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These 15 foods are ruining your skin (and, in some cases, your overall health)

Foods and skin health: 15 foods to consume in moderation for a healthier look

When it comes to grooming, it’s easy to get hyper-focused on topical products that promise to fix every patch of dry skin, nix any fine lines, and make facial hair grow just the way we like it. What if we told you that outward appearance starts on the inside? More specifically, it begins with the food you consume. Though research on diet and skincare is still emerging, there is some that suggests certain types of food are bad for skin health. For example, we don’t have a definitive answer to the question, “Is acne caused by food?” However, science shows consuming some items can exacerbate the condition. 

Knowledge is power. When it comes to foods and skin health, understanding the current research can help you make informed choices at the grocery store and when you peer into your pantry. 

These are some of the worst foods for skin health, according to experts and research.

A cheeseburger on a wooden table

A word or two on foods and skin health

Diet can impact the skin, and it’s important to know which foods might affect you. However, there are a few points to keep in mind before overhauling your diet. First, every person is different. Not every person who consumes sugary beverages will notice changes in their skin. Also, as with anything, many foods that are bad for skin health can be consumed safely in moderation. Finally, you’ll notice dairy makes this list. Dairy also has benefits, including calcium and protein. Consult a doctor before eliminating anything from your diet.

french fries in a caarton

The worst foods for skin health

If you’re having skin issues, you may want to cut back on some of these items.

mug of beer.

Alcohol

You won’t be raising a glass to this news any time soon: Alcohol is notoriously bad for skin health. Though people often tout the antioxidants in wine and beer, consuming alcohol can damage the skin’s antioxidant defense system. Wrinkles, under-eye puffiness, and uneven skin tone are among other issues alcohol can exacerbate, leading to perceived signs of aging, according to one review. Heavy drinkers who consumed more than eight alcoholic beverages per week showed more signs of aging. The CDC recommends limiting alcohol consumption to two drinks or fewer per day for men and one drink or fewer per day for women. 

bottles of lime and orange soda

Soda

Soda is another drink to consume in moderation. A 2019 study of more than 8,000 students found that sipping soft drinks daily ups the risk of moderate to severe acne. The biggest culprit was soft drink intake that exceeded 100 grams of sugar per day. To put that in perspective, one 12-ounce can of Pepsi contains 39 grams of sugar. 

best fried chicken recipe
Photo by HONG FENG on Unsplash

Fried chicken

This grill favorite can actually add years of life to your skin. A 2020 study indicated that consuming fried, barbecued foods, combined with exposure to UV rays (which commonly happens in the sun and in tanning beds) and high-sugar diets could speed up skin aging

Bowl of french fries

French fries

This drive-thru staple isn’t completely off the table, but given that fried foods increase signs of aging, it’s best to consume fried chicken in limited amounts. That said, some people think acne is caused by food consumption, particularly fried ones. While research links consuming fried foods three times per week or more to having severe acne, it’s not definitively proven that this actually triggers acne. In fact, hormones, like testosterone, could be a more likely culprit. 

CBD candied edibles.

Candy

Sorry to all of you out there with a sweet tooth. Candy gets its appeal from sugar, but high-sugar diets are infamously bad for skin. They can accelerate aging and exacerbate acne by increasing inflammation in the skin. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) says that a lower-glycemic diet may reduce the number of pimples. 

Bowl of white penne pasta
Unsplsh

White pasta

Unlike whole-wheat pasta, which balances the carb count with fiber, white pasta is low in fiber. It’s a higher-glycemic food. Consuming it constantly may make acne worse.

Potato Chips

Potato chips

Potato chips are high in fat and have a ton of sodium, which can increase inflammation. One 15-chip serving of Lay’s potato chips has 10 grams of fat, 15 grams of carbs, and 170 milligrams of sodium. 

Bowl of popcorn on a table

Movie theater popcorn

Noshing on popcorn as you watch the newest, hottest flick is a time-honored tradition. Though it’s fine occasionally, frequent movie-goers may want to cut back on popcorn consumption. The fat from the butter and salt make this treat a potential issue for people with acne or who want to delay signs of aging. Ordering a small size or getting it without butter is a way to minimize impact.

Two glasses of lemonade on a table.

Lemonade

Lemonade can be a fun swap for a soda at a party, particularly during summer. However, the refreshing beverage contains 19 grams of sugar per 11-ounce serving. Again, this beverage is another best consumed in moderation. Water with lemon or seltzer can give your drink a little something special without exacerbating skin issues.

simple burger recipe cheeseburger
Alex Block

Burgers

Like fried chicken, these barbecue favorites are high in fat. Pair that with UV ray exposure and high-sugar diets, and it’s a recipe for skin aging.

Glass of milk being poured.

Milk

This one is controversial. Milk has its share of nutritional benefits, but the AAD cites multiple studies that show that people who consume cow’s milk are more likely to have acne. Speak to a doctor or dietician before cutting this from your diet. You may be able to get the vital nutrients elsewhere.

pepperoni pizza in a box

Pepperoni pizza

Processed meat, dairy, salt, and the high fat count make this classic pizza one to put on the “only in moderation” list. 

Sliced white bread

White bread

This bread has the same issues as white pasta. Opt for whole-wheat instead for a more skin-friendly sandwich.

Chocolate Fig Tart from JOI.
addjoi/Instagram

Tarts

This pastry makes for a yummy breakfast or after-dinner treat for the taste buds. However, your skin can’t say the same because of the sugar and fat content. 

Scoop of whey protein

Whey protein

Whey protein is a trending ingredient in smoothies and bowls. However, it’s been linked to worse acne outbreaks in adults, according to one 2013 study. 

High-fat, high-sugar, highly-processed foods are commonly linked to faster skin aging and acne. It may seem like a bummer, but there are plenty of delicious foods you can eat that may actually help with skin. Opt for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts and salmon. Tomatoes boast lycopene, an antioxidant that can help you achieve smoother skin, and foods loaded with vitamin C, such as strawberries and oranges, may help combat wrinkles. Always talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your diet and skin health. They may be able to help you or refer you to a dermatologist or nutritionist who can provide healthy, evidence-based menu options. 

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