Skin Deep

Has your vegan diet made your skin dry? Try these plant-based sources for smoother skin

Eating a plant-based diet may lead to dry skin if you are not adding certain foods to your diet.
Eating a plant-based diet may lead to dry skin if you are not adding certain foods to your diet. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Do vegetarian and vegan diets cause dry skin?

In my practice, I have noticed that many vegan patients tend to have dry skin. While more research is needed to confirm a link between non-meat diets and dry skin or eczema, the connection makes sense. Fatty acids play a vital role in keeping your skin hydrated, and vegan and vegetarian diets typically contain less fats and cholesterol than omnivorous diets.

This doesn’t mean that you need to start eating meat, though. Here’s what you need to know about fatty acids and your skin and how you can add more of these nutrients to your plant-based diet.

Fatty acids and your skin

Your skin has a natural protective barrier that is made up of equal parts fatty acids, ceramides, and cholesterol. This barrier helps to keep moisture sealed inside your skin, while also keeping harmful particles and bacteria out.

Because many of the largest dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids and cholesterol come from animal-derived foods like salmon, sardines, oysters, fish oil, eggs, and cheese, vegetarians and vegans may not be getting enough of these nutrients through their diet. This deficiency could lead to dry skin or flare-ups of eczema.

Plant-based sources of fatty acids

Fortunately, there are plenty of plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids that you can pile on your plate for smoother, softer skin.

These include: nuts, peanuts, olives, avocados, chia seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, seaweeds, algae like spirulina and oils such as olive, sunflower, safflower or argan.

Do vegans need a barrier repair moisturizer?

Many people with dry skin can benefit from using a barrier repair moisturizer like Zerafite, including both meat-eaters and non-meat-eaters.

If you notice that your skin has become drier after adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet, talk with a board-certified dermatologist about the right barrier repair moisturizer to add to your regimen. Look for a product that contains a 1:1:1 ratio of fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides, which mimics the makeup of the skin’s natural barrier.

Dry skin types should also avoid foaming cleansers and body washes, which can strip lipids from the skin.


Both the foods you eat and the ingredients you apply topically to your skin have a considerable impact on your skin’s health and appearance. In addition to using the right skin care products, vegans and vegetarians can add healthy foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids to their diets to help combat dry, itchy skin.

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