A woman is looking at her face in the mirror.

Foods That Make Your Skin Worse, According to Dermatologists

Skip the products and supplements and focus on your diet to make sure your skin feels free, clear, and glowing!

No matter how well you wash your face at night or how many products you use to ensure that your skin maintains that youthful, wrinkle-free glow for as long as possible, nothing has the power to impact how your skin looks quite as much as what you eat. And while it’s common knowledge that foods packed with collagen and antioxidants can make your skin look and feel younger, there are also foods you should avoid if you’re looking to keep wrinkles, age spots, acne, and other skin issues at bay.

Many factors contribute to the development of wrinkles, acne, dryness, and general changes to our skin textures. Some of these factors include diet, dairy products, sugars, chocolates, fast foods and alcohol.

Though there is still research to be done, numerous studies have established the link between acne and certain foods. Diet and acne have been controversial, but recent research shows that diet can play a significant role in acne development. People with acne tend to consume more refined carbohydrates than people with little or no acne. Foods rich in refined carbohydrates include bread, crackers, cereal, pasta (all made with white flour), white rice, noodles, sodas, sweetened beverages, cane sugar, maple syrup, and honey or agave.

Similarly, we know that alcohol consumption can dehydrate the skin (making it appear dry) and consuming too much sugar can cause wrinkles.

Keep reading to find out which foods you should avoid if you want your skin to be as healthy as possible, and for more on healthy eating, don’t miss 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

Fatty Meat

When working on your diet, it is important to make sure you are getting the best foods for your health. When it comes to meats, a lot are high in saturated fats,Fatty cuts of meat such as short ribs, which are high in saturated fat, are associated with high concentrations of insulin growth factor. The insulin growth factor stimulates the production of the sex hormones that can increase acne production. If meat is an integral part of your diet, opt for lean cuts with very little fat. “The key with meat is to keep it lean. Tenderloin cuts tend to be leaner. Look for ground beef that is at least 95% lean,” “Ground turkey breast and chicken breast are other lean options.”

Bacon Hotdogs and Pepperoni

“These meats are high in nitrates and should be avoided, as nitrates can damage the skin by causing inflammation and wrinkles,” says Dr. Howard Sobel, founder of Sobel Skin and attending dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Processed meats can also contain high levels of sodium, which can dry your skin out and weaken collagen production.”

High glycemic foods, such as white bread, white pasta, and potatoes, can wreak havoc on your skin, according to New York City dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner. “Foods with a high glycemic index not only cause acne breakouts, but also may be associated with premature aging,” he says. “High blood sugar levels (which can be triggered by foods with a high glycemic index) leads to a process called glycation, where sugar molecules attach to collagen in the skin. This causes collagen to harden, so it breaks rather than bends, leading to wrinkles and a crepey appearance. Stick to whole grains rather than processed flour. If you want to keep your skin looking younger, ditch the bread and load up on these 25 Healthy Foods That Fight Aging, According to Dermatologists.

Artificial Sweeteners

As New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Hadley King explains, even foods that are artificially sweetened, such as soft drinks, pasta sauce and juices, can create problems for your skin. “Artificial sweeteners have been shown to be able to affect our hormones in the same way as sugar, so therefore they may also contribute to acne,” she notes. “Also, excess sugar molecules bond to collagen and elastin through a process named glycation, resulting in AGEs, or advanced glycation end products. This process ultimately causes the collagen and elastin fibers to lose their strength and flexibility, contributing to the aging of the skin. These cross-linked proteins known as AGEs have been shown to be directly related to loss of elasticity and firmness in the skin.”

Dairy Milk and Dairy Milk Products

“Studies looking at teens and milk consumption show a correlation with acne,” says Diane Madfes, MD, FAAD and assistant professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “Cow’s milk elevates insulin levels and some brands even have growth hormones. Elevated insulin increases circulating cortisol levels that bind to our sebaceous glands, increasing sebum production. Milk will not give acne but may unveil an underlying genetic predisposition.

“Since cow’s milk has been linked to skin issues, the same is true for dairy products made using cow’s milk, like certain types of cheese, ice cream and more. “Almond milk is a good alternative,” adds Madfes. As are these Milk Alternatives 101: Your Guide To Every Dairy-Free Milk Substitute.While whey protein is found in dairy milk, it can also be consumed as part of other foods such as shakes or smoothie bowls. “Whey protein consumed by bodybuilders has also been associated with more acne breakouts,” says Dr. Yoram Harth, a board-certified dermatologist and the medical director of MDacne. As explained above, whey protein can cause acne because it increases the production of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1. In turn, insulin increases the production of sebum, which is associated with the development of acne. “An excellent alternative to regular whey protein is a vegan, plant-based protein powder,” Harth adds. Try these The Best Vegan Protein Powders for Your Muscle-Building Needs.


“Alcohol has the ability to speed up the aging process and cause changes to skin’s texture, especially in females if it is not consumed moderately. This is because alcohol acts as a diuretic, it draws out liquid from the body,” Green notes. “Less fluid can lead to dehydration and take away moisture from the skin, contributing to dryness. This can make fine lines and wrinkles appear more pronounced.”

Though this applies to all types of alcohol, such as wine, beer, champagne, and vodka, Green points out that the occasional drink is fine. “Moderate drinking is one drink per day for women (such as a 5-ounce glass of wine or 12-ounce glass of beer) and two drinks for men,” she says.

Fast Food

“Acne is strongly associated with eating a Western-style diet rich in calories, fat and refined carbohydrates,” says Green. “Fast food items, such as burgers, nuggets, hot dogs, French fries, sodas, and milkshakes are mainstays of a typical Western diet and may increase acne risk.”Related: Dangerous Side Effects of Eating Fast Food Every Day, According to Science

Potato Chips and French Fries

Like fast food, these fried foods should be avoided if you want your skin to look as youthful as possible. “These foods are notoriously fried in lots of oils that cause inflammation throughout the body, including the skin,” Sobel explains. “They are also filled with refined carbs, which cause inflammation, leading to wrinkles and premature, aged-looking skin.

Spicy Foods

“As it turns out, foods that have a little kick to them can do more than just make your face turn red. “Spicy foods like salsa, hot sauce and chili peppers trigger rosacea, another inflammatory process,” notes Madfes. “The inflammatory cascade causes dilation of blood vessels, increased sebum production and skin sensitivity. Rosacea runs the spectrum of flushing, breaking out and cysts to nose swelling.”


“Chocolate has also been found to increase the chances of acne flare-ups,” Green explains. “Your body metabolizes these carbs the same way as sugar, meaning they can also cause wrinkles by damaging the collagen in your skin. A diet high in fat and refined sugars, like those found in candy and chocolate, can kick sebum production into high gear and trigger inflammatory responses in the body, both of which are known to increase the risk of breakouts.”


“This sugary beverage can damage your collagen supply, leading to sagging skin,” says Sobel. “Soda also contains phosphates and when these levels are increased, they thin the skin and cause early aging – i.e., wrinkles.”

Baked Goods

As tasty as they may be, baked goods are often loaded with trans fat, which can have a negative impact on your skin and overall health. “Especially avoid trans fats, they can raise your ‘bad’ cholesterol and lower ‘good’ cholesterol, which increases your risk for heart disease,” notes Green. “Having too much sugar and processed carbohydrates (like bread and baked goods) can lead to damage in your skin’s collagen, which keeps your skin springy and resists wrinkles.” Which leads me to Gluten, so what is gluten really? Gluten is the protein found in wheat – it’s the paste that makes your pizza or doughnuts  dough-y. For those with celiac disease, gluten is a complete no-no. However whether you have the disease or not, you can be sensitive to gluten and that can take the form of skin problems.

She adds: “Doughnuts and sugary pastries sound delicious however, they are packed with sugar, which may be linked to the development of wrinkles.” Your skin isn’t the only thing at risk when you eat too much sugar. See: What Eating Added Sugars Does to Your Body.

I share foods to limit if you want beautiful, glowing skin. Remember that the benefit of cutting out these foods goes beyond simply improving your skin health. There are limitless benefits including improved energy from better digestion and so on. You now know some of the foods that increase inflammation and thereby prevent you from having beautiful skin, let’s talk about foods to add to your diet that are anti-inflammatory.

  1. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries. All three of these dark berries contain anti-inflammatory vitamin C. This beauty vitamin is everything when it comes to skin’s beauty. Not only does it aid in reducing inflammation but it also acts as an antioxidant to actually protect the skin and prevent free radicals form promoting premature wrinkling. It keeps your blood vessels healthy too. I prefer vitamin C in the whole form rather than a straight up ascorbic acid  because of the accessory nutrients that increase  the uptake  at a cellular level. What I mean by that is… eat the whole food as opposed to supplements.

2. Dark Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, arugula, dark green or purple leafy lettuce. Leafy greens are bursting with alkaline nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. These nutrients have an                alkalinizing effect on the body. These greens are also full of anti-inflammatory carotenoids too. Whether you eat them, juice them or toss them in a smoothie or stir-fry, after just a few                    short weeks of eating more leafy greens you may notice a remarkable  difference in your skin’s moisture and glow.

3. Fermented foods: Kefir, miso, fermented vegetables like pickles (not the typical pickles you buy at the grocery store), sauerkraut and more. This is where you can make 1 exception if no                  dairy sensitivities are present because kefir (fermented cow’s milk dairy) is extremely high in good bacteria. However, I only recommend this if you have no sensitivities, you only eat                      organic and plain flavored to avoid excess sugar. Fermented foods are a great source of good bacteria which help build immunity and control infections that are often an underlying cause              of inflammation and skin problems.

4. Hemp seeds and oil. Hemp products are not only delicious but they are nutritious. Full of anti-inflammatory skin-loving nutrients: omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) and gamma-                          linoleic acid (GLA). Remember to look for unrefined organic oils. I love hemp seeds, my favorite way to eat them is to simply sprinkle on smoothies, salad or just as a small snack as if                     I’m eating a spoon full of nut butter.   Hemp oil is best as a salad dressing. This is not an oil you cook with.