Is My Acne Caused by Soy?
Many people believe that acne is caused or exacerbated by diet. One of the most common foods which is rumored to produce acne breakouts is soy, whether it’s in a pure or processed form. Soy and soy derivatives are found in many foods, including boxed snacks, treats and, of course, soy milk and tofu. Soy is often found in chocolate, which may be one of the reasons some believe chocolate to be an acne trigger. But, can soy actually cause breakouts, or is this belief yet another acne myth?
When researching the relationship between soy and acne, a lot of conflicting information is found. Many claim to experience worse acne when consuming soy products, while others promote soy as a natural acne treatment. Some say they made the switch from dairy to soy after experiencing acne seemingly caused by cow’s milk and other dairy products and see clearer skin while using soy as a dairy alternative. Cow’s milk is actually more likely to be an acne trigger, as most milk contains hormones and/or stimulates androgen production, both of which can lead to acne blemishes. However, the facts are easy to see; some people do find a connection between soy and acne breakouts.
While soy surely causes breakouts in some people, that does not mean it is a cause of acne for everyone. Soy is one of the most common allergens with reactions ranging from very mild to very severe, including reactions that present themselves in the form of acne. Soy-caused acne does not appear the first time one consumes soy. Because soybeans contain proteins that do not break down with regular cooking temperatures, soy often triggers the immune system to respond defensively.
The first time one eats soy, the immune system reacts badly and creates antibodies. When the immune system responds this way, the sebaceous glands become inflamed and produce too much sebum. The sebum gets trapped in the inflamed hair follicles and creates a clog, keeping bacteria and the excess oil under the skin. As the sebum and bacteria build up, the walls of the hair follicles are ruptured, creating a papule or blackhead. If the hair follicle does not rupture, a whitehead is created instead.
If you seem to break out after consuming soy products or using acne treatment products that contain soy, you may have a mild soy allergy. The only way to know for sure if soy is the root of your acne is to eliminate all soy from your diet for one to two weeks. If in that time you find that your breakouts are less severe or more infrequent, you’ve likely found the culprit. If a soy-free diet does not help to improve your acne, it is probably safe to resume the moderate use of soy products, though soy does have other health risks that should be discussed with your doctor.