Do Certain Foods Cause Acne? Dr. Herzog’s Perspective

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acne: do certain foods trigger?


We often label certain foods as acne causing agents, but how do we know for sure? I invited Dr. Herzog to share her perspective on the topic and give her answer to the question, “do certain foods cause acne?” Her response is below.


Dr. Jo Herzog dermatologist Family Savvy


Many of us as were told growing up that “chocolate and soft drinks cause acne.” I often have parents bringing their acne prone teens to my office hoping that I will tell the teens to stop all sodas and chocolate, but this is not my prescription. I don’t believe that the problem of acne can oft be blamed on “this or that” food. However, I do believe that one’s overall diet may play a more important role in the acne cycle than many of us realize.

The acne problem that some may have experienced from consuming foods such as coke and chocolate may lie not in the specific foods themselves, but in their common denominator~sugar.  Some studies have shown that a high glycemic diet can be a factor in some patients’ acne. Although I don’t think that a high glycemic diet actually causes acne, it might affect how easily acne can be controlled by other means. In other words, it is a part of the process.

What is a high glycemic diet? A high glycemic diet is filled with sugar and is found in products such as saltine crackers, white bread, white rice, white potatoes, many breakfast cereals, soft drinks and candy bars. Processed foods also tend to be high glycemic. These foods cause spikes in blood sugar which might affect the hormones that promote acne in some patients.

Some studies suggest that consumption of milk and dairy products might also exacerbate acne in certain teens. Some dermatologists believe that this is a factor for some patients, and they advise them to reduce or eliminate milk entirely from their diets. For those who are unresponsive to other therapies, I will occasionally suggest eliminating milk, but this is a difficult therapy for patients to follow.

Do I put my acne patients on strict diets? Do I ban sugar and potatoes? No, but I do talk to my patients about the possible link between diet and acne and discuss the fact that a healthy diet is important whether they have acne or not.  I don’t believe in “banning” foods that are part of our lifestyle and culture, but I do believe in learning to live with moderation.

The problem with banned foods is that they are often eliminated for a period of time, but when the “diet” ends, the bad habits rebound in full force. When we make healthy lifestyle changes that are manageable, we have a chance of holding onto these changes for life. I discuss moderation with my patients and hope that this will be something that they will practice and implement into their lives.

So, Grandma might have been somewhat right. We need to limit our junk food and eat our vegetables (but we might not have to drink all of our milk after all).

Hope this all made sense.  I am going to go eat my salad now.

Dr. Jo

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