For the majority of my teenage and adult life, I’ve suffered from painful cystic acne: No amount of facials, topical treatments, or at home DIY remedies seemed to work on my breakout-prone skin. I grew to accept my dream of clear skin would never happen, until I made a major life shift: At the beginning of February, I started to follow a plant-based diet and eliminated all dairy and meat products from my regimen. Initially, I made this switch in hopes of shedding a few pounds before the summer season, but along the way, I was pleasantly surprised to see my skin changed too.

Plant-Based Cleared My Skin

Prior to my diet change, the majority of my cystic acne covered both of my cheeks in consistent breakouts. After about a month or so of being plant-based, I noticed my previous acne had cleared and I was experiencing significantly fewer new breakouts. My complexion appeared brighter, even, and less congested.

Eager to know if this was just my own experience and curious to see if I accidentally stumbled on an acne cheat code, I asked a few fellow plant-based friends about their experience. Rene, 31, from London, observed her skin shift almost instantly: When she didn’t stick to her plant-based diet and consumed processed foods, her skin would break out more. The cleaner she ate, the clearer her skin became.

Food's Connection to Skin

Rene and I aren’t alone in our observations. Studies suggest that plant-based diets can lead to the healing of acne. One reason for the change could be attributed to the hormones common in dairy products. Milk naturally contains hormones and steroids that provide nutrition to the calves drinking it. They need these hormones in order to grow, but us, not so much. Thus eliminating additional hormones from our system can allow an opportunity for our skin to improve.

When I chatted with another friend, Sonya, 52, from New York City, she attributed her clear skin, improvement in her gut health, and energy boost to following a plant-based diet. Science backs up these anecdotal experiences strongly: A 2007 study highlighted the improvement of acne for 43 individuals after following a low-glycemic diet for 12 weeks. A low-glycemic diet can consist of vegetables, fruits, lentils, and plant-based meals. In a separate study, researchers also explored the connection between probiotics and acne. After consuming a probiotic for two weeks, 80 percent of the 300 patients reported improvement in their acne. Observing a vegan diet has shown to improve the microbiota in the gut.

Additionally, I noticed less inflammation in my body. A 2015 study published in Science Direct explored the changes in participant’s bodies after completing a brief vegan diet. Upon completion, researchers noticed a reduction in inflammation in the bodies of the participants. A high amount of fiber and vegetables reduced their CRP (C-reactive protein) levels. Low CRP levels improve your health risk factors and inflammation. Not only did changing my diet improve my acne, but it also improved my inflammation, gut health, and energy levels.

Going Plant-Based Inspires All-Around Health

Another reason that may have contributed to the changes in my skin, could be the adjustments I made to my daily routines. As time progressed I paid a lot more attention to what I put into my body and how I treated it. I became more disciplined towards my daily skin routine and I shifted to using more products with organic ingredients. Once you start to see positive changes in your body, it’ll be harder to go back to life as you knew it before.

Deciding to commit to a plant-based diet wasn’t the easiest experience for me. As a Black woman, our experiences with our diet and body health aren’t always presented to the masses. Not to mention, access to fresh foods and produce aren’t provided to our communities, which can often be categorized as food deserts or food swamps.

The Bottom Line

Thanks to my plant-based diet, I eat healthier, feel better, and no longer experience cystic acne. If you suffer from acne like myself or are just looking for a way to clean up your lifestyle. I encourage you to start with a day or two a week of plant-based eating and work your way up from there. If you need some inspiration, Jenne Claiborne of Sweet Potato Soul, Rachel Ama, Dee’s Table, Black Girls in Trader Joes, and Beets by Brooke are a few of my favorites to follow. For an additional resource, check out our article about exactly what to eat on a plant-based or vegan diet to boost skin health.

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