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DrSugar Answers: Could Soy Cause Acne Outbreaks?

DrSugar is in the house and answering your questions.

I am struggling with acne and have been for a while; topical options just don't seem to cut it, and I'm not sure how I feel about antibiotics. Anyway, I eat a lot of soy products and recently have noticed that my acne gets worse during periods when I eat more of them. I've been doing my own research, but the opinions on the web are conflicting. Is there a link between soy and acne?
—Suspicious of Soy

No one likes to deal with blemishes, here's what the doctor has to say on the matter.

When I first received your inquiry, I was not sure about the relationship, so I did an extensive online search of medical databases, including the biggest, PubMed. The search for "soy and acne" returned no relevant papers or articles. Next I went to a reputable online source of medical information called Emedicine and again came up empty-handed. The next place I turned was Google. The search for soy and acne led me to a number of forums, message boards, and health-related websites/blogs. Similar to your experience, I found these sources contain conflicting information. There are quite a few reports of people eliminating soy from their diets and noticing an improvement in their acne. However, there are also a number of websites that actually promote increasing dietary soy to improve acne.

The short answer to your question is no. There is no evidence of a direct link between acne and soy. However, everyone's body is different, and some people may have improved acne by eliminating soy. The only way to know for sure is to try a week or two without soy and see if it helps. Most health professionals, including dermatologists, actually do not believe that there is a strong relationship between food and acne. This is because most old wives' tales about the relationship between acne and foods, such as chocolate, have never been validated by scientific studies. However, this Newsweek article reports a possible link between highly refined carbs (such as bread and pasta) and acne. More well-established causes of acne include bacteria, hormones, stress, and inflammation. Wikipedia actually has a surprisingly good review of the causes of acne and the issues surrounding the relationship between food and acne.

DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

Join The Conversation
Acne-Free Acne-Free 8 years
I have never heard of soy affecting acne. Maybe if that person had some sort of alergic reaction to soy it might fuel the acne. I have had bad luck with Accutane. Here is a good list of home remedies you can try to get rid of your acne without spending much money. And you won'y have to deal with medicaiton side effets.
DevonJade DevonJade 8 years
My skin stays really clear if I eat a healthy diet, but if I have a bunch of greasy pizza or something I sometimes break out the next day. I don't eat much soy, but I've noticed that my skin is actually healthier looking now that I have started to drink more milk. I've been having a glass of skim a day for protein b/c the caf at my uni isn't very vegetarian friendly and I have noticed a difference.
MaggieLei MaggieLei 8 years
I agree Red Sharpie. My son's allergist told me that his skin was reacting to soy. My niece gets horrible dry scaly skin when she eats soy. I really think we know our bodies better than medical studies sometimes can indicate. A really easy thing to do would be to cut out soy for a month (to eliminate cyclical causes) and see. If it works, awesome! If it is a reaction, it would be better than going on medication to treat a symptom.
Red-Sharpie Red-Sharpie 8 years
My understanding is that acne can be an inflammatory response like an allergy. Any food that is a potential allergen can be a cause of acne. Soy is a common allergen, so are wheat and dairy. So if you think that soy could be the problem, try getting rid of it to see what happens. And diet and acne not being related is just wrong. Not saying that eating a good diet will cure everyone's acne, but it does for a lot of people. Nothing effects your body so much as what you put into it.
Vaadsfweytes Vaadsfweytes 8 years
I've always and I still do struggle with skin problems. Fortunately, my skin is never too bad as long as I put on makeup, but I still wish I had beautiful skin and be able to go out with only tinted moisturizer on. I've been to a numerous dermatologists, and I also tried a numerous skin products and home remedies along with weekly facials, etc. I'm still not sure about trying out accutane because many of the doctors I've been to told me against it. I think skin has to do with individuals. You need to change your lifestyle. Just watch yourself closely with what you do, eat, and drink and go from there. But I really understand how you feel, though. :(
splendourific splendourific 8 years
I actually experienced the same issues when I was eating a lot of soy... And I think it was definitely due to the phytoestrogens. Although androgen is the main proponent of acne, it's the rise in comparison to the estrogen that really throws your hormones out of whack. If you introduce a lot of estrogen via the soy, I think it's possible that when the androgen uptake increases you could also see an increase in cystic acne. Of course, I'm no doctor! But I do know that if I am eating soy during my follicular period that my boobs will get waaaaaaaay bigger when I go on my period. (I also get terrible acne.)
Marlovestar Marlovestar 8 years
I'm wondering if it's not the Soy itself but the change. Since the conflicting studies have people eliminating soy or adding soy maybe the same result would take place by adding more or eliminating sugar. It could just be the body detoxing a bit.
crayolasky crayolasky 8 years
Too much soy isn't good! I've had too much soy before, and I've broken out from it and/or had an allergic reaction. You need to have moderation with everything, otherwise you'll miss out on the benefits of healthy foods, like soy. Fortunately I've completely eliminated breakouts from not eating junk food, and not eating too much of any foods.
audrina audrina 8 years
I was prescribed Accutane at around age 25 and swear by it!!! It did absolute wonders for me. I am now 43 years old and have beautiful skin. I look younger then I am. I had previously gone to a bad dermatologist who prescribed Tetricyclen and told me my bad acne would probably never go away. I went to a better dermatologist who took one look at me as soon as he hit the door and told me I needed Accutane. It takes 6 months but was worth the effort. I had 1-2 week weekly visits for checkups and blood test. I really had to watch my diet big time, but that was ok with me. I had no bad side effects except it really dried me out. I was thirsty alot and had dry lips and eyes until my sessions were done. I took extremely well to it. I highly recommend it. It changed my life. Good luck.
Blackwidowchick Blackwidowchick 8 years
I used to suffer years with horrible acne. I don't mean a couple blemishes. I looked like a volcanic island or something. I tried proactiv, I tried drinking more water and nothing I did help. I went to the dermatologist and they told me to try cetaphil because it was gentle, nada. They prescribed me retina, zilch. Nothing they gave me helped. Not even birth control pills. I wanted to get accutane but I read you had to be put on some list because of suicidal tendencies which was a side effect from accutane. So years went on and I had no relief, then the acupuncturist at my job told me to give up dairy. i normally ate at least 3 servings of dairy a day. So I laughed but I did it. 6 months later I maybe only get one or two pimples if I give in to a slice of pizza. Other than that my skin is in the best shape of my life. So honey, don't let anybody tell you that food has nothing to do with it. If you think it is soy based products just cut it out, not for just a couple weeks but give it a month or two and see the difference.
KathleenxCouture KathleenxCouture 8 years
Accutane should be the last resort option, it can really screw with your body I would advise anyone to try some tetracycline options and see how they work before trying Accutane
crystalm07 crystalm07 8 years
I have wanted to try accutane but so afraid of the nasty side effects!
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 8 years
I've tried lots of things, and still struggle sometimes..... however -- I cut out soda and I drink tons of water, and my skin looks amazing. Honestly, you hear you should drink water, but I did a lot when I started my new job and it literally has worked wonders for my skin (and energy!)
Glamourgasm Glamourgasm 8 years
try accutane --- you'll never have another zit!
Spectra Spectra 8 years
Hmm...the only possible link I can think of would be that soy is a phytoestrogen and increasing phytoestrogen may cause some hormonal imbalances. Although, I thought increased testosterone was more responsible for acne breakouts than estrogens.
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