Would A Plant Based Diet Help Clear Acne?

Would cutting out all meat and dairy possibly cure acne?

Doctor Answers 4

Acne and diet

Acne is a complex disease. There is some evidence that diet may play a role. There is data that in girls who consume more leafy green vegetables there are fewer acne flares. Skim milk has been associated with more acne flares v. whole milk. There are some reports that a high glycemic diet may be associated with acne flares. As for population studies comparing Western and non-Western countries, I think one has to consider that as evidence, but with a critical lens. Acne is also genetic, so one must consider this when comparing populations. Factors other than diet that also affect acne, such as stress and life-style, also vary from population to population. I have many vegans in my practice who have acne. A more plant-based diet may be worth a try, nonetheless, as it can have a variety of positive health effects even if it does not improve your acne.


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Diet and Acne

It is worth a try and would probably help to a degree with your acne. Acne in the minds of many nutritionalists is in large part a food-borne illness–that is, it is preventable by changing what you eat. Acne is non-existent in non-Westernized populations (such as the Inuit, Okinawa islanders, Ache hunter-gatherers, and Kitavan islanders, all of whom do not consume dairy products), suggesting that acne is largely, if not completely, caused by diet. A study in 2011 in Korea, which followed a total of 1285 participants (783 with acne and 502 as control), supports this idea, concluding that “a high glycemic load diet, dairy food intake, high fat diet, and iodine in Korean foods appear to play a role in acne exacerbation.”

Diet and Acne

First, a plant-based diet is a healthy thing that can do more than cure acne (for you, and for the world.)

Diet has an important role to play in many skin disorders. Doctors and dermatologists are frequently faced with the difficulty of separating myth from fact when it comes to dietary advice. 

There are certain disorders where one or more components in food are central to the what is happening (like dermatitis herpetiformis.) There are many other disorders where diet might have a role to play.

In general, there is a lot of talk about diet, hygiene and sunlight exposure, and how this relates to acne. Surprisingly little well studied evidence exists. This means that we, as doctors, can’t be firm about telling our patients exactly what to do about acne when it comes to diet, face-washing, and sunlight.

The best thing is to give individualized advice.

In general:

-From a practical point of view, it is useful to keep a diet journal, and so *you* can decide how this affects your skin. 

-Use sunscreen! We know sun causes damage.

-Face-washing may help, and there are products that can be applied to skin that will assist with mild acne

Magin P, Pond D, Smith W, Watson A. A systematic review of the evidence for ‘myths and misconceptions’ in acne management: diet, face-washing and sunlight. Fam Pract. 2005;22(1):62–70.

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Would a plant based diet cure acne

Probably not. Most of the time diets aren't the issue with causing acne. You can make an appointment with a dermatologist in your area, but the answer is: most likely it won't make that much of a difference.

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