Does Being Vegan Help Your Skin and Hair?

7 min reading time

Does Being Vegan Help Your Skin and Hair?

Some common skin problems that my clients experience include acne, wrinkles, dry skin, and oily skin. Similarly, dandruff, thinning, and breakage are the common issues with hair. You are not alone if you relate.

Truth is, if you supply your skin and hair with the nutrients they need to thrive, you can likely solve your health problems.

But can a plant-based diet really transform your skin?

I am a Registered Dietitian and here’s everything you need to know about the vegan diet and skin & hair health.


Does being vegan help your skin?

Acne is one of the most prevalent skin conditions in the Western world. In Canada, it affects more than 5 million people, and the numbers are consistently going up. Adult acne is also becoming increasingly common. 

The vegan diet is associated with many health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. In addition to these, being vegan can also help your skin.

Some of the common triggers of skin problems include whey, cow’s milk, and fish. The vegan diet confers an advantage for skin health because it does not include these products.

Other common triggers are sweets, processed foods, artificially flavoured beverages, and fried foods. Avoiding these foods and instead filling the diet with whole grains, healthy fats, fruits and veggies, and good quality protein sources is key for healthy vegan skin.


5 vegan foods for healthy skin

Many vegan diet foods are beneficial to skin health:


1. Soy foods, like tofu, soy milk, and tempeh, are excellent sources of protein, iron, and zinc, but are also rich in isoflavones which protect the skin.


2. Other vegan foods for healthy skin are foods that provide omega-3s. The best vegan sources of omega 3 are hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds. To maximize the vegan skin benefits, ensure that your daily diet includes these or take a 250-500mg daily supplement.


3. Fruits help keep skin clear because of their high antioxidant, vitamin, and phytochemical content. Including a variety of colourful fruits supports vegan skin health.


4. Carotenoids have been shown to give the skin a warm, healthy glow. Carotenoids are found in yellow, orange, red, and green vegetables.


5. Water is an important cleanser within the body. Drinking at least 6-8 cups of water each day promotes skin health. A vegan diet and a combination of adequate water intake supports skin elasticity.

Troubleshooting common vegan skin problems:

Vegan acne

It is possible that even after making all these dietary changes, your vegan skin is still not where you want it to be.

Acne flare-ups can be caused by many factors.

Makeup and hair care products can clog pores. When shopping, look for vegan acne-friendly terms on labels such as ‘oil-free’ or ‘non-comedogenic’. Aim to wash your face twice per day with a gentle cleanser. Keep the skin dry otherwise.

For all you athletes out there, pressure due to a sports helmet, headband, bra strap, and other tight clothing can lead to acne developing at the point of skin contact.

Sweat can also worsen acne in some people, especially if trapped under damp clothing. If possible, aim to shower or wash the skin immediately after finishing a workout.

Finally, many women notice that their acne flares up near their monthly period.

Vegan skin problems can be so frustrating! Ultimately, narrowing down the root cause of your vegan acne will help you manage your skin better.

Vegan diet and skin elasticity

The main components that provide elasticity to skin are elastin and collagen. Collagen is a fibrous protein found in the connective tissues of animals (normally cows or fish).

Scientists have discovered a way to make vegan collagen from genetically modified yeast and bacteria. However, vegan collagen is quite hard to come by. 

However, if you’re on a vegan diet, there are foods and supplements you can take to boost your body’s ability to naturally produce more collagen and therefore support skin elasticity.

Collagen “boosters” stimulate collagen production in the body. These supplements contain various vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, zinc, and copper that the body needs to make collagen.

Beans, oranges, red and green peppers, broccoli, whole grains, and nuts are some examples of vegan foods that can boost collagen production.

Wearing sunscreen daily can also stop UV rays from the sun from breaking down the collagen in your skin.

Does going vegan affect hair?

Eating a balanced, healthy vegan diet can have hair benefits. However, it’s important to avoid nutrient deficiencies.

The main nutrients to consider include vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, omega-3, biotin, iodine, vitamin E, protein, and zinc.

Vitamin B12

Vegan sources of vitamin B12 include fortified cereals, fortified plant milks, and nutritional yeast. 

However, to obtain adequate Vitamin B12, I suggest that all vegans should consider taking a daily B12 supplement of 25mcg, or taking a 2,000 to 2,500mcg B12 supplement twice a week.

Vitamin D

For vegans that live in Canada, I suggest taking a 1,000-2,000 IU vitamin D supplement during the winter months (October-April) for optimal health as sunlight exposure will not be enough to meet your vitamin D needs.


Iron deficiency often leads to hair loss.

Good dietary sources of iron are beans, lentils, fortified cereals, dark chocolate, and molasses. 

For some context on how much iron we need, vegan and vegetarian women aged 19-50 need 32.4mg of iron daily. Plant-based eaters need 1.8 times more iron than non-vegetarians!

One cup of chickpeas contains 12 grams of iron and one cup of boiled lentils contains 6 grams iron. For an adult woman to obtain enough iron from these legumes, she would need to eat almost 3 cups of chickpeas or 5 cups of boiled lentils per day. 

An iron supplement or iron as part of a multivitamin-mineral supplement can be a valuable addition to any diet that may be somewhat low in iron.

Other vegan hair nutrients

Other nutrients for vegan hair (like omega-3, biotin, iodine, vitamin E, protein, and zinc) can typically be obtained through foods with a balanced vegan diet without the need for supplementation.

See a Registered Dietitian if you are struggling with vegan hair problems.


Can going vegan cause hair loss?

Rapid weight loss and nutrient deficiency are the two of the main causes of hair loss.

You might notice some weight loss when transitioning from an animal-based diet to a plant-based diet. To prevent further weight loss, include nutrient-dense foods like avocado, nuts, and seeds, which are also high in healthy fats. 

The most important thing you can focus on to avoid vegan hair loss is eating a well-balanced diet.

Positive hair benefits of going vegan

Many of my clients have found that their hair became shinier, thicker, and healthier-looking after going vegan. This is unsurprising due to the dramatic increase in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in the diet.

What about veganism and nails?

Many people report having stronger and healthier nails after adopting the vegan diet.

To have stronger nails as a vegan, include foods rich in silica, like millet, leafy greens, alfalfa, and radishes. Silica helps deliver nutrients to your nails.

Similarly to hair growth, biotin and omega-3 can also promote strong vegan nail growth.

Vitamins for vegan hair, skin, and nails health

As mentioned above, below are some of the important vitamins and minerals for vegan hair, skin, and nails health:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B12
  • Biotin
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Iron

Does being vegan help your skin and hair?

Whether a diet can help clear the skin and support healthy hair is all down to the type of foods you eat.

An unhealthy vegan diet, while beneficial for the animals and the environment, could still be high in processed foods. French fries, for example, are vegan, but they’re also deep-fried which can trigger vegan skin problems.

Whole, plant-based foods might help you along in your journey to clearer vegan skin and strong vegan hair.

For more information and tips on following a whole food plant-based diet, see here.