You’ve heard the expression ‘you are what you eat’, and that’s certainly true when it comes to your skin! 

We’ve already highlighted 7 things you should avoid using on your skin, but if you have dry skin, rosacea, acne and other skin concerns then it’s always useful to be aware of the impact that certain foods can have on your skin too.

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods can have more than a little kick to them! Spicy foods like chilli peppers, hot sauce and salsa can trigger rosacea. Many of these foods contain a chemical called capsaicin which gives these foods their heat. If you’ve got rosacea you may find that you experience a flare-up when you eat spicy foods. 

Dairy Products

Have you ever known someone who’s cut dairy from their diet and said they feel great because of it? Milk is known for raising the insulin levels in your body and that can worsen the severity of acne. Because there are more amino acid in cow’s milk, consuming it stimulates your liver to produce more IGF-1 which has been linked to acne development.

There are a few studies that suggest dairy products can make your acne flare up even more (1), but there’s little research into whether there’s a cause-and-effect relationship.

Dairy Alternatives

Try oat milk instead. Oat milk contains phenols that help reduce inflammation which is perfect for those with dry, itchy skin!


I’m sorry to say it, but I think we all knew this one would make the list! Have you ever had a heavy night out and then thought your skin looked super dry the next day? That’s because alcohol acts as a diuretic and draws liquid from your body. It’s dehydrating and prevents your skin from retaining moisture.

I’m not saying cut alcohol out completely, many of us enjoy a glass or two! But what you can do is sip a glass of water between alcoholic drinks and even choose clear spirits which are lower in sugar as an alternative.


Caffeine is similar to alcohol in that it’s a diuretic, and that can have a dehydrating effect on your skin. That’s not to say don’t have coffee at all! Sometimes having a lovely latte while you walk the dog in the morning is well needed, but chain-drinking coffee throughout the day should probably be avoided.

What’s a caffeine alternative?

Bone broth is a super popular alternative to coffee as it contains nutrients like glycine, gelatine and collagen that support your skin’s health. If you just want a warming hot drink then of course herbal teas are a great alternative to caffeine too.

Refined Sugars + Grains

Refined carbohydrates rapidly increase your blood sugar levels because its absorbed so quickly into your bloodstream. If you already have acne or a breakout, then the high levels of insulin moving the blood sugars around your body can aggravate your skin even more.

What are refined carbohydrates?

Refined carbohydrates include foods that have been stripped of all bran, fibre and nutrients. Think white bread, white rice and sugary breakfast cereals. Other refined carbs include:

  • Pasta made from white flour
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Sweeteners like maple syrup and cane sugar
  • Desserts made with white flour

So, what could you swap them for?

Swap the white for the brown alternatives. Brown rice, multigrain bread and bran cereal are all good swaps. If you’re looking for something sweet to add to your cereal you can always add fresh fruits like berries, apples and something citrussy.

Processed Meats

Processed meats contain sodium as a preservative to increase their shelf life. Things like cured meats and bacon can break down collagen and elastin in your skin and cause inflammation.

What’s the alternatives?

Don’t be fooled by the meat-free alternatives either. So many vegan and meat-free alternatives are packed with preservatives too! A trend that really took off during lockdown, when some had a little more time on their hands, was something called ‘scratch cooking’. Scratch cooking is where you make your meals from scratch! Without any of the unnecessary ingredients you find in many processed foods.


Gluten is found in wheat and other whole grains like oats, barley, rye and spelt. It can also be found in many sauces, processed meats and condiments. Some people find gluten can give them bloating, aching joints and make them tired. But what can it do to your skin? Gluten can worsen inflammatory skin conditions (2), it can also trigger something called dermatitis herpetiformis which is an incredibly itchy rash.

What are the gluten alternatives?

Swap gluten for low-glycemic things like almond flour and coconut flour instead of wheat flour. Quinoa, brown rice and gluten-free oats are always popular swaps too because they’re rich in nutrients.