking.

By reducing your intake of these common acne triggers, you'll help control breakouts. Some people see clearer skin just by cutting out dairy or refined carbs alone, so try eliminating suspect foods one by one to see what works for you.

Sample Acne-Fighting 7-Day Meal Plan

Making dietary changes can feel overwhelming at first. To make it easy, here is a simple 7-day meal plan focused on acne-fighting foods:


Breakfast: Green tea, avocado toast with tomato and spinach

Lunch: Veggie and chickpea salad with olive oil vinaigrette

Dinner: Baked salmon with broccoli


Breakfast: Overnight oats with kefir, walnuts, and berries Lunch: Turkey burger with sweet potato fries Dinner: Chicken stir fry with kale and peppers


Breakfast: Veggie omelet with tomato, spinach, and feta Lunch: Tuna salad lettuce wrap Dinner: Chicken curry with cauliflower rice


Breakfast: Kefir smoothie with spinach, banana, and flaxseed Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with avocado Dinner: Zucchini noodles with tofu, basil, and marinara


Breakfast: Greek yogurt with berries and almonds Lunch: Butternut squash soup Dinner: Sheet pan salmon with broccoli and potatoes


Breakfast: Vegetable scramble with sweet potato hash Lunch: Falafel pita with cucumber yogurt sauce Dinner: Chili with ground turkey and plenty of veggies


Breakfast: Veggie omelet with goat cheese Lunch: Mason jar salad with chickpeas, tomato, cucumber
Dinner: Chicken tacos with cabbage slaw

This meal plan gives you a great mix of vitamin-rich vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and probiotic foods—all key for clear, glowing skin! Adjust portion sizes based on your calorie needs and supplement with healthy snacks as desired.

Lifestyle Tips for Clear Skin

While diet plays a big role, other lifestyle factors impact acne too. Here are some quick tips for supporting clear skin:

  • Stay hydrated with water throughout the day
  • Establish a consistent skincare routine
  • Wash your face after sweating to prevent clogged pores
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure which can worsen breakouts
  • Manage stress levels through exercise, meditation, journaling, etc.
  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night
  • Change your pillowcase 1-2 times per week to prevent bacteria buildup

By pairing a skin-healthy diet with good skincare and self-care habits, you’ll be on your way to clear, confident skin in no time. Be patient as it can take 6-8 weeks to see a difference once you improve your diet and lifestyle. But sticking with it is well worth it!

Key Takeaways

  • Certain foods like fatty fish, leafy greens, and avocados fight acne by reducing inflammation and balancing hormones.
  • Limiting dairy, refined carbs, sugar, fried foods, and alcohol can prevent breakouts.
  • Following an anti-inflammatory diet with nutrient-dense whole foods lays the foundation for clear, healthy skin.
  • Give your skin 6-8 weeks to respond as you improve your diet and lifestyle. Be consistent for the best results!

What you put on your plate truly impacts the health of your skin. By filling up on the best foods for acne while limiting triggers, you can treat and prevent breakouts naturally. Use the tips in this guide to revamp your diet and achieve clear, glowing skin.

Frequently Asked Questions About Using Diet to Treat Acne

What foods should I eat to get rid of acne?

Some of the best foods to eat for clear skin include:

  • Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel
  • Leafy greens like spinach and kale
  • Avocados
  • Walnuts
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Kefir and yogurt
  • Turmeric
  • Green tea
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Zinc-rich foods like oysters, beef, nuts and seeds

These foods fight acne in various ways - they reduce inflammation, balance hormones, support gut health, and provide antioxidants.

What foods make acne worse?

Foods linked to increased breakouts include:

  • Dairy products, especially milk
  • Refined carbs like white bread, pasta, crackers
  • Sugary foods like desserts, candy, and baked goods
  • Greasy, fried foods
  • Alcohol

These foods promote inflammation, disrupt hormone levels, and feed acne-causing bacteria. Limiting them can significantly improve acne for many people.

How quickly will my acne improve after changing my diet?

It takes time to see results when making dietary changes to treat acne. You can expect it to take anywhere from 4-12 weeks before noticing significant improvements in your skin. Be patient and stick with it! Starting an acne-fighting diet along with other lifestyle changes gives you the best chance for clear skin long-term.

Should I cut out all dairy to help acne?

Cutting out dairy completely can help some acne sufferers, but a moderate approach usually works too. Stick to just 1-2 servings of low-sugar dairy like Greek yogurt per day. Avoid milk, ice cream, and high-sugar dairy products. See what level of dairy reduction works best for your skin.

How much water should I drink for clear skin?

Staying hydrated is key for clear skin. Aim for at least 2 liters or 8 glasses of water daily. Carrying a water bottle makes it easy to sip throughout the day. If you are active or sweat a lot, drink even more to replenish fluids. Proper hydration will help flush toxins from your body.

Do certain vitamins help acne?

Yes, certain vitamins and minerals are particularly important for skin health. Make sure to get enough:

  • Vitamin A from sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach
  • Vitamin E from nuts, seeds, avocados
  • Vitamin C from citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli
  • Zinc from oysters, beef, nuts, chickpeas

A targeted daily multivitamin can help fill any nutritional gaps that diet alone may not cover.

Should I avoid chocolate if I have acne?

You don't necessarily have to cut out chocolate entirely. Dark chocolate with a high cacao percentage provides antioxidants beneficial for skin health. Avoid milk chocolate though, as the dairy and added sugar can worsen breakouts. Consume chocolate in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet.

What if I don't see improvements in my acne after changing my diet?

Be patient, as it can take up to 3 months to see a difference from dietary changes. If you don't notice improvements after 12 weeks, consider working with a dermatologist or registered dietitian to identify other factors contributing to your acne. Genetics, hormones, and stress also play a role in breakouts. You may need acne medication or supplements to get the clearest skin possible.

Is eating for clear skin guaranteed to work?

Diet can have a big influence on acne, but there are no absolute guarantees. Each person is individual in what foods trigger their breakouts. The best approach is a healthy anti-inflammatory diet high in skin-supporting foods while limiting possible dietary acne triggers. This gives you the best shot at clearer skin long-term without the need for harsh medications.

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