Acne is often more prevalent during puberty or in those with more acne-prone, oily skin types or skin conditions like psoriasis or rosacea; however, generally acne subsides as you get past those troubling years of youth.
Adult acne is definitely not fun—and unfortunately there are several lifestyle factors that can trigger whiteheads and acne flare-ups. And they can linger as well as keep coming back. (You’ll often notice pimples reappear in the same places routinely unless you’re taking the right measures to promote healthy skin and tame those triggers.)
While some factors may include poor hygiene (not showering right after working out or going to sleep without taking your makeup off), high stress and cortisol levels, touching your skin too frequently, popping those doozies and not cleaning your phone before placing it on your cheeks, diet is a huge culprit in impacting how your skin looks.
Of course, it’s best to eat a diet that is rich in foods that boost skin health and fight acne flare-ups, but also if you do happen to break out you’ll want to eat more of those good-for-your-skin foods and reduce intake of anything that may work against you.
If you’re noticing a greater presence of pimples and red, splotchy patches on your skin, reevaluate your diet to make sure you’re eating healthy foods that are beneficial for you skin’s health and will help zap that zit fast.
Here are the best and worst foods to have in your kitchen. (A tip? Many pimple-friendly options are plant-based, so looking into a plant-based or vegan lifestyle may be helpful!)
Skim Milk: Swap for Plant-Based Milk
While skim milk is a common substitute for whole or two percent milk for those looking to lose weight or cut back on fat, unfortunately, it contains bovine hormones, which can cause inflammation in your body (including on your skin!).
And fluctuating hormones can throw you body off balance, and there’s also the risk of potentially dangerous long-term side effects, too. Instead, you’re better of choosing a plant-based milk, since dairy in general can also be a trigger for acne, especially in those with autoimmune skin disorders like psoriasis.
You don’t want to choose soy milk when trying to calm those pimples, though, despite its high protein and calcium count, which is more comparable to traditional cow’s milk. Soy milk can also cause acne, so you’re better off going with almond or oat milk, both of which are low in calories and fat (or contain healthy fat!) and have a nice flavor to complement your morning latte or bowl of cereal.
Sweetened Yogurt: Swap for Plain Greek Yogurt or Skyr
Since dairy can be a trigger for inflammation, keeping daily intake of dairy low could be beneficial if you think it’s causing havoc on your skin. Ditch the cheese, cow’s milk and yogurt, especially sweetened varieties, as sugar is definitely bad for your skin and can lead to frequent breakouts.
The one caveat is a probiotic based yogurt, such as plain Greek yogurt or skyr, both of which have probiotic properties to lower inflammation in the body and on the skin, as well as keep your gut healthy and immunity high.
If you want to avoid it altogether, go with plain almond yogurt and add in probiotic- and prebiotic-containing ingredients to top it off—a small serving of sliced bananas and a handful of walnuts is a solid combo. Or whip up a dip and dunk fresh sourdough into the mix, since this kind of bread has a hearty dose of probiotics per serving.
Soy: Swap for Beans and Legumes
Soy milk, edamame and soy protein (found in protein powders, bars, and other common snack foods) is an excellent source of comparable protein and calcium, as well as other micro-nutrients, for those following a plant-based or vegan diet where animal meat is restricted.
However, soy can also cause inflammation and pimples in certain individuals. If you think it’s a trigger for you or you’ve got a pimple you need to zap, cut back on soy and swap it out for beans and legumes. Many tofu or soy-based meat alternatives can be replicated by using beans and legumes instead!
Greasy Fast Food: Heart-Healthy Fats
Resist the urge to head to your go-to fast food restaurant for an order of greasy fries or chicken chow mein. High-fat food that is not made up of heart-healthy unsaturated fats but rather contains excess saturated fat (not to mention also excess sodium, sugars, and carbs, in general) will surely prevent you from clearing up your breakouts and keeping your skin fresh, dewy and smooth afterwards.
Instead, swap for foods high in unsaturated fats, like mono- and poly-unsaturated found in foods like avocado and almond butter, as well as omega-3 dense foods like walnuts, olive oil and fish. And for when the cravings for fast-food strikes, break out the air fryer to recreate healthier versions that will require zero or much less oil and have fewer calories without compromising on the crispy texture and flavor.
Coffee: Swap for Decaffeinated Herbal or Green Tea
Coffee might be your savior for those mornings when you can’t get out of bed (or okay, every morning for some), but coffee will exacerbate symptoms and inflammation when you’re trying to calm a breakout. Ditch the java and trade it for a cup of herbal or chamomile tea. Chamomile happens to have calming properties, so it’s one of the better options if you like the taste! If you need the caffeine, you can go with green, since caffeine is in more moderate doses and it offers anti-inflammation properties to actually lower risk of disease and promote healthy skin.
Sugar and Carbs: Swap for Berries and Zoodles
While junk food and pasta are hard to say no to, try when you’ve got acne you need to get rid of. And in general, keep processed foods containing added sugars low where they are considered an indulgence as well as make naturally sweetened foods your go to when you’ve got a sugar craving.
If you have some acne, go for more low-glycemic fruits until your face has cleared. Berries are perfect, whereas tropical fruits, like pineapple for instance, will be a bit higher so you might want to eat a smaller portion. And as for the carbs, veggie or bean based pasta (zoodles or chickpea pasta) are easy swaps and will not only aid in freshening your skin but also in providing greater nutritional bang for your buck.