Skip to content

5 Foods and Drinks that May be Irritating your Skin

5 Foods and Drinks that May be Irritating your Skin

The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.

Don’t you just hate it when you get a zit? You’re way past adolescence, yet the newly formed North Star on your nose brings back embarrassing memories of awkward middle school days. What gives?

Ladies, we can blame the fluctuating hormones of our monthly cycle, but what if you’re past that age? Men, I’d be willing to bet you experience periodic pimples too!

To solve the mystery, it helps to examine the foods you’ve been eating. Here are five common culprits of bothersome blemishes and simple tips to help you achieve healthy, glowing skin.

Elmhurst Nut Milks


Hormonal and bioactive components in dairy products may lead to blocked pores, oiliness and pimples. According to Dr. Andrea Murina, Associate Professor of Dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine, eating dairy, or even whey-based protein, can elevate levels of insulin-like growth factors. This hormone is known to trigger breakouts.

Another offender in dairy is the presence of lactose, a natural milk sugar posing problems like gas, bloating, diarrhea and acne flare-ups for those unable to digest it.

Cow’s milk seems to be more aggravating to skin than other forms of dairy like yogurt and cheese.

If you don’t want to risk it, choose plant-based dairy alternatives like Elmhurst walnut milk, Treeline vegan goat-style cheese, RIND vegan cheese and Siggi’s or Culina coconut-based yogurt.


Sweet treats, sugary beverages and other processed junk foods cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, which contributes to inflammation throughout your body. Spikes in blood sugar and inflammation cause your body to make more sebum, an oily substance in your skin that in excess, can lead to acne.

Eating too many refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, crackers, chips and cereals can raise blood sugar and cause breakouts too.

Choose sprouted Ezekiel bread, Liviva bean pasta, Mary’s Gone seed crackers, Brad’s kale chips and steel cut oatmeal instead.

Whole Roasted Chicken
Garlic and Rosemary Whole Roasted Chicken by Chef Billy Parisi.

Greasy Foods

Like sugar and refined foods made from white flour, the reason greasy foods like French fries, fried chicken and battered fish seem to agitate the skin is likely due to their blood sugar-raising effect.

Stick with minimally processed whole foods and simple preparation methods like baked sweet potatoes, roasted chicken and broiled fish.

Too Much Alcohol

While it may not cause acne, drinking too much alcohol can speed up the aging process of your skin. Increased upper facial lines, under-eye puffiness and dry skin can occur when you go beyond the recommended one drink per day for women and two drinks for men.

In case you didn’t know, one standard drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. The most nourishing beverage for your skin? You guessed it…water!

Heinen's Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Green Goddess Pizza by Yoko Segawa.

Highly Refined Oils

Highly refined oils like canola, corn, soybean and sunflower, are rich in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. As you learned above, foods that trigger inflammation can also lead to acne.

I recommend stocking your kitchen with better-for-you oils like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil.

Key Takeaway

Your skin is your largest organ. Therefore, foods that are good for your body and reduce inflammation are going to be great for your skin. Strive to eat the rainbow each day by adding as much color to your meals as possible.

Toss a handful of fresh raspberries on your morning oatmeal, snack on carrots with homemade guacamole for lunch, serve a leafy green salad topped with walnuts, tomatoes and fresh blueberries at dinner and drink plenty of water each day. It won’t be long before you’re waving goodbye to “Mount Zit-more” and hello to clear blue skies!

Melanie Jatsek RD, LD

By Melanie Jatsek RD, LD

Heinen's Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek, RD, LD believes that the answer to a strong, healthy and vibrant body lies within. As a published author with over 20 years of experience in wellness program development, health coaching and professional speaking, Melanie offers expert guidance through Heinen's Club Fx program to help customers take inspired action to build the healthy body they were meant to live in without giving up their favorite foods.

Related Recipes & Stories