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Tips For Vegan & Vegetarian Acne

May 25, 2016

Eating vegan or vegetarian diet and still got acne? You're not alone! I was a vegetarian for 25 years, and during that time my skin was at it's worst, and also at it's best. Here I'm sharing 5 tips for vegan and vegetarian acne - what you need to change in your diet to start clearing up acne and breakouts. Click through to find out what works. |

Tips For Vegan & Vegetarian Acne

A few weeks ago I wrote an article giving diet advice to Katy on how she can adjust her paleo diet to clear up her skin. Today I’d like to give some advice for vegan and vegetarian acne.

I get asked a lot why if you’re vegan or vegetarian you’re still getting acne and breakouts, even if you’re on a healthy plant-based diet?

I’ve even met people that their skin actually got worse or they develop acne after making the diet change to being a vegan or vegetarian.

There’s a lot of confusion on this one because many people are told all their skin problems and acne will disappear once they become a vegan or vegetarian.

In the natural health circles there’s expectations that all vegans and vegetarians should be skinny, have perfect skin, and be the symbol of health – but this just isn’t true, nor realistic.

There’s no guarantee a vegan or vegetarian diet is going to give you clear skin, just like there’s no guarantee a paleo, whole food, caveman, low fat, low carb, whole food diet, or any other diet is going to cure acne either.

The reason why is because if you don’t address the cause of your breakouts and acne, and make the necessary adjustments, the diet you’re on might not be of any help.

I am telling you this because I was a vegetarian for 25 years. A strict vegetarian for 25 years. And, for 4 years out of those 25 years, I was a raw vegan as well. I was a vegetarian for 2/3 of my life (a really long time!). And, at different times during those 25 years of vegetarianism, my acne was at it’s worst, and also, at it’s best.

How my skin went from being at it’s worst, to then completely clearing up, and being at it’s best, all the while being on a vegetarian diet – was because I realized along the way that being on a vegetarian diet just wasn’t enough to heal my skin. I had to make further changes and improvements to my diet to clear up my skin.

In 2010, when I got off of a vegetarian diet, everyone warned me my acne was going to come back, but it didn’t. And in fact my skin continued to improve.

I’ll admit I was nervous changing my diet, not only because it was such a massive lifestyle change, but because the last thing I wanted was the acne coming back. But at the same time, I was certain it wouldn’t because I knew what in my diet, skin care routine, and lifestyle gives me terrible breakouts and acne, and a lot of that had nothing to do with being a vegetarian or not.

When it comes to food and acne, it’s more about specific acne causing foods (both healthy and unhealthy), and healing and balancing the underlying health condition causing your acne in the first place.

So with that being said, based on my experience and those of my clients, most people can clear up acne and breakouts just by being on a healthy whole food diet (and versions of a whole food diet including vegetarian, vegan, paleo, low carb, low fat, etc). As long as you’re eating real food – you’re in the right direction.

Most of you will get great results just switching to a healthy, real food diet. Many of you will clear up your skin just from getting rid of processed and refined foods from your diet.

But, there will be some of you that no matter how much real food you eat, and even if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you might still need to adjust your diet further to get skin clearing results.

So here I’ve put together 5 diet tips for vegans and vegetarians dealing with acne and breakouts. What you need to watch out for and adjust in your diet to get rid of adult acne.

5 Skin Clearing Diet Tips For Vegan & Vegetarian Acne:

1- Make sure you’re eating real food

I made this mistake for many years when I first switched to a vegetarian diet – I was eating so much bread and pasta (like at every meal). Bread and pasta most of the time are processed food, with little nutrition, and can make your blood sugar swing all over the place causing breakouts and acne.

Make sure the bulk of the food you’re eating is real, fresh, whole foods like vegetables, whole grains, beans & legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, (and vegetarians can eat eggs).

You don’t want to be eating a diet of bread, cakes, pasta, chips, and vegetarian junk foods – that’s not real food, and that’s not healthy (or good for your skin).

2- Make sure to be eating A LOT of vegetables

Everyone, no matter what diet you are on, needs to be loading up on vegetables, especially if you’ve got breakouts or acne.

If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you’re diet must be plant-based (not bread-based, not pasta-based, or not processed-food based)

And when I’m talking vegetables, I don’t just mean starchy vegetables like potatoes, but green leafy vegetables, colourful vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, fresh herbs, sprouts, seaweed, etc – as much variety as possible.

Acne itself is an inflammatory skin condition, so you need to be eating anti-inflammatory foods like vegetables. This is extremely beneficial for reducing skin irritation, inflammation, and speeding up skin recovery and healing.

Vegetables, just like fruit; have so much nutrition, especially skin protecting, and skin beautifying vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

I recommend all vegans and vegetarians with acne and skin breakouts eat at least one green salad every single day, and make sure you’re including vegetables in your lunches and dinner (and if you can, add them to your breakfast too).

3- Careful with soy & faux animal products

Soybeans, and soy products have naturally occurring phytoestrogen. If you’ve got adult acne, chances are you are either sensitive to hormone changes, or some of you might even have a hormone imbalance.

If you know your acne and breakouts are connected to your hormones, I would recommend being careful eating anything made with soy. The reason is due to the naturally occurring estrogen, it can throw your hormones off balance, or cause hormone issues.

Most soy products are not even made from whole soy beans, but soy byproducts. This makes it an extremely processed food, that can also be allergenic, difficult to digest, and full of unhealthy processed ingredients (ever look at the ingredients of a vegan soy margarine – it’s a spread made out of hydrogenated oils and chemicals, nothing in that is safe or healthy, especially not good for your skin).

If you are going to eat any soy food, the only ones I would recommend occasionally eating is tempeh, tofu, or edamame beans.

Don’t eat soy burgers, faux-meat foods, tofu hot dogs, soy margarine, soy milk, soy cheeze, soy yogurt, soy ice cream, soybean oil, soy protein powder, or any processed soy foods. These foods aren’t food, they are health food store junk foods, and can be as detrimental to your health (and skin), and as bad as eating fast food.

4- Watch your carb intake, including fruit

This is the most challenging one for all vegans and vegetarians, because for the most part, a vegan or vegetarian diet can sometimes end up being a very high glycemic or high carb diet, which isn’t always the best for some of you with acne or skin problems (for some people, high carb has absolutely no effect on their skin, for others it can cause breakouts and acne).

If you recently switched to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle and you’re skin has gotten worse (and you’re not eating flour, bread, pasta, and soy every day), my recommendation is to look into the carbs you are eating and try to find ways to cut down the sugar load.

For me, while I was on a vegan and vegetarian diet, this was how I got rid of my acne – I was seriously “mindful” how much carbohydrates I was eating. I obviously didn’t cut them out, but I saw how certain foods that had a lot more naturally occurring sugars (like tropical fruits, dried fruits, and foods made with flour) were messing up my skin.

If any of this rings true to you, my recommendation is to start first by cutting all flour from your diet for at least a couple of weeks. If you’re still having breakouts and acne; then I recommend doing experiments decreasing quantities of fruit or whole grains in your diet.

If you decide to cut down on fruit to see how that affects your skin, I suggest starting with cutting down the amounts of high glycemic fruit you are eating. You can either cut down the quantities or switch to lower glycemic fruits (like eat apples, pears, and berries instead of eating mangos and pineapple). Do this for at least a few weeks to see how your skin responds.

If after a few weeks of decreasing the fruit in your diet, you notice no improvements, then add the fruit back in, and try experimenting with lowering the quantities of whole grains.

Everybody’s bodies reacts differently to different types of sugars and carbohydrates, so it’s important to do experiments cutting down on one type of carbohydrate at a time, for at least a month or so, to see how your skin responds. For some of you, you might notice that if you eat too much fruit you get terrible breakouts, for others it could be coming from grains, even whole grains. For others it could be a combination of the two.

5- Vegetarians with acne need to cut dairy products out of their diet

Obviously if you’re vegan this doesn’t apply to you (but I don’t want you replacing animal milk with soy milk, cause that’s just as bad for your skin).

If you are vegetarian and you have breakouts and acne, it could be coming from dairy products in your diet.

Best to cut out all animal milks, cheese, yogurt, kefir, creamers, ice cream, butter, ghee, whey protein powder, etc. Even raw animal milk products. I suggest cutting them all out of your diet.

You can still eat eggs, just cut out the animal milks and products made with animal milks (always read the ingredients, cause even the tiniest amount of dairy can mess up your skin).

The only thing I would ever recommend replacing animal milk with would be a homemade nut or seed milk (not the store bought packaged stuff), or you can drink fresh coconut milk instead.

Whatever you do, don’t replace cow’s milk with soy milk or other factory made milks. As I said earlier, soy products can interfere with your hormones and are extremely difficult to digest – resulting in acne and skin issues (I would say soy milk is just as bad for acne as cow’s milk).

And if you’re thinking of replacing cow’s milk with packaged rice milk or almond milk, I would be cautious with that too – make sure to read the ingredients because many of those packaged milk products are filled with ingredients that are terrible for your skin like hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. Homemade and fresh is always best.

Want more?

Join my Acne Causing Health Foods Masterclass. This video masterclass is specifically designed for the more “advanced” health enthusiasts who are still getting breakouts and acne, even while on a healthy diet.

If you’re on a healthy diet (like vegan, vegetarian, raw food, paleo, whole food diet, etc.), and you’re not seeing any improvements, progress, or skin clearing results like you expect, join this class.

Let’s just say, over the last 20 years I’ve been obsessed with figuring out what health foods cause acne and breakouts, and which ones are great for your skin. In this masterclass I present to you all the health foods, superfoods, and ingredients most people aren’t even aware of that’s causing breakouts and acne, and which one’s can help get rid of acne, and stop breakouts in their tracks.

Acne Causing Health Foods Video Masterclass is for someone who’s already been eating a healthy diet for at least a few months, and knows that they need a few extra tweaks and adjustments to their diet to get skin perfecting results. Click Here to get started now!

Can health foods be causing your breakouts and acne? They sure can! Discover which ones are terrible for your skin, and which ones are skin beautifying, keeping your skin bright and clear.

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  • Reply Emma May 26, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Great post! Another thing I think is important is finding out your food allergies. Recently I read a post about a woman who was allergic to citrus fruits,and that was causing her acne.

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael May 26, 2016 at 11:05 am

      Great point Emma! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Reply Joanne August 17, 2017 at 11:44 am

      I’m 19 I have had severe painful cystic acne for over a year now and before that it was totally clear other than maybe a spot here or there, I tried eating a plant based vegan/vegetarian diet on and off during that time, with limited results.. I’m really frustrated because i have cut out sugar,dairy,wheat,gluten,even most grains from my diet other than maybe some quinoa and buckwheat and mostly organic, I just don’t know what to do anymore any suggestions?

      • Reply Natasha St. Michael August 21, 2017 at 5:06 pm

        Hi Joanne,
        I know how frustrating that can be, I was a vegetarian myself for almost 20 years and most of the time my skin was terrible. What messes up a lot of vegetarian’s skin is the amount of carbohydrates in the diet. Unfortunately a vegan or vegetarian diet can be very high in carbohydrates, and if you have any hormone imbalances or sensitivities (which is probably causing the acne), all the carbs could be interfering with your blood sugar, which in turn is throwing hormones off balance. I recommend working on increasing healthy proteins and fats in your diet and however you can, decrease the carbs.

  • Reply Peta January 24, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Hi there,

    Just wondering what you think of Oat Milk?

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael January 25, 2017 at 5:41 pm

      It should be ok, just make sure it’s homemade and no added sweetener (including dried fruit or dates).

  • Reply Skremmer January 29, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Hey! Thank you for a post. Just read another article, telling me that I have to cut down the catlike avocados or nuts… These are so healthy! I don’t understand, do I have to avoid for some week (to make test), fruits or whole grain foods? (And btw what do you think of rice milk?)
    Thank you a lot, xx

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael January 31, 2017 at 3:06 pm

      Hi Skremmer,
      I don’t quite agree on cutting down the avocado or nuts (unless you’re really eating A LOT of nuts), but otherwise I find avocado and nuts to be fine for the skin (nut butters on the other hand could cause breakouts because it’s easy to eat too much at once, they’re difficult to digest, and many of them are rancid). I would say high sugar fruits or food made from flour would be more of an issue for your skin, and best to cut back on them before eliminating avocado or nuts.
      As for the rice milk, it’s ok if it’s homemade and no added sugar or oils. I would stay away from the packaged rice milk.

  • Reply Annie March 26, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Hey! Thanks for this post. Maybe will try cutting out flour. I’m a vegetarian struggling with severe acne. I have cut out dairy but it truly didn’t change anything. I didn’t want to have to cut out flour but desperate times call for desperate measures. I do eat a pretty “whole foods” diet and am not one for soy so I don’t know what else to do…

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael March 27, 2017 at 11:45 am

      Hi Annie,
      Cutting out flour can definitely help. I’ve coached a lot of vegetarians and vegans and many get great results cutting out flour and flour products like bread, pasta, baked goods etc. Many of my clients can still eat whole grains (like quinoa, rice, buckwheat, etc.), but the processed flour (even whole grain and gluten-free flour) can cause breakouts and skin issues.

  • Reply Hemanth March 28, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    Hi, I am a teenager and I have lots of acne on my face I even tried to cut down dairy products nuts oily items but they did not help please suggest me what to do

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael March 30, 2017 at 11:18 am

      Hi Hemanth,
      Unfortunately because you’re a teenager, the breakouts and acne is probably coming from your changing hormones. The best thing you can do is eat a super healthy diet with A LOT of green vegetables, and cut down on sugar and food mades with flour – this can help.

  • Reply Julia June 9, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    Hi,is whole wheat spelled vegan pasta and the same bread bad for acne? I don’t eat them every day,but still…

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael June 10, 2017 at 11:00 pm

      Hi Julia,
      Ya I would take a break from the pasta and bread to see if it can helped your skin. If you crave something starchy, have sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, or regular potatoes instead.

  • Reply Jimmy August 18, 2017 at 6:20 am

    Hi Natasha,
    Being a guy, I was just wondering if you still would strongly suggest to avoid soy milk?

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael August 21, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      Hi Jimmy,
      Even guys should avoid the soy milk! It can really mess up your skin regardless of gender. Soy milk is made out of soy byproducts and many times has hydrogenated oils, sweeteners and preservatives added. I don’t consider it a health food.

  • Reply Éva December 18, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    Hi Natasha,
    You’ve recommended cutting out soy products as well as dairy. Is it possible to meet daily minimum calcium needs of 1,000mg with just calcium rich dark leafy greens and high calcium beans? Considering 1/2 cup (85g) Kale contains about 61mg calcium but only 30mg is absorbed due to the high amount of oxalates in plant foods.

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael December 22, 2017 at 1:27 pm

      Hi Eva,
      If you’re eating a lot of greens, vegetables, and a variety of beans, legumes, nuts/seed, and some whole grains you should certainly reach your daily requirement of calcium. All these food are also super rich in magnesium, which boosts your absorption of calcium, more so than dairy products.

  • Reply Yolanda December 21, 2017 at 3:18 am

    Hi Natasha,

    All this is new to me. I’ve been a vegetarian for six months now and everything is going well, except my face (my lower jawline to be exact). This is so annoying. I eat relatively healthy; grains, almond milk, pastas, carbs, nuts, veggies and so forth. After reading your article, it looks like to need to eliminate grains, almond milk, pasta and carbs?? (well at least test to see if its the contributing factor). I’ve also transition from spring water to alkaline water; not sure if this may be a concern. Prior to living a healthier lifestyle, my face was spotless. Any more tips you can give is greatly appreciated.

    • Reply Natasha St. Michael December 22, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      Hi Yolanda,
      The breakouts you’re getting on your jawline sound to me to be hormone-related, and unfortunately a high carb diet such as the one you’re on isn’t helping (that’s why you’ve been getting breakouts since switching to a vegetarian diet). I recommend swapping the pasta, breads and flour products with vegetables – this will help a lot, plus following the other direction in the blog post. The more vegetables you eat, especially green leafy vegetables, the better!

  • Reply Click Here February 18, 2018 at 11:21 am

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  • Reply Gigi February 19, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Natasha
    I’ve been on a vegan diet for 1 year, a main purpose is to clear up hormonal acne around my chin. At first my skin was so clear (after being vegan 1-2 months), after that it got worse. I had massive breakout around my jawline, neck and little white bump on my chin every morning. I finally cut down many food that i think it cause me breakout like flax, soy, coconut, fruits (I have digestive issue). Now I only eat starchy vegetables like sweet potato and beans with lots of green. My skin start to clear up, but still got little white pimples on my chin.

  • Reply Milagro Hilpert February 20, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    sungguh mufakat atas kalian aku betul-betul percaya bakalan opini anda sangat baik dan juga memadai dan informasi anda bonafit

  • Reply Rodger Eichberg February 21, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    amat putus kata dengan anda saya benar-benar percaya bakalan pandangan anda sangat baik dan menggirangkan dan informasi anda bonafit

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