Eating Holiday Sweets: Can Sugar Cause Acne?

A group of people hold glasses of wine and sparklers during a holiday party.

Eating Holiday Sweets: Can Sugar Cause Acne?

The holidays are coming! It’s the time of year to connect with the people you love, come together to celebrate, and enjoy great food and drink. But if you suffer from acne, you may worry about triggering your skin condition. This article looks at how food can affect your skin and what foods to avoid so you can have clear, photo-ready skin this fall and winter!

How foods affect your skin

New research indicates acne is an autoimmune disease and that different foods can trigger the condition depending on your sensitivities. Your body will be sensitive and react to foods it perceives as a threat (rightly or wrongly). You generally want to avoid foods in these five categories: milk, fast food, bread, alcohol, and sweets.


Milk has been considered a cause of teenage acne for years and recent studies confirm the connection but not why a teen who regularly drinks milk is four times more likely to have acne. It’s not clear yet that milk is the problem. The real culprit may be growth hormones and other bio-actives in the milk—compounds the cows consumed as they were raised. 

Fast food

There’s also a correlation between eating fast food and developing acne, though, again, more research is needed. Fast food (high-fat and/or fried foods) such as hamburgers, pizza, and french fries are fatty and high in carbs. This combination affects the endocrine system by signaling a spike in insulin production, which may play a part in autoimmune diseases. 


Alcohol is another holiday treat to stay away from if you’re trying to avoid a breakout. Alcohol has a connection to causing acne and has been known to trigger many skin conditions, including rosacea and psoriasis. Where acne is concerned, a lot of alcohol will cause a hormonal imbalance which, in turn, triggers sebum production in your skin. 

Sebum can clog the pores and attract bacteria, causing acne. Binge drinking can also lower your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off bacteria. Having a glass of wine at dinner shouldn’t be a problem, but keep drinking to a minimum.


Chocolate is another food that triggers acne, but the association is complex. Though it’s easy to blame the dairy and sugar mixed in with the chocolate as the culprit, recent studies show cacao powder can trigger acne. Chocolate may increase the activity of the immune system and reactivity to bacteria and might be an excellent treat to avoid if you’re trying to keep your skin clear.

Sugar and refined grains

Can sugar cause acne? Sugar and refined grains that break down quickly into sugar in the bloodstream are proven to increase the likelihood of an acne breakout by 30 percent. High sugar levels throw the endocrine system off by spiking insulin levels. Insulin increases androgens, increasing sebum production, a factor in acne breakouts. So, even though the dessert tray is full, keep the sweets to a minimum.

What can I eat?

Though research is scarce on foods that reduce inflammation and help your acne, fresh foods high in omega-3 fatty acids might do the trick. Consider eating the following foods, especially in the weeks approaching gatherings and celebrations:

  • soybeans and soy products, such as tofu
  • fish, such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines
  • flaxseeds
  • eggs
  • leafy greens like spinach and kale
  • navy beans
  • wild rice
  • grass-fed beef
  • nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
  • mustard seeds

Skin clinic — acne solutions

If you want to ensure your skin clears up before the holidays, start weeks ahead. Contact your doctor for advice on topical creams or antibiotics.

Fractora treatment 

Fractora was developed for skin rejuvenation and works by increasing collagen production. The Fractora heat and microneedling also show increased collagen and a reduction in the size of sebaceous glands that produce the oils that clog pores, with a significant reduction in acne. The treatment takes a few weeks to recover from but will give you a clearer, fresher look this holiday season. Even acne scars are much reduced over time. Look at this Fractora before and after picture:

If you want to look your best over the holidays, look into Fractora treatment for your acne today. Contact PSSC for a consultation today.

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