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Vegan Diet and Acne ~ The Best Cure

Updated on April 18, 2015

Treatments That Do Not Cure

I remember my teenage years and how I used to feel most days. I have pale skin and like many teenagers, I suffered from acne. Acne is bad enough to any ego, but if you have sensitive, pale skin, as I do, it really shows up badly. I and my parents spent a lot of time and money treating this problem, which persisted into my adult years. It was not until I learned some very important information that I was finally able to kick the acne problem out of my life permanently.

I remember how I used to feel in high school and even college. Part of every morning was spending time to see how bad the damage was and what I could do about it. I went around wearing cover up makeup and treating my skin with lotions and special soaps.

In high school my mother took me to a dermatologist for treatment, who not only prescribed effective treatment and recommended I go on birth control pills to help control my acne problem. As a teenager, I felt a bit embarrassed about this, but agreed to go with the program. I soon disliked my sensitive breasts and worried about the effects of the birth control hormones on my developing body. It's not that I knew what those effects were ~ I was only a teenager after all ~ but l felt letting my body grow and develop naturally would be healthier. I also wondered if I were born a guy then what would have happened? Obviously I would not have been put on birth control pills.

Furthermore, in the dermatologist's office I'd occasionally get injections and suffer through some painful poking of my face. It made me wonder if this was supposed to be normal. Does everyone in the world have bad skin during their teenage years? Who does and who doesn't? Why was I one of the unlucky ones when I was so careful about my skin and had the best in Western medicine on my side to deal with this problem?

Besides all of this, I also had acne on my back, and was given a different medication lotion soap to address this problem. The skin care regime to treat my back acne was different than that to treat my face acne. I was conditioned to believe that acne was a usual, teenagers' problem, and not a treatable, preventable condition, so treating the problem topically made sense. I didn't understand then that I could address an underlying problem that would cure my acne altogether. But I felt dissatisfied with the results of the treatments I underwent.

So for many reasons, I always felt the treatment for acne was left wanting. The bottom line was that even with the best treatment available, my clear skin would only last for a short time. My acne would come back, particularly when I was stressed. As I said, I entered my adult years with embarrassing spots on my face. As a teenager, I got used to acne being an on/off ailment with me ~ it seemed my face would respond well to treatment for a time being, but no sooner had the problem faded then I'd wake up with yet another pink spot on my face.

Because I saw a dermatologist, was on the proper medication and followed a careful skincare regime, I felt I was caring for my skin the absolute best way possible, and yet still today I have some acne scars on my face. I wish I had known when I was a teenager something that I'm happy to share with you now. I believe anyone who follows the advice in this article can safely kick acne out of their life a lot earlier than I did.

There is one other reason I'm glad to share my knowledge with others. I know that certain very effective medicines for treating acne can have some dangerous effects on some internal organs of the body. I think it's high time that people learn how to solve this problem in a natural, healthy way, rather than risking harm to their internal organs.

A Natural Cure

While proper skincare is particularly important if you suffer from acne, what most people don't realize is that so much more can be done to help prevent pimples from even making an appearance.

What you must understand is your skin is a reflection of not just the outside factors in your life, but also what you put into your body. It's not just enough to treat acne topically. What you want to do is treat acne with your fork and plate.

What follows is my summary of the best thing you can do to fight your acne.

Eat a whole plant food low fat vegan diet, with an emphasis on starches, supplement Vitamin B12, get regular exercise, and follow a very careful and natural skincare regime.

It's one simple sentence but it deserves further explanation so that you will understand for certain how to fight your acne.

Yummy foods that'll help you live healthily with good skin.
Yummy foods that'll help you live healthily with good skin. | Source

A New Diet

You will be following a new way of eating that is very healthy and that's going to clean your skin from the inside out. It is as follows:

  • Vegan, meaning no meats, cheese, dairy, milk, butter, margarine, eggs, or fish. Animal and animal product free. While pizza, fried chicken, burgers, and scrambled eggs with bacon might be some of your favorite foods, you'll never be able to get a handle on your acne problem if you continue to eat them. They must be eliminated completely or you will just continue aggravating the problem. By the way, even ranch dressing is out. Even a glass of skim milk is not what you want to be drinking if you have acne. There have been two medical studies done (that I know of) that show acne is connected to dairy intake. The problem is related to the hormones that are present in dairy and what they do to your body and skin. Both studies showed that those eating less or no dairy had less pimples. In my own life, from personal experience, I know that if I go off my vegan diet and enjoy dairy the pimples can return easily. But when I'm strict with avoiding dairy and the other no-no's, my skin is nice and clear.
  • Low to no oil. Oil, unlike what you may have been taught by marketers and even many doctors, is not a health food. Oil is a manufactured product that does not occur naturally in nature. It is 100% fat calories. Fat calories behave in the body differently than carbohydrate calories, which behave differently than protein calories. The important point is that if you have acne, you do not want to be consuming a lot of oil. Give up your fried foods and start learning to cook with water rather than oil. You do not need to worry that you won't get your essential fatty acids if you eat a varied diet including whole nuts like walnuts. Since there is a lot of misinformation out there about this, it's important to really research the subject thoroughly if it interests you. The vegan program I follow is taught by Dr. McDougall.
  • Whole plant foods, with an emphasis on clean, healthy starches. Starches are complex carbohydate plant foods such as beans, potatoes, yams, whole grains, and corn. Unlike what most people believe, these foods will not make you gain weight. The reason you actually want to emphasize these foods is because if you want to become vegan, I don't want you to go around eating only tofu burgers and salads. Tofu can have a pretty high fat content and you'll never feel full and satisfied on a diet of just lettuce. Starches and plant fiber fill you up and give you energy. Excess starch calories are burned by the body as heat. It's the fat calories that get easily converted to fat in the body and help contribute to acne. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible medicine, the average American diet is between 37% to 40% fat. If you haven't noticed, the average American is overweight and will die of heart disease (the most common cause of death in America). However, it is equally important to have a lot of fresh, raw veggies and fruits in your diet. These pure foods will help your skin, especially those with Vitamin A, like carrots and sweet potatoes. (Sweet potatoes have more Vitamin A than carrots, so enjoy them!)
  • You're to avoid sweets, sugars, and heavily processed foods Like oil, sugar will also increase the sebum in your skin, and thus aggravate your acne. If you're looking to cure your acne naturally, start researching meals. Once you have enough healthy meals and recipes you know you like in your head, you'll find giving up processed foods and sweets to be much easier.
  • Supplement Vitamin B-12 Vitamin B-12 is actually a bacteria, not a vitamin. Sources of Vitamin B-12 include decaying meat, algae, and dirt. Since we live in a society where our water is purified and vegetables and fruits cleaned off, it's necessary for vegans to supplement their Vitamin B-12. I recommend supplementing with vitamin pills rather than with fortified foods as if you follow the instructions on the bottle, you're unlikely to ever suffer from Vitamin B-12 deficiency.
  • Low Fat This is very important. Avoid the fatty plant foods such as avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut, oils, and tofu. I would recommend you read the following success story for more about the importance of keeping your diet low fat: Nina and Randa Cure Their Acne

Natural soaps like these work well to clean oily skin without leaving it too dry.
Natural soaps like these work well to clean oily skin without leaving it too dry. | Source

A Careful, Natural Skin Care Regime

You'll have to find a natural, mild soap that's right for you. Oats are famous for helping fight acne, and you can find oatmeal soap at your local health store. While there check out the other choices for natural, mild soaps, such as coconut soap, carrot soap, castile soap, or a glycerin soap without perfumes and scents.

These are just examples ~ my own grandmother had great success getting rid of her acne using Ivory soap. When I was a teenager I used Neutrogena mild face soap but in time, had a hard time finding it, and so have moved on to natural alternatives with success.

Choose a basic mild soap since regular soaps can often be too harsh for your skin. Experiment with different soaps and see which one works best ~ you want your skin clean, yet moisturized.

Wash your face regularly, particularly if it seems oily, and pat it dry with a very soft, clean towel or washcloth. Avoid touching your face as much as possible and definitely avoid popping any pustules ~ you can end up with a lifelong scar. Change and wash your pillowcase frequently.

Also avoid oil-based makeup ~ in fact, I feel it's best to avoid makeup entirely until you kick your acne problem by following this diet and regime. Once your skin is clear regularly, you might not even want to cover it with makeup. So give your skin a chance to heal up. Just as you likely wouldn't rub makeup over a sore on your leg, treat your sore facial skin the same way. Once your skin is clear you can always experiment very slowly with natural, water-based makeups and see which ones don't aggravate your problem.

While it may seem like it wouldn't matter, it's important to get regular, daily exercise. Exercise keeps your body in shape, helps rid your body of toxins, and has a beneficial effect on the skin.

There are many natural acne skin care treatments like facials and masks you can try to help your skin heal and to prevent acne. Success has also been found by applying tea tree oil to a the skin. Manuka honey is also very popular, because it also moisturizes the skin, helps acne heal up quickly, and kills bacteria that causes acne. Apply Manuka honey mixed with cinnamon directly as a mask.*

Be consistent and diligent with your skin care efforts, both with diet, exercise, and skin care. It's no fun to slack off for a day or two, and then find more blemishes. Once you are consistent with the diet, exercise, and cleaning, you'll be able to enjoy the reward for your effort ~ consistently clear skin.

*If you watch this video, do not replace the Manuka honey with regular honey as she suggests as an alternative ~ it will not have any effect!

Additional Help

If, after following these steps very strictly, and giving yourself a good month or two to test out your improved diet and skincare regime, you do not see enough improvement, try topical acne medications which you can find in most pharmacies and supermarkets.

However, the better you are at following my other recommendations, the better your skin will be, and it's likely your skin will be less oily than when you were following a more standard diet.

Incidentally, a healthy vegan diet and a careful skin care regime also affect the incidences of acne associated with an adult woman's menstrual cycle.

Acne can be cured and smooth, clear skin can resurface naturally
Acne can be cured and smooth, clear skin can resurface naturally | Source

A Healthy Life with Good Skin

I've found that since following a vegan diet my acne has completely disappeared. However, even at my age, I still get acne if I veer off my healthy vegan diet and indulge in some of the no-no's ~ dairy, oily foods, or too much heavily processed foods and sweets. This has only brought home the fact to me that I'd likely still be suffering from acne if I started eating as I did in high school.

Because you'll be following a very healthy diet, eating lots of veggies and fruits, getting lots of vitamins and minerals, your general health and mental health will improve, and your body will have better regulated hormone levels. This diet has been shown to be successful even with acne associated with a woman's monthly cycle and pregnancies.

Please also understand that a vegan diet, contrary to popular belief (myths, really) ~ is very healthy and not dangerous. If you are worried about calcium, protein, or fatty acids deficiency, I encourage you to do more research as your fears are unfounded. Just because you've been told you'll keel over without a ton of milk and meat every day, does not mean it's true. Alternatively, there are plenty of elite athletes out there that swear by a vegan diet since it gives them more energy and allows their bodies to heal faster after workouts. So it helps to become more knowledgeable in general about a healthy vegan diet rather than dismiss it because of what are likely just notions that a lot of people share.

There you have it. The best cure for acne starts with a change in diet, and is maintained by taking good care of your skin with a mild soap. That's it. It works, and I encourage you to try it and see for yourself.

Comments: "Vegan Diet and Acne ~ The Best Cure"

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    • profile image

      KO 3 months ago

      I’ve been a vegan for about 3 months now. I don’t consume a whole lot of oils and not a lot of sugar, but my acne has been terrible lately. The skin on my face has never been worse. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I didn’t really ever have acne until after I had my son 3 years ago. I went on Mirena for the first time ever after having my son. Maybe that’s the cause? I’m so frustrated. My skin is full of acne scars now.

    • profile image

      Larry 11 months ago

      the mcdougall diet helped very much, though I eat once in three days grass-fed beef, just to feel replenished. Eating more veggies and less meat is ideal for curing my acne

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 17 months ago from San Francisco

      Yes, that is something true also. The hormones and the level of hormones in organic cow milk are in the correct proportion for a developing cow, not an adult or even developing child. As Dr. McDougall says (paraphrasing) cow milk is meant to develop a baby calf into a full grown cow quickly. I believe that is also why cancer growth is seen with casein, the protein in cow's milk...that is explained in The China Study book by T. Colin Campbell, PhD. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, I appreciate the comment!

    • veganfitspiration profile image

      Amy 17 months ago from Colorado Springs

      I enjoyed your article. Giving up dairy is such a huge component I believe. Even organic dairy has so many naturally occurring hormones from the cow.

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 22 months ago from San Francisco

      I'm glad to hear your skin is improving! I feel that becoming vegan (the right way - as detailed in my article) prevents acne while everything else (creams, lotions, soaps, etc.) just treats the symptoms. Congratulations :)

    • Kimberleyclarke profile image

      Kimberley Clarke 23 months ago from England

      Some great tips, thank you! I have adult acne. I recently started eating a plant based skin is looking great! I think becoming vegan is the way to go.

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 2 years ago from San Francisco

      First I heard of that. I would follow doctor's recommendations for the vitamin B12.

    • profile image

      Mery 2 years ago

      For those doing everything right watch out on b12 supplement. Ive been "Overdoing" it since there is no harmful side effects...except acne (Which I never had before being vegan) as it turns out!

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 2 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow, that's great to hear you're getting good results on a vegan diet! I know how hard it is to have acne because I too suffered for years, although I didn't have the cystic kind. Take good care, take your vitamin B12, and remember that the more you learn and educate yourself about the health benefits of the vegan diet, the better care you can take of yourself, and then you can help others too. I'm really happy for your success! I'm sure the shirtless beach day will be coming soon :)

    • profile image

      Jason 2 years ago

      I've suffered from cystic back and chest acne since I was 16, and I am now 22. I'm a male, and this was extremely hard on me mentally, and physically. Here the last month I've went vegan, and for once in my life, I've seen a tremendous result. I hardly get any sores, but I still have ugly blemishes that I hope will eventually go away. Hopefully the day will come where I can go to the beach without my shirt on. lol, thank you for this article.

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Hi, I just happened to log in so I saw your comment. I am not sure if detox really happens or if people just think it does. I just don't know -- so you could be detoxing or it could be that you're not eating as low fat vegan as you need to be to see good results.

      Have you checked out Nina and Randa's testimonial? They are twin sisters who had acne very bad on a vegan diet and it wasn't until they switched to low fat vegan diet that they saw great results. Here is the link (it's also in the article but may be hard to find):

      Another reason I suggest you check out that article is because they have pictures and also because they list many of the foods that they now eat, and also what they used to eat that gave them acne. It's surprising the number of "normal" foods that cause acne in people, with no one really realizing it!

      If you could list what you're eating, I might see something that is higher fat that might be causing your acne.

      I would really be careful with exactly what you're eating so you're not eating high fat vegan, but low fat, whole plant food vegan. (No oil, of any kind, no avocado, no nuts, no coconut, and vegan treats are probably out if they have high fat content. Also, they mention soy milk, so you'll want to avoid that too.)

      Please check out the link I included in this comment (which is also above in the article) and see if you can improve the fat content of your vegan diet by making it lower fat and also remember I'm recommending a whole-plant-food diet which means less processed is better.

      Good luck and please comment here again to let me know your results. Remember, it does take time to heal up, but Nina and Randa saw improvement within 3 or 4 days! Which is good news indeed. In fact, the after photos they provide are from after only 6 weeks on their improved vegan diet.

      By the way, I just want to mention again that this diet is indeed healthy, and recommended by Dr. John McDougall, because it not only prevents heart disease, but it reverses it as well. President Clinton and Samuel L. Jackson are some notable people who are now following a low fat whole plant food vegan diet for health reasons.

      Remember to take the B12 and you can check out Dr. McDougall's site for even more free info (you don't have to buy any book, just click around and read his free program which you can do at home).

      I really want you to see success so keep at it and be diligent about what hidden fats you might be eating and also remember you can always try the manuka honey as well as a good and careful cleaning regime.

      Good luck! :)

    • profile image

      Sian 3 years ago

      I know this is an old post but I hope you still see this.

      I'm a new vegan of about 3 weeks and a half. I've had acne since I was 11, got it so bad I went on the pill at age 15 for almost two years, came off it last october and since then my skin has gradually been getting worse again, as expected. I didn't know then that birth control would mess me up as much as it did. It was only a band-aid to the problem and now I am tackling it from within. I really really hope veganism is the way to go.

      However I have been experiencing more acne as of late.. The first week I broke out on my upper lip area and on my chin, then it moved on to my forehead and temples, and now I can see ones forming under my cheeks. I've also noticed the texture and redness of my skin has intensified......

      I'm aware of the "detox" phase many vegans go through and I'm wondering if you went through this too after changing your diet and how long it went on for? When did it start healing?

      Many thanks in advance, and thank you again for this article. Really uplifting and gives me hope! xx

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 4 years ago from San Francisco

      No, I haven't heard of bad reactions and only that removing dairy especially helps. The oil in the diet matters also. In fact, another website I found was a guy who had improved his acne by going from vegan to raw vegan. I have heard you only get scarring if you pick at the pimples. So I'm not sure what else to recommend except I guess keep searching and I hope some of my tips can help (like maybe the honey?) Good luck!

    • profile image

      Kay 4 years ago

      Hi! Thanks for this article. I am 23 and had moderate acne since I was 12-13. I was mostly a vegetarian since around that time, but gradually converted to vegan about 8 months ago because of the benefits on health and skin I read and heard it had. Since then, I have had worse acne than ever! It was always bothersome and embarrassing, but now it is taken to a whole new level and now leaving scars! Ahhh! I do everything you mention, and I so want to believe that it is a cure, but it is just not working for me. At first, I thought it was just detox from cutting out refined foods and sugar, but 8 months is a long time, right? I really want to solve this naturally, like it's at my core beliefs that if there is nothing wrong internally and I am fueling my body with the right things/doing everything right it will heal itself. I have unsuccessfully tried probably every topical out there..and now my dermatologist is recommending accutane...and it is crazy to me that I am actually considering it. I guess after this rant I was wondering if anyone you know of anyone who has had a bad reaction to a low-fat vegan diet (actually, 75%raw vegan..maybe that's the problem?)? If anyone has any suggestions they are greatly appreciated, thanks!!

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Yes I told my parents my feelings and I got off them.

    • profile image

      adi 4 years ago

      Did you stop using birth conrol pills?

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Maybe a month if you are very good about avoiding oils, not touching the skin, keeping the skin clean but moisturized, etc. You have to give your skin time to heal and also the excess oils and fats in the blood and system to get out.

    • profile image

      Acne sufferer 5 years ago

      How long after going vegan do you think one will notice results?

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for stopping by. :)

    • Neinahpets profile image

      Stephanie 5 years ago from Canada

      Thank you for sharing this great hub with the rest of us. Definitely gives some education on a subject I am not too familiar with.

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for stopping by. You're right - there are so many misconceptions about a vegan diet that stem from cultural myths about meat, dairy, and plant foods. Even many doctors don't know much about a vegan diet and its health benefits. Thank you for the votes! Trying to get the word out.

    • visionandfocus profile image

      visionandfocus 5 years ago from North York, Canada

      What a wonderfully informative hub that's obviously well researched and beautifully presented. I knew that a vegan or vegetarian diet (high in fruits and veggies, and NOT processed vegetarian food) is the most healthful diet, but there are many people with the misconception that you can lack calcium and iron and essential fatty acids on such a diet. You're right. People should just do their research and not keep repeating myths and such. Ignorance is deplorable.

      If only we all realize that we are poisoning our bodies and those of our children with junk food and medications, the fast food industry, the dairy industry, the meat industry and the pharmaceutical industry will go out of business. But that can't happen, can it? You see how much is invested in us NOT knowing the truth?

      Thanks for sharing. Voted up, interesting, beautiful and awesome!

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Good to hear you were able to self-diagnose the cause. I hope you don't suffer from it any more. :)

    • profile image

      Connie1918 5 years ago

      I was a vegan for a year and went off of it when I met my husband. I started getting horrible ache, and I didn't know what was causing it. Thank you so much for this article!! I'm glad I returned to the diet. My skin is improving :)

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Good luck! Watch the oils too to see if that helps.

    • yoginijoy profile image

      yoginijoy 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      I am thinking about eating strictly as a vegetarian. I do eat mainly meatless meals but once in a while I will eat chicken or even beef. You have just given me another reason to go 100% into vegetarianism. I will see if it helps my skin too.

      Thanks for the ideas!

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      That's great and thank you for sharing! It's good to hear from real people that making a diet change and the honey really works!

    • profile image

      Bailsey 5 years ago

      I am 27 and I have basically cured my acne in 4 weeks doing 3 things:

      1- Became vegan, but I do still eat some honey!

      2-Wash my face 2x daily with raw organic local honey

      3-Do a face mask 2x week with organic aloe gel (this reduces redness and inflammation)

      ** Seriously, this works! I should add though that as a vegan I eat a plant-based diet, not french fries and tofurkey!

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Good luck. Remember to also cut out the oils and try to encourage raw veggies and fruits also. Wish you guys the best.

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I found this very useful. My oldest son is now a teenager and has to deal with acne. I'm going to see if switching to a vegan diet and trying your other tips helps.It's amazing how even today dermatologists jump to give medicine rather than at least giving the option of a dietary change.

    • profile image

      back acne causes 5 years ago

      That has been my is better for skin. Thanks for this......

    • carozy profile image

      carozy 5 years ago from San Francisco

      That has been my experience ~ The better my diet, the better my skin. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      I hadn't thought of the connection between a vegan diet and acne, but I can see how giving up dairy and meat might be able to help reduce acne, especially if you reduce oil and sugar as well.

    • profile image

      greg 6 years ago

      very useful article


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