Skip to next element

Reality or Myth: Can Foods Cause Breakouts?

Reality or Myth: Can Foods Cause Breakouts?

As we navigated through our teenage years, many of us looked for ways to explain a random breakout or a rogue pimple. Surely, there had to be some explanation for this.

We all know by now that hormones, genetics, and hygiene all play a role in the development of acne, but there is always a lingering question — do foods contribute to our breakouts as well? Were our parents’ warnings about too much chocolate or too much fast food a tall tale based on urban legend? Were they just a feeble attempt at scaring us into eating a healthy diet? Or were they right all along?

While the link between acne and the foods we eat has always been a bit tenuous, research shows that these claims are not entirely unfounded. The short answer is: Yes, your diet can play a role in your skin’s health.

We did some digging to figure out which foods were most commonly linked to acne and breakouts, and it may (or may not) come as no surprise to you that your mom was right all along. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but all of the foods you were warned of as a teenager seem to be linked to acne flare-ups.

Ahead we take a closer look at some of the foods you may want to avoid to keep your skin looking healthy and blemish-free.


When it comes to finger-pointing for the cause of a flare-up, chocolate has long lead the pack on the list of offenders. What’s interesting here is that chocolate in its raw form (or cacao) is not the real culprit behind your breakouts. In fact, cacao is actually good for you. It’s packed with vitamins A, C, E, and zinc — all of which are great for your skin. The real issue with chocolate is the sugar and dairy. In its raw form, cacao is not that tasty treat we all know and love; the added milk and sugar are what make it so divine.

Understandably, chocolate is a hard habit to break, so if you’re not quite ready to give up your favorite guilty pleasure, try skipping the milk or white chocolate as they’re loaded with milk and sugar, and opt for dark chocolate instead.


Research has shown that milk and other dairy products are indeed tied to an increase in inflammation and acne. While the exact relationship is still unclear, researchers theorize that the hormones from cows pass into the milk supply, subsequently causing inflammation and acne.

The good news here is that there are many alternatives to milk on the market that are quite popular such as almond milk, cashew milk, or the latest and greatest, oat milk.

Fast Food

Fast food is not healthy, and when it comes to the reasons why the list is long. As far as your skin is concerned, however, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why. Fast food is usually an assortment of fried and, therefore, greasy food. Again, the research is unclear about the connection, but the working theory is that diets rich in calories, fat, and refined carbohydrates, tend to affect hormone levels promoting acne.

There’s no easy way to break the news here — skipping fast food altogether is really the only way to keep acne at bay.


While a high-sugar diet can lead to inflammation, diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease, over the long term, it can contribute to breakouts almost immediately.

In this case, research shows that foods high in sugar tend to cause an insulin spike, and that influx of insulin can lead to an increase in the production of oils on your skin. And if you’ve read any fashion magazine in the last decade, you probably know that those oils eventually lead to clogged pores and follicles, leading to, you guessed it, a breakout.  

Like fast food, sugar is not good for your overall health, and it should be consumed only in moderation. If you have a fierce sweet tooth and are not too keen on skipping dessert, try a smaller portion size or opt for fresh fruit instead.

Of course, research on the link between diet and acne is still evolving, and undoubtedly, it will continue to do so. And the truth is there are no hard and fast rules; everyone is different. Chocolate could affect some people with little to no adverse effects on others, and where you fall on the spectrum is just a matter of your genetics and chemical makeup. Your best bet is to simply pay attention and listen to your body. It will certainly tell you what it likes and what it doesn’t.

Share on: