Acne is an incredibly common inflammatory skin condition that affects most people at some point in their lives.

You might have wondered what you could do to stop the red bumps from popping up.

Many factors can contribute to acne, including hormones, genetics, environment, skin products, medications, and certain health conditions. What you eat may also play a role.

The best treatment for a variety of conditions depends on a number of factors, and sometimes it requires working with a healthcare professional.

Many of the suggested ways to heal yourAcne are not backed by science.

The article breaks down 5 myths about the skin condition.

A person washes their face.
Photography by Gabriela Hasbun

If you experience adult acne, you’re not alone.

Acne occurs as hormones change. Certain hormones cause an increase in sebum (oil in the glands of the skin), as well as increased skin cell growth. These two factors, in combination with the buildup of old skin cells, result in acne.

For many people, acne peaks during puberty, but it can continue throughout adulthood, when it’s colloquially known as persistent acne. Some people have late-onset acne, or acne that begins after age 25, though that may be less common.

Some research estimates that 50% of people ages 20–29, 35% of people ages 30–39, 26% of people ages 40-49, and 15% of people ages 50 and older experience acne.

Adult acne can be related to hormones and endocrine disorders, genetics, stress, cosmetic use, tobacco use, diet, and certain medications, among other factors.

The treatment for teen and adult skin problems varies depending on severity and the cause. It is a good idea to work with a healthcare professional to find the best treatment for you.

“You don’t have to give up chocolate to avoid getting acne.”

There is conflicting research on whether chocolate causes or worsens the problem ofAcne is at best, conflicting

One small study of college students found that consuming chocolate had a greater association with acne than consuming jelly beans did, but that doesn’t prove that chocolate causes acne.

Another very small, older study among 14 young adult men described as “acne-prone” found that taking cocoa tablets was associated with slightly worse acne. But this study isn’t enough evidence for us to draw any conclusions, either.

That’s especially true because other research has shown no connection at all between consuming either chocolate or cocoa-containing products and developing acne.

For one thing, because chocolate contains ingredients such as sugar and milk, which may contribute to skin conditions in some people, it’s difficult to tease out whether chocolate is the true culprit.

“Most studies evaluating links between diet andAcne are small and researchers cannot control the participants’ environments, such as other foods they eat, medications they take, or behaviors they engage in that could contribute to theirAcne is related to diet and other factors.”

However, research has shown that people who consume a diet high in refined carbohydrates and added sugars are more likely to experience acne than those who don’t.

Older research suggests that foods with a high glycemic index (GI) — which cause your blood sugar to spike quickly after you eat them — could contribute to acne. But most studies about the role of GI in acne development are small, and the findings conflict.

There also appears to be a connection between diets high in sugar and inflammation. Because acne is an inflammatory condition, it’s possible that consuming a lot of chocolate (and therefore sugar) could increase the number of pimples you experience.

There is no evidence to support the hypothesis that chocolate causes acne. If you notice an increase in your skin problems after eating chocolate, you should switch to dark chocolate, which is lower in added sugar.

There has long been controversy about whether eating dairy causes acne, and research is still emerging.

“It’s suggested that certain types of dairy may contribute to acne. This is likely due to dairy increasing insulin secretion and IGF-1 levels, which can lead to increased levels of androgen hormones and sebum production,” Jillian Greaves, MPH, RD, LDN, an integrative and functional dietitian, told Healthline.

There are many studies that show the relationship between the amount of fat in dairy and the appearance of skin. The studies have yielded differing conclusions.

One review of 14 observational studies found that drinking one glass of milk per day was linked to increased acne, but drinking 2–6 glasses was not.

The increased redness is a question of whether the dairy is to blame or if it is something else.

The analysis suggested a connection between skim milk and the skin condition.

Another meta-analysis of observational studies suggested a relationship between acne and all types of milk but not cheese or yogurt.

There is not enough data to suggest a cause-and-effect relationship, even though observational studies suggest a correlation.

Many studies on dairy and the effects of it on the skin rely on people recalling what they have eaten and on subjective assessments of how bad the skin is.

So, while dairy may be problematic for some people, the link isn’t as straightforward as people often make it out to be. We need more high quality research into the potential relationship between dairy and acne.

If you notice that your skin gets worse after you eat milk or chocolate, you may want to work with a registered dietitian to remove those foods from your diet for a short time and see if it improves.

If eating oily foods causes the problem ofAcne, then eating oily foods should increase the problem.

It’s not that simple, but the myth persists. In one survey of people with acne, 71% said they thought that greasy and fried foods cause acne.

There has been no research to show that greasy or fried foods cause or make it worse.

Certain foods can amplify underlying dynamics like blood sugar issues, inflammation, or gut imbalances that are driving the development of acne, according to Greaves.

Diets that include a lot of fried or greasy foods are linked to inflammation, which may contribute to acne. However, eating the occasional burger and fries probably isn’t going to lead to a breakout.

If fried foods are a large part of your diet, you may unintentionally eat them in place of healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats are linked to lower inflammation, meaning they could potentially help decrease acne.

You are likely better off focusing on adding nutritious foods to your diet than on trying to completely eliminate favorite foods. (Check out these 12 sources of omega-3s for inspiration.)

If you eat greasy foods with your hands and then touch your face, the oil from your food may cause your skin to be damaged. You should wash your hands before touching your face.

The internet may try to convince you that going without wheat is not a bad thing, but it is unlikely to clear skin for most people.

Celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that requires following a strict gluten-free diet, is associated with an increased risk of some skin conditions, such as eczema. But research has not shown a strong connection between celiac disease and acne.

There is no evidence that giving up the wheat will clear up the skin condition of people without the disease.

A gluten-free diet can be difficult to follow, and doing so unnecessarily could increase stress. Since stress may be linked to acne, this may actually worsen acne.

Stress and deficiency of vitamins can make the condition worse, said Greaves.

Plus, avoiding gluten without a medical reason can lead to nutrient deficiencies, obsessive thoughts about food, and eating disorders such as orthorexia nervosa.

So, if you want to promote clear skin, skip the fad diets and focus on establishing a balanced eating pattern that includes all the foods and food groups you enjoy.

A piece of advice from a registered dietitian

Some foods may not have a direct effect on your skin, but there are other factors to consider.

According to Healthline, balanced blood sugar is associated with the condition ofAcne. To balance blood sugar, eat consistent meals every 3–5 hours throughout the day and include a balance of healthy fats, fiber-rich starches, and non-starchy vegetables at meals.

Learn more about building a balanced plate here, directly from Healthline’s RDs.

Most people have some form of skin disease at some point in their lives. There is not enough research to back up the claims of possible causes ofAcne, but there are some myths that are true.

There are weak connections between milk and chocolate, but there are more important relationships that need more research.

There is no evidence that there is a connection between greasy foods and the problem ofAcne.

Research shows that diet and skin conditions are related, but overall diet and patterns matter more than individual foods. Follow a pattern that includes all the food groups and foods you enjoy.

“If traditional treatments aren’t helping, consider working with a dermatologist or registered dietitian to explore potential diet-related issues. They may suggest temporarily eliminating foods that you think are causing your skin problems.”