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5+1 Foods That Can Worsen Your Skin’s Complexion

A woman with sugar on her lips eating candy

It stands to reason that what we put in our bodies makes a difference in our skin’s health. But it’s something we often overlook. It’s far easier to treat from the outside than from the inside. And with so many temptations and less-than-ideal ingredients in restaurants and grocery stores, we must be more diligent than ever. As our largest organ and the one that probably takes the biggest brunt of our lifestyle shortcomings, the skin needs our attention. Further, the skin that most people see – on your face – is particularly prone to imbalances leading to blemishes, poor complexion, and even acne.

It’s worth noting that hormonal imbalances can be triggered by reactions to foods we eat or by carrying a significant amount of excess weight. This can, in turn, cause skin problems. However, if we were to offer some advice on what to minimize in your diet, it would be:


Sugar comes in many forms, not just the crystals in those little paper bags. There is hidden sugar in a much greater number of products than you would believe. And sugar goes by many names, some of which you may not even recognize. Sugar and other simple carbohydrates in white grains like bread, rice, pasta, and more can all contribute to acne and premature aging. Sugary foods make collagen more rigid and brittle, increasing the risk of fine lines and wrinkles at an earlier age.

Fried Foods

Like processed foods explained below, deep-fried foods contain a significant amount of sodium and saturated fat. These foods, when consumed regularly, can cause hormonal and physical changes that ultimately worsen skin tone and complexion. This is not to say you can’t have fried foods occasionally; most foods in moderation should be just fine. However, consistently consuming fried foods can lead to less-than-ideal skin consequences.

Dairy (Especially If you Have an Allergy):

Dairy, particularly cow’s milk, has been shown to affect the skin in many ways. First, it can increase the size of our oil glands, which can create excess oil production. This can cause blemishes at best and full-on acne breakouts at worst. Milk is also relatively high in sugar which can cause inflammation. If you regularly break out when consuming dairy, consider switching to alternatives like pea, oat, almond, or hemp milk, which can offer similar enjoyment with less concern. It’s also important to know that some of us can physically react to dairy, that adverse reactions can develop at any age and, in its mild forms, cause acne breakouts and other harmful effects on the skin.


Alcohol is problematic in several ways for the skin. It is one of the reasons why you often see premature wrinkles and lines in those who drink heavily and regularly. Moderate alcohol consumption typically is not a significant concern, but if you are very worried about your skin, taking some time off may be very beneficial. First, alcohol is a diuretic, which means it promotes the removal of liquid from the body. If you do not adequately hydrate while drinking alcohol, this can lead to dehydration and an imbalance in oil production in the skin. When you drink an alcoholic beverage, follow it up with an 8 to 12-ounce glass of water to minimize its diuretic effects. Further, alcohol and the mixers we often use contain sugar. Again, sugar can wreak havoc on the skin.

Processed Foods

These foods are easy to prepare or require no preparation at all. They typically contain high levels of sodium, saturated fat, and nitrates, all pro-inflammatory. Further, they usually offer little dense nutrition and contribute to longer-term excess weight. While very convenient, especially for those on the go, processed foods should be avoided. While you may easily be able to avoid processed foods at home, it’s essential also to screen the restaurants at which you eat. Certain menu items are often heavily processed, while seemingly healthy dishes can be loaded with butter, salt, and other flavor enhancers.

Whey Protein

Androgen production is one of the primary triggers of hormonal or adult-onset acne. While androgen is the male hormone, it is also produced in women. Whey protein, often used by athletes and those working hard to build muscle, can stimulate androgen production and cause breakouts.

So, there you have it, 6 types of food that can lead to inflammation and reactions that ultimately affect the skin. We want to stress to our patients that proper care WITHIN your body is essential to keeping your skin at its very best. If you ignore what you consume, you only make it harder to get the skin you want.

Have you met our aesthetician, Anna? We’re excited to have Anna at the office and encourage you to schedule an appointment for a facial, microdermabrasion, chemical peel, or microneedling.