Natural Remedies

Diet Changes to Cure Acne

| Modified on Sep 17, 2023

Whether teen or adult or anywhere in between, no one enjoys dealing with acne. But, if we are really honest with ourselves, everyone has to endure the effects of this frustrating skin condition at one point or another. While treating acne can be particularly difficult, a number of naturally based remedies can help, and making small diet changes can have an especially successful effect. Consider making one of these 5 dietary changes to help eradicate your acne.

The Problem with Traditional Treatments

While there are a number of "known" treatments on the market today, many of those treatments are minimally effective at best. Many traditional treatments, like cleansers and creams, contain harsh chemical treatments that dry the skin and leave it more damaged than corrected. These damaging products leave the skin agitated and undernourished, which results in recurrent breakouts and even scarring.

Dietary Changes to Cure Acne

It is often said, "You are what you eat." We feel this is true on a number of levels, but we know it particularly holds true when it comes to the skin. Whether the amount of oil you are consuming is translating into a higher prevalence of oil on your skin or if the gluten that you are consuming is irritating your body from the inside out, you can clear up any and all of these skin issues with a few simply dietary tweaks.

1. Limit/Eliminate Sugar

Many individuals experience glucose-related acne. Eliminating any added sugar from your diet can help eliminate acne as well.

2. Eradicate Gluten

It is a known fact that gluten can have a particularly adverse effect on the body if an individual is gluten intolerant. Try eliminating gluten from your diet to see if this could be a factor contributing to your acne woes.

3. Eliminate Processed Foods

Processed foods contain a variety of additives that are hard on the system and may be contributing to skin irritation and acne.

4. Avoid Dairy

Dairy is a known inflammatory food group. Cut cheese, milk, and all other sources of dairy out of your diet to limit inflammation in your body.

5. Drink Water

One of the single most effective dietary changes you can make is increasing your water intake. This change helps improve the natural balance of your body and helps to eliminate toxins, making your body and your skin function more effectively.

Making many of these changes may seem drastic, so you'll want to try to make one change at a time. Be thoughtful about the process and determine what you think will work best for your body and work from there.

Continue reading below for more dietary suggestions from our readers to cure acne!

Related Links:

12 Proven Natural Remedies for Acne
Glowing Skin Remedies
Natural Blackhead Remedies: Clear Skin Solutions
Natural Remedies for Cystic Acne
Skin Condition Remedies

27 User Reviews

Posted by Carol (Michigan) on 04/06/2017

Hi, for acne problems; STOP dairy, especially Milk and Ice Cream, and limit chocolate intake. My grandson had acne bad until I took him off those items; he's clear now. Although, when he eats the above items within a few days he breaks out! 🤔 I hope this helps you. Carol from Michigan

Dietary Changes
Posted by Ev (Liv, Mi) on 09/29/2015

I had acne issues into my 30's. I eventually went to an allergist for another issue and found out I was allergic to mold. I stopped eating cheese, mushrooms and other fermented products and to my surprise, no more acne. Cheese is the biggest trigger for acne for me and since I love it, I occasionally indulge, but within a day or two I'll have an acne issue.

Dietary Changes
Posted by Michelle ( California) on 05/09/2015

I had really bad acne for a while, it was very patterned, my chin, jaw line, and under cheeks. I stopped drinking milk and started using a cleanser with alpha hydroxy acid. My acne is all gone!

Dietary Changes
Posted by Marie (Hills Of Tn) on 01/05/2015

I changed my diet after 15 years of cystic acne. I had read on Earth Clinic that it would help if I cut out dairy. I really have been shocked to see my cystic acne completely eliminated with no dairy. Its been almost 2 years. As soon as I have a little milk, I get zits that very night. With that said, I do drink/eat milk kefir every day, and we make it into icecream. This is so easy. Just drop kefir grains into the milk and leave at room temperature. The next day it is a probiotic beverage with 0 milk sugar. I use raw milk for this, not sure if pasteurized milk is the same ease of fermenting. Thanks Earth Clinic! Over the years, EC has changed our family's health dramatically!

Dietary Changes
Posted by Ava (Los Angeles, California) on 12/15/2013

Yes! Totally! Eliminating dairy (for me anything from a cow - goat cheese and milk is ok) was the most important step I made towards clearing my acne. Try eliminating dairy and sugars - soft drinks (not good for you anyway! ), honey, candy, etc and watch your acne clear right up! Oh, and chocolate is a biggie, too! Chocolate makes me break out practically the second after I eat it!

Dietary Changes
Posted by Sandra (Media, Pa) on 12/04/2013

I am an ESTHETICIAN and a HOLISTIC HEALTH COACH which means that look at the whole system of the body to find the root of the problem. With all my clients who suffer from blackheads, acne, and cystic acne, I make correlations between skin health and digestive health.

First, we discuss PROPER HOME CARE & CLEANING METHODS - NEVER use soap-use a cleanser with some type of alpha or beta hydroxy acid. Salicylic or lactic acids works well. In some cases, a Clarasonic type rotating brush can keep pores clear of debris and excess oil - but careful not to overdue it or can irritate your skin. Gently remove cleanser with a warm cotton wash cloth ALWAYS - great for exfoliation. Other surface causes could be: dirty makeup brushes & applicators, mineral oil in foundation, dirty pillowcases, and of course, using the wrong cleansing products-so find a cleanser that is appropriate for your skin type. An esthetician can guide you, so get facials on a regular basis - they really do help for deeper cleansing.

Second, and really IMPORTANT. Look at your DIGESTIVE SYSTEM and the FOOD you're eating. Your skin is a direct reflection of what's going on in you GUT. So, first thing is rule out are FOOD ALLERGIES -

DAIRY & WHEAT are two triggers. Most people won't even consider that conventional dairy products are injected with hormones that upset YOUR hormones - feed lot cows are eating TONS of grains loaded with antibiotics, pesticides, and hormones. It could be the milk protein, casein, that you're allergic to. You can also try to eliminate ALL DAIRY for 2 WEEKS and see what happens OR, switch to GRASS-FED milk or RAW milk which you can find at a health food store. Drinking organic milk doesn't guarantee that the cow was grass-fed, only that it might have eaten a percentage of organic grains. Not the same thing. Buy 'cultured butter' which has naturally occurring fermentation (good for the gut) and eat 'pastured' eggs which are rich in Omega-3s bc the eggs come from chickens that eat what they're supposed to eat: insects & clover.

WHEAT is the other trigger. The actual wheat grain has been cross-bred with so many different types of grasses that your body is not meant to digest - and of course, there's GLUTEN. Conventionally processed wheat products are loaded with gluten and your body is reacting - which can show up as cystic acne. Stay away from anything made with flour...even whole grains. Your gluten sensitivity w/o digestive symptoms, as with Celiac, could show up as migraines, fatigue, and brain fog. For more information, please read, 'Wheat Belly'. You will be amazed.

STRENGTHEN YOUR GUT with fermented foods that contain probiotics - like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir (dairy, so be careful) and miso. Can also take probiotics in powder form (I like Green Vibrance products) or find probiotics in gel caps.

DRINK GREEN SMOOTHIES to alkalinize your system - the standard American diet (S.A.D.) is way too acidic. Eat LOTS OF GREENS (kale, collards, swiss chard, spinach, etc.) You can google 'green smoothies' for great recipes. EAT MORE RAW FOODS...for the enzymes.

Third, there's SUGAR. Sugar produces spikes in insulin and really does a number on your pancreas. The spike in insulin causes increases sebum (oil) production which leads to clogged pores. Going back to refined carbs (there's that flour again) creates the same reaction in the body as pure sugar so it's a vicious cycle. Make an effort to cut back and again, see what happens.

Good luck!! I love this site ~ thank you!!!!

Dietary Changes
Posted by Dk (Pittsburgh, Pa) on 08/17/2011

First off, I think that if people with "anxiety disorder" qualify for disablity, then acne sufferers should, too! It is a definite hindrance to many job fields and creates a multitude of mental health issues in chronic victims, including anxiety and depression. I know, because I'm in my 37th year of battling acne!!

Over the years, I've literally invested thousands of dollars in doctors, naturopaths, spas, saunas, tanning beds, cleansing and detoxification, fasting cures, prescription medications, both topical and oral, drug store acne products, natural remedies, herbals, cosmetics and reading materials. For most of my adult life, I have led a healthy lifestyle: I exercise vigorously and regularly, eat a very healthy diet, drink lots of water, get regular doses of sunshine, take vitamin supplements, avoid ingestion of chemicals and alcohol, engage in relaxing activities to de-stress from my job and try to get at least 5-6 hrs of sleep a night. I have a successful career and a large network of supportive family and friends, with whom I regularly socialize. People tell me all of the time that I look 10-15 years younger than my stated age, but I've also been insulted by the likes of aestheticians and even my ex-husband. Despite all of that, it is extremely frustrating and depressing to still walk around every day feeling I have to hide my natural skin! Even more disheartening is to watch my daughter begin her journey down this ugly road!

Most cleansing rituals & routines, as well as most topicals have led to my disappointment that my skin looked much worse, after using them, instead of clearer! The only real complete break from my cystic "adolescent-type" of acne that I have ever had was with the birth control pill. However, I choose not to take that any more, because of breast cancer, stroke and other possible risks.

I have discovered, though, that leaving corn and anything made with any of its byproducts, out of my diet seems to help. That may help to explain why some people do well on a "gluten-free" diet--maybe it's the corn, not the gluten. I have also found that eliminating non-cultured dairy and gluten-containing products does help my skin a little.

I agree with Chet from LA that the sodium lauryl and sodium laureth sulfates are a big culprit! They are even contained in many so-called "acne products. " (They want you to keep trying their products, so they put in an ingredient that actually causes acne??! ) Fortunately, there are a few inexpensive brands of shampoos and soaps that do not contain sulfates, e.g. some products from L'Oreal and Ivory and Irish Spring bar soaps.

I was wondering if anyone has had any positive experiences with CoEnzyme A/Pantothen, which I have recently seen advertised....

Replied by Sherry
(Fayetteville, Georgia)

I know this is crazy, but if someone is allergic to coconut, should they also steer clear of coconut oil?

Replied by Sara
(The Beach, Canada)

Absolutely stay away from coconut oil if your are allergic to coconuts. I found out because my friend cooks with it and I had a reaction.

Replied by Tina
(Houston, Tx)

One option would be to stay away from what you are allergic to. Allergies however CAN be cleared successfully using NAET protocol by chiropracters and naturopaths. Google NAET and read for yourself. The goal is to have a body that can intake, consume and successfully digest and breakdown what is ingested. And NAET does just that! Good luck!

Replied by Sara
(The Beach, Canada)

That may work for some, but all it did for me was lighten my wallet a great deal and I still cant eat chocolate or coconut to name a few.

Replied by D

I've experienced acne, the kind that hangs around for years. It's a minor annoyance, to say the least. I've also experienced anxiety, the kind where you feel uneasy and things don't seem real, and you have panic attacks when it gets bad and you feel like you're going to die.

I live with the former, and I'm really thankful I don't have to live with the latter (at least not on a regular basis).

Dietary Changes
Posted by singer04 (California) on 05/25/2011

I've been struggling with adult acne for most of my adult life. But besides the acne I have had the following ailments: fatigue, depression, sharp head pains, vaginitis, rashes, distension of the stomach, cold hands/feet, etc.

Acne is not just about your face. It is just a reaction to whatever is happening inside your body. If you read up on Chinese face reading, the location of your acne indicates what is going wrong with your body. For example, when I had a chest cold the same area on my face would break out (either side, between my mouth and nose) which indicates the lungs. But even though I would see my Chinese herbalist/acupuncturist they would fix it but then it would come back, again and again.

Two months ago there were a lot of changes at my work and I was really stressed. My face broke out, the worst it's ever been. Nothing would calm it down. And even worse, I kept getting sick. Colds, flus, cough, etc. One after the other. It was exhausting. Then I went to a chiropractor who just happened to be gluten intolerant and she said that I was probably intolerant to gluten. I had nothing to lose, so I took gluten out of my diet. The first week I had a horrible headache that started everyday at 2pm, then I got sick again. But after three weeks, I started feeling better. My skin is flawless. It has never looked so great. I feel that my acupuncture appointments are even working better because I'm not constantly harming my body. I keep losing inches and my energy feels a lot better. My vaginitis is gone and my fatigue is dissipating.

Just a warning: the first few weeks are hard! The headaches were really painful and I kept getting sick but I feel so much better than before! Please remember that you are not doing this just for your skin but for you entire body. Your body is just trying to tell you something!

Another warning: Most gluten intolerants specialists don't want you to stop eating gluten before they test you because they need gluten in your system for the test to be accurate. (By the way, it's a really invasive test) I chose to remove it immediately because I don't care about the test. Even if they were to give me a positive test, the only thing they would do is to tell me not to eat gluten. It's not worth my time or effort.

Replied by Debbie
(Melbourne, Australia)

Singer04 just an interesting aside. I read an article of a guy who makes fermented sourdough bread. He makes the starter over a couple of weeks and then when he makes the bread he ferments it for over 12 hours overnight before cooking it. He said many people who were gluten intolerant could eat the sourdough bread even though it was wheat. The secret was in the fermenting of it.

These days all our breads are quick risen and not left long enough to ferment. It was an interesting viewpoint. Here is the article if you are interested in reading it. If true it may mean you don't need to stop wheat altogether, just when you are out.

The comments section also has a good recipe.

Dietary Changes
Posted by Susan (Saginaw, Mi) on 12/02/2010

I have been dealing with very bad acne for quite some time and nothing worked to get rid of it. The doctor wanted to put me on birth control, antibiotics and if that didn't work then accutane!! Anyways, I did not want to take any medication for it. My friend had heard that an allergy to dairy products could cause acne and she gave up dairy and her acne disappeared. I thought I would give it a try.. Ever since my last day drinking a glass of milk, I have not gotten any new zits. It's been a week and a half and my face is almost completely clear!! It is amazing!! I am 30 yrs old and have been dealing with this since I was a teenager. So it is definitely worth giving a try before trying antibiotics and stuff.

Dietary Changes
Posted by Pureenergy (Los Angeles, Ca, Us) on 09/04/2010

After suffering with adult acne for 15-years, it disappeared quite unexpectedly after changing my diet to vegan. No dairy (milk, cheese, ice-cream, yogurt) or meat products of any kind cured my adult acne problem. I did a 7-day juice fast to kick off this vegan way of living and my skin was amazing. After a year and a half of being vegan, my doctor suggested I begin eating fish for omega 3. He also said I was so healthy that I could indulge a little if I chose to; so I did! It only took a week for some acne to resurface from eating ice-cream, cow's butter and provolone cheese on 2 sandwiches. Skin is our biggest organ and it is the fastest way for the body to eliminate toxins. I believe the meat industry pumps the animals with antibiotics and hormones, which our bodies absorb when we consume it. If you cannot do a vegan diet, I would at a minimum eliminate dairy products from a cow. Try goat's cheese and milk, which is next on my list. As for meat, be sure to get organic free range GRASS FED! Cows can't easily digest corn or meal from corn. Check out a documentary called, "Food Inc." and see for yourself. Be well and healthy!

Dietary Changes
Posted by Bob (London, U.K.) on 01/13/2010

Blood type diet cured my acne. Suffering from a bad case of adult acne for years, I tried many different conventional treatments (antibiotics, medicinal creams, facials etc.) as well as alternative ones (homeopathy, accupuncture, various diets etc.) but nothing worked. 8 years down the line, I bumped into the Blood Type Diet and decided to try it. Within a week my face cleared, I was amazed by the fast results! All that was left was the scarring, which got better with time. I recommended the diet to 2 friends (they were blood type A) and they had great results too. I hope this helps.

Dietary Changes
Posted by Bluebirdofparadise (Billings, Mt) on 08/16/2009


I just wanted to write tell about some things that seem to be curing my acne.

First of all, I used to get pimples on my butt and I found that it was from the lotion I used (or sometimes I'd use baby oil after a shower). Anything with mineral oil or petroleum jelly or or artificial stuff like that in it would give me pimples. It took me a little while to figure it out because I'm really into moisturizing my skin and it's something I'd been doing for a long time. When I switched to using virgin coconut oil or other virgin oils (olive, grapeseed, etc.) the problem disappeared.

However, I still got pimples on my face, back, and chest. It was really embarrassing to wear a swimsuit or a dress with a low back or anything, because they were all over (esp. my back). Well, a couple of months ago I decided to become a vegetarian (for reasons other than my acne). When I did this, I also became concerned about my nutrition and started taking a tablespoon or two of both unsulphured blackstrap molasses and brewer's yeast every day, in addition to eating a diet almost entirely of whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and cold-pressed (virgin) oils. I couldn't believe what was happening to me, but after a week or two the zits on my chest totally went away. Next they started disappearing on my back and now they are totally gone there, too (except for some little red scars where they used to be, but they are disappearing too). Now my face is clearing up as well - and I didn't even get any new ones when I got my period. I'm putting shea butter and lotions I make myself out of olive oil or almond oil and beeswax on my face. The shea butter really seems to help the scars disappear quickly. I tried using Pond's a couple of days ago but when I did I had a big zit under my eye by the evening.

I'm convinced that my acne was caused mostly by my diet. I realized this even more after I went to the fair a couple of weeks ago and ate a bunch of deep-fried food (still vegetarian but very high fat content!). The next couple of days my acne flared up again badly. A huge pimple on my cheek, one on my chin, lots of tiny ones on my forehead, and several on my back. It didn't matter what I was (or wasn't) putting on my skin. They just came, and benzol peroxide seemed to make the one on my cheek worse. Now that I've been back to "normal" (high-fiber, low fat vegetarian) about a week all the pimples are almost gone again (and no new ones have appeared).

I know a vegetarian diet sounds extreme but it is totally worth it to me. I feel so much better and healthier and more beautiful. I can look at myself in the mirror now and see smooth skin all the way up and down my body, front and back. I think I was just taking in more toxins to my body than it could handle. This wasn't easy for me to see as I am petite and thin for my size - so I wouldn't have guessed that too much fat/toxins in my diet were causing the problem. Now I am certain this is the case! Plus I feel better and more energetic and happier than I have in years. So in a nutshell - eating vegetarian/whole unprocessed foods, making sure my diet is nutritionally sound (blackstrap molasses and brewers yeast) and not putting chemicals or mineral oils on my skin is turning out to be a wonderful acne cure I wasn't expecting. If you can do it, I'm sure it will make you better too.

Dietary Changes
Posted by Katia (SLC, Utah) on 07/11/2009

I had terrible facial acne and was on many different antibiotics for years. My acne cure was to remove all sucrose (white refined sugar) from my diet. I replaced it with Stevia, which I mix in drinks and Xylitol, which I use for baking. Removing sucrose completely cured my acne in 3-4 weeks. I also lost weight as a side benefit and I never get colds anymore. I also never breakout anymore and people have commented on how healthy my skin looks. I returned to the sugar habit once (during the holidays) and my acne returned in full force. I also caught bronchitis. That was the last time I relapsed, I learned my lesson.

Dietary Changes
Posted by Ingrid (Geneva, Ohio) on 06/20/2009

I'm in my 40's and have had acne all my life. I've found recently that pop (soda) does it and occassionally candy.

Dietary Changes
Posted by Tina (Seattle, WA, USA) on 01/15/2009

I believe an improper diet can cause acne. I've found that my skin breaks out when I eat chocolate, wheat products, or ingest caffeine. Acne isn't really a skin problem. The body isn't processing something that it's allergic to, so it eliminates the toxins thru the skin. You have to get rid of the source of the problem, not just treat the symptoms. Acne is just a symptom of an internal issue. I strongly recommend consulting w/ a naturopath. Dermatologists have never helped me clear up my skin. They don't seem to understand that it's a systemic problem.

Dietary Changes
Posted by Stacy (Oklahoma City, OK, USA) on 11/19/2008

Keratosis Pilaris, acne, rosacea, etc

I used to have many health ailments, many of which I have read about here. The only thing that works to cure them and keep them away is a raw diet. When eating a raw diet, you avoid most of the foods that cause the problems in the first place. Consuming too much cooked proteins, especially wheat and dairy, causes disease. Cooking the proteins makes them difficult for the body to break down the protein. The excess proteins clog up the lymph and other organs of elimination causing an over growth of bacteria (colds, cysts, etc.)which in turn causes disease. The disease usually shows up in the weakest organs that have usually been abused the most from a wrong diet. There is a wealth of info at and barefoots forum at Herbs are a great way to aid in healing. When you just start cleansing and eating a raw diet, they can help you heal faster. Just wanted to mention this. Thanks and have a great day!

Dietary Changes
Posted by Telicia (Farmington Hills, MI) on 09/14/2008

Eliminating dairy practically cured my acne. I actually went to a nutritionist who tested my urine and told me that I was lactose intolerant. I rarely get an upset stomach from dairy so I wrote it off. I've practically lived on cereal, yogurt, and sourcream for years! Later on, I went to an acupuncturist who told me that my acne would clear up if I just stop eating dairy. She says I have too much yeast in my body and that when I eat dairy I was feeding it. Well apparently she was right. Cause over the years I've done everything from taking vitamins everyday, to doing full body detoxes. But the moment I stop eating all dairy products including creamer in my coffee and sourcream on my baked potato, my skin was completely clear! Completely! Whenever I get a pimple now, I just stop eating ALL dairy products, swipe a little peroxide and/or tea tree oil on my face, and my skin clears up within a matter of days. Why couldn't I have figured this out 10 years ago? Good luck.

Dietary Changes
Posted by Simone (Portland, Oregon) on 07/20/2008

re: Acne & wheat/gluten allergy. I have suffered from embarrassing acne for over 20 years. I finally went to a naturopath, who diagnosed me as being allergic to gluten and wheat. Now that I have stopped eating anything w/ wheat or gluten in it, not only has my stomach stopped being upset, but my skin has cleared up. I don't have to put anything on it or do anything - it's just clear now.

I have also heard that dairy products can cause acne. I stopped using dairy products about the same time i stopped eating wheat/gluten, so that could also be part of the solution.

Dietary Changes
Posted by Raquelle (Auckland, New Zealand) on 12/04/2007

I have suffered acne most of my I have majorly linked it to my digestive track .....I have also suffered constipation as well. so if you have acne, have a look at how well your digestive system has been working ....everytime I have pimples return I find I have been constipated. Some of the best bowel movers are ...coconut oil(organic) used as butter etc..flax seeds in yoghurt(yummy way) peaches are very high in fiber ...oh and water water. and externally , there is some excellent cures on this website. ALso lemon juice (avoiding the eyes) is an excellent toner. Cider vinegar rinse. and also manuka honey can be steamed in with hot flannel till it disappears into your skin and is very antibacterial ! Also salt is great if you put in the basin with your face rinsing water , for helping all heal up. For skin internally can be fish oils , zinc healing scarring. Vit c . these I find are some of the best vitamins.

Dietary Changes
Posted by Les (Athens, Greece) on 12/03/2007

For acne, the best solution is having a blood test for food intolerances. Then completely cut out the foods you are intolerant to. It takes less than a week to see results. It took me years of struggling to finally discover this simple solution. I hope this helps people.

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