The One Change I Made to My Diet That (Finally!) Cleared Up My Skin
Starting about five months ago, for about 20 workdays straight, I began each morning by walking into fellow Be Well Philly writer Emily Leaman’s office, pointing to my face and saying, “I mean, can you believe it?!?!” The “it” I was referring to was my cleared-up skin — formerly land to an endless parade of unwelcome, pain-inducing hormonal acne.
I’d never had problem skin growing up, but around the time I turned 23, my skin turned on me. I felt like I had the face of a pre-teen with the problems of an adult: bills, finding a job that could support my ridiculous, undying love for ordering El Vez through GrubHub (still working on that) — or just, you know, finding a job. And let me tell you: If you thought being an adult was bad, try being an adult with a giant pimple on your chin at all times — that hurts — trying to deal with your problems. I mean, at least there’s wine — but it’s mostly just as bad as being back in middle school.
For the following two years, I hunted for skin fixes: I tried practically every face wash in Sephora (along with plenty of face masks I couldn’t afford, naturally), I cut dairy out of my diet, I went back to using Proactiv, which I hadn’t touched since I was a teenager. Nothing made a huge difference, so I gave up. Then, when I was in Miami for my best friend’s wedding this past October, a friend asked me if I’d tried cutting out soy. I hadn’t. And I was the queen of everything soy — soy lattes for breakfast, a My Strange Addiction-level love for veggie sausage, and tofu with lunch and dinner pretty much every day. See? Queen of everything soy.
I called Naomi Fenlin of About Face Skin Care, a pro when it comes to dealing with acne-related issues, to see if soy could be doing me dirty. Her answer: Yes, it could be. (Insert all the sobbing emoji here.) Soy affects androgen levels, which are related to hormonal acne. But, the thing is, all the evidence related to soy and acne is anecdotal, and there’s no way to test to see if it’s affecting you. The only option is to cut it out of your diet for a month and see what happens. If your skin clears up, you’ve found your Culprit, Fenlin said.
So, I gave soy up: I traded in my beloved tofu for a love of protein-packed hemp seeds (a great addition to salads, by the way), ditched my veggie-sausage obsession, swapped soy milk for almond milk in my lattes, and read the back of just about every label, because soy is in everything, people. I worked protein into my diet in other ways: eggs, beans, again, ALL the hemp seeds. I even discovered an awesome soy-free alternative for soy sauce that’s perfect for stir-frying. (Life is about the little victories, right?) And a month later, I was obnoxiously forcing Emily to admire my skin day after day.
And yeah, I was happy — but I was also so upset that no one had ever suggested soy could have been affecting my acne before. Like, furious. So you’re probably wondering why I waited so long to tell you, right? Well, as anyone who’s dealt with skin issues knows, skin problems can drive you a bit crazy, so in the back of my head, I thought writing about this fix might jinx it. Yes, I know: It sounds crazy — and I see that now. So, now, after steering clear of soy products as much as possible for six months (save for the very occasional dip of soy sauce with an avocado roll here and there), I’m telling you guys: ditching soy from my diet seems to have helped clear my skin up in a big way. You can’t see me right now but I am knocking on all the wood I can reach.
Now, don’t get me wrong: My skin is in no way perfect now. I still get pimples, and I have a lot of scarring from those two years of non-stop acne, but instead of getting a new, deep-rooted pimple around my jawline and chin just about every day, I get a few “Ughhh, why me??” pimples each month, which is a huge improvement. And obviously, this is entirely anecdotal and you might not be quite the soy-eating machine that I was (pretty sure I deserve a medal), but if you are and your skin seems to be constantly freaking out, you might want to try ditching it to see what happens.
Side note: While my skin problems aren’t as big anymore, I still have plenty of real-life adult problems (where is the magic dream job that will make my GrubHub addiction okay??). Does anyone know what I can give up to fix all of those?
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