Does Eating Greasy, Fried Food Cause Acne?

If you're breaking out, you might be taking a good hard look at your diet. You might have heard that greasy foods can contribute to breakouts. While there is some truth to that, and it's a good idea to avoid greasy food, the relationship between diet and acne is more complicated than that.

This article will explain the links between greasy food and acne, and provide suggestions about how to manage your diet when it comes to acne.

Fried chicken on a plate
 Multi-bits Collection / Getty Images

Fried Food Doesn't Cause Acne

There is an association between frequently eating fried foods (three times per week or more) and having severe acne. But the reason for this link is not clear. Many people crave and turn to fried foods when they are stressed—and stress is known to exacerbate acne. And, females may crave sweets and fried foods at different times of the menstrual cycle—and the menstrual cycle is also known to have an impact on acne.

Food and Acne

There are several foods that have been linked to acne:

Greasy fried foods and other "junk foods" tend to also be high in their glycemic content, which has been proven to exacerbate acne.

While some people might have skin breakouts that seem to be linked to eating fried foods, chocolate, sugary foods, or drinking milk, these foods don't affect everyone the same way.

Fried foods can contribute to acne, but there are other factors too. If you have acne, cutting out all fried morsels might not completely clear up your skin. And some people can fry everything they eat, and it won't make them develop acne (high cholesterol maybe, but not acne).

Greasy Food and Your Skin

But doesn’t greasy, oily food cause greasy oily skin? Nope. This is just another myth. The fat in our diets doesn't directly produce the oil that develops on our skin.

Oily skin is caused by overactive sebaceous glands, and not from the foods you eat. Some people naturally have more oily skin than others.

Oily Skin and Acne

Nearly all teens have oily skin, and it’s not because of food. Hormones also play a big role in the amount of oil your skin creates. Hormones, specifically testosterone, stimulate your skin's oil glands causing them to pump out more oil.

Hormones are the reason why acne is more common during puberty for both genders, and right before menstruation for women. During puberty, hormones can cause oil glands to rev up, creating shiny noses and foreheads and clogging pores. It's those clogged pores that are causing zits—not the oily foods.

People with acne are genetically predisposed to developing it. So if your parents had acne, your skin is more likely to be sensitive to these hormonal fluctuations and develop acne. 

Greasy Foods, Inflammation, and Acne

Extra oil and dead skin cells clog the skin's pores, creating a blockage called a comedone. When acne-causing bacteria invade, an inflamed pimple develops. 

While the fat in your diet doesn't cause your skin's oiliness, it can have an impact on the inflammation that's associated with acne. A diet rich in omega 3 is anti-inflammatory and can improve acne, while a diet rich in omega 6 can increase inflammation and may exacerbate acne.

A Word From Verywell

If you have acne, it's a good idea to think about whether your diet could be a factor. But acne has more to do with hormones and genetics than it does with your diet. The best over-the-counter acne treatment options contain salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. But if OTC products don't work, or if your acne is fairly widespread or inflamed, prescription acne medications will be your best bet. Use them and you can get clearer skin, and still enjoy Grandma's fried chicken every once in a while.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Roengritthidet K, Kamanamool N, Udompataikul M, Rojhirunsakool S, Khunket S, Kanokrungsee S. Association between diet and acne severity: A cross-sectional study in Thai adolescents and adults. Acta Derm Venereol. 2021 Dec 7;101(12):adv00611. doi:10.2340/actadv.v101.569

  2. Kucharska A, Szmurło A, Sińska B. Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2016;33(2):81-6. doi:10.5114/ada.2016.59146

  3. Makrantonaki E, Ganceviciene R, Zouboulis C. An update on the role of the sebaceous gland in the pathogenesis of acne. Dermatoendocrinol. 2011;3(1):41-9. doi:10.4161/derm.3.1.13900

  4. Decker A, Graber EM. Over-the-counter acne treatments: a review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012;5(5):32-40.

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.