10 Foods to Avoid for Clearer Skin

Nix these saboteurs from your diet for a clearer complexion.

Skim Milk

"All forms of dairy have been shown to trigger acne flares," says Whitney Bowe, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. "Initially the connection was thought to be the hormones in milk, but the proteins, whey, and casein are also culprits." While the exact link is still up for debate, the thought is that they bind to certain receptors in your gut that trigger breakouts. So why is skim milk particularly problematic? Many companies add thickeners and more of the proteins, so it tends to have higher levels of whey and casein, explains Bowe. Opt for alternative milks, like almond, hemp, or coconut, instead.

Milk Chocolate

Loaded with milk (per our previous point on dairy), plus refined sugar, that chocolate bar is packed with potential pimple inducers. (And FYI, white chocolate is no good either.) That's the bad news. The good news is that you don't need to nix chocolate entirely, just opt for dark varieties, made with at least 70% cacao, Bowe says.

Refined Carbs

We're talking white pasta, bread, crackers, chips—all that yummy stuff in your pantry. "High on the glycemic index, they cause a rapid spike in blood sugar and trigger a hormonal cascade that increases oil production and the likelihood of breakouts," Bowe says. Not to mention that blood sugar spikes won't do your waistline any favors either. Carbs aren't all bad; just be sure to choose complex versions—whole grain bread, sweet potatoes—which are much lower on the glycemic index.

Roasted Nuts

Nuts are healthy for you, right? Not if you're buying the preroasted, prepackaged kind, cautions health coach and author of the Eat Pretty series, Jolene Hart. "You have no idea how much oil was used or how long they've been sitting there. Those fats can go rancid and lead to inflammation," she explains. (And when you're dealing with breakouts, inflammation is the last thing you want more of.) You can still get your nutty fix, just buy raw nuts and roast them yourself.

Canned Food

Easy, convenient, long-lasting ... canned goods are a pantry-staple, but BPA in the lining can wreak havoc on your health and skin. "A known endocrine disruptor, BPA mimics estrogen, throwing off your hormonal balance. There's a direct link between hormonal imbalance and acne," Hart says. Look for the words BPA-free on any canned foods. (This is becoming more common.) Or choose different packaging options, like glass or cardboard.

Orange Juice

Because all the fiber has been removed, the sugar content is super concentrated. Not to mention that citrus is highly acidic, which can contribute to breakouts, especially if they're occurring along your cheek or jawbone, notes celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. (Other culprits include tomatoes and salsa.) Stick with the whole orange or veggie-based juices.


We should say sushi rolls, specifically. White rice is a refined carb with a high glycemic index, which causes a blood sugar spike that  leads to breakouts. The nori sheets contain iodine, an acne trigger for some people (as are shrimp, lobster, and other shellfish), Hart says. And even the soy sauce can be problematic because it contains gluten, a common source of skin inflammation. A better bet? Sashimi, made with a fish like salmon high in skin-healthy omega fatty acids, over brown rice.

Protein Powder

Not all protein powders are created equal, so check the labels carefully. Many are made with whey, that problematic milk protein, so even if you mix it with water or nondairy milk, it can still trigger breakouts. Another sneaky source? Nutrition bars, says Bowe, so scan the ingredient list carefully, and choose vegan options, like pea protein.

Dried Fruit

No one would argue that fruit isn't healthy, but the dried variety can be a no-no if you have acne-prone skin. Just like those refined carbs, this falls into the same category of being super high on the glycemic index. Because it's dried, it's even more concentrated with inflammation-causing sugar than it's fresh counterpart, Hart says. The bottom line: Fresh is best.

Nonorganic Meat

Much of the meat produced in the United States contains antibiotics (meant to ward off infections in large herds of cows or pigs), which then get transferred to your system. This disrupts the natural microbiome in your gut, the balance of good and bad bacteria, and can end up killing off the good bacteria essential for both overall and skin health, Hart says. Conventional meat is also often filled with hormones, which can affect your own hormonal balance. Eat organic meat whenever possible, or choose plant-based sources of protein, like lentils or quinoa, Hart suggests.

Share the gallery

All Topics in Skin Care

Better Homes & Gardens may receive compensation when you click through and purchase from links contained on this website.