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Acne and Food: what does one have to do with the other?

Grill (n.d.)

Recent research shows a rise in adult acne, more than 40% of the adult population are now diagnosed with low grade, persistent acne. In fact, 54% of women age 25 or older suffer from some facial acne (Howard, 2019).

According to Dr. Howard at the International Dermal Institute, acne is genetic and if both parents have it, 3 out of 4 children may be affected by it (Howard, 2019). However, external factors still play a rather large role in the formation of acne with chronic stress being an important trigger (Dréno et. al, 2018).

Treatment for acne, besides reducing stress, often includes contraceptive pills for women or retinoid creams, also known as vitamin A (Pappas, 2009). Yet, an important treatment that is often overlooked is one’s diet. Contrary to popular belief, there is no link between chocolate or sugar and acne (Pappas, 2009). Research, however, indicates a strong link between dairy products and acne, with a 20% prevalence increase in people who consumed milk according to a study by Pappas (2009). Furthermore, research shows that acne in adulthood is more likely to be inflammatory (Howard, 2019) and the two essential fatty acids, omega-6 and omega-3, happen to be involved in inflammation. Therefore, the absence of the two essential nutrients in our diet is likely going to have implications for acne and overall health. Specifically, deficiency in omega-6 is often detected in the oily secretions of the glands of acne patients (Pappas, 2009). Additionally, evidence suggests that omega-6 is vital for the structural component of the skin ceramides which are essential for barrier function (Pappas, 2009). Moreover, as mentioned above, vitamin A plays a big role in skin biology as a vitamin. Deficiency often manifests itself in dry hair, dry skin, and broken fingernails (Pappas, 2009).

Given the information above, it is likely beneficial for people struggling with acne to implement foods high in vitamin A (precursor for retinol) and other fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins D and E which also play various roles in the activity of glands of the skin (Pappas, 2009). Foods high in these vitamins include butternut squash, avocado, and kale. Adding seaweed and freshly ground flaxseed for the two essential fatty acids could also help to reach the recommended omega-3 and omega-6 intake. Lastly, switching from dairy to plant-based alternatives may also make a difference for the skin.

Life is stressful enough and for many, persistent or even occasional acne can be that cherry on top to get one down. So try these healthful alternatives in your diet, share this blog with your friends and family that are also struggling with acne, and leave a comment down below with what sort of changes you have seen since implementing these tips!



Dréno, B., Bettoli, V., Araviiskaia, E., Sanchez Viera, M., & Bouloc, A. (2018, February 15). The Influence of Exposome on Acne. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. doi:

Grill, J. (n.d.). Woman looking mirror [photograph]. Adobe stock.

Howard, D. (2019, April 25). Why is Adult Acne on the Rise? The International Dermal Institute. Retrieved from

Pappas A. (2009). The Relationship of Diet and Acne: A Review. Dermatoendocrinolgy, 1(5), 262-267.

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