The Old-Wives’ Tale About Spices: Does Spicy Food Cause Acne?

The Old-Wives’ Tale About Spices

Does spicy food cause acne? Or is it just your imagination?

If you have food-related acne, you’re likely to react to dairy, sugar, and gluten. Even peanut butter can break you out.

However, for some weird reason, your skin seems to react to spicy foods, too. In case you’re wondering how that’s even possible, here’s a breakdown of how spices can be related to skin breakouts.

Does Spicy Food Cause Acne?

The Old-Wives’ Tale About Spices: Does Spicy Food Cause Acne?

Spicy food is known to trigger rosacea but its effect on acne hasn’t fully been established yet.

Despite the lack of strong proofs, there are actually a lot of people who blame spicy food for their breakouts. In a study conducted in India, around 85% of respondents believed that spicy food triggered their acne.

That is actually a big number. But the bigger question is what makes them strongly believe in such idea.F

Frankly, spices, by themselves, do not cause acne. It has got to do more with what goes with your spicy meal.

In a study that tracked the causes of acne in women, there was not enough evidence to pin spicy food as a leading acne cause. However, in that same study, soda and chocolate were both shown to increase acne in women.

Now, I want you to imagine the last time you ate your favorite spicy BBQ chicken. What was your drink during that meal?

If your answer is soda, then it’s probably that type of diet that’s making you breakout- not just the spicy BBQ chicken alone.

The same goes for chocolate, which is considered great for cooling the tongue after a spicy meal.

Both soda and chocolates are more likely to break you out because of their high sugar content. Glucose, or your body’s sugar, has a direct effect on your skin’s oil production.

The Other Things In Your Spicy Food

If you’re a certified foodie, you’ll probably not feel contented with using spices alone. There’s a good chance you’ll be throwing additional ingredients into your mix, too.

Think curry, paneer masala and your buffalo wings. These recipes contain dairy which is very notorious for triggering acne.

How can dairy products cause breakouts? A lot of ways, actually.

Dairy products, such as milk and cheese, have high androgen content. It’s a type of hormone that can directly stimulate your oil glands to produce sebum.

When you have too much androgen, your oil production gets excessive, too. And once there’s too much oil, your pores can get clogged and acne can begin to form.

Spicy foods typically have tomatoes as well. This ingredient contains glycoalkaloids which can be irritating for some people.

Glycoalkaloids are tomatoes’ own toxin which they use to ward off pests- and humans.

Your Reactions To Spicy Food

Your digestive tract is responsible for filtering out toxins and preventing them from entering your systemic circulation. As spicy foods are irritating, eating too much of it can cause stomach upset.

And as you continue to eat a lot of spicy foods despite its effect on your stomach, over time, it can result to chronic inflammation and your gut may not be able to do its job efficiently anymore.

The result will be all over your skin.

Another potential link between spicy food and acne is sweat.

Apparently, when you eat spicy foods, it makes your body temperature increase. And as you feel hotter (no pun here), your body cools itself by means of sweating.

Sweating can’t make you breakout, but the factors around it can.

Take for example your makeup or the place where you live in. If you wear makeup or you’re exposed to a lot of pollution and dirt, there’s a good chance that sweat can combine with these things and clog your pores.

Aside from this, letting your sweat stay long on your skin can also encourage bacterial growth.

So, How Do You Make Sure You Don’t Breakout?

I suggest you write down everything you eat and take note of how your skin responds to your food choices.

If you ate a spicy meal, take a closer look if it contains dairy. You should also include the kind of drinks you had with the meal or if there’s any dessert that followed.

Every skin is different and by keeping track of your food intake and your skin’s reactions, you can have a clearer idea of your acne triggers.

Aside from these things, you can also try eating less spicy foods or decreasing the amount of spices you use when cooking. Too much of anything is bad and the same idea applies to your skin.

If you sweat a lot every time you eat spicy foods, make sure to pat dry your face. Use a clean cloth to avoid introducing bad bacteria to your skin.


Does spicy food cause acne?

This misconception is actually not that new, but it doesn’t mean that age-old myths, such as this, are always true. While some people experience breakouts from eating too much spice, there are some people who don’t.

If you frequently include dairy ingredients in your recipes or if you drink sodas after a spicy meal, then those are the foods that can trigger your acne- not just the spices.

The key thing here is to be familiar with how your body responds to specific foods. From there, you can figure out which food items you need to avoid and how to deal with your body’s reactions to avoid skin breakouts.

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

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

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