It can be frustrating to identify the cause of acne, since there are so many factors and everyone is different. If over-the-counter products are not doing the trick, getting the help of a board-certified dermatologist is your next step. A good dermatologist will always include lifestyle factors in any conversation about skin health. Dr. Krant likes to teach about the benefits of switching to a more plant-forward, whole-food diet when it comes to acne. Here’s what to know about this lifestyle change, why it helps, and some easy ways you can get started.
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
“Plant-based diet” is a bit of a vague term for a way of eating that draws on unprocessed foods derived from plants. It can mean many things from “plant-forward” to a 100% *whole food* plant-based vegan diet that contains no processed foods and no animal products (dairy, meat, fish, eggs) at all. Food types that make up a plant-based diet include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, plant fats (such as avocado), and beans. Although a plant-based diet can be exclusively vegan or vegetarian (including eggs and dairy), it’s not required. A plant-based diet means that you consume most of your daily nutrition (including fats and proteins) from plant-based sources. The key to a plant-based diet is that plants contain fiber and are high in nutrient density, which helps to balance our gut microbiome and to support an anti-inflammatory internal environment.
Can a Plant-Based Diet Help Acne?
Some experts suggest that a plant-based diet can help certain skin conditions including acne because it reduces the role that animal products play in hormone activity. It’s thought that multiple aspects of dairy including the proteins whey and casein can worsen acne because they can increase hormone levels, triggering sebum production and inflammation. Additionally, many acne patients find that saturated fats and fried foods worsen breakouts, which is thought to potentially be linked to the inflammatory aspects of food processing, oils in general, and cooking with high heat.
A plant-based diet may also play a supportive role in reducing breakouts by incorporating higher amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits found in fruits and vegetables, which helps the body to better regulate hormone levels and reduce inflammation. In short, a plant-based diet may be able to reduce breakouts and better help your body prevent them from happening.
How to Start a Plant-Based Diet
Switching to a 100% whole food plant-based diet is not easy to do overnight. It can be helpful to take it in small steps. Establishing new habits and changing your patterns of thinking around animal products can go a long way. For example, begin by adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into each meal and consider having one or two meatless or dairy-free meals per week. You can also start by having protein-rich whole grains for breakfast like oatmeal with nuts and fresh fruit. It’s always helpful to meet with your dermatologist to develop a treatment plan that includes considerations around diet and determining whether there may be potential risk factors worsening your acne. Keep in mind that it takes time to see results from changing your diet, but our team is here to help you make the changes that are right for you.
Schedule a Consultation
At Art of Dermatology at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York, Dr. Krant can help you learn more about how a plant-based diet, or any diet change, might help your acne. To schedule a consultation, contact our NYC office by calling or filling out our online form.
Jessica Krant, M.D., MPH, is a board-certified dermatologist with specialized experience in cosmetic, laser, surgical, and medical dermatology, but above all, Dr. Krant is most proud to be a caring, comprehensive physician who takes the time to listen and send her patients home with a smile.