Сystic Acne Diet: What Foods Cause Cysts & How to Clear Them

Сystic Acne Diet: What Foods Cause Cysts & How to Clear Them

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October 12th, 2022

There are a lot of diets out there – but have you heard of a cystic acne diet? Dealing with breakouts can be a pain, quite literally and figuratively. The truth is, the journey to clear skin starts with stepping back and looking at the big picture – which is why exactly what you eat matters.

While addressing skin concerns with topical products can lead to temporary relief, it’s important not to forget that what you eat and your lifestyle can also affect how your skin looks! There is a surprising link between certain foods and breakouts, and a cystic acne diet could be the difference between painful breakouts and clear skin.

Can poor diet cause cystic acne? You might be surprised – here’s an explanation of what foods you should avoid and why, plus what to eat instead.

“Studies have found interesting links between different types of foods and acne.”


What Foods Worsen Cystic Acne?

So, can poor diet cause cystic acne? 

Studies have found interesting links between different types of foods and acne – if your cysts and breakouts don’t seem to go away, no matter what you do, make sure you’re not actually eating too much of these foods that cause cystic acne.

1. Refined Carbohydrates & Sugars

The most common of the foods that cause cystic acne are refined carbohydrates. Scientists have made the link between these foods and, specifically, their glycemic index/glycemic load to breakouts. The glycemic index refers to how quickly a certain food spikes your blood sugar and insulin levels.

Seriously, who knew that this could affect your skin?

Foods that fall in this category are white bread, sugary cereals, baked goods, potatoes, white rice, candy, and pasta. This also includes sugary drinks, such as soda; they’re often loaded with a lot of sugar that can lead to breakouts.

Simply put, a food with a high glycemic index (GI) kick starts a process with insulin that signals to the skin to produce extra sebum, leading to an increased likelihood of blocked pores and, ultimately, cystic acne.

While many of us have often wondered if these breakouts might really be because of the chocolate bar we ate last night, you might be surprised to find out that the cause might not actually be the dairy – it’s the sugar, stimulating an insulin response that ultimately leads to oilier skin and more breakouts!

2. Dairy Milk

When trying to find out what foods cause cysts, a food group that often comes to mind is dairy. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and chocolate are often anecdotally linked to cystic acne – but would it surprise you to know that it’s not always the case?

Because of the prevalence of the idea of dairy causing acne, several studies have tried to firmly establish a link between the two.

Studies found specifically that milk – especially trim milk – was the  dairy product most likely to cause acne. However, this doesn’t mean that foods such as pizza and cheese aren’t food to avoid for cystic acne! They still fall into the categories in this list, although for different reasons.

3. Saturated Fats

When finding out what foods cause cysts, junk food and fast food are at the top of many lists. There’s a kernel of truth here due to how saturated fats affect the body!

Saturated fats are the oils most commonly found in red meat, cheese, and fried foods. That means hamburgers, pizza, french fries – and more. Taking a moment to think about it, how often do you have these foods during the week? I’m willing to bet it’s more often than you think!

Studies found that high saturated fat consumption was linked with more severe acne. Yikes! It might be worth swapping weekly pizza nights for healthy, home-cooked options. Seriously – why do you think the Kardashians eat salad all the time?!

Can Diet Clear Cystic Acne?

Since many studies have established the answer to “Can poor diet cause cystic acne?” as yes, it’s only natural to wonder if a good diet can help clear cystic acne. The short answer?


A holistic approach that includes good hydration, skin-nurturing foods, and effective skincare is the best way to get real, lasting results.

Changing your diet from foods that cause cystic acne to foods that actually clear skin – with the science to back it up – could make a huge difference.

Swaps from high GI, refined carbohydrates such as white bread to brown rice and oats can significantly prevent cyst formation. Studies have also found that reducing saturated fat consumption combined with supplementing with omega-3s is one of the best ways to reduce active acne, too!

What Should I Avoid if I Have Cystic Acne?

Remember how we said that there were three main groups of foods that cause cystic acne?

We know it can be hard to remember exactly what foods fall under those groups, so we’ve decided to make it easier for you. Here’s a handy guide to what foods cause cysts (and what to eat instead).

Foods That Worsen Cystic Acne:

  • White rice
  • White bread
  • Potatoes
  • Baked goods
  • Candies
  • Fried food
  • Pizza
  • Soft drinks

Foods to Eat on a Cystic Acne Diet:

  • Fresh fruits & vegetables
  • Fish
  • Brown bread
  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Avocados
  • Lean protein

Should I Start a Cystic Acne Diet?

Before starting a cystic acne diet for clearer skin, it’s probably worth double-checking that your acne is actually cystic. Cystic acne appears as painful lumps deep under your skin, and they never come to a head on the surface.

Another tell-tale sign that your acne is cystic is if it itches or throbs underneath the surface.

As tempting as it would be to squeeze or extract these cysts, it’s best not to – trust us. As the skin is already so inflamed and tender, all you would do is potentially cause lingering post-acne marks (also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) and scarring.

So, when it comes to  removing cystic acne, alongside topical treatments, one of the most important steps you can take is to change how you eat. Avoiding foods that cause cystic acne and opting for whole foods can make a huge difference to your skin – and overall health, too!

Written by Team Vital Reaction

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