One factor that is often overlooked when it comes to skin health is diet. Your complexion becomes oily when the sebaceous glands in the skin secrete more sebum than they need to. This can lead to enlarged pores, whiteheads, blackheads, and acne.

Oily skin can be difficult to control, but by altering your diet and reducing your intake of unhealthy foods, you will see positive improvements to your skin!

We've put together a list of foods that can aggravate oily skin, plus some healthier alternatives to help you on your way to nourished skin.

cereal Source: Ben Seldelman

Foods to avoid for oily skin



Dairy products

Dairy products such as milk, butter, and cheese contain high levels of hormones (such as testosterone) which can lead to increased oil production and blocked pores. This is why dairy products are linked to breakouts and acne.

It’s often said that chocolate can make the skin worse and while that is true of milk chocolate, good quality dark chocolate shouldn’t affect your skin.

Swap dairy products for: Dairy-free alternatives like almond milk and vegan cheese. If you’re worried about your calcium intake, leafy green vegetables, almonds, and oranges will all provide the nutrients you need.

Refined carbohydrates

Refined grains lose fibre and other important nutrients when they are processed. This means they have more of an impact on your blood sugar and lead to an increase in your oil production levels.

Foods such as white bread, white rice, white pasta, and cereals all contain refined grains.

Swap refined carbohydrates for: Wholemeal bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, quinoa, and oats. These foods are much less processed and have higher levels of fibre, too. They keep your blood sugar levels more stable, which means your energy levels are steadier.

bread loaf Source: Muffinn

Inflammatory Fats (Saturated Fats and Trans Fats)

The Harvard Health Publications site describes fat as being made up of building blocks called fatty acids. These fatty acids are classified as saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated. Saturated fats are the most harmful.

The NHS warns that eating a lot of saturated fats can increase the level of cholesterol in your blood, increasing your risk of heart disease. Saturated fats also increase inflammation in the skin, which can cause excess oil to be produced. They are found in red meats such as beef, lamb, sausages, and bacon; cakes; pastries; pizza; pies; butter; cream, and cheese.

Deep-fried foods such as chips and doughnuts contain a large amount of oil, which also contributes to excess oil production within the skin.

Trans fats can also have a negative effect on your skin. Trans fat is formed when oil goes through a hardening process called hydrogenation (they can also be known as hydrogenated fats). Trans fats can be found in some processed foods.

Swap inflammatory fats for: Lean poultry like chicken and turkey, oily fish like salmon and mackerel, unseasoned nuts like walnuts, and avocado. Try cooking with healthy fats like olive oil. You can also change your preparation methods by baking, broiling, grilling, and poaching your food.

Sugar

Eating too much sugar spikes your blood sugar levels. The body responds by producing more insulin, which in turn encourages the glands to produce more oil and heightens your risk of oily skin and developing acne.

While natural sugars (those that occur in fruits and vegetables) should be consumed in moderation, the consumption of refined sugars such as cane sugar and corn syrup (found in sweets, cakes, cookies, jams, and pastries, as well as cereals, cereal bars, crackers, and fizzy drinks) should be limited. As well as increasing oil levels, too much sugar also causes inflammation in your body and your skin.

Beware of foods which claim to be low-sugar — they will often contain more fat to compensate (this is also the case in reverse when something is low-fat).

Swap sugary foods for: Berries, mangos, frozen bananas, good quality dark chocolate, water with fresh lemon and/or lime.

fruit Source: Didriks

Salt

Consuming excess salt (also referred to as sodium) can cause water retention, swelling, and eye bags. It can also lead to an increase in oil levels as the skin tries to combat the dehydration caused by salt.

Salty foods include table sauces, salad dressings, shop-bought soups, cured meats and bacon, pickles, salted nuts, crisps, chips, and crackers.

Swap salty foods for: Unsalted nuts, vegetables dipped in low-salt hummus, apple slices and nut butter, homemade soups.

Alcohol

Whilst alcohol may not technically be a food type, it has a huge impact on your skin, particularly if you’re prone to oily skin.

Alcohol saps fluid out of the skin, causing dehydration, which means the skin produces more oil to compensate and this often leads to breakouts.

Alcohol can also cause you to sweat and eat fatty foods, both actions which can lead to clogged pores. It’s all too tempting not to wash your face when you get home after you’ve had a few, which can make oil slicks worse and give your skin a greasy look.

Swap it for: Water, or a low-sugar virgin cocktail. If you can’t quite quit the habit, try to stick to clearer alcoholic drinks such as vodka and drink a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink to keep hydrated.



Making changes to your diet can be overwhelming at first so it’s best to take gradual steps. Try replacing one food type, then another once you’ve got used to the first swap, and so on.

The surface layer of the skin is renewed every two to four weeks, so you may not see results immediately but they will happen over time. And who knows, you may discover a new favourite food!