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Yikes! Are these common foods giving you adult acne? (Plus what to eat for clear skin)

Written by Ali Donahue
Yikes! Are these common foods giving you adult acne? (Plus what to eat for clear skin)

Quick Take

Struggling with adult acne? Foods we commonly eat can make it worse. The good news? “Clean eating” can ease up on the acne and dial your clear skin up (way up). These are the foods to eat (and avoid) for healthy skin.

On this page

Why does adult acne happen?

Avoid these foods if you have adult acne

The best plant-based foods to eat for clear skin

How to eat clean for healthy skin

Key Takeaways

FREE DOWNLOAD: Ultimate Little Guide to Plant-Based Eating

A gift for you: FREE Ultimate (little) Guide to Plant-Based Eating

Why does adult acne happen?

First things first: Acne doesn’t care how old you are.

Pimply teenagers are a stock character in our understanding of skin health. But we know the truth! Acne shows up in our 20s, and 30s, and in our 40s, and beyond. Cystic acne showing up the summer you turn 41? Yup! Acne coming along for the menopause ride? It happens.

Acne 101 (It comes down to your hormones)

At the same time, it's easy to forget what causes acne, especially when we're so many years removed from health class. Here’s the basic rundown.

Your skin has small holes all over it, called pores. These holes connect to oil glands that send up an oily substance called sebum. Sebum by itself is a good, natural thing. It lubricates our skin and hair. Researchers are also exploring whether sebum has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

When your body produces too much sebum, the pores can clog. The pores can also get plugged up with excess dead skin cells or bacteria. A plugged pore becomes acne.

Your hormones have a big effect on how much sebum you make. And what has a big impact on our hormone function?

You guessed it. The foods we eat. And clean eating, or a vegan, plant-based diet, is the best for healthy hormones.

(Not sure how to start a vegan diet of “clean eating” for healthy skin? The MamaSezz Beauty Bundle is your fast track to glowing skin with ready-made and delicious plant-based meals, delivered! Order here.)

Avoid these foods if you have adult acne

It’s not exactly as simple as "eat a candy bar, get a pimple."

Rather, we tend to make more sebum when we have more insulin in our blood. We have more insulin when our blood sugar is higher. And our blood sugar is higher when we regularly eat certain foods, including:

  • sugar
  • white flours
  • white rice

The staples of the Standard American Diet have also been shown to contribute to more oil production. These foods include:

The best plant-based foods to eat for clear skin

There are many (and many delicious) plants that help your skin stay clear and radiant. Here are three of the best "clean foods" to incorporate into your plant-based diet now.

1. Omega-3s.

Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties that prevent damage to your skin. Your body actually heals faster, which means less acne.

Foods with Omega-3 include the seaweeds kelp, nori, spirulina, and algae. (Yep...uou don’t need to eat fish to get these oils. You can just eat what the fish eat!)

Not sure how to eat seaweed? Start simple. Add a pinch of powdered spirulina to your breakfast smoothie. Or, add a square of kelp (4”x4” is good) to your soup, simmer for about 10 minutes, then take out the kelp. You still get the good stuff!

Other plants with Omega-3s: are flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, avocados, soy, or kidney beans.

2. Flaxseeds

Yes, we already mentioned flax as a great way to get Omega-3s, but it's worthy of its own category when it comes to healthy skin. Flaxseed has water retention abilities to keep you hydrated and actually help your skin retain moisture. Eating 2 Tablespoons of flax a day helps to reduce acne, even out skin tones, and promote a healthy glow.

(Ready to see clear skin again? The MamaSezz Beauty Bundle purifies your system and accentuates your unique beauty with beautiful and colorful food. Order here.)

3. Zinc

Researchers have found links between eating zinc and reducing the severity of acne. A few foods with zinc are:

  • pumpkin seeds
  • cashews
  • quinoa
  • lentils

4. Vitamins A and E

Other research suggests that eating more vitamins A and E can lessen acne.

Some of high Vitamin A foods are:

  • dark green leafy vegetables
  • sweet potatoes (with orange flesh!)
  • carrots
  • squash

High vitamin E foods include:

  • sweet red pepper
  • brazil nuts
  • sunflower seeds
  • dark leafy greens

How to eat clean for healthy skin

A plant-based diet yields clear skin when you eat plants every day, in every meal. Adding more fruits and veggies is usually a good thing, but to see the results on your face, they need to be the stars of every meal.

So how you do that? You can spend a lot of time planning, shopping, chopping, and cooking. That works. It takes most of the hours of your week, but it works.

Or you can come to Mama’s table! We’re here to deliver plant-based, fresh, clear-skin-supporting meals every week. Your skin gets the benefit, and you don’t need to make cooking your part-time job!

Come on over and scoop up our amazing Beauty Bundle. Filled with an anti-inflammatory plant-based diet, you’ll enjoy dishes filled to the brim with radiant cell-promoting vitamins and minerals, without inflammatory and oxidative foods bogging you down.

Just as acne can happen at any age, clear skin is possible for us our whole lives, too. A plant-based diet is how you get that beautiful glow.

Key takeaways

  • Acne happens at any age.
  • Your hormone function affects your acne.
  • Foods common to the Standard American Diet contribute to acne.
  • Plant-based “clean-eating” helps lessen acne.
  • The MamaSezz Beauty Bundle does the cooking work for you.

Don't forget your FREE Download


By Becky Karush


Becky Karush is a writer, copywriter, and family woman. She came up through newspapers and magazines, including Disney FamilyFun and Martha Stewart Whole Living, with road trips to teaching and farming. She’s run BeckyK Creative Marketing since 2012. She hosts and produces READ TO ME, a literary podcast that ends the cult of the critic and surfaces the power and beauty in great writing.

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