What Foods Should I Avoid to Prevent Oily Skin?

Close-up of mid adult man eating burger and French fries
A man eats a hamburger which has high saturated fats. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

If you're prone to oily skin -- which derives from genetics and hormonal factors -- puberty, menstruation, birth control, perspiration, oily skin care products and stress can trigger acne flare-ups. While you can't blame chocolate or other foods for excess oil that clogs or inflames your pores, a nutritious diet can improve your skin health, making the bothersome complications less likely or intense. For severe or long-lasting symptoms, seek guidance from your doctor.

Refined Grains

Because refined grains lose fiber and other nutrients during processing, they have a high glycemic index, or impact on your blood sugar. In a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in July 2007, 43 acne-prone males aged 15 to 25 consumed a diet that emphasized low-glycemic carbohydrate sources or a diet containing carbohydrates without regard to glycemic index for 12 weeks. By the study's end, the low-glycemic group showed significantly more improvements in their acne symptoms than the control group. To lower your glycemic load, replace refined-grain products such as white bread, pretzels and instant rice with whole grains like quinoa, brown rice and popcorn.

Sugary Sweets

Sugary foods typically have a high glycemic index and leave less room in your diet for foods that promote skin health. Lela Altman, a naturopathic doctor with Bastyr Center for Natural Health, recommends a clean diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber and limited in refined sugars, such as cane sugar and corn syrup, as a natural way to minimize acne. Cut back on sugary items such as candy, cakes, cookies and pastries. Reach for naturally sweet fiber sources such as berries, yams, mangoes and apples instead. Fruit smoothies and sparkling water with lemon provide healthy alternatives to soft drinks.

Inflammatory Fats

Acne is rare in populations that eat diets rich in omega-3 fats, according to a report published in "Lipids in Health and Disease" in 2012. These fats have anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming more omega-3s and fewer saturated and trans fats, which increase inflammation, may help keep oily skin from becoming inflamed and acne-ridden. Foods high in saturated fats include fatty meats, such as steaks and bacon; high-fat dairy products, such as whole milk; and fried foods. Trans fats are common in processed foods, such as commercially made cakes, cookies, pastries, pizza dough and pie crusts, along with any products that list hydrogenated vegetable oil as an ingredient. Healthy alternatives that provide valuable amounts of omega-3s include oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, flaxseeds and walnuts.

Additional Tips

Zinc and vitamins C, A and D play significant roles in skin health, according to Dr. David J. Leffell, a dermatologist with Yale University. Zinc and vitamin C support skin healing, and derivatives of vitamin A are used in skin care products and medications for skin-related disease. Vitamin D helps maintain skin health. Good food sources of vitamin D include fortified dairy products and fish, such as salmon. Many nutritious foods provide valuable amounts of zinc, including lean meats, seafood and whole grains. For carotenoids, the vitamin A compounds helpful for skin, and vitamin C, consume colorful fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, spinach and bell peppers.

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