Plaguing the lives of 95% of 11-30 year olds, acne is an archetypal feature of our formative years. From dreaded hormonal acne to painful under-the-skin pimples, it’s no secret that we women often go to desperate lengths to keep our troublesome skin at bay; from the promise of a miracle-working topical cream to forking out on celebrity-endorsed facials. But is cutting out whey protein from your diet the key to a blemish-free complexion?
With a multitude of health-boosting properties, from anti-cancer effects to weight loss, and even helping with asthma and cholesterol issues, whey protein is championed for its multifaceted impacts, lauded by the health-conscious to the gym-goers.
One of two proteins which make up milk, it’s a go-to in the bulking sphere, with a whey protein-glugging session after getting their sweat on a staple for many fitness buffs. A muscle-repair tool made up of workout-enhancing amino acids, it’s often consumed as a shake, smoothie, or introduced into the kitchen in foods such as pancakes. But what’s the verdict? Is whey protein the obstacle between you and a life of perfect, acne-free skin?
Well, perhaps! It all comes down to IGF-1, also known as insulin-like growth factor 1, a hormone with a similar molecular structure to insulin, involved in the growth of cells, from muscles and bones to lungs and kidneys, and importantly, skin. Studies have shown that increased IGF-1 levels lead to changes in gene expression, meaning how our cells process information.
The result? Inflammation, hormonal changes, and increased oil production; a triple-threat to baby-soft skin where makeup seamlessly glides on. IGF-1 is known to stimulate the production of sebum, the pesky oily substance which makes its way into our pores, transforming from an innocent, moisturising property into a troublesome coating which erupts into acne when in excess.
And it’s not just sebum which wreaks havoc with our complexion. IGF-1 is also known to stimulate the production of androgens, known as a ‘male hormone’, a huge contributor to those dreaded breakouts. Interfering with hair follicles, androgens cause difficulty in the skin’s ability to regulate oil production, with excess oil gland stimulation occurring, leading to acne-causing blocked pores.
Now, that isn’t to say that you should immediately head to your nearest cupboard to ensure that your collection of whey protein takes pride of place in the bin. If you haven’t experienced any breakouts above your standard pimple here-and-there, you’re probably good to go! But if you have noticed the odd skin eruption, it may be time to look at vegan protein alternatives.
As they’re completely plant-based – meaning free of troublesome IGF-1 hormones – vegan protein is a fantastic option to still get your muscle-enhancing, health-boosting protein in, without compromising on your glowing complexion. Relatively similar in terms of properties, vegan protein is often thought of as a unique alternative to its whey counterpart due to being so much easier to break down inside our digestive systems, ideal for the lactose and gluten-free, as well as vegans. A small change, with potentially skin-transforming results!