Tofu Love and Your Skin: Does Soy Cause Acne?

By Valeria D.

May 8, 2020

acne, breakouts, soy, tofu

Soy is among the first food items you’ll encounter when entering a healthier, plant-based lifestyle. It’s a classic healthy food after all. 

I love soy. I eat and drink soy almost daily as it’s a great source of protein.

On the other hand, soy has also been given a bad rep about turning men into girls because it effects the hormonal balance of your body.

Is there any merit to this “folk tale?” We’ll surely find out.

does soy cause acne?

Let’s whip open the laptop and get looking. Any studies around to help us?

Here’s what I found: Soy cannot cause acne directly. But its effect on hormones may contribute to acne breakouts.

But is that all that there’s to it? 

Should people prone to breakouts immediately cut soy?

Hold your tofu! Let’s not jump to hasty conclusions. Join me in this post as we discover how soy and acne are connected. By the end, we can decide whether it’s time to say goodbye to soy. 

Ready, natural beauty Queen? Read on!

Soy, Acne, and Hormones

does soy cause acne?

When dealing with acne, paying attention to hormonal changes matter a lot. It’s one of the known triggers of acne after all. Research has long found that an imbalance in hormone levelscould lead to acne breakouts.

Now, where does soy come into the picture?

Well, soy can induce hormonal changes. Like almonds, soy contains phytoestrogen. In structure, this is similar to estrogen. Estrogen is a female hormone that regulates functions in both men and women. 

Though slightly different in name, phytoestrogens function is similar to animal estrogen. Your body may respond to it the same way it responds to your own estrogens. And soy is rich in phytoestrogen.

Now, what does this plant estrogen got to do with breakouts? The thing is phytoestrogens in general has two sides. 

On its good side, phytoestrogens are quite helpful! 

Some research has found promising results with it for acne. By acting like estrogen, phytoestrogen can help counteract androgens. A male hormone, androgens contribute to acne in women. Counteracting these can help relieve or even prevent acne.

On the flipside, phytoestrogens are bad news for people with hormonal imbalance. That extra dose of estrogen can tip the balance. And you’re probably familiar with what follows. Painful flare-ups that can have you flinching every time you touch your face.

So ask yourself if you have any history of hormonal imbalances. 

Soy, Acne, and Nutrients for Healthy Skin

does soy cause acne?

Research has long concluded that your diet affects skin health. Not only must you pay attention to what you eat, you should also be aware whether you’re properly absorbing nutrients or not. 

What good are “superfoods” if you’re not able to absorb their nutrients?

It's sad though, instead of helping absorb nutrients, soy does the complete opposite. The absorption of minerals, vitamins, and protein is inhibited by soy.

One factor that creates this effect is soy’s lectins

As a member of the legume family, soy can emit a protective substance called lectins. Lectins protect legumes from creatures that may eat them. It functions to survive the digestive system of any creature deciding to feast on the beans. That’s all good for soy, but for your tummy, it’s not.

Lectins can cause inflammation in your gut.

Also, soybeans contain phytic acid. The way this acid works against you is villainous, to say the least. Phytic acid actively prevents absorption by binding to vitamins and minerals. Zinc, for example, is affected by this acid. 

Sad news for us since zinc is quite helpful in keeping acne from popping up.

Last but not the least, soy is filled with protease inhibitors. These interfere with protein digestion. So even though soy is rich in protein, it may work against you in actually getting the protein.

While this may seem like soy should be eliminated, take a step back and consider the benefits, too. Don’t stuff yourself with soy. Keep your diet varied. 

Soy, Acne, and Inflammation

does soy cause acne?

Acne breakouts are bad enough on their own. Couple those pus-filled bumps with inflamed skin painful to touch. What you’ve got is one hellish of a breakout! That’s exactly how inflammation can aggravate your acne. So it’s no wonder why you’ll often come across advice to avoid inflammation-causing foods.

Now the question is whether soy is one of those inflammation-causing foods.

One notable study tells us that soy products are anti-inflammatory. The study's participants showed less inflammation the more they consume soy products. This is great news for us who want to stay clear of inflammation – especially during breakouts.

But there is a soy product you should be wary of. That is soybean oil, one of the most inflammatory oils there is. It’s inflammatory properties come from omega-6. This essential fatty acid is pro-inflammatory. Omega-6 acid is a good thing in moderation. But in excess, it can disrupt an important balance of fatty acids. This disruption in turn can make acne severity worsen by inducing inflammation. 

See, besides soybean oil, the upsides are worth considering.

Should You Soy Goodbye to Soy?

does soy cause acne?

Considering all the points we covered, it’s now time to put soy on trial. Are all that we discussed enough to soy goodbye to soy? Let’s evaluate!

Soy, Acne, and Hormones. The interaction we discussed among soy, acne, and hormones is concerning. Especially if you are acne-prone and/or suffering from hormonal imbalance. If you are either of these two, or both, it’s better to consume less soy products. 

If you’re neither, then good for you - go bananza! (in moderation.) 

Soy, Acne, and Nutrients for Healthy Skin. The details we discussed here can seem so nit-picky. But not if you have an existing problem with your tummy. This goes especially in absorbing nutrients. Because if you do, eating soy will only add to your problem. You might end up inconveniencing your body and your skin. If your tummy is alrighty, then it’s fine to eat soy in moderation.

Soy, Acne, and Inflammation. Soy finally gets a break in this part. Because sure enough, if you can eat soy from time to time, then it can give your skin health a little boost! Anti-inflammatory effects will come in handy for soothing acne. But just make sure to stay away from soybean oil.

Verdict. Soy does show a connection to acne and skin in general. But since we have such varied skin types and conditions, the final decision is up to us. These points we discussed can help you come to that decision. But of course, in cases where your health is concerned, it’s best to get the opinion of a medical professional. With diet's importance to skin health, consult a dietician or nutritionist if possible.

Final Thoughts

At first glance, the healthy lifestyle may seem filled with limited options. Certainly, there are some food items recommended more than others. This creates an illusion of “that’s all there is to it.” But don’t let that discourage you! 

Soy is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to healthy foods. If it doesn’t work out for your diet and skin goals, there sure are other options to be found. Especially with more people entering the healthy lifestyle.

What’s your experience with soy? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Stay tuned and take skin care!

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