Can Meal Replacement Shakes Cause Acne?

Can Meal Replacement Shakes Cause Acne

You’re working out, getting healthy, and making powerful food choices meant to increase your health, including drinking meal replacement shakes. However, then, you notice your face is starting to look like a pizza with new acne popping up everywhere. What is happening?

Meal replacement shakes can cause acne if you are sensitive to whey protein. Dairy is one of the common allergens that trigger an immune response, along with soy and hydrogenated fats. While soy can increase estrogen, whey protein can stimulate the growth hormone responsible for new skin cells.

If acne shows up every time you drink meal replacement shakes, read on before giving up on them for good. You will learn what to use and what to avoid in your shakes.

What Meal Replacement Ingredients Normally Cause Acne?

Acne comes from different sources but can be traced to one body process: an increase of insulin-like growth factor 1 or IGF-1. This hormone is responsible for growth spurts in children and animals like calves, and it is responsible for acne breakouts in adolescents.

Protein, and the amino acids that form protein, is responsible for building muscles, repairing microtears, and keeping everything working well. However, when there is more protein than what your body can handle, the excess protein can create inflammation or clog pores with oil.

While this doesn’t happen as much with protein from whole food sources like beef, as it is difficult to overeat before getting too full, it happens more with protein or meal replacement shakes.

Whey protein triggers more acne than other protein sources due to the bovine growth hormone, making calves grow very quickly.

Added sugars can also trigger the IGF-1 hormone and create inflammation in your body. Inflammation is responsible for many issues, such as:

  • Acne
  • Heart disease
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Allergies

When you’re breaking out, evaluate what you’re eating, as nutrition plays a large role in your health.

Sugars, hydrogenated oils, dairy, and soy often are responsible for inflammation and acne, and if you’re drinking meal replacement shakes with those ingredients, you may want to find an alternative shake.

Alternative shake ingredients that could be better for you include the following ingredients:

  • Egg white protein
  • Pea and rice protein
  • Coconut or macadamia nut oil
  • Stevia or monk fruit extracts

What Are Common Allergens That Cause Acne?

Most acne is caused by an overabundance of keratin, sebum, and bacteria that causes acne, but what are the allergens that trigger this overabundance? Remember that allergies can be life-threatening, while sensitivities show up in other ways like acne.

Sugar and Refined Grains

A diet high in refined grains and sugar can often increase acne due to how much it spikes your insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is activated when you eat protein or carbohydrates, so it can process the food you eat and convert your food into either glucose for immediate energy or fat for future storage.

Refined grains, starches, and sugars raise your insulin higher than lower-carb vegetables and protein. As mentioned earlier, insulin is responsible for the growth hormone that triggers growth spurts in children and adolescents. Too much of this hormone can produce more oil in the skin that can clog pores.


As with refined grains and sugar, dairy in the form of whey protein can trigger the IGF-1 hormone, especially if you consume more protein than is necessary for your weight.

On average, 0.35 to 0.50 grams (0.01 to 0.2 oz) of protein per pound of body weight per day is sufficient for your needs. If you weigh 200 pounds (90.7 kgs), you will need 70 to 100 grams (2.5 to 3.5 oz) of protein per day. More than that and your body tries to figure out what to do with the excess.

Most of the time, your body turns it into fat or clogs your pores with oil.

Dairy can also trigger an allergic response in which acne is only one symptom. If you think you have a dairy allergy, try using a non-dairy meal replacement shake with pea protein.


Chocolate gets a bad reputation for causing acne, but most people don’t realize that it could be the sugar or dairy in the chocolate that causes acne. Even though this has been suspected since the 1920s, none of the research supports the theory that it is the cacao bean that causes acne.

However, other studies completed with dark chocolate and cocoa powder showed that people developed acne lesions over those with placebos.

If you are unsure if that is your acne’s cause, try scaling back on anything with cocoa powder or chocolate in it, including meal replacement shakes.

Hydrogenated Oils

Corn and soy oils, shortening, and margarine contain omega-6 fatty acids, known to cause inflammation and acne. These oils are found in many items containing refined grains and sugar like cookies, cakes, and fast food. An imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, with more omega-6, can cause inflammation and other problems.

Soy and Soy Derivatives

Soy or soy derivatives have phytoestrogens that, while they are similar to the estrogen hormone, it is different enough to cause problems in your skin that the real hormone does not.

Acne forms when there are too many phytoestrogens fighting for space with estrogen, so they end up acting like androgens—the male precursor to testosterone.

When people cannot consume dairy products, they often switch to soy milk or soy protein in their meal replacement shakes, but that can trigger an acne breakout if you have a shake with soy protein.

Types of Meal Replacement Shake Ingredients to Use to Avoid Acne

Based on what you’ve learned so far about what causes acne, you should be able to figure out what types of meal replacement shakes will help you avoid acne breakouts.

Whey protein, if you are sensitive to that form of protein, should not be in the meal replacement shake you choose. Instead, try to find one with pea and brown rice protein.

Here are some other alternative ingredients that are shown not to cause acne:

  • Natural fats like avocado, olive, or coconut oil
  • Pea, rice, or egg white protein
  • Stevia or Monk fruit extracts
  • Low carb super greens or fruits, like leafy greens and berries
  • Natural flavors and colors
  • Non-GMO ingredients

Several meal replacement shakes on the market contain hydrogenated oils, sugars, and whey protein, which are not exactly helpful when trying to clear up acne.

When to Avoid Meal Replacement Shakes

If you’re currently having an acne breakout, stop consuming meal replacements immediately until your skin starts clearing up to see if your shakes are causing your acne.

However, if your skin is not clearing up even after you’ve stopped having meal replacement shakes, it could be due to other factors like the rest of your diet or stress from the rest of your life.

Avoid meal replacement shakes when you think that any of the ingredients could be responsible for any allergic reactions or breakouts.


Meal replacement shakes can cause acne when they have certain ingredients known to cause acne. Nutrition is related to acne breakouts, and if you don’t have a well-balanced diet, your body will react with blemishes and rashes.

If you’re unsure if what you’re eating causes breakouts, try an elimination diet to remove all of the common allergens for a week. You can even try detoxifying your body with this 3 Day Cleanse.

Then, add one item back to your diet at a time and evaluate how you feel. When you find the one ingredient that causes acne, remove that from your diet.

You might be surprised how much better you feel.

Our Top Recommended Meal Replacement Shakes




Beachbody Shakeology


Shakeology is our most recommended meal replacement shake because it's a nutrient dense shake that includes:

  • Protein
  • Digestive Enzymes
  • Prebiotics & Probiotics
  • Adaptogens
  • Superfoods
  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamins & Minerals
  • Omega-3 From ALA

Thus, making it perfect for weight loss, increased energy, digestive health, reduced cravings, and overall better health.

Plus, Shakeology has stood the test of time as it has been around since 2009 without compromising its whole food ingredients. Instead, Shakeology has improved their flavors in taste and potency, and has even added vegan and gluten free options.

Learn More About The Clinically Tested Shakeology Shake Here


Ample Meal

Ample Meal

Ample Meal is an interesting meal replacement as it focuses more on healthy fats. Ample Meal includes:

  • Healthy Fats with Coconut & Macadamia Nut Oil
  • Prebiotics & Probiotics
  • Antioxidants
  • Electrolytes

With Ample Meal, you can get a nice fulling 400 calorie meal with 2 scoops or do a single scoop of 200 calories if your goal is weight loss. Similar to Shakeology, it’s free of all the artificial junk that most meal replacement shakes have today.

Learn More About Ample Meal Here


Macro Meal


MacroMeal is another interesting meal replacement shake as it contains a blend of fast, medium, and slow digesting protein that delivers sustained energy. MacoMeal also includes the following core ingredients:

  • Coconut Oil Powder
  • Antioxidants
  • Probiotics
  • Multivitamins & Minerals

Although not technically a meal replacement as it’s low in carbohydrates, people have found it to be filling because of the MCT oils and slow digesting proteins.

Learn More About MacroMeal Here



Before using meal replacement shakes and exercising, I was obese and on track to having high blood pressure at the age of 25. I'm glad to say I lost 50 pounds and am living a healthier lifestyle than before. Now I like sharing what I learned when I first researched what meal replacement to drink and the best way to lose weight. Learn more about me here...

Recent Posts