Diet and acne: A systematic review

JAAD Int. 2022 Mar 29:7:95-112. doi: 10.1016/j.jdin.2022.02.012. eCollection 2022 Jun.


Background: Acne vulgaris is a common cutaneous disorder. Diet and metabolism, specifically glycemic content and dairy, influence hormones such as insulin, insulin-like growth factor 1, and androgens, which affect acnegenesis.

Objective: To systematically review high-quality evidence regarding the association of dietary glycemic and dairy intake with acnegenesis.

Methods: A comprehensive literature search, without timeline restriction, of MEDLINE (completed between October and November 2021) for English-language papers that examined the association between diet and acne was conducted. The evidence quality was assessed using the Ottawa quality assessment scale.

Results: The literature search yielded 410 articles, of which 34 articles met the inclusion criteria. The literature on whether dairy product intake is associated with acnegenesis is mixed and may be dependent on sex, ethnicity, and cultural dietary habits. High glycemic index and increased daily glycemic load intake were positively associated with acnegenesis and acne severity, an observation supported by randomized controlled trials.

Conclusion: High glycemic index, increased glycemic load, and carbohydrate intake have a modest yet significant proacnegenic effect. Increased dairy consumption may have been proacnegenic in select populations, such as those in which a Western diet is prevalent. The impact of diet on acnegenesis is likely dependent on sex and ethnicity. Further randomized trials are necessary to fully characterize the potential associations.

Keywords: GI, glycemic index; IGF-1, insulin-like growth factor 1; LOE, level of evidence; RCT, randomized control trial; acne; dairy; diet; glycemic index; randomized control trial; sugar.

Publication types

  • Review