Does Soy Cause Acne?

by NIKKI POPE, December 04, 2020

Soy is a legume used to make many types of food, including tofu, tempeh, natto, and fermented bean paste. While it’s undoubtedly healthy – being rich in iron, protein, magnesium, and potassium, among many others – some people are against a soy-centered diet. That's because they believe that soy can cause adverse health effects, one of which is acne.

How Does Soy Affect the Body?

Apart from being rich in the above-mentioned nutrients, soy is also teeming with isoflavones. These are known as phytoestrogens or plant estrogens, meaning they mimic the function of human estrogen – but with weaker effects. Although this is the case, soy may exert some anti-estrogenic effects as well. 

What are the Benefits of Soy?

Though soy is believed to cause acne, thyroid disorder, and even breast cancer, it does come with several science-backed health benefits: 

Heart Health

According to a report, regular soy consumption may help improve heart health. It can help reduce the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), which can build up and block your arteries, by as much as 5 points. It may help also increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL), but only by a mere 0.6. 

Soy’s benefits for the hearts are largely attributed to its omega-3 fatty acid content. Apart from decreasing cholesterol levels, omega-3 fatty acids may also help reduce the inflammatory activity that can lead to heart disease and stroke. 


Because of soy’s estrogen-like effects, soy may be used to alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, hot flushes, and night sweats. According to a compilation of soy studies, soy products, specifically soy nuts, may help reduce these pesky symptoms. 


Due to its estrogenic effects, soy consumption may help decrease testosterone levels. Such results were seen in a study of mice that were fed with phytoestrogen-rich soy. 

Types of Soy Food Products

Soy fares are classified into two: fermented and unfermented.

Fermented soy, as the name suggests, are cultured with good bacteria or yeast that help break down the sugar and protein content. As a result, the fermentation process makes these soy products easier to digest and absorb. 

Examples of fermented soy food include soy sauce, natto, tempeh, and miso. 

Unfermented soy products are called such because they have not undergone the fermentation process. Examples of such products include dry roasted or boiled soybeans, soy milk, tofu, soy cheese, edamame, and soy burger. 

Does Soy Cause Acne?

We do not see any studies showing that soy causes acne. On the contrary, soy may actually help you control hormonal acne.

Hormonal acne occurs because of the high levels of testosterone, male hormones that the body converts into dihydrotestosterone. Also known as DHT, they bind themselves to the receptors on your oil glands. This triggers more oil (sebum) production, which can plug your hair follicles and lead to breakouts.

According to a study, soy may help reduce testosterone levels that can trigger acne. This is due to its isoflavones, which are substances that act like your body's estrogen – albeit weaker. Because of this effect, soy may help balance out your hormones for acne-free skin. 

Soy also has a low glycemic index (GI), which is a measure of how food can raise your blood sugar levels. In high GI fares such as white bread or potatoes, your glucose levels rise rapidly. This leads to the production of hormones that trigger sebum production, which then causes breakouts.

Soy also contains several vitamins and minerals that may help fight acne: 

  • Copper. With 78% of the copper DV, soy may help fight acne-causing bacteria. As per one study, it may help reduce premature skin aging as well. 
  • Vitamin B2. With 38% of the DV of Riboflavin, soy may help moisturize your skin. It also helps promote the absorption of zinc, a mineral that helps keep your skin acne-free. 
    • Vitamin B1. Soy contains 23% of the daily value (DV) of Thiamine, also known as the anti-stress vitamin. As such, it may help you avoid stress-induced breakouts.






    Fermented Soy Products for Acne

    You may even get more from soy by opting for fermented soy products. These cultured foods are rich in probiotics, which are good bacteria for the body. More than just improving your digestive health, probiotics may help clear up your skin as well. 

    According to a study, probiotics produce proteins that help stop the growth of the organism Propionibacterium acnes. 

    It may also help reduce the effects of Substance-P. This causes acne through inflammation and excessive sebum production. 

    Probiotics may also inhibit the production of another hormone called IGF-1. Like Substance-P, it promotes inflammation and sebum production – the two main driving factors of acne. 

    Other Benefits of Soy for the Skin

    More than just reducing your breakouts, soy may help improve your skin even further. 

    According to a study, soy may help increase epidermal thickness. This, in turn, makes the skin look plump and healthy. 

    It also helps boost the number of collagen fibers, which keeps the skin youthful by preventing sagging.

    Soy may help increase the number of elastic fibers that maintain skin elasticity. This, in turn, keeps the skin smooth and firm – even with much facial activity.

    Each cup of soy comes with nutrients that may benefit the skin as well: 

    • Vitamin B6. Soy contains 24% of the DV of Pyridoxine, which helps in the synthesis of collagen. This keeps the skin plump and young-looking.
    • Choline. Containing 19% of the DV, the choline in soy may keep the skin supple and elastic.
    • Folate. Soy has 23% of the folate DV, a vitamin that promotes the development of healthy skin. It can also help boost collagen production in the skin.  
    • Manganese. Soy contains 62% of the recommended DV. Manganese helps in the production of proline, a protein that promotes collagen formation and wound healing. 
    • Selenium. This mineral helps fight free radicals that bring about premature skin aging. 

    Contrary to popular beliefs, soy may help you achieve blemish-free clear skin. Although this is the case, it's best to follow the recommended intake of 15 grams a day. This will help you avoid its unpleasant side effects, which include nausea, bloating, constipation, and/or tiredness.