Skip to main content

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.


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 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.


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

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 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


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.


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.


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. 

Editors' Recommendations

BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on and In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
Need to reduce your daily sugar intake? Eliminate these 10 surprising foods
Sugar is sneaky, hiding itself in many surprising places (like these foods)
bacon peregrino Ibrico de bellota

It's no surprise that we as a society are eating far too much sugar. On average, American adults consume around 77 grams of sugar per day. That's more than three times the recommended amount by the USDA.
Sure, it's easy to point our fingers at the conveniently located candy bars in the checkout lane, or the super-sized sodas everywhere you turn. Easy-to-munchsugary snacks like cookies are far too easy to take advantage of. And those pretty little pastries with our morning coffee are obvious culprits, too.
What might not be so obvious, though, are the sneaky ways sugar makes itself at home in such a vast amount of the food we consume. Ice cream and candy, sure. But milk? Marinara sauce? What about those "healthy" foods with labels that read low-fat or low-sodium? We'll let you in on a little secret - if they're cutting one ingredient, they're probably making up for it with sugar.
Sugar is sneaky, creeping into surprising foods and then disguising itself with an exotic name tag on the nutrition label. Common aliases include: cane crystals, corn sweetener, corn syrup, crystalline, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, and syrup, to name only a few!
So if you're trying to watch your sugar intake, the smartest thing you can do is read the label of everything you're bringing home from the grocery store, because that sugar will creep up out of nowhere if you aren't careful. To help you be better prepared, though, here is a list of foods sugar loves to hide in.


Read more
These 13 foods will add essential vitamin K to your diet
Vitamin K is an important nutrient you could probably eat more of. Here are some foods that are full of the nutrient.
salad greens high in vitamin k.

It's perhaps not the most talked-about or sexiest vitamin out there (we see you, vitamin C), but vitamin K is important nonetheless. You're probably already getting some through your regular diet but there's a good chance you could use a pinch more. But how? And why?

Because vitamin K serves the body well. The nutrient helps with coagulation when you're wounded, bone metabolism, and the vital functions of your heart and vessels. When you're not taking in enough of the stuff, bad things can happen, like bleeding disorders or cardiovascular issues.

Read more
9 incredible ways coconut oil can boost your health
Curious about the many health benefits of coconut oil? We break it all down here
coconut oil and coconut.

Coconut oil can be used for a lot of things, from searing to frying and even putting on popcorn. It's also full of health benefits, which is an added bonus for something so tasty. You may be cooking with the stuff already, or using it to deal with some dandruff, but you may want to up your intake once you realize how powerful the stuff is.

So what are the benefits, aside from a smell and taste that whisks you away to the tropics? Well, it can help you lose weight and aid your fitness routine and even take on cholesterol issues. It can also be used in a variety of ways, making getting your daily dose of the stuff all the easier.

Read more