Peanut Butter and Acne: 5 Reasons to Quit This Acne Trigger

peanut butter

Delicious peanut butter… an acne trigger disguised as a health food!

Peanut butter tastes ridiculously amazing, right?

Nothing quite like the salty, peanutty taste…

Reese’s peanut butter cups, PB&J’s, Thai peanut sauce… even “ants on a log.”

So good.

And amazingly, you can trace the roots of a jar of Jif back to the Aztecs. They were grinding peanuts into a paste well before Shakespeare was in diapers.

But right now, I’m going to give you 5 reasons to avoid this potentially acne-causing food. That’s right, peanut butter can trigger acne!

I know, it’s a bummer… but I do have a few nutty alternatives for you at the end.

First, let’s see if there’s anything actually healthy about peanut butter.

What Are the Health Benefits of Peanut Butter?

Actually, peanut butter seems like a pretty healthy food, if you squint your eyes and don’t look too closely.

Peanut butter is pretty fatty. Two tablespoons of peanut butter has about 16 grams of fat.

19% of the fat is saturated, which is the most stable form of fat, and easiest for your cells to break down for energy. No complaints there, especially if you’re hip to the fact that saturated fat doesn’t actually cause heart disease.

It’s got a lot of monounsaturated fat, and is a pretty good source of protein, vitamin B3 and vitamin E, magnesium, and folate, and it even contains resveratrol (although grapes and wine are much better sources of that).

Monounsaturated fat is great for your skin, and a couple studies have found that eating nuts, and monounsaturated fat in general, lowers cholesterol levels.[1] [2]

Peanut butter also contains an antioxidant called coumarin, which theoretically could be good for acne. Antioxidants in general protect against oxidative stress, which is a big criminal in the acne process.

So we’ve got monounsaturated fat, protein, vitamins, magnesium, even antioxidants.

Sounds pretty good, right?

But when we dive in deeper, we’ll see why peanuts are pulling the wool over our eyes, at least for us acne sufferers.

Peanut Butter is a Health Food Fraud for Acne Sufferers

Peanut butter has 5 major problems that could make it trigger acne for you.

Let’s dive in! Get ready to say goodbye to your little friend, peanut butter…

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Big Problem #1: Omega-6 Fatty Acids (TONS)

Peanut butter is pretty fatty. In two tablespoons, you get 16 grams of fat. 50% of that is monounsaturated, 19% saturated (no complaints there), but 31% is polyunsaturated.[3] No bueno!

Excess omega-6 fats can trigger acne. In a bad way.

Here’s why:

Omega-6 fats are generally responsible for triggering inflammation. (Specifically, the omega-6 arachidonic acid, or AA, does this.) That means they start the inflammation process in your body. So when you get a clogged pore, a sebaceous gland might rupture, causing a sort of “internal wound” in your body, and your immune system rushes in to save the day.

Your body uses omega-6 fats to produce cytokines and prostaglandins, which start inflammation, signaling immune cells to rush in and clean up the mess.[4]

Problem is, if you have way too much omega-6 fat in your body (by eating foods like peanut butter), your body has trouble stopping inflammation. That’s because omega-3s are required to halt inflammation. (Specifically, DHA.)

Remember, omega-6s start inflammation, omega-3s stop it.

If you had an ideal omega-6:3 ratio (between 1:1 or 4:1, researchers think), your body would launch a strong inflammatory attack against the wound, clean it up, then cease inflammation quickly.

But if you don’t have a good balance – the average American, for example, has more like a 20:1 ratio of omega-6:3 – then you’re likely to get what’s called systemic inflammation. That is, your body’s under a more-or-less constant state of low-grade inflammation.

That’s going to make for red, swollen, painful pimples that stick around for a long time!

So back to peanut butter – why is it a problem?

Let’s say you eat two tablespoons of peanut butter for a snack. That’s a whopping 4.5g of omega-6. It’s pretty hard to get that ideal omega 6:3 ratio of 1:1, or even 4:1, when you’re packing down that much omega-6 from peanut butter.

Most of that omega-6 is LA (linoleic acid), which the body can convert to AA (arachidonic acid), which is what triggers inflammation.[5] .

Even worse, besides the systemic inflammation problem, omega-6 fats are highly unstable (like ticking time bombs, in a way).

They react with heat and oxygen extremely easily in the body. They form “zombie fats” that then zombify other PUFAs, triggering a chain-reaction zombie outbreak of peroxidized fatty acids, which eventually break down into toxins like malondialdehyde (MDA) that can damage the fundamental structures of basically any cell in your body.[6]

Your immune system already has a really big job keeping you free of invaders – and its not going to be able to do that as well if it also has to deal with a constant supply of damaging zombie fats.

Even worse… SIBO!

To add insult to injury, eating lots of omega-6 fat tends to promote what’s called “small intestinal bacterial overgrowth” (SIBO). That’s where your small intestine gets colonized by a ton of bad bacteria. It’s not supposed to have many bacteria (compared to the colon / large intestine), but in SIBO things get way out of hand.

SIBO can worsen acne, because all those bacteria tend to (obnoxiously) spew out a bunch of toxins as they go about their lives. They literally spew out toxic bacteria poop. That can worsen systemic inflammation, tax your immune system, and lead to vitamin deficiencies.[7] [8]

Okay, high levels of omega-6 are a good enough reason to avoid peanut butter, right?

But wait, there’s more!

Bad Problem #2: Peanut Agglutinin

Peanuts contain a lectin (a kind of protein) called peanut agglutinin.[9]

In general, lectins are found in grains and legumes, and can cause a variety of digestive problems. Peanut agglutinin is no exception.

That’s bad news for your skin!

Peanut agglutinin enters the bloodstream quickly after eating. [10] In fact, it’s very likely that peanut lectin increases intestinal permeability. In other words, it opens up the holes in your intestinal wall slightly, making it easier for food particles to pass through into your bloodstream.

That’s not supposed to happen! Intact food particles are not supposed to pass through your intestinal wall into your bloodstream. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. That’s how people develop autoimmune conditions, food allergies, and systemic inflammation.[10]

This is also known as “leaky gut,” which in general compromises your immune system, making it a lot more difficult for your body to fight the everyday fights, like clearing and healing clogged pores before they develop into full-blown inflamed pimple disasters.

So again, peanut agglutinin may contribute to leaky gut, leading to potentially systemic inflammation and autoimmunity, and worsened acne.

Ready for #3?

Bad Problem #3: Aflatoxin, or Attack of the Toxic Fungus Poop

Aflatoxin is a toxin created by molds (fungi) of the Aspergillus genus. While a direct link to acne has not been established, aflatoxin is a known contributor to liver cancer, kidney cancer, malnutrition, and birth defects.[11]

Peanut butter, along with corn, is one of the top dietary sources of aflatoxin.

Now peanut butter is actually one of better ways to consume peanuts. The peanut-butter-making process reduced aflatoxin by 89% in one study.

That said, another study found that the crappy brands of peanut butter (like Jif) have way less aflatoxin, while the grind-it-yourself peanut butter in natural food stores had the most aflatoxin. Bummer of an irony, right?

The jury’s still out on whether the levels of aflatoxin in peanut butter are dangerous, but in my book, it’s not worth the risk. Especially given the other problems with peanut butter (omega-6 and leaky gut).

Bad Problem #4: Peanut Butter Is Delicious And Addictive

Let’s face it.

It’s hard to eat a small amount of peanut butter!

It’s just so dang good, it begs to be wolfed down, spoon after spoon. I don’t know if you’ve ever put away ¼ or ½ jar in one sitting, but I have. And I can tell you… that was a fart disaster. And yes, it gave me a few pimples as well.

Peanut butter is what I would classify as a “domino food” – a food that you just have a hard time stopping eating. Once you pop, the eatin’ don’t stop.

If this isn’t true for you – if you regularly eat only 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter a day or less – then I’d challenge to quit peanut butter because of reasons #1, 2, and 3 above.

Bad Problem #5: Peanut Butter’s Evil Sidekicks – Sugar and Gluten

The most insidious problem with peanut butter might not actually be peanut butter itself, but the fact that it’s almost always packing those evil sidekicks, sugar and gluten.

A lot of lower-quality peanut butter (like Jif) is made with hydrogenated oils and sugar. The hydrogenated oils keep the fat from separating, and the sugar, obviously, makes it sweet (and more addictive). Hydrogenated oils are bad for acne for the same “zombie fat” reason described above in #1. And sugar is one of the top four worst foods for acne, leading to inflammation, glycation, clogged pores, producing too much sebum, and a compromised immune system.

Even if you get “natural” peanut butter, you likely don’t eat peanut butter by itself. I’m guessing you eat it with with jam (tons of sugar) and bread (gluten, another one of the top four worst foods for acne).

Are you the type that only eats a small amount of peanut butter on a banana, avoiding the jam and bread entirely? High-five! I still challenge you to quit peanut butter for reasons #1-3 above. :)

Is Peanut Butter Really That Bad?

Let’s put it this way. It’s not the worst food you could eat for acne. Milk and dairy, vegetable oil, sugar, and gluten are worse.

But I think peanut butter is a big enough issue that it’s just adding fuel to the fire.

Why risk eating peanut butter when there are tasty, healthier options like almond butter and cashew butter?

And peanut butter is such a simple taste anyway… it’s totally one-dimensional and boring, once you’ve lived without it for a while. It’s like Cheetos, in a way – it just screams “PEANUTS!” and nothing else. Almond butter, in comparison, tastes way more complex and satisfying (in this author’s opinion).

(Note: a few folks have reported that they DO react to almond butter and cashew butter (read: it makes them break out), while they do NOT react to peanut butter. It just goes to show that any general prescription will never apply to everyone, and that you really need to test foods on yourself. We still don’t recommend eating a ton of peanut butter, generally speaking, because of the reasons outlined above. In our opinion, it’s not really a health food.)

What About Peanuts?

Same problems as peanut butter. And loads more aflatoxin to boot, since they don’t benefit from the aflatoxin-reducing process of peanut-butter-making.

Will a few peanuts make you break out? Probably not.

That said, I wouldn’t make them a regular part of your diet. In the day-to-day, I’d say better to avoid!

Clear Skin Friendly Alternatives

Try almond butter or cashew butter. The honest-to-goodness best almond butter I’ve ever had in my life is made by a farm in California called Zinke Orchards. I’m not affiliated with them in any way – it’s just freaking amazing almond butter. Look ‘em up.

BTW, go a little easy on the nut butters. Stick to 1-2 tablespoons a day. That’s because most nuts, including almonds, are relatively high in omega-6 fats.

(Truth be told, I actually don’t keep almond butter around the house, because it’s a huge domino food for me. I can’t stop myself just scarfing down disgusting amounts of it. That’s a huge load of omega-6 that I’d rather not be eating. And it displaces other healthier foods like grass-fed beef, vegetables, and fruit. But that’s just me – Sonia, for example, has no trouble with it!)

Key Takeaways

  1. Peanut butter has tons of omega-6 fat, which can lead to wild, rampant inflammation (and red, swollen pimples that stick around for a long time).
  2. Peanut agglutinin can lead to leaky gut and inflammation, thereby worsening acne.
  3. Peanut butter is delicious and addictive, and it’s hard to eat just a small amount, multiplying the problems.
  4. Peanut butter often comes along with bread and jam (gluten and sugar), two of the worst foods for acne!
  5. There are much healthier alternatives like almond butter and cashew butter.
  6. That said, peanut butter is not the worst food in the world for your skin. If you haven’t cut out dairy, sugar, gluten, and vegetable oil yet, do those first.
  7. If you haven’t checked out our master guide yet, have a gander. It’s the sum total of all our acne-blitzing knowledge in one easy-to-read, downloadable e-book. Get the book now.
Sources (click to expand)

  1. Kris-etherton PM, Pearson TA, Wan Y, et al. High-monounsaturated fatty acid diets lower both plasma cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70(6):1009-15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10584045 ^
  2. Lee YJ, Nam GE, Seo JA, et al. Nut consumption has favorable effects on lipid profiles of Korean women with metabolic syndrome. Nutr Res. 2014;34(9″:814-20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25238912 ^
  3. Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Peanuts, all types, oil-roasted, with salt ^
  4. Ballantyne S. The Paleo Approach, Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body. Victory Belt Publishing; 2014. ^
  5. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Peanut oil. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peanut_oil. Accessed October 14, 2014 ^
  6. Precious Yet Perilous. Masterjohn, Chris. Available at: http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/precious-yet-perilous/. Accessed October 14, 2014. ^
  7. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_intestinal_bacterial_overgrowth. Accessed October 14, 2014. ^
  8. Lykova EA, Bondarenko VM, Parfenov AI, Matsulevich TV. Bacterial overgrowth syndrome in the small intestine: pathogenesis, clinical significance and therapy tactics. Eksp Klin Gastroenterol. 2005;(6):51-7, 113. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17378388 ^
  9. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Peanut agglutinin. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peanut_agglutinin. Accessed October 14, 2014. ^
  10. Wang Q, Yu LG, Campbell BJ, Milton JD, Rhodes JM. Identification of intact peanut lectin in peripheral venous blood. Lancet. 1998;352(9143):1831-2. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(05)79894-9/fulltext79894-9/fulltext) ^
  11. Mupunga I, Lebelo SL, Mngqawa P, Rheeder JP, Katerere DR. Natural occurrence of aflatoxins in peanuts and peanut butter from bulawayo, zimbabwe. J Food Prot. 2014;77(10):1814-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25285504 ^

{ 59 Comments }

  1. Nur zeti says

    I really love it !! Although I don’t eat peanut bcs I just don’t like it , I’ve started to cut all types of dairy , sugar ,wheat . But I do have some questions.
    1) does palm oil going to be okay for acne ?
    2) what kind of starch can I take since some of the starches may contain whey
    3) is it normal for me when having period, my face suddenly break out ?(yes I’m a girl )
    4) what food that good to fight inflammation?
    But overall when I cut or less the consuming of milk , wheat , sugar
    My skin getting more clear .
    Hope to get reply from you soon
    (Sorry for my broken English haha)

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Nur! Let’s see… palm oil should be okay, especially if it’s the unrefined bright red kind. I would avoid hydrogenated palm oil like the plague. For starch, not sure what you mean here? Which starches contain whey?

      Yes, normal to break out around your period (because progesterone levels drop right then). If you fix your root causes of acne, though, you shouldn’t get acne at all, even before your period.

      Foods for inflammation:

      Acne and Inflammation: 10 Foods To Avoid

      Hope this helps!

  2. Amanda N. says

    Thank you so much for this article! I noticed that even after becoming vegan my skin was not clearing. And I think it was partially because I was eating peanut butter sandwiches for lunch far too often. So, I stopped doing that, and it seemed to improve. Then, the other day while I was at the store I picked up a vegan fair trade chocolate peanut butter cup. I thought, hey, it’s vegan – why not? Well, the next morning I woke up with a pretty deep pimple under the skin right near my mouth. I know this must be the culprit since I didn’t eat or drink anything meat or dairy yesterday. So, I guess those are out, too!

    • Devin Mooers says

      No kidding!! That’s a pretty direct reaction, hard to ignore that. I will say that becoming raw vegan some years ago cleared up my skin pretty quick, but gave me nutritional deficiencies in the long run, so I had to switch to eating animal foods again. Well, and cooked food. I recognize most vegan diets aren’t as strict/limited as that! Anyway, keep listening to your body and what it likes and doesn’t like. :)

  3. Hanah says

    Hello! I know I am a bit late reading and commenting on this post, I hope you will see it! I have recently decided that I wanted to try eliminating some foods (one or two at a time) to see if it has caused my acne. I had a HUGE breakout of horrible, cystic acne 3-4 years ago. It started as a weird rash of teeny tiny bumps all over my face, then within the week I had horrible cysts all over the place… and it didn’t go away. I went on BCP which helped, but caused many horrible side effects so I couldn’t stay on it, and was on antibiotics on and off. It also helped, but not significantly. About a year an a half ago, I started the paleo diet and was very strict about it. I did that for a year, but realized that my diet caused a lot of anxiety, and I developed an eating disorder. But, looking back, that was the clearest my skin had EVER been! I don’t want to go back on a paleo diet because it is not good for my mental health, it is too strict. But I am stuck, because I truly believe that one of the foods I had cut out while eating that way caused my acne. As soon as I went through recovery for my eating disorder and ate more food types, I now have acne again. Right now, I am testing out not eating dairy or peanuts. I have noticed some improvement, but not completely, and I will see when I add them back if I break out again. And I am glad I read this, because I thought peanut butter was the culprit! When I added that back, I ate TONS of it every day. 2 TBSP in the morning, 2 in the evening. It was the kind without anything added except peanuts, though. I am curious to see if this is what affected me!
    Thanks for the article :)

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Hanah!! I’m really glad you found this article too :), sounds like it confirmed something you already suspected for yourself. I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone to go strict paleo – and for you it’s definitely not best – but you’re probably onto something; there’s something (maybe more than one thing) you eliminated during that time that was an acne trigger for you. Dairy and peanuts are good places to start! Wheat (and simultaneously, other gluten grains) might be another one to try if you still don’t think you’ve “found it.” If you’re not eating low-sugar, I’d suggest that, too. If you run out of ideas or just want to go this route, there are food sensitivity tests (IgG food panel through Genova or US BioTek) that can point to potentially problematic foods using a blood draw. (You usually have to work with a functional medicine practitioner or naturopath to get one of these.)

      Good luck with this!! I hope you see great results really soon. And if not, persevere! You can figure this out. Keep us posted on what you find!

      • Hanah says

        Yes, I was think that there is something that I cut out that caused my acne! But paleo isn’t best for me. Hopefully by eliminating one thing at a time, I will find out what food or foods were causing it! It will be a slow process, but I’m willing to do it. My dermatologist is going to have me get a test for allergies, but I don’t know if sensitivities will show up on that panel, too…
        Thanks for the reply, Sonia! :)

  4. Erin says

    GREAT post!! I am on the 2nd week off from dairy milk (after having a glass or two of it everyday for the past 20 years) and so far have seen some slight improvement, but hopefully more time will tell. It has been hard to remove dairy milk from my routine and I am trying to find a healthy substitute that’s similar to the milk taste I am used to. I have tried unsweetened coconut and almond so far but I am not a fan.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Erin! Thanks :)! I’m glad you found our site and have been makin’ changes!! Slight improvement is a great sign, especially so early on. I know, other milks just don’t taste like dairy milk, especially if you’re drinking it straight. In my own experience with different food restrictions over the years, I find that I tend to go through a “substitution phase,” where I eat/drink something else as similar as possible in the forbidden food’s place, but then eventually I just move away from the food and its substitutes altogether. Not saying you have to do that – but maybe a cup of green tea or glass of kombucha might be a pleasing, non-substitute alternative?

      Also, if it turns out that avoiding dairy is helping but isn’t THE thing that’s getting rid of your acne, I encourage you to try some of the other diet tweaks we recommend on our blog!!

  5. CC says

    Hi, this was a devastating read..as I love my vegan peanut butter dipped vegetable snacks. So, as I look on the back of my peanut butter, I see it has way more monounsaturated fat compared to polyunsaturated fat, is the monounsaturated fat part of the problem? This is the brand of peanut butter I eat.

    https://www.smartbalance.com/products/peanut-butters/omega-peanut-butter-creamy

    Also, I supplement with evening primrose oil, to ensure I get the necessary fats into my diet as I eat a strict vegan diet. I see that has omega 6’s. :( This is the brand I supplement with.

    http://www.amazon.com/Vegan-Vitamins-Evening-Primrose-90-Count/dp/B002XDQSTE/ref=sr_1_25?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1450794651&sr=1-25&keywords=evening+primrose+oil

    I also take

    http://www.amazon.com/Deva-Nutrition-DHA-EPA-Nutritional-Supplement/dp/B00AN86PGC/ref=sr_1_3?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1450794727&sr=1-3&keywords=deva+omega

    I suffered with eczema for a long time, doctors never really helped..but ever since supplementing with omegas its really helped..I also make my own lotions with oils and aloe vera gel. But my acne has been impossible to control. I eat a very healthy strict diet of mostly vegetables, fruits, legumes, brown/wild rice, some nuts and seeds. I don’t eat soy, I’ve recently cut out gluten, all potatoes except sweet, I’ll probably cut out corn as well. And now probably peanut butter. I don’t eat pretty much anything processed/premade except for the occasional vegan gluten/soy free burgers, peanut butter, both of which I don’t even eat with any bread. My diet gets more and more exclusive. I also have a disease that I need to watch my acid levels..so taking me out to dinner is quite the stressful ordeal. Not fun. I’m really just wondering if that evening primrose oil isn’t doing me any favors, and I guess I’m wondering if somehow my peanut butter is less bad?–Because it is a great source of protein, and I love the taste. Thank you! Also..Is there a way to test if your acne is caused by diet?.. cuz I try to eat really f-ing clean. Thanks!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Cap, sorry for the devastating read! I don’t think peanut butter is a main trigger for most people – likely not up there with dairy, veg oil, etc. But it’s really just not an optimal food when it comes to acne. What about almond butter? I don’t know the PUFA breakdown of almond vs. peanut butter off the top of my head, but I have a sense that almond butter is generally better-tolerated by people with acne. More reading on peanut butter if you’re curious:

      http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-bad-is-peanut-butter-really/#axzz3vvJW5uJK

      A lot of people swear by evening primrose oil for acne as well, though I don’t think it’s nearly as effective as balancing out omega 3:6 ratios naturally using food, and maybe supplementing something like fermented cod liver oil (FCLO). Which seems like a no-go for you. Are you staunchly vegan? How long have you been vegan, and do you think you’ll always be that way? (After combined years of experience being vegan, Sonia and I both have come to the opinion that it’s really not optimal for long-term health, and especially difficult for acne sufferers since some of the main supplements/beneficial foods we recommend come from animals.)

      • CC says

        Thanks for your reply! I began my vegan diet a few years ago after being vegetarian for years before that. I wanted/want to be healthy, I’m also passionate about animal rights and the environment. So really..I think I’ll maintain a strict diet, but I’m moving towards a paleo diet. I have friends and family who hunt–and that’s where I will eat meat and fish. I still refuse to eat farm raised anything as I don’t agree with animal agriculture for many reasons–nor do I want to support the fishing industry. I am finding that a vegan diet does lack nutrients–or at least it is more difficult to obtain certain nutrients. I try to be mindful. But like I said, I will be incorporating more game into my diet. However, I will most likely not indulge in FCLO.

        A little off topic…I’ve been reading lately about the ‘miracle’ that is colloidal silver. Many people swear by it topically and internally for acne and really for any sort of infection. It’s safe to use–despite the possibility of Argyria, a condition that turns your skin blueish from over consuming silver. Just curious if you have any insight on the matter. Thanks!

        • Devin Mooers says

          Sounds like a really reasonable approach, sourcing your meat wild and leaving it at that. I support you! If you can eat liver from wild-caught animals, you won’t need FCLO for vitamin A. We aim for ~4oz per week of liver. That alone would probably supply a good chunk of the nutrients that are missing from the typical vegan diet. Outside of that, there’s the option of supplementing synthetic vitamin A (retinol), though that carries some risks of vitamin A toxicity.

          Speaking of colloidal silver, Sonia and I recently gave a lift to a couple guys on our way back from some hot springs, and one of the guys was into making his own colloidal silver. Talked our ear off about it, sounds like pretty cool stuff! So I’ve been using it on a toenail fungus for a couple months and it’s finally receding. First thing I’ve tried that seems to actually work. Never heard of it being used for acne, though – do you mean topically or internally? I’ve heard it doesn’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria in your gut, and just kills off a bunch of your gut flora if you take in internally (like antibiotics).

  6. Tony says

    Hi Sam! I for sure agree with you that the diet can seriously cause acnes!! But I find it so strange. WHy some people eat sweetie and sugar like crazy but they dont get acnes?? While I just eat a bit and then next morning im gonna get acnes? Do you think there is something beyond the diet that we can use? What makes the difference bw pp who get acnes easily with diet and the ones that dont?

    thankssssssss :)

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Tony, good question – lots of people ask us about that. Basically, it boils down to genetics – some people are genetically more likely to get acne than others. That doesn’t mean you are destined to have acne no matter what! It does mean that you have to eat and take care of yourself in certain ways if you want to be naturally acne-free.

    • Michaela says

      Hi! I am healing my acne and I asking myself this question, too. For me, I think every person have different genetic prepositons, like Sonia said, and bad and unhealthy diet can causes different diseases/problems to everyone. For example, I can eat what I want, such as fatty sweets all day long, and I would be still slim, probably. But it causes me acne. For some people it causes them fat althoug their skin can be perfect. And some with strong digestion may be without problems long time but they can get heart diseases, diabets or cancer later. Every time I don’t feel good about it I calm down because starting and living healthy lifestyle is always the best solution that you will appreciate later 😉 I am sorry for any mistakes, I am not native english speaker, but I hope that it will help!

  7. Ben says

    Brilliant stuff you are doing here. Read a few posts and its difficult to apply everything to my own situation as we are all different and react differently to certain produce than others. As i’m bodybuilding in my teenage years i’m obviously expect to have a large protein intake. A while back I took whey protein and that caused a flare up, however other ‘sugary’ products do the same such as chocolate, peanut butter and honey together. I’m in need of a protein supplement that would work such as whey. I was wondering if it is possibly the sweetener in the protein shake (strawb/vanilla) which causes acne for me. I’ve done multiple tests with general sugar based products ( mainly artificial) and I believe that it could possibly be the sweeteners found in produce that causes my acne? Just wondering if this is common and what I could do in my situation. I would need 2 servings of an alternative protein drink adding up to about 60 grams.

    It’s great what your doing.

    Kind regards, Ben

  8. Kat says

    So strange…my skin seems to look better when I am adding a little natural honey roasted peanut butter in my diet! Seeing as how it is the only nut butter I’m not allergic to, I’m going to keep including it in moderation.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Cj – acne’s a complex issue that involves genetics, but that doesn’t mean you can’t clear your acne up! I suggest reading some of our other blog posts to learn about how diet and lifestyle factors play a huge role in acne, and what you can do about it.

  9. Anon says

    What about Sunflower seed butter is that another better alternative to peanut butter,Sunflower seeds do have zinc which is good for acne? I actually just made peanut butter cookies with Erythritol and no flour and scarfed a lot of them down :), now I’m worried I will wake up with more pimples, I think I actually noticed some already forming but don’t know if it can actually come on that quickly.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Sunflower seeds are high in zinc, but they’re also super-high in omega-6, so really not a great idea to eat a bunch of it if you’re struggling with acne. That part of the peanut butter warning holds true here. Acne can come on pretty quickly in response to inflammation triggers, and also in response to stress. The shortest turnaround from acne-promoting food to breakout that I generally see is overnight.

  10. Erika Christensen says

    So here is my question to you… what about powdered peanut butter? there is 90% less fat… it is re-hydrated with water and taste much better than traditional creamy butter.

    My acne is absolutely hormonal though. I’ve been on birth control (currently on – going back off) for almost 3 years. But I want to make sure food is not a contributing factor.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Ericka! Good question. I’d never heard of powdered peanut butter before, but a quick search online confirmed my initial hunch. Even though it has less fat, and hence fewer omega-6s, it’s still a problem for the other 4 reasons listed above (the brand I saw also had added sugar). Furthermore, what fat does remain in the peanut powder has been exposed to oxygen in processing, and is therefore almost certainly (at least partially) oxidized – which contributes to inflammation. My suggestion would be to go with almond butter… cashew butter… any other nut butter, and steer clear of the peanuts!

      Good for you for investigating how food is affecting your skin, giving yourself a break from the pill. Lots of young women use the pill as a hormonal “cover-up” – and it works for many on a surface level – but so much the better if you can get at the root of the problem!

      • Erika says

        Thank you so much for getting back to me, and quickly! I’ve tried to talk on many websites pertaining to this topic and a lot of them are either no longer a live string or no one responds to me :(

        I’ve always eaten peanut butter, for as long as I can remember and never had issues with it before. I always made sure to only buy brands that didn’t have any “extra” additives but after reading this post and reading your comment, I’m trying to eat more almond butter compared to the powdered peanut butter. I initially switched to powdered because of the lower fat content.

        I had my IUD removed two days ago and already my skin is less irritated. I’m assuming my body has a hard time processing synthetic hormones. My only concern is now that it is out, what if my acne doesn’t go away? I mean, it’s not super active but I have small bumps all along my jaw line (maybe 3-4 are a slightly red) it just looks like I have bumpy skin… any ideas as to what this could be? I read it was hormonal or dental related but of course my mind is always thinking.

        Thanks again for responding!

        • Sonia Carlson says

          Hey Erika,

          Really glad you found us and that we can help :). That’s great that you’re trying almond butter instead; it’s a big step in a good direction.

          I think that’s a positive sign that your skin seems less irritated without the IUD (and only after a couple of days!). Depending on how long you’ve been on hormonal birth control, it can take awhile for your body to get back into the balanced rhythm of its own natural cycles. (On the other hand, for some women, it takes virtually no time at all!) There are definitely a lot of theories out there about being able to diagnose the cause of your acne from its location, but I’ve not seen any science to back that up. If, now that you’re off synthetic hormones, you notice fluctuations in your acne in time with your cycle, especially flare-ups around the time of your period, then that’s a good sign that it is related to a sex hormone imbalance. My best suggestion would be to wait and see – your body is going through a recalibration period, so take the best care of it you can and let it do its thing. And if you haven’t read the other articles on our blog – about dairy, for example – I highly recommend checking those out for more ideas about how to give your body (and skin) the best nutrition.

          • Erika says

            Thanks!

            It’s been over a week since I’ve had it removed and it’s starting to fluctuate… I thought it was getting better but it’s starting to get a little worse (more so on the left side of my face – the right side of my face is clear of red marks but there are a lot of clogged pores on both sides… maybe 50 small tiny bumps total and 6 large red.)

            I have been keeping track of what I’m eating, since I’ve had it removed. I’m staying away from all dairy products (including whey) and refraining from extra sugars but I’m feeling as though my skin is still retaliating against me.

            I don’t know what else I could possibly do. I don’t want to use any harsh chemicals (like accutane). I’ve already tried that route with benzoyl peroxide and didn’t have any luck.

            Any extra bit of advice is greatly appreciated and I will compensate for any given. I feel defeated and just want nice skin. I spend a lot of my time looking at other people’s face just wishing…

            Thanks again for your help so far.

          • Sonia Carlson says

            Hi Erika, I’m going to take this off the blog since we’re no longer talking about peanut butter… check your email for my response!

  11. Leo says

    I am confused now. There are several websites mentioning completely opposite statements. One of which is HealthTap (something like Yahoo! Answers for doctors and non-doctors) in which most doctors said that there is no strong link between acne and diet (except perhaps dairy).

    You can see their replies to the same question here: https://www.healthtap.com/topics/does-eating-peanuts-cause-acne

    Would love to hear your thoughts about it.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Leo. Yep, that is the “company line” that most dermatologists stick to: there’s a tenuous link, if any, between diet and acne. Part of the problem, I think, is that many practicing dermatologists got their education before a lot of the research out there linking diet and acne was done, and they’re just very comfortably in the Western allopathic medical model. Another interpretation might be that the dermatology profession is highly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry… which doesn’t make any money off of you if you get healthier and don’t need to continue using their drugs. Part of it is that there haven’t been nearly as many studies done on diet and acne (again, who will fund them?) as on X Wonder Drug and acne – and so you really have to look carefully for the diet-acne connection in the scientific literature, though it is there. For the site you linked – I don’t see any references to scientific articles to support their claims, so you could take their opinion on faith (there’s an “MD” after their names, after all), but I believe in evidence, myself! And since we wrote our book / launched our site, we’ve had gobs of positive feedback from people who changed their diets and saw their skin clear up. I wonder what those dermatologists would think about that…?

      Descending from soap box… good question, and hope that helps answer it for you :)

      • ryan says

        ur totally right about dermatologists and also family doctors are only out to profit selling dangerous drugs to anyone.had acne for 15 years before i learned about food intolerance and acne.doesnt mean the food are bad it just means ur body doesnt recognize it as food like a more minor allergy.and since u cant sell a simple diet change they left me to suffer in a small town with no information.but thanks to the internet ive learned about this.good post and btw dont ever deal with doctors have an organic diet and no chemicals like drugs.theyre killing my parents with cocktails of different drugs

  12. Meg says

    great article ! very informative
    I am a vegan and I have been relying on 2 tbs of peanut butter a day to give me that fat I need
    For a while now my acne has become so bad and I have been wondering if peanut butter could be the cause. but after your article i`ve decided i will cut the peanut butter out and see if it helps my acne or not!
    thanks for the info!!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Meg, I’m happy that you enjoyed it and found some useful info! It’s hard to comment since I don’t know what you eat (only that you don’t eat animal foods), but since you’re vegan, you may want to make sure you’re getting enough vitamins A, D3, and K2 (A and K can be lacking in plant-based diets), a trio of vitamins that ties in closely with skin health. And in lieu of peanut butter, other nut butters, coconut butter or oil, olive oil, and red palm oil would be healthy vegan fat sources. I hope this works well for you!

    • Rae says

      Noticed an uptick the last two months in acne around the mouth and mostly my chin . The bumps seem to be easily aggravated , they seep a clear fluid and bleed. They leave behind black scars whether I disturb them or not which sucks! They don’t heal like regular pimples, they sort of respond like cold sores in a way :(….
      As of late, I’m dieting and was thinking peanuts had to be better to much on amongst other snacks. Welp! … Let’s say I just ate A red cup full! I fell asleep for two hours , upon awakening I felt activity on my face . Checked the mirror ..and a few of the “angry type” pimples are present with several fine pimples developing in random places around the chin , jaw and cheek. I feel really bloated in my gut as well. Then I wondered if the peanuts could be the problem, and subsequently found your blog. Needless to say, The peanuts are going away! If I notice improvement in my skin I’ll inform you ! This helped a bunch. Thank you!

  13. Olivia says

    Im a little confused about what kinds of gluten I should cut out of my diet. Are oats okay? What about brown rice tortillas? What about rice?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Olivia! Gluten is generally only found in wheat, rye, and barley. All kinds of rice are gluten-free. Oats are semi-okay if they’re certified gluten-free, but they have some problematic compounds like avenin, enzyme inhibitors, and lectins, so we don’t recommend eating a *ton* of oats. For starch sources, we generally recommend things like white rice (in moderation), potatoes (in moderation), sweet potatoes, yams, squash, and other root veggies.

  14. George says

    Though not related to the post, may I ask a question on water and acne? I’ve heard that water is useful in actually preventing breakouts, or at least making them less worse, and helps skin heal faster. Water detoxifies and helps heal the body, and is essential. From personal experience, water actually has lived up to the hype (though obviously not purely a cure).

    Do you plan to do a post concerning water and acne and whether it helps heal acne and prevent breakouts? Thanks.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Thanks for the question and the idea, George! Proper hydration is, as you say, vital to keeping things moving in the body, including moving toxins out. We ourselves DO believe it’s really important to drink contaminant-free water (we have a powerful filter at home), but we’re not in the “more is better” camp when it comes to how much of the stuff you drink. Definitely, most of your fluids will ideally be pure water (not soda, or coffee, or juice, or other flavored drinks), but following your natural thirst is probably sufficient for most people, in our opinion.

      • John says

        “but we’re not in the “more is better” camp when it comes to how much of the stuff you drink. Definitely, most of your fluids will ideally be pure water (not soda, or coffee, or juice, or other flavored drinks), but following your natural thirst is probably sufficient for most people, in our opinion.”

        You mean Matt Stone’s opinion.

  15. Rob T. says

    I’ve also read, regarding hair loss, that foods that are high in Androgen such as peanut oil and wheat germ are bad for acne and hair loss.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Rob, I’m not aware of peanuts or wheat germ having any androgenic activity – do you have a source I can take a look at on that? Either way, we don’t recommend peanut oil (for the reasons in this article) or wheat germ (for gluten / gut-damaging reasons) for people working to improve their acne.

      • Rob T. says

        Hi, thanks for the response. I read once (can’t recall the book) a book about acne by a dermatologist who apparently had bad acne himself who stated that wheat germ and peanuts/peanut oils had male hormone properties (Androgen) and would be wise to stay away from them. Years later I was reading another article from a dermatologist who was a hair loss specialist who also mentioned basically the same thing about consuming high androgenic type foods and also even using shampoos that had wheat germ oil in them. He said there was not definite proof but thought it would be safer to avoid these things. By the way, if you just look up info on high androgenic foods there are dozens of articles mentioning them. Like this:

        https://www.google.com/search?q=is+peanut+oil+an+androgen+and+bad+for+skin&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb

        Thanks.

        • Devin Mooers says

          As far as I know, the only way peanut butter would increase androgen production in your body is if it was loaded with sugar (like Jif, etc.). But plain peanut butter shouldn’t have any androgenic activity. I checked that link you sent but couldn’t find any sources or research stating how that would happen… hmm. Also not sure how wheat germ oil would do that either. I could see these oils potentially changing your skin’s sebum oil composition… but either way, good idea to avoid wheat/peanut products for lots of other reasons too!

          • Rob T. says

            I sent the links only to show that many different sources label peanuts and wheat germ as high androgenic foods and “contain hormones that may be bad for acne”. You’re right though that other than saying they were androgenic foods they didn’t explain further why that would be.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Walt, I just updated the section “What about peanuts?” with a little more info. In short, yes, I’d generally avoid peanuts. There are better alternatives where your skin is concerned, including almonds, macadamias, pecans, etc. But no, a few peanuts here and there will probably not make you break out. It’s definitely dose-dependent.

  16. Vanessa says

    Hi,

    Thank you for this post, it is very informative. Reading up on the omega-6’s, I wanted to ask about your opinion on Hemp Oil. It has supposedly the best omega 3 to 6 ratio, but it still has a lot of LA and GLA omega-6’s. I was under the impression from another blogger that LA and GLA omega-6 were actually anti-inflammatory. And in your post, you said that LA can be converted into the dreaded AA. Can means possibly? Not certainty? Can you elaborate more on how that may happen?

    I purchased your ebook and have been following the advice for about 4 months now and I have received dramatic results. I finally feel confident about my self. The clear foods list and breakdown of vitamins has really set a good guideline for me to follow. Many many thanks!

    Take care,
    Vanessa

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Vanessa! Sorry for the long delay in replying to your comment. I’ll try to do better next time! Looks like hemp oil is about 55% LA. It takes three enzymatic conversion steps for LA to be converted into AA, but as far as I know this doesn’t happen very easily. Check out this excerpt from an article by Chris Masterjohn (a fatty acid researcher):

      “Similar increases in linoleic acid have been shown to decrease the conversion of ALA to longer-chain omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA in humans.49 Human studies tend to look at the fatty acids incorporated into red blood cells, but animal experiments provide much more detailed information about the concentrations of fatty acids in the organs and glands where they are most needed. These experiments show that excesses of linoleic acid do not increase tissue concentrations of arachidonic acid; instead, they replace the true omega-3 DHA with a “fake” omega-6 version of DHA that ordinarily is not found in substantial amounts within the body.50 The main effect of the excess linoleic acid in the standard American diet is thus most likely to be a mild form of DHA deficiency.”

      http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/precious-yet-perilous/

      He seems to be one of the only ones trumpeting the problems with excess PUFA consumption, specifically EPA and LA. Also, keep in mind that inflammation is not the only issue with excess omega-6 intake – PUFAs get easily peroxidized by free radicals in your body, and start zombifying other PUFAs into lipid peroxides, which zombify still others, and eventually these lipid peroxides break down into toxins like malondialdehyde (MDA). There’s more about that in that same article:

      “MDA is particularly dangerous because it can leave the membrane and damage proteins, DNA, and other important cellular structures. This process can be likened to the shattering of delicate glass, which results in a mess of dangerous shards that must be properly cleaned up.”

      Does that make sense? I’m not 100% sure on any of these topics – I’m really going by what I’ve gleaned from researchers like Chris Masterjohn. Let me know if I can clarify anything!

      (Also, one final word, I wouldn’t necessarily call AA “dreaded,” since it’s totally necessary for initiating a swift inflammatory response. It’s definitely an essential amino acid, along with DHA.)

      By the way, that’s really great to hear you’ve been getting such great results! That’s really, really awesome – congrats! Means a lot to hear from you. :)

  17. Sam says

    Hey Sonia and Devon

    Great Article I’m glad you did this piece.

    I have a question that I can’t seem to get a clear answer to after doing much research and it is one of the most controversial foods for acne based on what I see online= NUTS. Some say it makes acne worse some say its beneficial for acne prone skin. The only thing I can assume that would make nuts work against acne is their high omega 6 fats.

    I workout extensively (6 days a week) and have made so many sacrifices to clear my skin which would otherwise had made make significant gains in the gym. It’s been hard to get high calorie foods good for skin. Having said that I eat about 60grams of almond butter a day (400 calories a day). I have been wanting to add macadamia nuts ( which have lowest omega 6 of all nuts) to my diet about 50g-100g ( a whopping 350-700 calories). But I am confused if its going to affect my skin badly. I’m just confused about nuts for acne based on bloggers and testimonials online but cannot find any evidence or study on the subject. I would really appreciate your input.

    Thanks for all the effort and the work you!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Sam! Sorry for the mega delay in getting back to you – my fault! I hear your confusion about whether nuts help acne or cause it, but I think that’s actually the truth. For some people, nuts help acne, due to high vitamin/mineral content, beneficial phytochemicals, good fats, etc., especially if they’re displacing other acne-causing snacky foods. I’ve had a few people tell me directly that they were trying our diet for a while, but didn’t get totally clear until they stopped eating nuts altogether. I’m not sure exactly what the reason would be – could be high omega-6 content, could be phytic acid, could be a food intolerance/sensitivity. Could even be molds.

      Macadamias should be fine – they’re mostly saturated, so they’ll be a great calorie source for working out.

      What other kinds of foods are you eating? What’s your diet look like at the moment? I have a decent amount of experience figuring out how to eat calorie-dense foods to support muscle gain / recovery without getting acne and might be able to help.

      • Sam says

        Hey Devon

        Thanks for getting back to me. I appreciate it. I’m desperate for calorie foods that don’t affect skin.

        My diet has changed over and over but have transitioned into paleo in the last two weeks and have been losing mass drastically, not what I want!

        Breakfast
        – 4 omega-3 eggs
        – salad (lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, red peppers, cucumbers, parsley)

        Workout – 1hr

        Post Workout Shake
        – banana, almond milk, cinnamon, blueberries
        – 1 scoop of vegan protein (pea source protein)
        – (I used to put almond butter in my shake but have stopped to see difference in skin)

        Lunch
        -1 lb of pastured top sirloin steak w/ same salad

        Dinner
        – 2 piece of salmon with same salad (I have salmon and eggs everyday and steak 4 days a week)

        Any suggestion for calorie dense foods that don’t affect skin would greatly be appreciated. I thought about avocados but again not sure about the high omega 6 content. Thanks

        • Devin Mooers says

          Your diet looks pretty great overall, except it’s mostly veggies and protein! Finding ways to up your fat and starch intake could make a big difference for you. Things I’d suggest:

          – eat coconut oil / coconut butter / coconut milk – coconut oil by the spoon, coconut butter as a snack / meal addition (great to spoon it plain), and coconut milk as an addition to smoothies, stir-fries, etc. – the short-chain fatty acids in coconut will provide lots of calories and energy, and tend to spare lean muscle tissue so you won’t lose mass
          – add MCT oil to your PWO shake (same benefits as coconut)
          – eat tons of sweet potatoes / yams (and add coconut oil / cinnamon!) – this is a great calorie bomb
          – eat some white rice and white potatoes – you can probably handle the blood sugar spikes since you’re working out so often, so don’t sweat the simpler carbohydrates
          – dump olive oil on your salad, and definitely add avocados too – they’re only about 10% PUFA (mostly MUFA/SFA), so I wouldn’t sweat it, and you need the cals!

          Does this help at all? Sounds like you’re getting PLENTY of protein and veggies – I’d just work on upping your fat and starch intake. Let me know how this sounds!

          • Sam says

            Hey Devon,

            Sorry for the late response I was busy with work and life.

            Wow thanks so much for those recommendations. I have implemented them already and seeing results in my work out routine.

            I have a few questions that I am confused about after some research.

            I cut all nuts out and almond butter to see a difference in my skin and replaced it with coconut butter. I have one full tablespoon (32g) of coconut butter everyday for the calories. However most of the cals in it are pure saturated fat. Even though their medium chain fats, I’m confused if they’re good for skin after some research online. I hear saturated fats aggravate acne and yet also hear good for acne. Any insight?

            Also do you think I am having too much fat right now? This is what I have for fat everyday:

            -half avocado

            – 3 table spoons of olive oil per 3 salads a day (390 cals)

            – 1 table spoon of coconut butter (200 calories)

            – maybe 1/2 – 1 tbsp of coconut oil per cooking

            Thanks I appreciate your advice and hope all is well.

          • Sonia Carlson says

            Hey Sam! In short, no, that’s not too much fat, and no, saturated fat doesn’t cause acne. That’s a myth that has had a lot of traction (still does), but it’s unfounded. The fat sources you listed – coconut, avocado, olive oil – are all wonderful, healthy choices. If you were gaining unwanted weight or something, I might suggest trimming it down a little, but assuming that’s not an issue, you can continue with confidence!

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