I just spent 6 weeks in Europe and didn’t break out. Not once. (Keep reading for my BEST clear skin travel tips below)
Even as a highly acne prone person (thanks genetics), having gelato marathons in Italy, eating nothing but hot chips for lunch in Amsterdam, and a skin care routine that even a man would call basic… I did not get a single pimple.
Back in the day, I’d stress about anything that might trigger my acne—dinner plans, too much sugar, forgetting my supplements. I wanted to control everything to prevent a breakout. But travel taught me something invaluable: control is nearly impossible when you’re exploring the world.
And in all honesty, I think there’s something magical that happens when you travel – you just don’t break out like you would at home if you were living this way.
Here’s my non woo-woo theories to why:
- You walk hell of a lot (more on this later, promise)
- You have no stress, other than maybe running late for the tour you booked
- The food is less processed in Europe
- You’re not even thinking about your skin… at all.
But in saying that there are things you CAN control in order to keep your skin clear while in travel mode. So, without further ado, here are my top clear skin travel tips for your next overseas adventure. PLUS I’ll give you the BEST acne-safe places you absolutely can’t miss.
Travel Tips for Keeping Your Skin Clear
Tried to eat gluten free where I could
For me I have a gluten intolerance so you might not have to be as conscious as I was. But in saying that, gluten can actually increase inflammation in your gut regardless of whether you have a sensitivity or not. So sometimes it’s best to try and reduce it where you can (whilst still allowing yourself to enjoy the pastas, pizzas and all the good things)
Skin Tip: I brought emergency crackers with me especially in the small towns of Italy where gluten free options are few and far between. I’d order cured meats at restaurants and delis and pair it with olives, tomatoes. And *chefs kiss* such a great, no-stress lunch option.
Walking increases digestion, reduces stress and blood sugar spikes (which can trigger acne), moves your lymphatic system and helps keep you going to the toilet every day. It’s the #1 secret to keeping your skin clear on your holidays.
Keep a good basic skincare routine
I limited dairy where possible
For me dairy can be a big acne trigger. But good news is, even places like Italy (who pride themselves on cheese) are so good at having dairy free options like vegan cheeses on pizza and vegan gelatos everywhere (my favourites are listed below)!
Book places with kitchens/kitchenettes so you can cook your own food occasionally
And keep costs down because eating out all the time is $$$. We loved making our own breakfasts in our apartment. That way you know you’re starting your day off right and aren’t limited to a pastry (which seems to be all people eat for breakfast.. or fairy bread in Amsterdam, not even joking it’s a thing). Ideas we did: soy yoghurt with muesli and fruit; eggs on toast, a tapas spread for the evenings.
Stop stressing about whether you will break you out
When you stress about what you’re eating, it increases the stress hormone cortisol, making your skin produce more oil and can trigger acne. It also stops your body from digesting the food properly. Remember you’re on holidays, so just enjoy it!
Prioritise protein at every meal where you can
Having a good amount of protein at each meal reduces the blood sugar spikes which can be a trigger for acne.
Choose dessert over a sugary snack
When you have a meal that includes protein, fibre and healthy fats before you have gelato or whatever sugary treat that catches your eye, the sugar in the gelato isn’t going to hit your blood stream as rapidly.This means it won’t spike your blood sugars as much, which can be a big trigger for acne.
Obviously you may want gelato or a little gluten free cinnamon scroll as a snack occasionally and that’s okay. It’s more about if you were doing it consistently, which can negatively impact your skin.
Don’t have coffee on an empty stomach
Coffee first thing in the morning can trigger that blood sugar spike like above. My biggest tip is to eat something first – preferably something with protein, fats and fiber to help prevent that spike and acne. If you’re limited for options, choose your coffee with soy milk for the added protein over oat milk to stabiise your blood sugars.
Gut support before you go
My hormones and gut where in great shape before I left for overseas, which meant my body was a lot more resilient if I ate things like gluten or dairy for example. If I travelled when my gut was a whirlpool of pathogens and bad bacteria, then it would have been a completely different story (and a lot more acne).
Acne-Safe Recommendations (3 countries)
- De Glutenvrije Winkel – AMAZING gluten free bakery
- Foodhallen – food hall with wide range of food stalls
- Amsterdam Cupcake Company – vegan + gluten free
- Saint Jean Bakery – vegan (even my dairy eating partner said this was his favourite pastry of all time)
- PANCAKES Amsterdam – gluten free pancakes (amazing!) plus vegan icecream
Not much to say here because we weren’t here very long except for my one favourite place of all time:
- Isabella Gluten freie Patisserie (Munich and Frankfurt) – my favourite gluten free bakery on earth
- Gelato: Perche’ no or Venchi – the BEST gelato of all time (is in a lot of other cities). Definitely opt for the chocolate syrup down the bottom
- Sgrao – for gluten Free foccacias and paninis. Honestly amazing!! Whole restaurant is gluten free. My non gluten free partner was shocked who “real-bread-like” and loved it
- Ciro and Sons – everything on the menu can be made gluten free. Did not go here ( it was closed) but definitely was on my list.
- Restorante San Domenico (Sienna) – they have a whole gluten free menu (and normal one for your non GF travelling companions. Had the fettuccine with ragu and you’d never know
- La Bella Mbriana 2.0 (Sienna) – didn’t go but wanted to try their pizza. Separate oven
- Cooking Class: Le Pietre Vive – did not make gluten free pasta (cause I wanted to do the proper version), but they did dairy free for me.
- Gluten Free Bakery: Officina Zero – went there for focaccia and crossiants every morning
- Albufera – Spanish restaurant. Get the Paella. 10/10 dining experience.
- Pizzeria Positano Milano – the best gluten free base in Italy!
- Il Montalcino – great wine. Food SO GOOD! Went with the risotto. Scenery beautifyl.
- Da Reina 1985 – gluten free pasta, but went with the risotto which was amazing!
- Gelato: Otaleg – BEST vegan options of all time!
- Labottega Pastifico con Cucina Roma – small pasta cafe where they make all their out the back. Not gluten free but the best pasta I had in Italy
- La Soffitta Renovatio – second time I’ve come here everything can be made gluten free and they do vegan cheeses! I had the pizza and it was SO GOOD.
- Pergamino Caffe – great coffee (my partner’s in the coffee industry so recommended
So there you have it. My European Travel Guide to Clear Skin. So, as you plan your next adventure, keep these tips in your back pocket, but don’t forget to savour every moment of the journey.
P.S Let me know in the comments your best tips or any restaurants you found overseas!