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As is the case with a lot of young people, my struggle with acne began in my teens.  Ironically enough, I remember actually admiring my older friends when their first small pimples started emerging.  In my eyes it meant they were grown. Then one of my friends pointed out that acne was the absolute last thing you ever wanted to have.

Man was she right.  When my clear skin changed into a full blown pizza face, my world turned upside down.  Nothing I tried worked.

It was a major source of stress and shame for me. Through researching and doing a lot of trial and error, I've been able to clear my skin.  I discovered that one of the biggest factors that impacted acne was the food I put into my body.

I'm not the only one who reached that conclusion.  In the 1930s, Dr. Jon Straumfjord documented that the Inuit’s diet, rich in omega-3 fatty acids and high in vitamin A, kept them acne free.

Unfortunately, at least half of Americans don’t meet the necessary minimum recommended dietary allowance of vitamins and minerals.  On average people only consume a meager 1.5 servings of dark green and deeply colored orange or yellow veggies.

It’s been cited that 8 in 10 Americans report eating at fast-food restaurants on a monthly basis.  Almost half of those surveyed said they eat fast food at least weekly.  Fortunately, not everyone has ditched their veggies.


Eat Like a Celeb

Recently, I made my weekly trip to the health food store and guess who I bumped into?   It was none other than Carla Gugino, star of such films as Spy Kids, Batman v. Superman, Wayward Pines and San Andreas.

Not only did she eat in the café, but she also picked up a few items before she left.  In a recent interview with Architectural Digest, she mentioned that she keeps lots of fruits and veggies in her refrigerator.

She uses them to add to green superfood powders that she puts in shakes.  Trust me, this woman’s skin is just as pretty in person as it is on screen.

So if fruits and veggies work for a talented, beautiful and glamorous celeb, they’re definitely good enough for everyone else.  Now let's dive into which foods to avoid and which ones to eat to keep your skin healthy and glowing.


What Not to Eat

  1. Dairy.  Long hailed as the key to strong bones, dairy has become a common staple in the American diet.  It’s been promoted by celebs from Salma Hayek to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in “Got Milk” ads and embraced by moms looking for a good source of calcium for their growing kids. Unfortunately, drinking cow’s milk may promote breakouts due to the added hormones used in cows to fuel their growth.  These hormones help elevate male hormones called androgens.  Increased androgens equals increased sebum or oil production, which in turn contributes to acne.
  1. Processed Food.  Bread, pasta and cereals have had their nutritional value greatly decreased after being refined.  In 2002, a study was conducted showing that the Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea and the Ache of Paraguay reported zero cases of acne among 1,300 participants.  Both groups didn’t eat the food found in the typical Western diet, such as cereals, chips, cookies and bread.
  1. White Sugar.   Americans have a thing for sugar and aren’t afraid to show it.  Have you ever heard of the phrase “as American as apple pie”?  Well, not only is apple pie synonymous with American culture, so is eating sugar.  Sugar may be sweet, but it does a mean job on your body by making your blood sugar spike quickly.  When this happens, your body releases the hormone insulin, which may play a role in aggravating acne.


"Healthy skin is a reflexion of overall wellness."

- Dr. Howard Murad


What to Eat

  1. Spinach.   This dark green vegetable is packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B2 and vitamin B6.  The antioxidants found in vitamins C and E are known for attacking free radicals. This is good news since free radicals can lead to oxidative damage.   Research suggests oxidative stress does play a significant part in the development of acne.
  1. Kale.  Also rich in vitamin A and vitamin C, kale has recently come into the spotlight as a powerhouse vegetable.  Much like spinach, kale is a potent anti-inflammatory food. It's armed with the amazing ability to fight free radicals and reduce the damage they cause within our bodies.
  1. Parsley.  Not just a pretty garnish, parsley is another soldier in the war on free radicals.  It too is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A.  Parsley contains lutein which is a carotenoid that offers the added benefit of improving your eyesight.



It’s easy to enjoy the many benefits of eating spinach, kale and parsley.  A great way to make sure you get a healthy serving of those 3 rock star veggies is to make a green smoothie in the morning.  Make sure you check out my "3 Step Acne Fighting" cheat sheet for more tips and a green smoothie recipe.


Join the Conversation

My favorite part of doing these posts is engaging in the conversation they start. Each week, I ask one question. This week, it is this:

Have you noticed that your acne worsens when you eat certain foods?


Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is provided as an information resource only.  It is not to be used or relied upon for any treatment or diagnostic purposes.  This information is not intended to be patient education.  It should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.  The statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.   This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  Please consult your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition, such as if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a mental condition.  Please read all product packaging carefully and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program. Cosmetic products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.

*  *  *


Joanne Guthrie and Biing-Hwan Lin, “Healthy Vegetables Undermined by the Company They Keep,” May 5, 2014,

Susan M. Krebs-Smith, Patricia M. Guenther, Amy F. Subar, Sharon I. Kirkpatrick, and Kevin W. Dodd , “Americans Do Not Meet Federal Dietary Recommendations,” The Journal of Nutrition, 2010 Oct; 140(10): 1832–1838, Published online 2010 Aug 11. doi:  

Jonathan V.  Straumfjord, “Vitamin A: Its Effects on Acne,” Northwest Medicine 42 (August 1943): 225.

Andrew Dugan, August 6, 2013, “Fast Food Still Major Part of U.S. Diet”

Laura Morgan, “Carla Gugino on Moscow Mules, Travel Must-Haves and Her Modern Home” posted July 26, 2016

Al-Shobaili HA, “Oxidants and anti-oxidants status in acne vulgaris patients with varying severity. “ Ann Clin Lab Sci. 2014 Spring;44(2):202-7.

Khachik FBernstein PSGarland DL., “Identification of lutein and zeaxanthin oxidation products in human and monkey retinas.” Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1997 Aug;38(9):1802-11.

Elizabeth Shimer Bowers, “Healthy Diet, Healthy Skin,”

Eric Metcalf, “Can Foods Make You Break Out?”

Alicja Kucharska, Agnieszka Szmurlo and Beata Sinska, “Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris” Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2016 Apr; 33(2): 81-86, Published online 2016 May 16, doi 10.5114/ada.2016.59146


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