Does Greasy Food Cause Acne?

Although the belief is common, there is little proof that greasy food triggers acne. Photo courtesy of

Does the old saying “you are what you eat” prove true for greasy foods and acne? Many people would say yes. According to a survey by the American Acne & Rosacea Society, 51% of Americans attribute acne to greasy food, and a survey from across the globe in Jordan yielded strikingly similar results. But is this worldwide belief based on fact or mob-psychological myth?

The biological basis of acne boils down to the hyperactivity of the sebaceous glands, microscopic glands that secrete an oily, lubricating substance called sebum. Overproduction of sebum, triggered by hormone fluctuation, clogs pores with bacteria and dead skin cells, triggering spots of inflammation that we all know too well as acne.

There is some stipulation that diet may affect hormones that generate acne, but little evidence supports this connection. Dermatologist Valori Treloar argues that “bad fats” exacerbate acne inflammation, while “good fats” such as omega-3 fatty acids reduce it, but according to an article published in Scientific American, “this specific food connection…has not been confirmed in controlled studies.” Many other reputable organizations, including Mayo Clinic, the American Academy of Dermatology, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, and Livestrong, also say there is insufficient evidence to prove that greasy food causes acne. A 2010 New York Times article sums up the situation: “Despite the popular belief that chocolate, nuts, and greasy foods cause acne, research does not confirm this idea.”

The connection between greasy food and acne is currently considered a myth by most experts. Those seeking clear skin should feel free to indulge in greasy food to their heart’s content – just not to their heart’s attack.