Eight foods dermatologists don't eat to avoid acne and skin problems.

Image: iStock.

You really are what you eat. The food choices you make can play out in the condition of your skin. The people that know this better than anyone else? Dermatologists.

Giving us a peek into their own eating habits, we asked skin experts the eight foods they rarely eat for the sake of their skin.

1. Donuts.

Yes, this broke our heart too.

“One of the most common food types that can cause acne-like symptoms (increased oil flow, congestion, pustules and papules) are foods high in sugar and foods high in fats and oils,” says Australian Skin Clinics National Training Manager and accredited dermal technician, Darlene O’Gara. (Watch: A super simple quinoa recipe for your lunch tomorrow. Post continues after video.)

“Some may say that chocolate and doughnuts don’t affect one’s skin, but the fact is that these foods are mostly made up of sugar and fat, which can be highly detrimental to your skin.”

2. Rice Cakes.

Apparently rice cakes can actually cause havoc with your blood sugar levels, which hastens the formation of wrinkles.


“Your body metabolises the simple carbs in the cakes the same way it does sugar – by converting them to glucose,” Valori Treloar, MD, dermatologist and author of The Clear Skin Diet told Prevention.

“Once they’ve been converted, they stick to wrinkle-fighting proteins like collagen and damage them.”

3. Alcohol.

It may taste delicious, but it’s not helping your skin, particularly if you suffer from acne.

“I’d recommend avoiding alcohol because it causes widespread disturbances to hormonal balance, which is a root cause of acne,” says Managing Director of SkinB5 Judy Cheung. (Post continues after gallery.)

4. Lollies.

While everyone’s skin is triggered by different foods, a common problem group is your go-to 3pm snack – lollies.

“Foods that are very high in sugar such as chocolate and lollies can cause skin to experience acne-like symptoms,” says O’Gara. This is because they raise blood sugar levels and insulin levels which makes skin drier.

5. White bread.

Wheat can affect the glycaemic index (GI) which measures how quickly blood sugar levels rise.

“All high GI products like white bread, most white rice, cornflakes, potato and sweets etc cause blood sugar to spike dramatically,” explains Cheung.


“Elevated blood sugar stimulates your body to pump out insulin which then triggers a cascade of hormonal effects, including elevated levels of androgens (the acne-causing male hormones), excess oil, and increased skin cell production, all of which lead to clogged pores and breakouts.”

Try swapping to brown bread. Image: iStock


Interestingly, high insulin levels over time can also make skin drier and thicker, leading to flakes of dry skin blocking pores and causing problems.


In some cases, skin conditions like acne, psoriasis and eczema are aggravated by food intolerances to gluten.

6. Spicy food.

As well as sugary foods, spicy food is a common trigger for a variety of skin problems.

"Spicy foods can also have the potential to increase the amount of redness and facial flushing seen on skins prone to these symptoms," says O'Gara.

7. Milk and cheese.

There has been much debate over the links between dairy and acne, with some research pointing to the fact that is can cause acne and some research disputing it. Personally, we couldn't live without our morning flat white, but it's up to you really.

A 2007 study by Harvard School of Public Health found a clear link between people who drank milk regularly and suffered with acne.

Hotly debated is the link between dairy and acne. Image: iStock


"Milk has been shown to increase the insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and this combined with the naturally occurring steroid hormones in milk (5alpha-pregnanedione which is a precursor to dihydrotestosterone) provides quite a whammy for the sebaceous glands," says Cheung.

"Increasing IGF-1 will increase oil production, and leads to more blocked pores and breakouts! Dairy products include the whey based protein shakes that regular exercisers use too!"

8. Fast food.

Sorry, takeaway lovers. High fat and high GI foods like pizza and burgers are can be aggravating for skin.

A 2010 study in the Journal of The American Academy of Dermatology linked Western diets which are traditionally high GI and heavy on the fast food to more acne lesions compared to a low-GI, high protein diet.

What foods cause you skin problems?