There’s quite a lot of buzz around the soy-skin connection. We have found that excessive amounts of soy can in fact lead to increased acne, both hormonal and topical.
Here are the 3 types of acne caused by soy:
The first is hormonal acne. Tofu, soy milk, soy protein. Processed soy is plentiful because it’s easily genetically modified and companies can make plenty of it for cheap. It makes an attractive filler agent for both food companies and cosmetic companies because of that feature- it’s a cheap filler agent. This matters quite a bit, because it’s literally everywhere. Check the nutrition labels and you’ll find that soy, soybean oil, and soy proteins are inside everything from lotion, makeup, dog food, protein bars, salad dressings, and other packaged foods. When we eat soy frequently (meaning more than once per week) the phytoestrogens hijack our bodies’ natural estrogen receptors, blocking them from doing their job. In excess, this can lead to estrogen dominance and hormonal acne.
Here’s how the hormonal acne part works- our bodies rely on a healthy balance of female to male hormones (we will refer to male hormones as “androgens”). The androgens go to their receptors while the estrogens go to estrogen receptors, like designated parking spaces. When the balance is skewed and there is a spike in androgens, acne tends to arise. Well plants have things called phytoestrogens, and soy in particular has a lot of them. These plant estrogens mimic our natural estrogen, sneaking into their parking spaces, leaving the real estrogens out roaming, not doing their job. Since the phytoestrogens are a fraction of the strength of real estrogen, we are losing that functionality and wind up with more androgen-dominant activity, and thus an increase in breakouts.
The second way soy causes acne is via digestive disturbance. This has to do with the fact that it is generally so chemically manipulated (think “textured soy protein” or “soy protein isolate”). These are highly processed and can upset the body because they are not broken down as easily, or they create inflammation in the GI tract due to unnatural structures being introduced. We recommend sticking to edamame versus the processed stuff, it’s in its natural state and hasn’t been depleted of its nutrients. Processed foods equal inflammation.
The third and most common way that soy causes acne is topically. Like we mentioned earlier, soy is a popular filler agent, especially in “vegan skincare’, “organic skincare” and “natural” beauty products. Please remember that natural and “clean beauty” mean absolutely nothing when it comes to acne. Pore cloggers like coconut oil, soy and wheat extract, and even healthy fats like avocado oil are still pore clogging when applied topically. Many clean beauty brands are loaded with soy and people experience breakouts from these all the time. Check your ingredient decks for soy, and please cross check the list on our site for the other pore cloggers- this is the BEST way to eliminate breakouts!
If your products have pore cloggers, we recommend a mandelic acid serum to dissolve the residue these cloggers leave in the pore- most people see change overnight, with advanced clearing in about a week.