18 Worst Foods for Your Skin

Worst-Ever Foods for Your Skin

Worst Foods for Your Skin

That’s why—along with your favorite skincare products—it’s important to think about the foods you put into your body in order to take care of your skin. Curious what foods to stock up on and which to avoid for glowing, healthy skin? Here are some of the worst foods for your skin and what foods you should fill up on instead.

Following a nutritious diet is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle for many reasons. The food you consume supports your mental and physical well-being. Eating properly can assist you in staying at a suitable weight, enhancing your overall wellness.

If you need to lose some weight, you may try a regimen like the body reset diet to get a good start. Due to the low number of calories you eat, you’re almost sure to drop quite a few pounds in 2 weeks, making it much easier when you continue with a less stringent diet.

It’s time to look deep inside—inside your fridge that is. We’ve rounded up the truly worst of the worst. These six foods below might not be derailing your weight loss efforts, but they may just be destroying your skin. Here are the worst-ever foods for your skin you’ll want to avoid if you’re trying to clear, brighten, and tighten up your skin.

You could have a very detailed skincare regimen with all the best and buzziest products, but chances are your skin won’t be at its best if you don’t make some healthy eating choices at the same time. Skincare isn’t just about what you put on your face but also what you put in your body. While there is still more research needed to be done on the effects of food on the skin, some studies and experts believe there are some foods that are associated with good skin and others that might worsen skin conditions or promote aging.

Worst Foods for Your Skin

Refined Sugar

“Sugar, especially refined sugar, is pro-inflammatory,” Goldenberg explains. A diet high in sugar can worsen many common skin conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis and has also been associated with higher rates of skin cancer and signs of aging skin, he points out. Steer clear of foods like white bread, soda, candy, fruit juices, sugary cereals, and snack bars to avoid the insulin spike that stimulates inflammation.


Sugary foods (like candy, but also other sweets) might lead to skin aging. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “reducing sugar intake may protect elastin and collagen molecules in the skin. Research has shown that a diet high in sugar can damage these molecules, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin.”

Refined Grains

People with acne tend to consume more refined carbohydrates than people with little or no acne.

Foods rich in refined carbohydrates include:

  • Bread, crackers, cereal or desserts made with white flour
  • Pasta made with white flour
  • White rice and rice noodles
  • Sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Sweeteners like cane sugar, maple syrup, honey or agave

One study found that people who frequently consumed added sugars had a 30% greater risk of developing acne, while those who regularly ate pastries and cakes had a 20% greater risk.

This increased risk may be explained by the effects refined carbohydrates have on blood sugar and insulin levels.

Refined carbohydrates are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, which rapidly raises blood sugar levels. When blood sugars rise, insulin levels also rise to help shuttle the blood sugars out of the bloodstream and into your cells.

However, high levels of insulin are not good for those with acne.

Insulin makes androgen hormones more active and increases insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). This contributes to acne development by making skin cells grow more quickly and by boosting sebum production.

On the other hand, low-glycemic diets, which do not dramatically raise blood sugars or insulin levels, are associated with reduced acne severity.

While the research on this topic is promising, more is needed to further understand how refined carbohydrates contribute to acne.

White Bread

Foods like white bread, white rice, and potatoes are high on the glycemic index, which might spell problems for your skin—in particular, acne. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some research shows that these foods can cause breakouts due to insulin level spikes. Additionally, the Clinic states, “An insulin spike inevitably leads to an insulin crash—leaving your skin and the rest of you looking and feeling drained.”


All it takes is 2 or 3 cups of coffee a day to stimulate your pituitary gland, which in turn causes an adrenocortical response; ie. the production of cortisol. Not only is cortisol, otherwise known as the “stress hormone,” famous for its proclivity for packing on pounds around the midsection, but it also accelerates the aging process by thinning out your skin. Instead, shed belly flab—rapidly—with one of these teas that melt fat.

Soda Dehydrates And Ages Your Skin

You’ve certainly heard to skip the soda (yes, diet soda, too) for your waistline, but turns out it isn’t doing your skin any favors, either. “Both diet and regular soda can increase inflammation of the skin,” says Doris Day, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and author of Beyond Beautiful: Using the Power of Your Mind and Aesthetic Breakthroughs to Look Naturally Young and Radiant. “It’s one of my least favorite products and I wish we could ban it. There are so many delicious alternatives that are often less expensive.” Among them: fruit-infused seltzer water. Add berries, lemon, lime, or orange slices to plain seltzer.


Dairy is a common skin trigger for a few reasons:

Reason #1: It’s a pro-inflammatory food.

Pro-inflammatory foods can aggravate or worsen existing inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne, rashes, and eczema.

Reason #2: Growth hormones and antibiotics are often found in conventional dairy products.

These hormones may interfere with your body’s natural hormonal balance. In particular, excess estrogen (the female growth hormone) in your system is suspected to contribute to hormonal cystic acne — however, there’s a lack of research to confirm the link between acne and estrogen dominance.

Reason #3: Dairy is a common food sensitivity.

It’s estimated that 75% of the world population and 25% of the US population is intolerant to lactose, the sugar found in dairy — and most aren’t aware they’re sensitive.

Repeatedly eating a food you can’t digest can lead to digestive conditions. Food allergies and sensitivities may also trigger an inflammatory response throughout your entire body. As you may have guessed, when your body experiences inflammation, it can trigger inflammatory skin condition flare-ups.

And hey, it’s worth noting some forms of alternative medicine view dairy as a “clogging” food that congests the skin and liver.

Spicy Foods Can Make Rosacea Worse

If you have rosacea, you might want to take a pass on Taco Tuesday, says Dr Joshua Zeichner, a clinical research in dermatology. “Any foods that cause your blood vessels to dilate and make you flush may cause a flare,” he says, echoing the findings of a review of studies published in 2017 in the journal Dermatology Practical & Conceptual. Researchers found that many people with rosacea report episodes of flushing after eating spicy foods or drinking alcohol or hot beverages.


If you want to stay warm this winter, protect your skin (and your liver) by going easy on the booze. “In cold weather it is important to avoid or minimize alcohol intake,” instructed Dr. Janet Prystowsky, a board-certified dermatologist in New York, to The Daily Meal, “because it will tend to make you lose heat more readily from blood vessel dilation.”

She also advised that if you’re using an “alcohol blanket” against the cold, your skin is not going to be happy. The dehydration you experience could lead to dry skin and, in some extreme cases, frostbite, she said.

Fast Food

Most fast food items are deep-fried in refined vegetable oils, such as canola oil, safflower, and peanut oil, and loaded with trans-fats. While vegetable oils may sound healthy (they do contain the word “vegetable” after all) they can aggravate skin conditions because they’re extremely high in omega-6 essential fatty acids.

Now, let me first say that omega-6s are crucial to our health and well-being. We need a certain amount of them for growth, development and brain function. But as a pro-inflammatory nutrient, problems may arise when we have too many omega-6s and too little omega-3s in our diet (18).

You’re likely beginning to see the pattern here: inflammation is a major underlying cause of chronic skin conditions. So, when we’re consuming too much omega-6s and not enough omega-3s— which are natural anti-inflammatories— our bodies are more likely to show common signs of inflammation: redness, swelling, pain, and the like.

Fast food is bad for your skin because it’s so high in trans fats. These are very harmful to the dermis, mainly because they induce oxidative damage, making you more susceptible to developing skin conditions according to a study published in Lipids.

Besides, fast food is often fried in hot oil, which has the effect of oxidizing it and creating damaging free radicals. These can harm your skin, leading to signs of early aging (4).

If you want to stop eating fast food but you still need to snack, look for healthy foods that are not high in trans fats and oils. The best diet plan includes snack items like fruits, nuts, smoothies, raisins, and granola bars. These foods are delicious, and they won’t age your skin.


The Cleveland Clinic says saturated fats—like fatty beef, cheese, and butter—may cause acne. That’s because the foods are associated with high concentrations of insulin growth factor, which, according to the Clinic, “stimulates the production of the sex hormones that increase acne production.”

Foods Rich in Omega-6 Fats

Diets containing large amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, like the typical Western diet, have been linked to increased levels of inflammation and acne .

This may be because Western diets contain large amounts of corn and soy oils, which are rich in omega-6 fats, and few foods that contain omega-3 fats, like fish and walnuts .

This imbalance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids pushes the body into an inflammatory state, which may worsen acne severity .

Conversely, supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may reduce levels of inflammation and has been found to reduce acne severity.

While the links between omega-6 fatty acids and acne are promising, there have been no randomized controlled studies on this topic, and more research is needed.


Shellfish like shrimp and lobster are loaded with iodine. Sure, you need a little bit of iodine in your diet to keep your thyroid singing and ward off those pesky goiters, but too much iodine can cause breakouts. Limit your seafood consumption to a couple of times a week and your skin should be in the clear. (And if you’re still eating tilapia, you need to kick that habit to the curb for other reasons.)

Whey Protein Shakes Can Cause Acne Flare-Ups

Protein shakes are great for building and repairing your muscles after an intense weight-training session, but research suggests some types of protein may throw your skin out of whack. In particular, whey protein has been shown to cause acne flare-ups, according to a study published in 2017 in Health Promotion Perspectives.


Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other whole grains, such as spelt, oats (unless certified gluten-free), kamut, rye, and barley. Gluten also sneaks into many unsuspecting foods, such as sauces, condiments, and processed meats. Many people have a hard time digesting gluten.

But how does gluten affect your skin? A lot of it has to do with how gluten affects your gut.

First off, you have a protein that’s produced by your digestive tract called zonulin.

Zonulin’s job is to moderate the tight junctions between the cells in your digestive tract, which prevent undigested food particles and pathogens from passing through. While this a good thing, gluten exposure can trigger your body to overproduce zonulin. This breaks apart the tight junctions instead.

Broken record alert: immune responses may cause or worsens inflammatory skin conditions

Anything Deep Fried

Deep frying really any food can make it taste incredible — but it’s going to do a number on your complexion. “Deep fried foods lead to excess oil production within the skin,” Rhonda Klein, MD/MPH, told The Daily Meal. No one wants the oil from their food showing up on their face. But the dangers don’t stop there.

“Hydrogenated trans fats found in deep fried food will also have a negative impact on your complexion,” Klein explained.

Processed Meats

Eating high amounts of sodium is very unhealthy for the body. It can put you at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke (9). It also harms the skin, leading to dehydration which can cause inflammation and dry skin. Processed meats are very high in sodium, unfortunately, so they can be very damaging to the skin.

The majority of meats contain sodium nitrates, which are known to generate oxidative stress. This can lead to health problems, and it can also be harmful to the skin. According to the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, it can damage collagen and elastin, leading to early skin aging.

If you’re looking for an alternative, try grass-fed organic meats. These are much lower in sodium, so they won’t dry you out. They should also be free of hormones. Since these meats are very high in omega-3 fatty acids, they are also some of the best brain foods available


Chocolate has been a suspected acne trigger since the 1920s, but so far, no consensus has been reached.

Several informal surveys have linked eating chocolate with an increased risk of developing acne, but this is not enough to prove that chocolate causes acne.

A more recent study found that acne-prone males who consumed 25 grams of 99% dark chocolate daily had an increased number of acne lesions after just two weeks .

Another study found that males who were given capsules of 100% cocoa powder daily had significantly more acne lesions after one week compared to those given a placebo .

Exactly why chocolate might increase acne is unclear, although one study found that eating chocolate increased the reactivity of the immune system to acne-causing bacteria, which may help explain these findings.

While recent research supports a link between chocolate consumption and acne, it remains unclear whether chocolate actually causes acne.

Artificial Coloring

Yellow, Blue, and Red may add a beautiful hue to your food, but they’re anything but healthy. Artificial colorings, mostly made in laboratories, can create inflammation in the body. That inflammation that can manifest on your skin as breakouts, premature aging, or even hives in the form of an allergic reaction.


What you are indeed is what you eat, and it’s also true that what you eat is reflected in the quality of your skin. If you want to improve your complexion, stay away from processed foods, refined sugars, wheat, spicy foods, alcohol, dairy, caffeine, soy, processed meats, and fast food.

Fill your diet with healthy nutrition such as omega-3 fatty acids, citrus fruits, grass-fed meat, nuts, brown rice, and herbal teas for quality skin and overall good health. You’re already on your way to a glowing complexion and a sense of overall well-being.

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