There are a lot of things that don’t improve as we age, but at least we can bank on being acne-free, right?  Well, not so much if you’re one of the 40-55% of adults who still experience acne.  In fact, there has been a sharp rise in ‘adult acne’ among 20, 30 and even 40-somethings.  If this describes you, I have good news.  With these tips, acne can go the way of your awkward fashion from junior high – a distant memory.

  1. First of all, a paleo diet will take you pretty far.  The first reason is that it excludes dairy.  The hormones in dairy products are believed to be major culprits in causing acne.  So, you’re OK to use non-hormonal dairy substitutes like coconut or almond milk.  Just be careful about added sugars and gums like carrageenan in these products.  30 days dairy-free should give you a good idea of whether it’s helping to clear up your skin.
  2. The second reason why a paleo diet helps is that it cuts out highly refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, rice, and sugar.  These types of carbohydrates are harmful for a variety of reasons, but when it comes to acne, the rapid rise in blood sugar that they cause is the culprit.  Instead, focus on getting your carbohydrates from starchy vegetables, fruit, and occasional small servings of natural sweeteners like honey and pure maple syrup.
  3. Next up: antioxidants – studies report that inflammation contributes to acne.  Brightly colored fruits and vegetables like berries, grapes, tomatoes, carrots, and peppers, are high in the inflammation-fighting antioxidants that neutralize free radicals.  Read: clear up your face.  So, make sure you’re eating some bright fruit and veg at every meal.
  4. Speaking of inflammation, omega-3 fats are another great way to address it.  However, studies show mixed results with seafood and acne.  So, don’t go too crazy.  Stick to around two servings per week of good quality seafood, and don’t over-do the higher-mercury sources like tuna and swordfish.
  5. OK, are you ready for the real secret sauce?  There are two nutrients that have strong scientific evidence for eliminating acne.  They are vitamin A and zinc.  This is good news for you, cavewoman.  Although most modern diets are deficient in both, a well-executed paleo diet provides them.  So, focus on real-food sources of these nutrients to reap the acne-free rewards:
    • Good sources of true vitamin A include liver, free-range organic eggs, and oily fish like sardines, herring, and salmon.  Don’t sell yourself short with a beta carotene supplement (check the label of that multi).  Fermented cod liver oil can provide an extra boost, but be picky about quality.  It is possible to go overboard on pre-formed vitamin A, so talk to a professional if you need to.  A couple of servings of liver per week, plus regular intake of eggs and oily fish is just about right for most people.
    • As for zinc, excellent sources are oyster, crab, beef, pork, chicken, cashews, and almonds.  Aim for at least two servings of high-zinc foods per day.
  6. Finally, the best news of all – chocolate hasn’t been shown by studies to truly correlate with acne.  However, remember from above that dairy and sugar do correlate.  Maybe that’s how chocolate bars got implicated in all of this.  So, have your chocolate but stick to dark, at least 70% cocoa, please.  It goes great with a glass of red wine – antioxidants….do you see where I’m going with this?!?

Finally, keep in mind that acne is highly related to hormone balance.  Healthy levels of stress, sleep, and exercise all can benefit you here.  Consider this your excuse to book a massage, yoga class, dancing lesson, or whatever else relaxes and restores you.

-By Erin Skinner

Erin Skinner is a Registered Dietitian, Personal Trainer, and author, whose passion is revolutionising her clients’ health with a functional and ancestral approach. Visit or email to learn more, or to preview her new book – ‘The Bone Broth Miracle Diet’.


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