top of page
Raw Vegetables

Going plant-based cured my acne!

This is my own personal experience - so I would always advise you to do your own research and, of course, speak to a dermatologist if you're suffering from acne.

I developed acne in my early twenties after having clear skin my whole life. I am into skin, Like really into it. I've been researching skin and using medical grade skincare since my teens. I have a regimented skin routine and I NEVER forget to wash my face. When I suddenly developed acne, I knew there was nothing that I wouldn't try to get rid of it.

After months of medications, antibiotics, steroids, acids and retinoids, I started to delve into what could be causing my acne. And here is what I found:

Acne is a common skin condition that affects people of all ages and can have a significant impact on our physical and emotional well-being. While there are various factors that contribute to acne development, diet has been increasingly recognized as a crucial determinant of skin health. In particular, research suggests that a plant-based diet may offer several benefits for skin health and could help alleviate the symptoms of acne. In this blog post, we will explore the relationship between diet and skin health, focusing on how a plant-based diet may improve acne and promote overall skin health.

We will delve into the mechanisms behind the effects of diet on skin health, examine the evidence supporting the benefits of a plant-based diet for acne, and provide practical tips for incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet. By the end of this post, you will have a better understanding of the impact of diet on your skin health and how to use nutrition to achieve clear, healthy, and glowing skin.

IGF-1 and acne

Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body and is involved in various physiological processes, including cell growth and division. However, excess levels of IGF-1 have been linked to a range of health problems, including acne.

Dairy products, particularly milk, are a major dietary source of IGF-1. When we consume dairy products, IGF-1 is absorbed into the bloodstream and can stimulate the production of sebum, a type of oil that is produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. Sebum plays a crucial role in maintaining skin hydration, but excessive production can clog pores and contribute to the development of acne.

Several studies have found a positive association between dairy intake and the risk of acne. For instance, a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology analyzed the diets of 47,355 women and found that higher intake of total dairy products, particularly skim milk, was associated with an increased risk of acne. Another study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology found that acne patients had higher levels of IGF-1 in their blood compared to individuals without acne.

In addition to IGF-1, animal products, particularly meat, contain high levels of arachidonic acid, a type of omega-6 fatty acid that can promote inflammation in the body. Inflammation plays a key role in the development of acne, and studies have shown that a diet high in arachidonic acid can exacerbate acne symptoms. For instance, a 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that a low glycemic load diet, which is low in animal products and high in plant-based foods, was more effective in reducing acne lesions compared to a conventional Western diet. The researchers attributed this effect, in part, to the anti-inflammatory properties of the low glycemic load diet.

Overall, the evidence suggests that animal products, particularly dairy and meat, may contribute to acne development through their effect on IGF-1 and inflammation. If you are struggling with acne, reducing your intake of animal products and incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet may be a promising strategy for improving your skin health.

Acne and the gut microbiome

The gut microbiome refers to the community of microorganisms that live in our digestive tract and play a crucial role in our overall health. Recent research has highlighted the link between the gut microbiome and skin health, with evidence suggesting that an imbalance in the gut microbiome can contribute to the development of acne.

Animal products, particularly meat, have been shown to alter the composition of the gut microbiome in a way that may contribute to acne development. Meat is high in saturated fat, which can promote the growth of certain types of bacteria in the gut that can contribute to inflammation and acne development. Additionally, meat is often contaminated with harmful bacteria, such as Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, which can disrupt the gut microbiome and contribute to acne development.

For example, a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that a high-fat diet, which included meat, altered the gut microbiome and contributed to the development of acne. The study involved feeding mice a high-fat diet and observed that the mice developed acne-like lesions on their skin, along with alterations in the gut microbiome. Specifically, the researchers found that the high-fat diet altered the balance between "good" and "bad" bacteria in the gut, with an increase in the population of harmful bacteria associated with inflammation and acne development.

In addition, animal products may also contain antibiotics and hormones that can further disrupt the gut microbiome and contribute to acne development. Antibiotics are often used in animal agriculture to promote growth and prevent infections, and residues can end up in meat products consumed by humans. Hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, are also used in animal agriculture to promote growth and improve milk production. These hormones can disrupt the hormonal balance in the body and contribute to acne development.

Time to try plant-based!

Before you read on - Let's be clear here - we are talking about a whole food, plant-based diet. Not vegan junk food, not processed meat substitutes, but a healthy, whole food diet.

Plant-based diets are a great source of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, which can help prevent and reduce acne. Fruits and vegetables, especially colorful ones like berries, leafy greens, and citrus fruits, contain high levels of antioxidants like vitamin C and E, which can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. Additionally, whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation in the body.

Legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas are also a great source of fiber, protein, and other nutrients that can improve skin health. These plant-based protein sources are a great alternative to animal products, as they are low in saturated fat and do not contribute to inflammation in the body. Additionally, legumes are rich in zinc, which is an important nutrient for skin health. Zinc helps to regulate oil production, reduce inflammation, and promote wound healing, which can all help to prevent and reduce acne.

A plant-based diet can also help to reduce inflammation in the body, which is a key factor in acne development. Animal products, especially high-fat meats and dairy products, can promote inflammation in the body due to their high levels of saturated fat and other pro-inflammatory compounds. In contrast, plant-based diets are low in saturated fat and high in anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help reduce inflammation and improve overall skin health.

Overall, a plant-based diet can be a beneficial option for those looking to improve their skin health and reduce acne. Plant-based diets are rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, which can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. Additionally, plant-based diets are low in saturated fats and high in fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote a healthy gut microbiome.

If you're suffering from acne, maybe consider taking a look at your diet. It worked for me!

Take a look at these articles to get your research started:
  1. Danby FW. Acne and milk, the diet myth, and beyond. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005;52(2):360-362. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2004.09.014 - Link

  2. Smith RN, Mann NJ, Braue A, et al. A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(1):107-115. doi:10.1093/ajcn/86.1.107 - Link

  3. Kucharska A, Szmurło A, Sińska B. Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2016;33(2):81-86. doi:10.5114/ada.2016.59146 - Link

  4. Reynolds RC, Lee S, Choi JY, et al. A high-glycemic diet is associated with exacerbation of facial acne in a non-observational study of Korean dermatology clinic patients. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2018;118(4):649-656. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2017.11.005 - Link

  5. Bowe WP, Patel NB, Logan AC. Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis: from anecdote to translational medicine. Benef Microbes. 2014;5(2):185-199. doi:10.3920/BM2013.0040 - Link

  6. Sánchez-Villegas A, Ruiz-Canela M, de la Fuente-Arrillaga C, Gea A, Shivappa N, Hébert JR, Martínez-González MA. Dietary inflammatory index, cardiometabolic conditions and depression in the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra cohort study. Br J Nutr. 2015;114(9):1471-1479. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515003122 - Link

  7. Zaidi KU, Ali SA, Ali AS, Naaz I, Rizvi SA. Role of diet in acne vulgaris. J Pak Assoc Dermatol. 2017;27(1):28-32. - Link

  8. Di Landro A, Cazzaniga S, Parazzini F, et al. Family history, body mass index, selected dietary factors, menstrual history, and risk of moderate to severe acne in adolescents and young adults. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012;67(6):1129-1135. doi:10 Link

  9. Fusano M. Veganism in acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis: Benefits of a plant-based diet. Clin Dermatol. 2022 Oct 1:S0738-081X(22)00124-9. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2022.09.008. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36191666. Link


bottom of page