Veganism's Surprising Skin Effects

The meat-and-dairy-free regimen may compromise your complexion.

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It’s a Friday afternoon in New York City and slim, black-clad beauties are three-deep waiting for facials at Joanna Vargas Skincare. Some will need more work than others — but not for the reason you may think. Genetics and age aside, the condition of your skin often comes down to nutrition. “Being a vegan can be aging,” says Vargas. “I see 27-year-old vegans who don’t have good elasticity. There’s no snap-back to their skin tone because they’re not getting enough protein.” 

The fibers that help give skin its ‘snap-back’ resilience, collagen and elastin, are made up of protein, so it makes sense that when you cut eggs, dairy, fish, and meat from your diet you can see the deficiency staring you in the face. “A lot of people eliminate meat and animal products in an effort to be healthier, but you really have to know how to eat right to make being a vegan work for you,” says Susan Blum, MD, MPH, a functional medicine specialist. While mineral deficiencies may also add up to acne, skimping on essential fatty acids and B vitamins can sap radiance, warns Vargas. The good news is that committed vegans can still put their best face forward. Here’s how: