Skin-Friendly Solutions for Sensitive and Problem Skin

Eat Clean: The Acne Diet

Eat Clean: The Acne Diet

The Anti Acne Diet

There is already a section on this website that considers how a person’s diet can contribute to the severity of their acne.

The purpose of this section is not to justify why or how diet affects acne but rather to provide simple advice and an action plan to enable you to make positive changes to your diet, which will have a positive impact on your acne.

12 Tips for an Acne Diet

1. Eat mostly plants

The best advice I can give when it comes to an anti acne diet is in its simplest term: “Eat food. Not much. Mostly plants”. 

With minimal effort, this abbreviated version of a healthy diet can easily become a habit-forming way to help reduce and prevent acne.

2. Balance blood sugar levels

Keep your blood sugar and insulin levels balanced by eating nutrient-dense meals and mini-meals every two and a half to three hours. This will help control cravings, making it easier for you to nurture yourself with good stuff and avoid impulse eating. Avoid unhealthy processed, sugary, and fatty snacks. Think about fruit and whole grain.

3. Eat in moderation

Eating excessive quantities of even the healthiest food places a large amount of stress on the digestive and filtration systems. It is important to limit your servings to realistic quantities. To make this easier, you will find that most foods have an indication of the serving size on the label. Try to stick to the guidelines where possible. Always consume alcohol in moderation.

4. Avoid binge eating

Binging on food or alcohol can cause an enormous amount of internal stress to the liver and digestive system and can have a devastating effect on your acne condition, as it will slow your body’s ability to effectively detoxify itself. The danger in an alcohol binge is that it can stress the liver and digestive system so much that the liver remains damaged, and cannot continue to effectively filter toxins. Binging on food will have a less dramatic effect and there is a lesser risk of damaging the liver. However put simply, all binging will have a negative effect on your acne condition.

5. Do not get complacent

If you experience success with your acne diet and you are completely free of acne, please remember that if you go off track and eat all the high GI and sugary foods, and drink all the alcohol you want, your acne will inevitably return.

Only by maintaining the health of your digestive and filtration systems, and maintaining low levels of internal stress can you be sure that you will remain acne free.

6. Do not obsess over your acne diet

Despite guarding yourself against complacency, this is not to say that you will need to pack your bags and live in a Tibetan temple for the rest of your life either. A great deal of enjoyment comes from food we eat, so it is important to balance what we consume with the desire to maintain a healthy body. Anything is ok in moderation, so allow yourself enough flexibility in your acne diet to enjoy all foods.

7. Enjoy your eating experience

To assist digestion, make every effort to be mindful about your eating experience and try to eat in what you perceive to be a relaxed and pleasurable setting. Start your meal with a momentary pause of gratitude. Enjoy your foods and appreciate your dining companions.

8. Identify eating habits

Remember we tend to eat what is around us. If you keep ice cream, pastries, fatty chips and snack foods, the likelihood is that you will end up eating them. On the other hand, if what is available includes healthy snacks or whole fruit and whole grains, low in fat and sugar and higher in fibre, you will reach for these items.

9. Breakfast – the most important meal of the day

Eat a healthy breakfast every morning shortly after rising. This will kick start your metabolism, provide you with the energy that you need through the day and assist to maintain your blood glucose levels. Avoid sugary or sweet breakfast cereals that serve no nutritional benefit. Instead choose cereals with a variety of grains, nuts and fruits.

Vary your breakfast each morning so that you are ensuring that you are taking in vital vitamins and minerals that one particular breakfast might lack.

10. Drink water

Water is required by all parts of the human body and is the most essential ingredient to its survival. The body can only survive for around 48 hours without water. When the body lacks water, it begins to restrict the supply of water to non-essential survival processes.

The first area of the body it begins to restrict the supply of water to is the nerves. Nerves require water to efficiently transmit their signals. When the supply is restricted, the electrical signals cannot be passed as efficiently, which creates additional internal stress.

Water also leads to a healthier digestive system and assists the liver with the flushing out of toxins. Increase your daily intake of filtered water to a minimum of 2 litres per day.

11. Experiment

Dermatologists have acknowledged for years that individual acne sufferers may negatively react to certain foods or dietary components. For example, some patients may see an aggravation from nuts, while others may not. Therefore, we encourage personal experimentation as you might find that certain foods and/or dietary components are absolute acne aggravators.

12. Go dairy-free

The same is true of dairy as in my experience, my dairy intolerance certainly aggravates my acne. Why not try a three-month trial of a dairy-free acne diet. After this time, you can evaluate your progress and see if your acne has improved.

Although, maintaining a dairy-free diet can be difficult for many because milk, cream, and other dairy foods find their way into so many foods.

If you decide on continuing with dairy, consider experimenting with various dairy-based yogurts that are very high in live bacteria, and promote healthy digestion. It is suggested that you source yoghurts that contain acidophilus, and consume these on a daily basis (preferably during breakfast). Be wary of yoghurts that are high in sugar.

Acne and Diet. The Action Plan 1: Getting started with the basics

The following table is a quick reference guide to what should and should not be eaten.


  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Low GI Wholegrain breads
  • Low GI fruit
  • Muesli or porridge
  • Brown or Low GI rice
  • Wholemeal Pasta

Instead of:

  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Shark, crustaceans or bottom dwellers
  • White breads
  • Sweets or biscuits
  • Sugary, gimmick or cereals developed for children
  • White rice
  • White pasta

Whilst the guide is very basic, its purpose is to provide you with a list of healthier alternatives to get you thinking healthy, rather than to provide an exhaustive list (that comes later).

You need to:

  • Maintain a low GI diet that is low in sugars, fats and is high in fibre.
  • Increase your daily intake of fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid all highly processed and refined foods.
  • Avoid foods high on the food chain.
  • Caffeine should be consumed sparingly. If you are a coffee drinker, try switching to tea. The standard cup of tea contains half the caffeine in coffee and tea also contains anti oxidants, which help the body deal with free radicals.
  • Avoid all white cereals, rices and grains unless they are specifically labeled low GI.
  • Replace processed products with their wholegrain alterative.
  • Only consume small quantities of products that are high in gluten.
  • Avoid juices that are high in sugar. Consume juices that contain real fruit.
  • Consume 2 litres of filtered water each day.

Acne and Diet. The Action Plan 2: a more extensive list

This acne diet action plan consists of 3 parts:

  1. Foods to include
  2. Foods to limit
  3. Foods to exclude

1. Foods to Include:

Produce (and lots of it)

  • Consume a minimum of five servings of deeply coloured fruits and vegetable daily. Follow the rainbow and choose a variety of reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, and purples.
  • Fruit, especially berries and grapefruit. Use caution with fruits that carry a high concentration of sugar such as banana, watermelon and raisins.


  • Fish, especially oily wild caught and small fish such as sardines, anchovies, and mackerel. Canned wild salmon is an easy option.
  • Lean meat and poultry, especially grass-fed or free range. Consider limiting red meat to once per week.
  • Eggs, particularly high omega-3 from free range, cage-free chickens.


  • Whole grains: take a little extra time to cook brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, bulgar, barley.
  • Breads and pastas should be limited and enjoyed in the whole grain form.
  • Don’t forget vegetable carbohydrates including squash, sweet potato, and green beans.


  • Extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, rice bran oil, omega-3-rich oils (flaxseed and walnut as dressings) not for cooking, small amounts of sesame oil for flavour and antioxidants.
Spices and Herbs
    • Ginger, turmeric and cinnamon

    Nuts and Seeds

    • These are subject to the personal sensitivities of the individual.
    • Experiment with them but beware of allergies, exacerbation of, acne, and indigestibility.
    • Nuts can be very beneficial, brazil nuts for example, are very high in selenium; two or three per day is more than enough.

    Lacto-fermented Foods

    • Kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee, unpasteurised pickled vegetables


    • Green tea, tomato juice, and 100 percent vegetable juices.
    • Consider investing in you own juice maker for home.
    • Kombucha fermented "tea" with a refreshing vinegary flavour.

    Foods to Limit:


    • Fruits: use caution with those that are dense in sugar such as bananas, watermelon, and dried fruits. Berries for example, have a very low Glycemic Index (GI) and are therefore less likely to spike blood sugar.
    • Vegetables: use caution with starchy vegetables, particularly with the skin removed (e.g. mashed white potatoes) the higher GI can spike blood sugar.


    • Fish containing high mercury and environmental toxins.
    • High AGE foods, particularly meats with sugar, glaze or marinades cooked on high heat in the absence of moisture.


    • High-Glycemic choices that are concentrated in sugar and low in fiber such as: white rice, mashed potatoes, white breads, and pasta; baked goods that are processed, high in sugar, and cooked on high dry heat (high GI and high AGE).
    • High-sugar, dairy-based products that are unfermented, e.g. sherbet, ice cream, milk chocolate.


    • Omega-6-rich oils--corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean oils. Look for them in prepared meals, baked goods and in animal products where these oils were fed during growth.
    • Saturated fats: butter and lard.
    • Full Fat cheeses
    • Processed meats and cheese.


    • Soft drinks, soda, undiluted fruit juices
    • Alcoholic beverages

    Foods to Exclude:

    • All dairy
    • Man-made fats and oil
    • Hydrogenated vegetable oils/trans fats
    • Margarine
    • Vegetable oils heated to very high temperatures for fried foods and oils that have been used multiple time for cooking
    • Artificial sweeteners, food colours and preservatives
    • High-fructose corn syrup