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Does Sodium Cause Acne?

By Kay Uzoma ; Updated July 18, 2017

Although acne often begins during the teen years, it can pop up at almost any age, according to dermatologist and author of “The Acne Prescription” Nicholas Perricone. For some people who already have acne, diet can trigger breakouts. However, sodium does not cause acne, nor does any other food. But you should still limit your intake of this nutrient as too much of it can lead to conditions far worse than acne, such as heart disease. Speak to your dermatologist about effective acne remedies.

How Acne Begins

When hormonal activity increases the production of oil in your skin, that oil and dead skin cells can clog follicles or pores. The bacteria that live on your skin, Propionibacterium acnes, feeds on the skin and oil in the clogged pores, leading to the formation of a pimple. Another factor in acne is inflammation, but there’s debate about whether acne comes before or after acne starts. However, the bottom line is higher levels of it in your body will make acne worse, as is the case with cystic acne. Sodium does not cause acne, and there’s no evidence to suggest that it can make it worse.

Salty Food and Acne

Sodium is one of the chemicals in salt. Some of your favorite, salty prepackaged or junk foods might make acne worse. But it’s not the salt itself that’s to blame. For instance, foods such as chips or fries are also rich in carbohydrates, which increase levels of the hormone insulin. As insulin levels rise, so does inflammation, making acne worse. Salt is also present in processed meats; hormones in meat disrupt hormonal activity in your body and can make acne worse, according to Mark Stengler, a naturopath and coauthor of “Prescription for Drug Alternatives.”


You may come across recommendations to use salty water to treat acne on the Internet. One of the theories behind this treatment approach is that mineral salt deodorants kill bacteria on the armpits, so it may also be beneficial for killing Propionibacterium acnes on your skin that contribute to acne. There’s no scientific proof that this works. However, salt water is very drying. According to Perricone, natural drying agents, such as sulfur, have been used in acne treatment since the 1940s to control excessive oiliness and unclog pores. Although Perricone does not recommend salt water for this purpose, you can try it yourself to see if your acne improves.


If you’ve tried over-the-counter remedies such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid products, or eliminating inflammation-causing foods from your diet such as beef, sugar and dairy with no improvement in acne, it’s time to see a dermatologist. Acne can be very persistent, for some people lasting well into adulthood. However, there are several effective remedies available that help to control acne even when cutting out salty, pro-inflammatory foods or using salt water to cleanse your skin doesn’t banish blemishes.

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