6 food rules to eat right and blitz those nasty zits

I’ve always thought it so strange that experts in dermatology kept saying that diet has nothing to do with the way our skin looks or that there are no connections between diet and acne. Yet, based on a personal experience, I know that what I eat affects my skin. In fact, what I used to eat contributed to my acne because as soon as I cleaned my diet up, my acne also stopped popping up. So surely it behooves us to understand how to eat right in order to keep acne at bay.

It so happened that this is a good time to discuss this topic because a study recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has determined that there is increasing evidence of a connection between diet and acne, particularly from high glycemic load diets and dairy products (source).

Culling information from studies between 1960 and 2012 that investigated diet and acne, investigators concluded that a high glycemic index/glycemic load diet and frequent dairy consumption are the leading factors in establishing the link between diet and acne. They also note that although research results from studies conducted over the last 10 years do not demonstrate that diet causes acne, it may influence or aggravate it.

So with this info as the backdrop, let’s look at the 6 food rules to eat right and blitz those nasty zits!

acne foods

1. Avoid high glycemic index foods
So naturally, the first rule of eating right to avoid acne is to choose a low glycemic index diet because that’ll keep your blood sugar low. For those who have not heard, the glycemic index provides a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels (levels of glucose in the blood) rise after eating a particular type of food. The reason you want to keep your blood sugar low is because an elevated blood sugar stimulates your body to pump out insulin, which then triggers a cascade of hormonal effects, including elevated levels of androgens or acne-causing male hormones and excess oil, which lead to clogged pores and breakouts.

Example of foods that are high on the glycemic index measuring 70 or more include refined grains, cakes, muffins, pastries, white rice, sugary beverages, processed snacks, amongst others. On the other hand, foods like oats, sweet potatoes, vegetables, carrots, most fruits, chickpeas, barley bread, amongst others are low on the glycemic index, measuring 55 or lower. You can look up this list from Harvard Medical School for an idea.

2. Avoid milk and dairy products
Even though milk is low on the glycemic index, yet dairy products have been shown to elevate insulin production. You may also want to avoid drinking milk (especially the full-fat ones) because it is full of cow hormones that can affect your skin the same way as human hormones. At one time, my acne was caused by my increased intake of dairy so yes, eating cheese and butter do bring about an increase in zits.

3. Avoid foods containing iodine
If you’re a lover of eggs, I’ve got bad news for you. Though eggs are actually great for skin, it is no good for those who are acne prone because it is high in iodine. The same is true of foods high in salt content. In fact, according to Acne Research Institute, iodine found in food and vitamin supplements irritate the pore lining. But iodine is not only found in very salty foods such as preserved prunes and chips, but also in diary products like milk, cheese and yogurt as well as seafood like seaweed and oyster.

4. Avoid foods high in Omega-6 fatty acids
The more omega-6 fats in your diet, the more your skin can suffer inflammation, which can aggravate acne. The top sources of omega-6s to avoid are soybean oil, corn oil, vegetable oil and cottonseed oil, which are chief ingredients in margarine, salad dressings, mayonnaise, processed foods and many so-called “heart-healthy” foods.


5. Eat more zinc-rich foods
Zinc is a natural anti-inflammatory as well as an inhibitor of P.acnes bacteria. Studies suggest that people with acne have lower-than-normal levels of zinc in their bodies. Studies have also shown that both topical and/or dietary zinc found in food may provide relief for those with acne issues. By adding more zinc to your diet such as lean red meat, oysters, crab, lentils, and peanuts, you can fight inflammation and acne-causing bacteria. And try to get your zinc direct from the food source rather than via supplements.

6. Eat more omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 is also a natural anti-inflammatory and can curb the hormone associated with increased oil production and clogged pores. So eating fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout, sardines and anchovies provide excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids good for those who are acne prone.

My experience with eating right
I can tell you from experience that trying to eat right is not an easy process but it does help to get rid of those pesky acne for good. However, after you’ve gotten rid of them, maintaining status quo is quite something else. I for one, often fall back to eating things I shouldn’t be eating even though I ought to know better. Oh well…whenever that happens, I usually resort to the excuse that some rules are just meant to be broken! (-_-;)


  1. Annie says:

    Interesting fact you got there about omega-6 , does that only apply for things we eat? Because a lot of vegetable oil out there (especially in the skincare world) often highlight their balance of omega3 and omega6 so i thought omega 6 supposedly good for our skin. And isnt omega6 are things like linoleic acid? I would love to learn more about this

  2. yoomi says:

    According to your post, peanut contains zinc and therefore it is good for relieving acne, however, in my case, whenever I eat peanut I immediately get pimples. Can you explain to me the cause of this? Thank you very much

  3. Sesame says:

    This is applicable for oral consumption, not topical application.

  4. Sesame says:

    Interesting you raised this. Peanuts are high in zinc but it also contains Omega-6 so my guess is if your diet is lacking Omega-3s, then it cannot balance and that’s why you have breakouts. The outcome can differ for individuals. I am acne prone but I’m good with peanuts.

    It’s good you can identify the culprit and perhaps you can avoid it or increase your Omega-3s to counteract. But then again, you can get zinc via other sources if peanuts are not for you.

  5. Jaci says:

    Great article! I have definitely found that when I am not eating right I will develop breakouts. Funny how our diets can affect so much ?
    Jaci last post is: How To Lighten Skin Naturally At Home ~ Use Lemons

  6. Sesame says:

    Yup…we are what we eat.

  7. Catherine Wong says:

    I do realize that when my body lacks omega-3 acids, I tend to have dry skin on the side of my mouth. Guess it’s a good excuse for me to fish for salmon this summer.

    My diet has changed since I moved. In Singapore, I was so used to ingredients being cheap and easy to come by. But here in Alaska, good quality ingredients are hard to come by, and expensive, unless I order them online. And most of the food sold here are highly processed and most of them contain High fructose corn syrup. Something I’m not used to.

    So I got my fishing license and a fishing rod, and a shellfish license, and made some fishermen friends and friends who own boats and that’s how my seafood diet began. I think I eat seafood at least 3 times a week. So much cheaper catching your own than buying it at the stores. 2 months into it, I noticed my hair had lesser split ends, and I had fewer dry skin rash. I still have to eat red meat at least 2 times a week or I will start losing the weight I need. Vegetables here are hard to come by too. The only “asian” greens we have here are bok choy, collard (green and purple), spinach ( if you count that as asian), and spring onions (not exactly asian). But those are expensive and not as abundant than in SG. But I guess the money I save on seafood is spent on greens.

  8. Sesame says:

    You’re so blessed to get seafood that are fresh. I guess the weather makes it difficult to grow vegetables in abundance? But at least you’re enjoying the benefits of eating fish on your skin and hair. ?

  9. Heartburn says:

    Ancient wisdom says – we are what we eat. Food not only affects our physical appearance, but also our behavior, nature and much more.

  10. Noemi Bostrom says:

    I agree with you, Sesame. Based on my experience, I developed pimples and acnes after eating a lot of chocolates and roasted peanuts. When I started to maintain a healthy diet and a regular exercise, my skin becomes healthy and glowing every day. Now, I never experience having acne anymore. ?
    Noemi Bostrom last post is: Supreme 90 Day Review: Does It Really Work?

  11. Sesame says:

    Great you found the secret. ?

  12. Sesame says:

    Very true! ?

  13. Dee says:

    Great read! Thank you! ? I’ve been told off so many times because I avoid certain food, and I’m frustrated of people telling me that I shouldn’t be so picky on what I eat because food is there to be eaten. I ignore them these days, because they may not have acne prone skin, but I do. Good thing I love all those food you listed that’s good for the condition, and I avoid dairy anyway due to food intolerances (again, something that I’ve been told off so many times, because some people think it’s just “popular diet” and not actually think of it as an actual intolerance). Oh btw, I found that when I drink plenty of water, my skin seems to be better ?
    Dee last post is: Welcoming the LomoKino

  14. Sesame says:

    I totally understand. People always give that funny look when you say you don’t eat certain things and to some of them, not eating them due to skin issues is a very trivial issue to be ignored. Usually, I can’t be bothered to say too much. Best to say, I don’t like to eat that.

  15. Sloan says:

    Thanks for the very informative article. Some of the foods you mentioned that may contribute to getting: “refined grains, cakes, muffins, pastries, white rice, sugary beverages, processed snacks, amongst others” can also zap your energy.

  16. Evelina Micall says:

    Hi Sesame,

    I really like your food rules ! I often eat foods that cause these annoying acne like processed foods including sugary beverages. This article is really helpful. Thanks for sharing! ?

  17. Sesame says:

    Glad you find it helpful. ?

  18. Sesame says:

    Yeah, probably true too.

  19. Jennifer says:

    Hi Sesame,
    Great Read and it backs up my belief that food can have a direct affect on acne.
    Whenever i eat Chocolate, I am guaranteed for a break out the very next day.

  20. Sesame says:

    If the cocoa content is high, chances of breakout are lowered cos it’s the sugar and diary that causes the breakout.

  21. Gee says:

    Does anyone know of a good dermatologist in Singapore where there have been good results for adult acne. Been battling with that past 6 years now nothing works on my face.

  22. Sesame says:

    Try Thomson Medical Skin Centre at Novena. They have a good dermatologist.

  23. Jason Hill says:

    I definitely notice a difference not only in the way I feel but in my skin depending on how I eat. I have naturally oily skin so acne is a constant battle. I recently started drinking green smoothies twice per day. I have on in the morning and then one for lunch and that usually helps me feel full and I don’t feel all sluggish at work.
    Jason Hill last post is: Armpit Skin Tags

  24. Jack Maggard says:

    Hmmm… Sad I can’t eat those foods when I have acne it’s best for my looks.

  25. Monika says:

    For me the cow’s milk is a problem…
    Monika last post is: @MooMooi by Feelunique Accessories

  26. Mary Charles says:

    Hey Sesame! I have been following you for a long time and absolutely love the way you write. Somehow I just missed this article to read. ha ha my bad! BTW I must say this article is just spot on! I can actually relate to your each and every word. Especially, eggs are the beast for me. I always get a pimple after eating an egg sob sob!

    Acne and zits were a nightmare for me in teens. I remember when I entered adolescence phase there was always a pimple on my face. During early teens, I wasn’t able to treat them effectively but later on my aunt told me to treat the pimples through home remedies.

    Since then I am a proponent of treating pimples and zits with natural and organic ways instead of using chemical based products. I love to tell everyone about it because it’s that simple. I also just started blogging and wrote all my favorite remedies that I have used in my teens to treat my acne. I have written about “How to get rid of pimples overnight? List of 45 easy home remedies” It’s a long list of over 45 ways to treat acne with home remedies.

    I hope it is going to add great value.
    Mary Charles last post is: 7 Brain Food Snacks Featuring The Best List of Brain Food

  27. Terry Carrico says:

    Nice! The article is really very informative. Thanks for sharing.

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