Whey protein side effects on skin: Can it cause acne?


Adding whey protein in the diet has become a common practice for fitness enthusiasts. Protein powder provides a wide range of health benefits, including muscle gain, weight management, muscle recovery, and immune system support. However, some people complain about acne breakouts after adding protein powder to their diet.

If you’re facing the same issue and wondering if your protein powder is to blame, read on! Health Shots consulted dermatologist and aesthetic physician Dr Mohd Asif of CARA Clinics, Mumbai to discuss the link between protein powder and acne.

Can protein powder cause acne?

Protein powder itself doesn’t directly cause acne, but its consumption may contribute to skin or acne breakouts in some individuals. Acne can result from increased hormone levels, which certain protein powders, especially those containing whey or casein, might stimulate due to their dairy-derived nature. Additionally, excessive protein intake can strain the liver and kidneys, potentially impacting skin health. Moreover, flavoured or sugary protein powders can exacerbate acne if they lead to blood sugar spikes, promoting inflammation.

How to prevent acne from whey protein?

To minimise the risk of getting acne from protein powder, you should choose high-quality, minimally processed protein powders, stay hydrated, and maintain a balanced diet to support skin health, says Dr Asif. Here are some ways to reduce acne risk from protein powder:

1. Choose the supplement product wisely

Don’t choose protein powders randomly. Check for the brand reputation and look for those that are specifically labeled as acne-friendly, non-comedogenic and sugar-free. This may make it less likely to clog pores and cause breakouts. Protein supplements derived from plant sources such as peas, hemp or brown rice have the potential to mitigate the occurrence of acne.

protein powder
Choose your protein powder wisely. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Read the ingredients carefully

Some protein powders contain additives, preservatives, or artificial flavours that may contribute to skin issues. Hence, it is advisable to refrain from these products. Choose protein supplements with minimal, natural ingredients to minimise the potential for acne-triggering substances.

3. Avoid high glycemic index diets

High glycemic index diets, such as whole wheat bread and cereals, have the potential to spike blood sugar levels, leading to increased insulin production. This can make acne worse. To prevent this, pair your protein powder with low-GI foods like whole grains, vegetables, and healthy fats rather than sugary or processed foods.

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4. Gradually introduce protein supplements into your diet

If you’re new to protein powder, start with a smaller serving and gradually increase it over time. This intervention may help the body adapt to the changes, making the transition smoother. On the other hand, sudden and excessive consumption of protein supplements can stress the body and potentially lead to acne flare-ups.

5. Maintain a good skincare routine

Proper skincare is crucial to preventing acne. Cleanse your face regularly with a mild, non-comedogenic cleanser. Use a moisturizer suitable for your skin type, and consider using products with acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Also, do not forget to exfoliate your skin properly twice a week.

cleanse your skin
Do not ignore your daily skincare routine. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

6. Keep an eye on your skin

Pay attention to your skin’s reaction when you introduce protein powder into your diet. If you notice an increase in acne or skin issues, it may be related to the supplement. Adjust your intake or consider switching to a different brand or type of protein powder.

7. Consult a dermatologist

It is advisable to seek the professional guidance of a dermatologist if one has been experiencing difficulties with acne or other skin-related concerns for a long period of time. A dermatologist can help identify the root cause of your acne and recommend personalized treatments or dietary changes to address it effectively.

Remember, everyone’s body reacts differently, so what works for one may not work for another. If you’re worried about protein powder causing acne, listen to your body and adjust the quantity accordingly. By following these steps and being mindful of how your body reacts, you can enjoy the benefits of protein supplementation without the unwanted side effects of acne.


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