Is your protein powder causing breakouts?

While the link between diet and acne is well-documented, many of us (teens in particular!) can fall prey to diet-related acne breakouts even when attempting to make their diet healthier.

The most common culprit? Two words: protein powder.

Today, I outline why protein powder commonly causes breakouts and how to get rid of “protein acne” for good.

Why Protein Powder Might Cause Acne

As a recap, acne is triggered by four different factors: follicular occlusion (blockage of your pores), microbe overgrowth in the follicle (bad bacteria in the skin), sebum production, and inflammation.

There are a range of ways that protein powder in particular taps into all four of these factors and exacerbates breakouts, starting with:

Whey Protein and Breakouts

A common ingredient in protein powder, protein bars, and protein shakes, whey protein is a milk byproduct that can trigger inflammation flare-ups.

Like dermatologist Dr. Fisher puts it, “Milk hormones increase the sebum production of the follicles, and whey protein increases insulin levels in the skin, which also increases sebum production. Insulin increases sebum, which can clog pores by stimulating too much testosterone production.”

The Link Between Soy and Acne

Think you’re safe from protein-related acne if you’re vegan?

Think again!

Although whey protein is commonly recorded as a source of acne flare-ups, soy, which is a key ingredient in most vegan protein shakes and bars, can worsen acne due to their high androgen levels.

Because soy can boost estrogen levels in the body, this poses a problem for those (especially teenagers going through puberty!) who may already have a high level of estrogen: when estrogen is then added to the body, this “overload” of the hormone can cause hormonal acne breakouts along the jawline, face, chest, and back, among other places.

In protein powder, soy most commonly comes in the form of soy milk powder and soy nuts.

Last But Not Least, Watch Out For Those Additives!

Does your protein powder contain additives like vitamin B12 and peanut butter?

If so, those may be the culprits of your latest breakout!

According to multiple studies, too much vitamin B12 in the diet may lead to an increase of acne. Why? Because B12 can impact the activity of skin bacteria and, when a significant amount of B12 is consumed daily, this can lead to an increase of inflammation in the pores, which is a core component of acne breakouts.

Similarly, the addition of seemingly-harmless peanut butter can trigger acne due to its:

  • High levels of pro-inflammatory Omega 6s
  • Significant amounts of lectin, which negatively impact gut health and, in turn, trigger digestion-related breakouts 
  • Inclusion of sebum-producing vegetable oils

So How Do You Fix “Protein Acne”?

Now that you know why your protein powder may be causing breakouts, let’s cover the ways in which you can fix it:

Face 5’s Diet Recommendations for Acne

Consuming low-glycemic foods that are unprocessed and rich in vitamins and minerals are a sure-fire way to naturally decrease the severity of your acne.

In regards to protein powder, however, the protein that studies have shown to be the best for your skin is pea protein, which is vegan, easily-digestible, and a significant source of iron; we also showcase a variety of recommended acne-safe protein powders on our Pinterest.

Face 5’s Topical Recommendations for Acne

When it comes to tackling “protein acne” topically, it is highly advised to shop one of our DIY Acne Rescue Starting Kits.

Each kit contains:

  • 11 acne specialist-tested products
  • An Icy Gel for at-home soothing and a non-comedogenic lip balm
  • Your very own complimentary Acne Solution Guide, which details information on an acne-safe diet, lifestyle tips, a list of potential acne-triggering medications, and in-depth shaving recommendations
  • Home care instruction for the first six weeks of the program

Ready for Clear Skin?

Book your consultation today to determine the exact source of your breakouts (and how to fix them!)