System Akvile Team - Nov 09 2020

Food Journaling for Acne Prone Skin: System Akvile Beginner’s Guide

Why writing a food diary can help you to find the perfect diet for your skin.

If you have a reason to believe that:

Something you are eating is triggering your breakouts

But:

You’re not sure what exactly it is that is causing your acne to flare up

...then you’ve come to the right place!


This is the most complete guide to food journaling for acne prone skin.


Here, we will tell you all about the link between nutrition and healthy skin AND show you how to start tracking your eating habits. Also we will have chats with our intern, Alina and our dermatologist, Dr. Greg.

Chapter 1: What is the relationship between acne and diet?


"You are what you eat"

Do you believe that, too?

There are a lot of people out there, especially on social media, proclaiming that a special diet helped them to achieve flawless skin.

Dermatologists on the other side, often state the link between diet and acne as being a complete myth.

That's why you’re probably wondering:

Are there any studies that prove that there is a relationship between your diet and your acne?

Indeed, this topic is highly controversial and needs further studies.

However, there are already several studies which find that certain dietary habits can have a potential impact on the severity…

...BUT they do not cause acne!

Certain dietary habits can lead to:

An increase in sebum production which in turn leads to blocked pores thanks to a higher production of hormones and insulin.

Have a look at our article about acne prone skin to learn more about the development of pimples

Anti-Acne diet: What to eat and what to avoid?

Based on this, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding what to eat, such as:

1) If I reduce my intake of dairy products & high glycemic foods could that help my acne?


It actually might help!

This study found that a diet rich in high glycemic foods and dairy products is linked to acne vulgaris.

The results are fed from the diet records from 44 patients in the form of a three day food diary written in August 2012.

Milk and dairy products contain hormones produced by cows during pregnancy which increases the IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor 1) and stimulates the sebum production.

Our Tip:

Even if you’re not planning on becoming vegan there are several vegan options that you could consider that might reduce the amount of dairy products in your daily life.

For instance, you could use soy for cooking instead of products made of cow’s milk.

High glycemic foods are responsible for an increase of insulin which also leads to an increased sebum production.


Therefore, try to avoid:

  • Dairy
  • Sugar
  • White rice 
  • White bread
  • Pasta
  • Fast food
  • Sweet drinks and alcohol

"It should also be mentioned, though, that a high glycemic diet is considered to be more convincing than the link between dairy and acne."

2) Will the right balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids help my acne?

It’s been shown that it CAN play an important role in reducing acne symptoms, yes!

Need proof?

People who have a large intake of fish and seafood or dietary supplements based on omega-3 fatty acids have been found to have less inflammation in their body.

Now, vegans might be asking:

How can I consume enough omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids if I don’t eat fish?

Omega-6 fats are easier to find in plant based foods than omega-3 fatty acids.

A varied and balanced diet that provides enough fatty acids should contain :

- Seeds (hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, ground linseed)
- Walnuts
- Soya spread
- Vegetable oil (rapeseed)

Did you know?

Acne is a disease commonly found in those with a western diet.

The reason:

The western diet tends to mean that you consume high glycemic foods, a lot of dairy products and have a deficiency of fatty acids.

Non-western diets correlate with the absence of acne.

3)  If my inner organs are happy will this help me to get rid of my acne?

What do we mean by “happy organs”?

Your Gut is happy...
...as long as it has a high amount of friendly bacteria provided through the right nutrients.

Your Liver has no reason to complain…
...as long as it isn’t overloaded.

Why is it so important to provide the gut and liver with the right nutrition?

Here is the thing:

Our digestive system doesn’t work properly when there are more bad bacteria present than friendly bacteria.

In this case, your digestive system is not able to absorb nutrients, vitamins and minerals efficiently.

This can lead to inflammation, hormonal imbalances and in the worst case even long-term illness.

SOS Gut Support:


  • Increase your probiotic food intake.
  • These are sources of friendly bacteria, such as: sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, and cultured yoghurt.

Increase prebiotic food intake.

  • These are high in fibre, such as: green bananas, asparagus, green olives, spring onions, garlic, fennel.
  • Think about a probiotic supplement. 

"The gut and the liver have a strong connection."

Therefore, it is super important to ensure that you have a healthy gut in order to make sure that the liver functions properly.

If the liver is overloaded it is not able to remove toxins and process hormones which is its key role.

SOS Liver Support:


  • Reduce alcohol, sugar, caffeine
  • Eat a lot of dark green veggies, such as
    broccoli, cabbage, spinach, rocket, kale, watercress, fresh herbs
  • Eat a lot of dark green veggies, such as
    broccoli, cabbage, spinach, rocket, kale, watercress, fresh herbs
  • Think about supplements, such as:
    chlorella (anti-inflammatory properties)

Now you know the importance of building healthy food habits.

In the next chapter, we will have a look at food journaling for acne prone skin.

Chapter 2: How can I start food journaling?

Before we start writing a food diary we have to understand:

  • How food journaling can help us to find the right acne diet.
  • What are the benefits?

Let’s start at the very beginning:

What is a Food Journal?

Food journaling is a diary (or digital journal) where you can track what foods you eat.

This way, you have a clearer picture of your dietary habits throughout the day,  week, and month.

A study conducted by Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research even showed that food journaling can double a person’s weight loss.

Now, we transfer this knowledge and use it to get clearer skin.

For instance:

You avoid dairy products but twice a week you order pizza. And your workload means you don’t have time to cook dinner from scratch.

Sometimes we are so caught up in the stress of our daily lives, that we don’t even notice how much junk we eat.

In this case, a food journal could help you to realise that the culprit isn’t dairy but a lack of vitamins and minerals instead.

"Your diary will be most helpful in observing patterns if you fill it out over a three-month period (at least)"

Pen and Paper or Digital Diary?

This is totally up to you.

The trend goes back to pen and paper as many people feel the need to take some time off the screen and to return to the basics.

Buying a journal with a pen which feels good in your hand might be the perfect motivational starting point.

An app might be a good alternative for all people who prefer to have all their notes in one place.

Most of the time, we have our phones right next to us which makes it a lot easier to stick to the routine.

As we pursue a holistic approach we ask you to track your stress level, dietary and make up habits after finishing your skincare routine. Also, you can take pictures of your complexion on a regular basis to check your skin’s progress.

Seeing your diet on a screen or on paper will make you more aware of what you eat, how you eat, and why you eat.

In turn, this can help you to make beneficial changes to your well-being.

Don’t know where to start?

Not to worry!

We’ve got it all laid out for you, so you can start food journaling with ease.

3 Steps for setting up your Food Journal

1) What is your intention?

Why are you food journaling in the first place?

What do you hope to achieve from it?

If you want clearer skin, think about your goals and intentions every time you open your food journal.

Reminding yourself why you do something is half the battle.

It will help you to stay dedicated, and will help you to not only meet, but crush your goals too.

2) What do you want to record?

Recording things will help you to gain a deeper understanding of your relationship with food, and why you eat what you eat.

Here are some ideas of what you can record:

  • Emotions (boredom, sadness, happiness, etc.)
  • Time of day ( are you a late-night snacker?)
  • Portion size
  • How do you feel after you eat? (stuffed, still hungry, tired, etc.)
  • Who you’re with (are you eating alone or with company?)
  • How fast/slow you eat
  • What you drink
  • The snacks in between meals

3) Do it your way, but do it with structure!

A good way to maintain continuity is to find a structure that works for you

"Sometimes the hardest part about forming a new habit is actually sticking to it.
A good way to maintain continuity is to find a structure that works for you."

Whether you use an app or an old, empty journal, find a method that fits easily into your schedule and matches your personality.

Playing to your strengths will only help you in the long run.

Most importantly with food journaling:

It’s important to write down what you eat as soon as you’ve finished eating.

Doing it right away will help you to foster this new habit.

Chapter 3: Real life experiences with diet & acne

Sometimes it can be nice to read about some real life experiences.

Let’s focus on people in our nearest environment - because there are more people struggling with acne close to us than we might think.

The first person we will have a chat with is our intern Alina. She has had troubles with acne since quitting the contraceptive pill.

We asked her about her experiences with acne, diet and food journaling.

The second person will be an expert: our trusted dermatologist Grzegorz.

Who could possibly have more knowledge about the link between diet and acne than him?

Let’s start with: 

Alina’s experiences with diet and acne

Alina, you’re struggling with acne since quitting the contraceptive pill. When did you experience your first breakouts? Was it the first time you experienced acne?

I stopped birth control and started to see changes in my skin about 3 months after. It continuously got worse until it had grown into a full grown acne - in my face and on my back. 

When I was a teenager I had the usual facial acne caused by puberty. It lasted longer than with others which is why my gynecologist introduced me to the contraceptive pill. It should help with my pimples...and it did. Until I stopped taking it two and a half years ago, and then it was even worse than the first time.

Read more about the post-pill acne here

You’ve tried a lot of things to get rid of your acne. Was changing your diet a part of it?

Yes, that’s true. While puberty I tried to get rid of acne with my doctor’s help but creams alone didn’t bring any improvement. That’s why I started to go the holistic way to heal my skin after birth control. I started to reduce stress with yoga, meditation and working out. In addition I tried various diets, such as eating vegan, cutting out wheat, gluten, coffee and alcohol. I ate more veggies and fruits. There was a visible improvement but I still broke out.

Did you then start food journaling?

I do not have any experience with food journaling, because I simply didn’t come up with the idea.

I read about the relationship between gut health and skin so I decided to do fasting for a whole week and started to build friendly gut bacteria. The first time, I actually noticed that my skin got so much better. I researched a bit more and found out that a lack of vitamins and minerals can cause acne, too. Actually a deficiency of vitamins and minerals isn’t unusual after quitting the contraceptive pill.

Even though I already ate really healthy I couldn’t catch up with a healthy diet alone. So I started drinking a special vitamin juice, ate supplements and probiotics and it worked.

I still struggle with breakouts but it got so much better and I usually notice new breakouts around my period.

Do you think a food journal would have helped you?

I think so, yeah! It is much easier to track your eating habits and read things out of it than cutting out everything all at once hoping that one of it is the culprit. As I still have to deal with breakouts I sure will start a food journal in the near future.

Thank you, Alina!

Dr. Greg’s statement about the link between diet and acne

Grzegorz, let’s nail it down: Do you believe there is a link between diet and acne?
Why are you food journaling in the first place?

Yes, I do. Many patients state that their acne is getting worse after consuming high glycemic foods with high content of saturated fatty acids, such as chocolate. That’s why I definitely see a connection between the foods we eat and the appearance of our skin.

Why is it that some people experience more breakouts depending on their food intake than others?

People who have acne prone skin, for genetic or hormonal reasons, react more sensitively to high glycemic foods or dairy products as they already have a disbalance. 

Your honest opinion: Can a food journal be helpful with managing acne?

If you have chronic diseases - such as acne - it can be helpful to track your foods in order to find out the culprit. It is very important though not to forget to eat enough fresh veggies and fruits to avoid deficiency symptoms.

Would you recommend your patients to track their eating habits in order to clear acne?

Firstly I would do a detailed anamnesis and skin examination. Also I always recommend fresh foods which are high in healthy and important micro nutritions. 

To sum it all up…

  • Food journaling can be a simple and straightforward way to reach your healthy skin goals.
  • By setting an intention, deciding what you want to record, and finding some structure, you’ll be well on your way to starting AND continuing, a food journal.
  • We’re challenging you to try this out for two weeks. 
  • Don’t worry, we’ll be doing it right along with you! 
  • At the end of two weeks, you can take a look back and see what you’ve eaten, how you’ve felt, and see if you’ve become any more aware about what you put in your body. 
  • Then, you can set an intention for the next two weeks. 
  • Once you’re set in your new routine, you can play with your food plan and see what really serves you.

Scientific Sources 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4884775/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3470941/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18851733/

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