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Anti-inflammatory Foods for Acne

author image August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as "Healthy Aging," "CitySmart," "IAmThatGirl" and "ULM." She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit—a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.
Anti-inflammatory Foods for Acne
A grilled salmon fillet on a plate. Photo Credit Siraphol/iStock/Getty Images

Acne causes pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, skin bumps and redness in up to 45 million people, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, making it the most common skin disease the United States. Although the specific cause remains unknown, excess oil pairs with dead skin cells, triggering inflammation, or swelling, within your skin. In addition to positive hygiene and medical treatments, when necessary, a diet aimed at reducing inflammation may improve your symptoms.


Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fats. Americans tend to consume too many omega-6 fatty acids, however, which have pro-inflammatory properties, and too few omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce inflammation. Although research is limited, according to a "Skin Therapy Letter" report published in 2010, eating more anti-inflammatory foods may help reduce acne by improving hormone levels and minimizing skin follicle inflammation. Other nutrients believed to reduce inflammation and other acne-related symptoms include antioxidants, such as selenium and vitamins E and A, and phytochemicals, which occur naturally in plants.

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A selenium deficiency has been linked with an increased risk for acne, according to a report published in "Lipids in Health and Disease" in 2008, and increased intake of selenium, vitamin E and green tea, which is rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, has improved inflammatory skin symptoms in some people. No large, published studies prove whether omega-3 fatty acids improve acne symptoms. People who eat diets rich in fish -- a prime source of omega-3 fatty acids -- and fiber and antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, however, tend to exhibit fewer symptoms of acne and other inflammatory conditions, such as heart disease.

Helpful Foods

Colorful fruits and vegetables, including berries, citrus fruits, bell peppers and leafy greens, are particularly high in antioxidants. Whole grains, such as oats, barley, quinoa, whole wheat, brown rice and wild rice, provide rich amounts of fiber and antioxidants, such as selenium. For increased omega-3 fatty acid intake, consume cold-water fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel and halibut, regularly. Plant sources of omega-3s, which are also high in vitamin E, include flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts and canola oil.

Foods to Limit

No foods are known to cause acne. Eating fewer pro-inflammatory foods, however, and limiting high-glycemic foods, which may offset your blood sugar and hormone levels, may improve your symptoms. Pro-inflammatory foods contain saturated or trans-fats and include fatty, red and processed meats, butter, margarine, fried foods and processed snacks, such as crackers and commercially baked cookies. To lower your glycemic load, choose whole grains over refined grains, such as white flour, and limit foods and drinks high in added sugars, such as candy, regular soft drinks, jellies, jams, pancake syrup, frosting, frozen desserts and pastries.

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