If you’re Asian or live somewhere in Asia, chances are, you’re regularly eating soy in some form or other: Soy milk in the morning, snacking on edamame, or seasoning with soy sauce…

Photo by Curtis Thornton

If you believe in traditional Chinese folklore, it was said that women working in the tofu industry had the most beautiful skin, soft and radiant. In every fairy tale and folklore, there is a grain of truth. Just look at the people in Asia. They’ve eaten plenty of soy for centuries – which could be a reason why they often look younger than their actual age.

Soybean even has a place in Traditional Chinese Medicine where it’s used for skin and general health. Current research suggests that eating soy foods and applying skin care containing soy can help keep the years creeping up on you.

A little bit of history

The soybean with its scientific name glycine max is a legume species found in East Asia. It belongs to the pea or Fabaceae family. Of course, now it’s grown also in countries such as US and Brazil. It’s considered to be the most important bean in the world – economically that is.

It has been an essential crop for thousands of years. It’s been made in all kinds of foods such as tofu, soybean paste, natto, or tempeh.

Soybeans are usually grown in 2 varieties: yellow and black. They’re a rich source of protein which is one of the reasons why they’ve made the jump from a traditional Asien staple to a modern vegetarian diet. They’re also a good source of unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins B and E, fiber, iron, calcium, zinc, and other bioactive compounds like isoflavones. This makes them very good for general human health.

While soy was always essential for food and medicinal purposes, in recent years, it has also become a valuable ingredient for the beauty industry. Its nutritional profile that makes it a rich dietary ingredient is just as beneficial to the renewal and build-up of healthy skin.

4 reasons to add so to your diet and skin care

Doing something as simple as having soy milk for breakfast every day may provide skin benefits. It has been linked with reducing the visible effects of skin ageing. Both nonfermented and fermented soybean is beneficial with a wide range of possible effects.


It’s been said that you don’t really notice wrinkles in Asians until the age of 50. Moreover, the extension of drinking is not as pronounced as in Caucasian people.

With age, the levels of collagen and elastin decline. Both proteins are important for form and taut skin. Just by increasing your intake of soy foods help slow down the loss of elasticity.

Recent studies attribute this effect to 3 key elements: amino acids, fibre, and isoflavones. Soybeans contain all the necessary amino acids to support protein building in the body. Amino acids are the building blocks for the body to build proteins, such as collagen and elastin.

When you eat sugary foods the sugar damages your skin through a natural process called glycation. The fibres regulate and help maintain normal blood sugar levels, proven to have a positive impact on skin health.

Lastly, soy contains antioxidant compounds known as isoflavones, which ward off skin-damaging free radicals.

All in all, soybeans can help maintain the elasticity of your skin and improve its texture. The amino acids boost both collagen and elastin, helping to smooth lines, keep pores clear, and reduce puffiness.

Since soy also contains vitamin E, it’s valuable for your skin in many ways. Firstly, it provides antioxidant and environmental protection for your skin. But vitamin E is also vital in the production of new skin cells.


The antioxidants not only combat damage from free radicals but also stimulate autophagy. That’s a very high level way of saying how your skin removes protein debris. In one word: exfoliation. Therefore, soy is often part of the formulation for skin-brightening creams and lotions.

Evening out skin tone

If you have patches of darker skin and blotchiness (hyperpigmentation), using skin care with soy can help even out skin tone. It stops the melanin (the skin pigments) from clinging to skin cells.

However, it seems to work best with hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage or by a response to inflammation, injury, or irritation. It doesn’t work for melasma. It also works best when it has a longer contact time. This means, using a cleanser with soy is less effective, since washing your face is a quick even and soy doesn’t have enough time to be absorbed by the skin.


Another factor for young-looking skin is when it’s well moisturised and hydrated. This helps the skin maintain its elasticity and it also diminishes the appearance of fine lines.

Soy is a popular moisturising ingredient in skin care products. It contains linoleic acid or omega 6, a polyunsaturated fatty acid. It’s an essential fatty acid that our bodies can’t produce. Omega 6 in skin care products helps strengthen the skin barrier as well as soften and smoothen skin.

For combination skin types, moisturisers with soy may look particularly appealing. Soy can provide moisture for dry areas while at the same time decreasing shine and oiliness in others.


Although soy was and is a staple in Asia, offering many benefits, it’s not without controversy. Some even believe it should be avoided.

Perhaps the most evident is if you are allergic to soy, then you should avoid products of all sorts containing it.

Most concerns are about the isoflavones contained in soy. Even if isoflavones may have a long list of benefits for your skin and hair health, they’re so-called phytoestrogens. They act similar to the female hormone oestrogen and thus may be a concern.

So, if you want to avoid phytoestrogens at all costs in your skin care, you should add soy to your avoid list. If you’re cautious about isoflavones but still want to try soy, this might help:

  • It’s the soybean protein that contains the isoflavones
  • Soybean oil contains no isoflavones
  • Some products may contain soy lecithin, which has tiny to no amount of isoflavones


The use of soybeans in skin care products is getting more and more popular. To provide moisture retention and collagen repair, soybean extracts, soybean oil, and soybean protein are often used as important regenerative and anti-aging ingredients.

If you want to try applying a soy product, go with a a non-gmo or organic-based ingredient.

Do you have a question or a comment? Drop me a line in the comments.

SaveEdible Skin Care: Get Skin Soft As Tofu for later

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