Going vegan is not a decision that can be taken lightly. It requires an lifestyle and mindset overhaul, a new repertoire of go-to recipes and restaurants, and then, of course, there’s whether or not to take your new vegan beliefs over to your beauty regime.
Luckily, it’s never been so easy to be a vegan, with more vegan restaurants and vegan takeaways than ever, and with supermarkets stocking more and more meat-free options (according to The Vegan Society, meat substitute sales grew by 451% in the European market in the four years to February 2018). Plus, the number of vegan beauty products has sky-rocketed in recent years, with beauty brands like Tata Harper, Milk Makeup and Isle of Paradise offering skincare, makeup and even self tan that’s certified vegan, and many non-vegan brands like Charlotte Tilbury, Urban Decay and Glossier have several vegan options.
And while we’re all aware of the environmental benefits of making the change to a vegan lifestyle (the rearing of livestock for human consumption is a huge contributor to global warming), what effect will going vegan have on our health and, more specifically, our skin? We ask skin specialist Dr MJ Rowland-Warmann for her expert opinion on the matter.
What are the skin benefits of a vegan diet?
According to Dr Rowland-Warmnn, one of the main benefits of a vegan diet is the exclusion of dairy, especially for those who suffer from acne; ” In several studies in the US, Italy and Malaysia there have been links between dairy and acne. Some propose that this is due to the hormones found in milk, others due to carbohydrates in milk and other dairy products which can affect insulin levels. So if you are suffering with acne, it may be beneficial for you to reduce the amount of dairy that’s in your diet.”
Plus, if by going vegan, you’re amping up the number of fruits and vegetables you eat, the benefits will almost definitely improve your skin – and overall – health. “Generally, a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and low in sugar and saturated fats is going to have a positive impact on the skin,” explains Dr Rowland-Warmann. “There are studies that actually show that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). This is because skin tumours are reduced by Vitamin C and E and selenium, which is found in fruit and vegetables. Green tea extract is also thought to have cancer-busting properties when it comes to skin cancers. On the flip-side, a diet high in meat and fat can increase SCC risk.”
What’s the downside?
As we all know, just because something is vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. In fact, Dr Rowland-Warmann warns that going vegan can mean an increase in unhealthy foods. “Whilst there are obvious benefits of a vegan diet, the diet may be less balanced and this may have an impact on all body processes, not just skin. Often a vegan diet has more refined carbohydrates, such as pasta, sugar, bread and white rice, which are all going to lead to higher serum glucose and therefore, insulin. This in turn increases sebum production, which is the oil that the skin produces to lubricate itself, which can contribute to acne.”
Plus, vegans and vegetarians are shown to be more likely to be deficient in omega-3, fatty acids and vitamin B12 in their diet, which can have a negative impact on skin as well as being linked with depression.
If you’re thinking of going vegan, read our ultimate guide to going vegan, and consider investing in one of these vegan cookbooks to ensure you have a varied diet full of all the vital nutrients you and your skin need.