Acne on a Vegan Diet

by Patrizia

I went vegetarian in August 2013 but still ate loads of dairy and eggs until February 2014. Since then I've been vegan which had many positive affects on my health. But after about 6 month pimples started to appear on my right temple. (I had never had severe skin problems before in my life.)

It got worse and started to spread to my forehead and on the left temple. While the pimples on my forehead and left temple sometimes disappeared and came back again, the group of pimples on my right temple never disappeared until today. It's been like this for about 8 month now. Generally, my skin got worse and is full of red spots. (Again, a problem I never had before). I also take Vitamin B12 supplements.

My diet is extremely healthy. I eat many raw fruits and vegetables and almost only whole food generally. Additionally, I cut down on fats for a period of time. But nothing seemed to help. I started to think that it's may caused by eating too many fruits so I relinquished fruits from my diet for 2 weeks without any improvement. Since it's been such a long time that I've been having this acne, I've started to think I may have some sort of deficiency. (Maybe Zinc? Or Omega-3?) It even lead me to consider adding some eggs and a little cheese to my diet again even though it's totally against my beliefs. I just can't grasp it. My diet was never so healthy before yet I got severe acne coming out of nowhere.

Do you have some advice for me? I am really desperate right now since everyone arround my is blaming the vegan diet for my acne (And sadly I'm starting to believe that as well :( )

Thanks a lot for your response!


Vegan Nutritionista's answer

Hi Patrizia,

Thank you for submitting your question to us. I feel confident we can figure this out.

When I first went vegan, I had a similar situation. I'd had completely pimple-free skin my entire life, even during my teenage years. Over the first year of being vegan, I started breaking out in crazy amounts, especially across my forehead and chin. These are known hormonal breakout areas.

Now, I did also stop taking birth control pills right around the same time, and since I'd taken them since I was a teenager, there is a good chance that this upset my hormonal balance as well. There is also a time after changing your diet that your body is detoxing and that can work its way out through your skin. Some people also develop adult-onset acne that can strike at any time. But again, all of this is hormonal, so I assumed I could fix it all with diet. And I did.

The first thing I realized was that I had gone from eating a good amount of fat, in the form of cheese, milk, and eggs, to eating much less fat. I still cooked with olive oil, but I wasn't necessary checking to make sure I ate enough good fat. I started adding in a variety of whole nuts and healthy fats like avocado and coconut. This helped, but the thing that took me completely back to good skin was looking into my omega-3 fatty acid consumption and the overall balance of fatty acids in my diet.

Though eating fish is overall unhealthy for your body, one thing it should do is give you some fatty acids, and when you stop eating them, there’s a chance you’re no longer consuming any, and so you need to make sure you add good fats into your diet to compensate. Flax seeds and chia seeds are amazing sources of fatty acids that are simple to add into almost any meal and they dramatically changed my skin. Very soon after I started adding flax to my diet, my skin cleaned. Permanently.

The scientific reason for this is that omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, so they relax those breakouts. We don’t make fatty acids so we do have to find sources to consume them.

People who eat a standard American (or Western) diet can also see the negative effects of an imbalance in fatty acids because the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids ratio is often so skewed. Omega-6 fatty acids cause inflammation rather than lowering it. The ideal balance is between 4:1 and 1:4, but most Westerners are eating more like 16:1 omega-6 to omega-3, with the heavy meat, dairy, and processed oil consumption. That will certainly knock your body out of balance.

I found a perfect DHA and EPA drop that I take daily now. It has a nice combination of DHA and EPA, which both have amazing health benefits beyond acne control. I like this drop because I can take it on a spoon daily, and it even works for my two-year-old.

It’s also important to keep your sugar and white flour intake low as both can contribute to acne. A whole foods diet based on whole grains, beans and legumes, fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds will keep your entire body in good health.

I hope this helps!

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my skin has gotten worse too
by: Anonymous

I have been vegan for 8 months now and my skin has never been worse. I eat a lot of fruit, some vegetables, and my main source of grains come from rice, quinoa, and bread. I've noticed that potatoes cause my skin to break out even more, so I cut them out. I am assuming that the grains are making my skin break out. I've tried cutting out all bread and eating rice and quinoa, but I still had acne. Surprisingly, my skin was the clearest when the only grain I was eating was bread, no rice or quinoa. I don't drink soy milk or eat soy often. I drink almond milk on a daily basis. What could be causing my skin to break out?

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Disclaimer: Everything in this website is based upon information collected by Cathleen Woods, from a variety of sources. It is my opinion and is not intended as medical advice.
It is recommended that you consult with a qualified health care professional before making a diet change.