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Wellness Club

The Link Between Acne and Nutrition

Sporty & Rich Wellness - The Link Between Acne and Nutrition


By: @dermahealthnutrition


Acne is the most common skin disorder world-wide. It’s considered to be a disease of Western civilization with the “Western diet” playing an important role in its development and severity. A high intake of sugar (often hidden in industrial foods), the consumption of processed foods, large amounts of pasteurized dairy products, and saturated fats have been shown to promote acne. These dietary components can cause a significant release of insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). Insulin and IGF-1 promote signaling pathways that increase seborrhea of the skin (oily skin) and induce the release of inflammatory mediators, leading to acne outbreaks.


Apart from the foods described above that are known to aggravate acne, dietary changes with potentially preventive and therapeutic effects are currently being investigated in clinical trials as a complementary measure for pharmacotherapy. Omega-3 fatty acids (ω-3 FA) appear most promising due to their anti-inflammatory effects. ω-3 FA are contained in linseed oil, walnuts, algae, and seeds – particularly chia seeds, hemp seeds, and coarsely ground linseeds. Probiotics are also being discussed as an adjunctive option due to their regulating effects on the gut and skin microbiota. Probiotics are defined as living organisms with a beneficial health effect, including lactobacillus bacteria. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and kombucha naturally contain probiotics and are a great addition to a varied diet.


As a basic principle, nutritional recommendations should not focus on single foods nor “superfoods”, but rather, promote a long-term and sustainable lifestyle change that incorporates plant-derived, unprocessed, and seasonal nutrients. Furthermore, intake of dietary supplements is only indicated if a proven deficiency in vitamins or minerals exists.



Unprocessed foods

(foods without ingredient labels)

Industrial, high-processed, hyperglycemic foods

Whole grain products

White flour products

Omega-3 fatty acids

(e.g. algae, nuts, seeds, avocado)

Fast food/deep-fried food


Seasonal fruit and vegetables

(especially legumes and pulses)

Pasteurized dairy products

(especially whey protein)



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Cordain, L., et al. Acne vulgaris: a disease of Western civilization. Arch Dermatol 138, 1584-1590 (2002).

Melnik, B.C. Acne vulgaris: The metabolic syndrome of the pilosebaceous follicle. Clin Dermatol 36, 29-40 (2018).

Baldwin, H. & Tan, J. Effects of Diet on Acne and Its Response to Treatment. Am J Clin Dermatol 22, 55-65 (2021).

Gurtler, A. & Laurenz, S. The impact of clinical nutrition on inflammatory skin diseases. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges 20, 185-202 (2022).

Guertler, A., et al. Clinical effects of omega-3 fatty acids on acne vulgaris. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges (2022).

Yu, Y., Dunaway, S., Champer, J., Kim, J. & Alikhan, A. Changing our microbiome: probiotics in dermatology. Br J Dermatol 182, 39-46 (2020).