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7 Foods to Avoid for Healthy Skin (And What to Have Instead)

December 19, 2020

7 Foods to Avoid for Healthy Skin (And What to Have Instead)

As we go about our daily lives, there are a variety of factors that affect our skin. From the weather, to hormones, to stress levels, many of these things are simply beyond our control.

There is, however, one factor we can control—our diet! The food we eat plays a critical role in our well-being, including the health and appearance of our skin. After all, our skin is our largest organ, so it only makes sense that it's greatly impacted by what we put into our bodies.

At this point, you might be thinking, “Here we go...a list of foods I can’t eat.” Don’t panic! While science proves that certain foods can negatively affect the skin, keep in mind that you can enjoy everything in moderation. Plus, we couldn’t leave you hanging without a few alternatives that you can enjoy guilt-free.

Keep reading to learn about seven foods to avoid for healthy skin, as well as some recommendations for delicious alternatives to reach for instead.

White Bread

Many of us grew up eating white bread (Wonder bread, anyone?). However, in addition to providing little to no nutritional value, white bread isn’t the best for your skin.

Foods with a high glycemic index (GI), like white bread, cause a dramatic spike in blood sugar. This triggers your body to produce a burst of the hormone insulin in order to aid your cells in absorbing the sugar. This spike can cause inflammation and even acne, according to research.

While we’re on the topic of white bread, it’s important to note that foods rich in refined carbohydrates aren’t great for the skin in general. These include:

  • Crackers or cereal made with white flour
  • White rice
  • Pasta made with white flour
  • Rice noodles

Alternative: White bread might not be a good choice, but this doesn’t mean you have to skip out on bread altogether. Whole grain or whole wheat breads are much better alternatives, and will actually keep you fuller, longer.

There are also plenty of tortillas out there that can satisfy this craving, from chickpea flour tortillas to whole grain wraps with turmeric—which is an amazing superfood for the skin!

Sugary Treats

If you’re someone who has a sweet tooth, this is probably one of the last things you want to hear. Similar to white bread, sweets like donuts, cake, and pastries cause that dreaded blood sugar spike that leaves our bodies and skin feeling depleted.

In fact, a recent study found that those who frequently consumed added sugars had a 30% greater risk of developing acne. Those who regularly indulged in cakes and pastries had a 20% greater risk.

Insulin makes skin cells grow more quickly and boosts sebum production, which is what results in acne. It’s also been found that low-glycemic diets, which don’t cause drastic spikes in insulin levels, are linked to less acne.

Alternative: Let’s be real—we all indulge in a donut or slice of birthday cake every once in a while. However, if you’re someone who gets a dessert craving every night after dinner, there are a few healthy alternatives that are just as tasty.

If you love ice cream, try banana ice cream. This can be made with frozen bananas or any other fruit of your choice, and is delicious when topped with granola and coconut flakes.

Dark chocolate is another great option, and it has even been linked to skin benefits! Just be sure to choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa for maximum antioxidant benefits. And, avoid any brands that are loaded with processed sugar.

Fruit Juice or Soda

You’re probably starting to see a trend here...excess sugar isn’t good for the skin. In addition to raising your blood sugar, fruit juice, soda, and other high-sugar beverages have the potential to damage the formation of collagen. And, collagen is key to keeping skin youthful and firm.

Additionally, the caffeine found in soda can dehydrate the skin. When your face lacks hydration, this emphasizes the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

One of the keys to healthy skin is keeping blood sugar stable. Not only will this help you to feel your best, but it will also help to keep your skin balanced.

Alternative: Rather than sipping on sugary drinks all day, try to stick with water. If you’re craving something with flavor, there are plenty of options, such as fruit-infused water, sparkling water, freshly squeezed lemonade, or even coconut water. Swapping soda for one of these alternatives is a small change that can have a significant impact over time.

Processed Meats

These days, processed meats are everywhere we look. It’s actually difficult to find meat that hasn’t been processed. While these meats have a longer shelf life, that’s about where the perks end.

Processed meats like salami, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, or even some packaged deli meats are high in sodium and fat. Excess amounts of both have been linked to harmful effects on health and inflammatory reaction.

While sodium is vital in the body, too much of it can cause puffiness and bloating, dehydration, and even breakouts. You know those stubborn bags that form under our eyes? Consuming too much sodium is a common culprit.

The preservatives in processed meats can also be very harmful to the body, and certainly aren’t doing your skin any favors. Research has found that consuming high amounts of processed meat over a long period of time may increase the risk of many chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.

Alternative: Luckily, as the world becomes more aware of these harmful chemicals being placed in our food products, brands are stepping up to the plate. If meat is a key aspect of your diet, swap processed meats for fresh meat. Or, choose meat from brands who are committed to using healthier preservatives.


A hot cup of Joe is a savior for many of us on early mornings. While coffee itself is not necessarily bad for your skin, the effects of it can be if you’re not careful.

Coffee is high in caffeine, which has diuretic properties. This means it causes your body to urinate more than usual. It also increases blood flow to the kidneys, causing them to release water through urine.

The more coffee we drink, the more we go, which means the higher the chances are to become dehydrated. When this happens, our skin cells can shrivel. This lack of hydration causes us to lose the plumpness in our skin, and fine lines and wrinkles to worsen.

That being said, you don’t necessarily have to give up your morning coffee. Instead, just be sure you’re staying hydrated by drinking water, too. When you are properly hydrated, coffee can actually offer some skin benefits, such as fighting against skin cancers due to its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Alternative: If coffee is an addiction for you and you’re looking for ways to cut back, consider switching to tea or making a superfood latte. There are plenty of recipes out there for beet, turmeric, or even matcha lattes that contain significantly less caffeine and provide additional benefits for the skin.

Anything Deep Fried

Fried foods...we may love them, but our skin doesn’t. Fried foods are oily, and this has the potential to directly translate to our skin by leading to excess oil production. Deep fried foods are also high in unhealthy fats and sodium, which can lead to puffiness.

Unfortunately, a lot of fast food falls into this same category. High amounts of sodium and fat, in combination with the GMOs found in fast food can really take a toll on our bodies—and we may notice it in our skin.

Alternative: If you love fried food, you’re in luck. There are plenty of healthy alternatives that can help you achieve the same flavor without compromising your health.

Sautéing, stir-frying, grilling, roasting, or even using an air fryer are all great ways to bring out the flavor of your favorite foods. Doing this with sweet potatoes, for example, is a perfect way to incorporate a skin-loving superfood into your diet.


Coming in last on the list is alcohol. If you’ve ever experienced a hangover, you know the effects it can have on your skin.

Similar to coffee, alcohol is a diuretic that has the potential to dehydrate the skin, which can enhance pores, wrinkles, and fine lines. It can also slow down the process of cellular repair and deplete your skin of its plump, dewy glow.

Many alcoholic drinks also contain large amounts of sugar, causing your blood sugar to spike and crash afterward. Whenever possible, opt for lower-sugar beverages to minimize this effect.

Alternative: Swap out sparkling waters, low-sugar cocktails, and non-alcoholic cocktails to stay hydrated.

If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic alternative, kombucha is a fantastic choice. Kombucha is rich in probiotics, which are great for the gut, and it also contains antioxidants and has even been linked to reduced risk for heart disease.

Eating a wholesome, well-rounded diet is the first step to healthy skin. It’s perfectly fine to treat yourself every now and then, but keeping these healthy alternatives in mind can help to ensure you’re making the best decisions for your skin and health overall.

Healthy Skincare with HDB