Beauty and skin nutrition, diet tips and articles

Be SOy Done With Acne!

by Raychel Agramon, RN, MPM, May 19, 2020

Be SOy Done With Acne!

Soy isoflavones are polyphenols or micronutrients found in different kinds of foods. They are most commonly found in soy products, such as tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, and fermented bean paste. Other good sources include peanuts, pistachios, fava beans, chickpeas, and other nuts.

Soy isoflavones work by mimicking the action of estrogen, a female hormone. As such, these compounds are highly regarded for daily intake as a preventative in many of the Asian countries. Given their hormone-like actions, soy isoflavones may hold some promise against acne as well.

Soy Isoflavones for Acne 

Acne is the most common skin disorder in the world. In fact, it affects as much as 80% of adolescents and young adults. Numerous factors bring about acne, including bacteria and excessive sebum (oil) production. Dead skin cells can clog up the pores as well. In some cases, pimples can be caused by hormones, specifically that of androgens.

Soy isoflavones may help minimize breakouts by doing the fantastic feats below: 

  • Soy isoflavones may help counteract hormones that cause acne. 

The hormone that plays a major role in acne production is dihydrotestosterone. Also known as DHT, its levels are markedly high in several conditions. When DHT levels are increased, such as in the case of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), the production of sebum is further stimulated. As mentioned, this oil can clog the pores, thereby resulting in zits.

With its estrogen-like effects, soy isoflavones may help ward off the effects of androgens such as DHT. According to Riyanto et al., they may help restrict the enzymes that lead to androgen metabolism. With soy isoflavone supplementation, acne (and PCOS issues) may be addressed as well. 

  • Soy isoflavones may help reduce insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance refers to the body’s inability to process insulin well. The result: blood sugar levels shooting up. Apart from being a predisposing factor for Diabetes type 2, insulin resistance plays a role in acne development as well. 

Increased blood sugar levels lead to more production of insulin. This then triggers the production of male hormones. As mentioned, these androgens stimulate sebum production, which can plug the pores and lead to acne.

With that being said, improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin is one of the ways to reduce acne. Soy isoflavones may help you achieve that, at least according to the study of Wagner et al. Apart from lowering your diabetes risk, soy isoflavones may help keep your skin pimple-free as well. 

  • Soy isoflavones help exert an anti-inflammatory effect.

Inflammation is another unique factor behind acne. It can target the pilosebaceous unit, which includes the hair follicle and sebaceous gland. When this occurs, more oil is produced. As a result, it clogs the pores, leading to unsightly pimple marks.

According to Riyanto et al., soy isoflavones may help limit the action of pro-inflammatory cytokines as well. As the name suggests, these substances help promote inflammatory activity in the body. With these effects, soy isoflavones’ may help control the acne that results from inflammation. 

  • Soy isoflavones have strong antioxidant activity. 

Antioxidants help fight free radicals or molecules that damage the cells. If left unchecked, free radical damage may lead to a bevy of diseases. 

Apart from the major organs, free radicals affect the skin as well. According to Dr. Josh Zeichner, it can trigger inflammation that clogs up the pores. The results, of course, are red, swollen pimple marks. With that being said, you need to consume antioxidant-rich substances. After all, they can help fight acne-causing free radicals. 





Some of the best sources are soy isoflavones, which can be obtained from soy products and other legume sources. These micronutrients have potent antioxidant activity, as established in the study of Hu et al. Results show that they fare better than Vitamin C, which is already one of the best antioxidants out there. 

Soy Isoflavones for Younger-Looking Skin

Do you suffer from wrinkly skin? Do you have dark spots and a dull complexion? Well then, you may be suffering from skin photo-aging or premature skin aging. This usually results from repeated exposure to ultraviolet rays, either through the sun or tanning beds. Apart from making the skin look older, it can lead to other problems, such as:

  • Erythema or redness of the skin
  • Edema or swelling
  • DNA damage
  • Increased skin cancer risk

While minimizing UV exposure is important, it's also good to consume a supplement with anti-aging effects. The best candidate for this is soy isoflavone, which is rich in health-boosting nutrients. Not only is it chockfull of antioxidants, but it also comes with good anti-inflammatory properties. Because of these effects, Huang et al. recommend using soy isoflavone-rich sources as part of a skincare regimen. 

How to Take Soy Isoflavones

As mentioned, soy isoflavones can be obtained by eating any of the sources mentioned above. But if you are looking to get the most amount of this nutrient, then cooked soybeans and tofu are the best sources. According to Thrane et al., they contain 3-4 milligrams of soy isoflavones per gram of protein. 

As for dosing, the study of Riyanto et al. recommends the intake of 160 milligrams of soy isoflavones every day for 12 weeks. This is roughly equivalent to:

  • 55 grams of crude soybean 
  • 1280 grams of tempeh 
  • 2400 grams of tofu
  • 800 milliliters of soy milk 

If these natural sources are too much for you to take, worry not. You can get the recommended dose through a supplement. After all, soy isoflavones are available as capsules, tablets, and syrups. 

For best results, the authors endorse taking soy isoflavones with 0.025% tretinoin cream and a sunscreen with SPF 15.  

Reminders for Taking Soy Isoflavones 

According to Riyanto et al., the above-mentioned dose did not lead to dermatological side effects. Although this is the case, some people may experience some side effects, such as nausea and stomach upset. 

While rare, some people may develop an allergic reaction to this supplement. Symptoms include dizziness, breathing difficulties, rashes, and swelling or itching of the tongue, throat, or entire face. 

While this product can be taken by most, those with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) are cautioned against using soy isoflavones for the time being.

Soy isoflavones are nutrients found in soybean products and other nuts. With its anti-androgenic effects, it may help fight acne. As a potent antioxidant, it may help slow skin aging as well. With these benefits, soy isoflavones are deemed as good supplements for skin health.