Your diet won’t cause acne, but there is growing acceptance among some health professionals that food may trigger breakouts in some people, notes the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Soy is one food that researchers are investigating for its effects on acne. When the soybean is broken down, soy protein — or various products that contain soy protein — are the end result. One study suggests that soy isn't a trigger for acne, but more research is needed. Consult your doctor before changing your diet to treat your acne.

Evidence on Soy

In a study published in the journal “Clinical and Experimental Dermatology” in 2010, researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong investigated the association between acne and diet 2. They found that in some cases, an intake of soy products was significantly linked to a lower incidence of acne. This association was noticed in subjects who were yang-predominant, according to traditional Chinese medicine 3. Yang is associated with heat and acute illness, according to the Alternative Medicine Foundation 3.

Testing If Soy Triggers Your Acne

The role of diet in acne may vary from person to person 2. To find out if soy protein is linked to your breakouts, limit it in your diet as much as possible for a few months. Then try to add soy back into your diet gradually to see if there are any effects on your breakouts. Keep in mind that eliminating soy from your diet can be difficult. Many packaged foods contain some form of soy. Start by eliminating whole soy foods and read food labels carefully to determine which foods to leave on the shelves. Also, focus on eating whole, natural foods such as:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • fish
  • organic lean poultry

Best Soy Foods to Consume

If it turns out soy doesn’t trigger your acne breakouts and you decide to start enjoying it again, choose the best sources. Fermented sources of soy protein, such as fermented soy milk, miso or tempeh, are considered superior to non-fermented sources. They contain probiotic bacteria, are easier to digest and make nutrients easier for your body to absorb.

Other Side Effects

Even if soy protein doesn’t aggravate your acne, you may still experience other side effects, such as a soy allergy. Bloating, constipation and nausea are also possible symptoms. If you are at risk for breast cancer or hormone-related cancers such as uterine or ovarian, have kidney disease, osteoporosis or thyroid problems, consult your doctor before taking soy.