Does Soda Cause Acne? The 5 Things In Your Drink That Are Making You Break Out

Does Soda Cause Acne

When you’re thirsty and looking for a drink, what do you typically grab from the fridge? A cool glass of water, juice, or soda?

If you’re among 1 in 5 Americans, chances are you’ll go for the soda.

You may or may not admit it but resisting the drink is a lot easier said than done. And despite many health experts telling you the dangers of drinking soda, you just can’t say no to it.

Well, if you’re constantly breaking out, you may want to reconsider your answer.

But, does drinking soda really cause acne?

The obvious answer is yes.

What’s In Your Soda?

Soda ingredients generally consist of:

  • High fructose corn syrup / sugar
  • Caramel coloring, depending on the flavor
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Aspartame for diet soda only
  • Caffeine

Let’s break these things down further.

High fructose corn syrup

High fructose corn syrup generally comes from corn starch. Its processing involves breaking down cornstarch into individual glucose molecules.

After the starch is broken down, enzymes are added to convert it from glucose to fructose. One can of soda contains approximately 39 grams of high fructose corn syrup.

Phosphoric acid

Phosphoric acid is an oxygen acid of phosphorus and it’s commonly used in making salts. For food products such as soda, it’s added for its fruit-like flavoring.

It is extremely acidic with a pH level that’s lower than battery acid. Yikes!

Caramel coloring

Most sodas today has a caramel-like coloring. It’s processed by combining sugar and ammonia under high temperatures.


This is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners on the market. You’ll mostly find this in diet sodas.


Caffeine is the stimulant in soda that gives you that jolt of energy. It stimulates the central nervous system about 15 minutes after entering the body.

And not just that. It can actually keep you energetic for about 6 hours.

So, How Do These Ingredients Cause Acne?

It’s pretty interesting to find out exactly what you’re sipping on, right? But I know you’re actually more interested to know what makes your skin break out, so here goes.

1. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and acne

High fructose corn syrup is the main reason why your soda tastes sweet. This sugary kick is also why many people crave for it.

Because high fructose corn syrup is created by breaking down starch, it’s not a natural substance your body will be able to recognize right away. Instead, your body sees it as a foreign substance which it needs to eliminate.

This reaction kicks your immune system into gear and triggers inflammation during the process.

Also, this type of sugar is very taxing on the pancreas, which is the main organ responsible for releasing insulin and keeping your blood glucose level in check. Any excess gets stored in your liver.

Once the liver becomes overburdened, it will not be effective enough in filtering out toxins. As a result, your body will also use your skin for toxin removal.

Another way that HFCS impacts your skin is its relationship with candida. It is a type of fungus that normally occurs inside your body in small amount.

However, once you load up your body with high level of sugar, such as HFCS, candida overgrowth happens. This creates an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in your gut.

If your gut isn’t healthy enough, it won’t be able to fully prevent toxins from entering your systemic circulation and, as a result, you get acne.

On top of this, the corns used in processing HFCS have a high chance of being genetically modified. That means your body is getting a double whammy of unnatural substances that can aggravate the inflammation in your skin.

2. Phosphoric acid and its effect on your kidneys

Phosphoric acid is the stuff that’s actually stronger than battery acid. Yes, it’s pretty crazy!

Phosphorus in its original state is a helpful mineral that aids in the absorption of calcium. In its acid state, however, it’s a totally different story.

Phosphoric acid is linked to the erosion of tooth enamel and increased risks of kidney disease. Processing phosphoric acid can cause your kidney to become overloaded.

Your kidney is primarily responsible for removing toxins through your urine, and with soda consumption you are pumping phosphoric acid directly into your kidney.

This does not only make it difficult for your kidneys to remove toxins effectively, but you’re actually causing damage to your organs.

What happens when there are more toxins than your kidney can process?

Your kidneys will become overloaded and dump the excess into your liver. When your liver becomes overburdened, toxins can come out through your skin in the form of rashes and acne.

3. Caffeine and your skin

Ahhh caffeine! The jolt of energy we all love getting from soda.

Unfortunately, all of that energy comes at a price for your skin.

When you consume soda, coffee or anything caffeinated, it increases the level of androgens in the blood. Androgens, in case you’re wondering, are a type of male hormone and a big no-no for acne.

As the androgen in your body increases, it triggers a stress response, basically causing the release of cortisol.

Too much cortisol makes your skin produce oil and too much oil leads to clogged pores and acne.

If you’re not drinking enough water to balance your soda intake, caffeine can also make your skin dry. As your skin gets drier, it will cause more dead skin cells to pile up and clog your pores.

4. The color of your soda

Caramel coloring that’s found in dark sodas has been in the news lately. The reason is that it is a possible carcinogen (surprise!).

If you frequently read labels, you’ll find it there as artificial color or flavor. Now, take a good look at the word “artificial”.

Anything that doesn’t come naturally inside your body, such as artificial substances, can easily be interpreted by your system as a threat. It triggers the immune system and causes inflammation- well, you get the idea.

5. Aspartame

If you like to chug diet soda, then aspartame is an ingredient that you should be aware of.

Aspartame has been shown in studies to change the bacteria in your intestines and suppress the immune system- considering it as a clear carcinogen.

Aside from the possibility of causing cancer, it can negatively impact your blood sugar level, too. It can also make it difficult for your immune system to ward off the acne-causing bacteria.

Ready To Make The Switch?

For some people, letting go of soda can really be a struggle. They are sweet, caffeinated and, well, a lot tastier than water.

If you still really, really want to drink soda, then here are some alternatives you can try.

Homemade soda

Yes, you can make soda at home! There are actually countless recipes online- from ginger ale to root beer, and they’re not complicated at all.

For example, to make homemade ginger ale, all you only need are ginger, water, lemon, sugar, and water.

The best part of making soda at home is that you know exactly what’s going into it and you can control the sugar level. You can even experiment with different recipes and who knows, maybe you can find a recipe that works for your skin instead of against it.

Soda Makers

If you’re feeling particularly fancy, you could purchase a soda maker. Most of today’s products won’t take a lot of room on your counter and they can be very convenient to use.

You can even select your drink’s fizz level. Now, how cool is that?

Matcha Tea

If caffeine is what you crave, then matcha tea is for you. It’s a potent version of green tea- the most potent actually.

Matcha is a traditional Japanese green tea that is actually made from the whole ground leaf. It provides a nice helping of caffeine along with plenty of nutrients and antioxidants.


Drinking soda can lead to acne in several different ways. Just reading its ingredient list can probably make your skin cringe.

To make sure your skin stays clear, the best drink will still be water. It may not be as tasty or sweet as any other soda, but it holds properties your skin and body will surely benefit from.

And the good news is that your taste buds are malleable, which means that even though they are accustomed to the taste of sodas, they can still find a way to adapt to the taste of water.

As a soda drinker, it may be helpful if you slowly integrate water and other less sugary drinks into your diet. Over time, this simple action can reverse any negative impacts sodas and all their artificial ingredients have done to your skin.

So the next time you reach into the fridge for a drink, grab the less tasty but healthier water. It can be one of the best decisions you can make for your skin- and for your waistline, too. 

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

A board-certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology

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