Acne is the most common skin disorder among teenagers and young adults. The causes of acne are multiple: hormones, stress, lifestyle, diet, etc... The anti-acne diet has been very well studied for several years, it consists mainly of reducing the consumption of lactose and sugar to slow the development of acne and allow the skin to regenerate.

Anti-acne diet

The essential points of the anti-acne diet:

  • Reducing sugar consumption
  • Favour foods with a low glycemic index
  • Limit the consumption of lactose
  • Adopt a nutrient-rich diet
  • Filling up with Omega-3

Benefits of anti-acne nutrition on the skin

The anti-acne diet has many benefits on the quality of the skin, it could help to :
  • Slow down the development of acne
  • Limit sebum production
  • Regulating hormone production
  • Nourish the skin and make it clearer
  • Avoid skin imperfections
  • Promote healing
What is the link between diet and acne in adults?

Among the factors that contribute to the development of acne is the effect of androgens, hormones that stimulate the sebaceous glands, which in turn produce more sebum, thus increasing the number of lesions. These hormones are very active during adolescence, which is why there are more cases of acne in this age group. In addition, a genetic predisposition to this skin disorder, stress and body mass index (BMI) may also play a role in the development of acne.

Acne nutrition has been extensively studied in recent years without giving clear conclusions. Its role in the development of this skin disorder is very controversial. This fact sheet is therefore a summary of the most recent studies on this subject. Do milk, chocolate, alcohol, fat, sugars really have a link with acne? According to the current scientific literature, diet has a role to play in acne, but only when it is well established. In short, diet could not cause acne but rather aggravate it if it is already present.

A diet with a high glycemic index and frequent consumption of dairy products would be the main dietary factors promoting acne.

Anti-acne dietary recommendations

 Anti-acne nutrition could have a very positive effect on the overall quality of the skin. Indeed, by slowing down hormone production and providing the right nutrients to the body, acne could be visibly reduced through diet. The following dietary measures should be complemented by a healthy lifestyle for optimal effectiveness.

Diet recommended in case of acne in adults

The anti-acne diet aims to incorporate more foods with a low glycemic index to reduce the availability of androgens, which are involved in the development of acne. In addition, a diet rich in nutrients, omega-3 and dairy substitutes would be beneficial and could visibly reduce skin blemishes.

Low glycemic index diet

A diet rich in foods with a high glycemic index would stimulate the production of an insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which would lead to an increase in the availability of androgens, hormones involved in the development of acne. Following a low glycemic index diet could therefore be beneficial for people with acne. Indeed, studies have shown a greater reduction in the number of lesions with a low glycemic index diet. The glycemic index (GI) is a scale for ranking carbohydrate-containing foods based on their effect on blood glucose levels.

Low GI foods to include in the acne diet are :
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Pulses
  • Oilseed
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Vegetable milks
In addition, a low glycemic index diet is generally low in saturated fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and can only provide additional health benefits. Indeed, the health benefits of a low glycemic index diet can have multiple benefits beyond acne, including weight management and reduced risk of diabetes.

Dairy substitutes

In case of acne and if you want to remove dairy products from your diet, you should look for alternatives to these products. Dairy substitutes can help meet calcium and vitamin D requirements.
Non-dairy sources of calcium are :
  • Soy derivatives: soy milk, soy cream, soy puddings and yogurt
  • Other milk substitutes: enriched almond, rice, sunflower or hemp milk
  • Calcium-enriched fruit juices
  • Canned tuna and salmon with bones
Soy beverage is the best substitute for milk because it contains about the same amount of calcium, vitamin D and protein. On the other hand, almond or rice drinks are less nourishing because they contain very little protein. In addition, white beans, green vegetables such as cabbage, green beans or broccoli and some nuts such as almonds or Brazil nuts also contain calcium.

The main sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, egg yolks, margarine, soy beverage and shiitake mushrooms. Vitamin supplements may be appropriate in some cases.


The role of omega-3s in acne remains little known. Although some studies have demonstrated a role for Omega-3 in reducing pro-inflammatory molecules that can aggravate acne, the number of studies to date on the relationship between Omega-3 fatty acids and skin disorders is rare and the evidence is weak. On the other hand, even if it has not yet been scientifically proven that the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids has a positive impact on acne, it has already demonstrated many benefits in terms of cardiovascular disease and certain mental illnesses.

The main sources of omega-3 to be included in the anti-acne diet are :
  • Salmon
  • Sardine
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Tuna
  • Nuts
  • Linseed and oil
  • Rapeseed and nut oil
  • Hemp and chia seeds
Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic (low carbohydrate) diet has been advanced as the diet that may decrease inflammation and thus affect IGF-1 growth factors. As a result, it may also reduce the severity and progression of acne lesions. The ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and very high in lipids (fats).

Diet rich in micro-nutrients

Data on the favourable effects of certain nutrients such as zinc, antioxidants, vitamin A and dietary fibre on acne are limited. However, it can be said that a diet rich in micro-nutrients promotes cell regeneration and significantly improves skin quality in general. It is therefore recommended to have a balanced and varied diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, proteins and good fats to fight acne.

Other recommended foods :
  • Antioxidants
  • Lean proteins
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Physical activity
Diet not recommended as part of the anti-acne diet.

As part of the anti-acne diet, it will be necessary to reduce the consumption of foods that stimulate the production of hormones that promote acne. This is the case with sugar, refined products and dairy products in particular. However, these measures must be combined with a good overall lifestyle to achieve good results. A sedentary lifestyle, alcohol and smoking can affect the quality of the skin just as much as a poor diet.

Refined products, sugar and acne

Sugar is the food with the highest glycemic index. It stimulates the availability of androgens and promotes the development of acne. Sugar is also involved in the process of chronic inflammation and represents a non-negligible risk of overweight. For all these reasons, sugar and acne do not mix.

Milk and dairy products

Dairy products would be linked to the increase in acne. Indeed, they cause an increase in the secretion of IGF-1. Moreover, milk naturally contains IGF-1, and the concentrations remain high even after pasteurization, homogenization and digestion of milk. This would be even more true with skim milk, as whole milk would cause less skin damage in case of acne. Milk proteins (casein and whey) would be involved. Numerous studies have shown a possible link between milk consumption and acne. They suggest a possible association between diet and acne. However, no precise and more rigorous studies have been done to evaluate the precise relationship between dairy products and acne.

It is very important that people who wish to reduce or eliminate dairy products from their diet make sure that they meet their daily needs for vitamins and minerals, especially calcium and vitamin D.

Other foods not recommended :
  • Salt
  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Industrial and processed products
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Sédentarité
  • Sodas
Practical daily advice to follow the anti-acne diet
  • Consume at least 2 portions of oily fish per week.
  • Cooking to the maximum and avoiding prepared dishes and processed products
  • Cook with olive oil and add rapeseed oil on salads.
  • As a snack, think about oilseeds.
  • Make sure you get a good portion of protein at each meal.
  • Sprinkle flax, chia or hemp seeds on salads, in yoghurt or soups.
  • Choosing wholemeal breads and starchy foods
  • Make pastries with wholemeal flour and compote instead of sugar.
  • Avoid the salt shaker at the table
  • Replace alcohol by vegetable juices as an aperitif

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