Will Eating Organic Foods Clear Up Acne?

Will going organic clear your acne?. Photo: Will Heap / Getty Images

Question:  I’m looking for a natural way to treat acne.  My friend swears that eating only organic foods will fix all kinds of problems, even acne.  Will switching from conventionally-grown foods to organic foods help clear up my skin?

Answer:  There are plenty of reasons people choose an organic diet.  Reducing your exposure to pesticides, getting great tasting foods, supporting your local organic farmer, and a desire to protect the environment are all good reasons to incorporate organic foods into your diet.

But, despite what your friend says, eating organic foods will not cure acne.

Acne isn’t caused by the food you’re eating.  Sure, there is some indication that certain foods may make existing cases of acne worse, but the focus is more on high-glycemic index foods (like white bread and pasta, cakes, and cookies) and dairy products.  Still, the experts haven’t come to a consensus on that yet. 

Switch from conventionally-grown foods to the organic variety and you probably won’t notice a difference in your skin at all. 

In fact, there is no substantial nutritional difference in organically grown produced versus conventionally grown produce.  So, a conventionally-grown apple is just as nutritious as an organically-grown one.

But there is a difference in the amount of pesticide between the two.  Organically-produced foods do have less pesticide residue than conventionally-produced foods.  Eating organic produce over conventionally-grown produce, especially over long periods of time, will reduce your overall exposure to pesticides.


Pesticides have not been linked to acne breakouts, though.  It's highly unlikely that the small, residual amount of pesticide that may be on your fruits and veggies is doing anything to trigger acne breakouts. 

Also, you should know that the chemicals used in conventional farming practices have been well studied.

  Most peer-reviewed studies have shown that eating conventionally-grown produce exposes you to miniscule amounts of pesticide and is not harmful.  Many organic advocates disagree, though. 

Either way, it's still a good idea to wash produce well, both organic and non-organic, before digging in.

While going organic won't clear up your acne, we definitely don't want to discount the importance of a healthy diet.  Most of us could stand to eat more fruits and veggies, whether they are organic or not.

It comes down to what your goals are, and what is important to you.  If you feel strongly about reducing your exposure to pesticide and supporting organic agriculture, then going organic makes sense for you. 

If the only reason you're considering going organic is because you want clear skin, don't stress about it.  And don't feel guilty for not making the switch.  You can eat a healthy, non-organic diet.  You're not causing your acne because you're eating conventionally-grown foods (and don't let your fanatical friend make you feel otherwise.)

Whether you're going organic or not, you should start on a proven acne treatment medication.  Even better, put in a call to the dermatologist and get some pro help for your skin.   

The decision to go organic is a personal one.  These articles, written by my About.com colleagues, will teach you more about organic foods and help you decide if going organic is the right choice for you:

From About.com NutritionOrganic Food Basics

Next Steps: How To Find an Acne Treatment That Will Work for You


Forman J, Silverstein J; Committee on Nutrition; Council on Environmental Health; American Academy of Pediatrics.  “Organic foods: health and environmental advantages and disadvantages.”  Pediatrics. 2012 Nov;130(5):e1406-15.

Smith-Spangler C, Brandeau ML, Hunter GE, Bavinger JC, Pearson M, Eschbach PJ, Sundaram V, Liu H, Schirmer P, Stave C, Olkin I, Bravata DM.  “Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?: a systematic review.”  Ann Intern Med. 2012 Sep 4;157(5):348-66.

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