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6 Best Protein Powders for Acne

If you’re a fitness fan, you might already know that most protein powders are a big no-no when it comes to acne-prone skin. Alternatively, you might have stumbled upon this article because you’re trying to find out whether or not your current breakout is being caused by your powder supplement. So, does protein powder cause acne? 

Unfortunately, some protein powders are notorious for triggering acne breakouts. 

Why?

Some protein powders can cause acne because they’re formulated with whey, and whey contains milk proteins. Milk proteins are known to be inflammatory for those of us prone to food-related breakouts (aka, most acne sufferers.) In addition to this, whey has been proven to increase the body’s insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which in turn boosts the hormones that produce testosterone and can potentially trigger nasty acne breakouts. 

So, if you still want to go hard in the gym with the help of a supplement, what’s the best protein powder for acne? 

Protein Powders for Acne: All You Need To Know

If you have acne-prone skin and you’re either using or planning to use protein powders, I’m going to explain everything you need to know about buying an acne-friendly powder supplement. Once I’ve explained what to look out for, I’ve selected 7 of the best protein powders for acne (plant-based, animal-based, budget-friendly and more) for you to take a look at. But first – what’s an acne-friendly protein powder?

Put simply, there are three types of protein powder on the market. Only one of these is truly acne-friendly:

1. Whey protein-based powders

Protein-based powders are typically formulated with whey (casein) and are notorious for causing breakouts and even provoking an increase in IGF-1, leading to nasty hormonal breakouts. In addition, many cheap protein powders are flavored with sugars and artificial sweeteners which are terrible at keeping your insulin levels (and therefore your acne) in check. 

When it comes to acne-friendly protein powders, I’d give whey protein powders a 1/5 .

2. Plant-based powder (typically pea protein)

Another popular type of protein powder is a plant-based powder; this is typically popular with vegans and those following meat-free or dairy-free diets. However, is it acne friendly? Not entirely. The problem with recommending plant-based powders for acne sufferers is that not everyone’s skin can handle the pea protein, which is typically used in most formulas. 

Despite its shortcomings, plant-based protein powder is much better than whey protein and so on the acne-friendly scale I’d give it a 5/10. It’s also a great option if you can’t use animal protein, which I’ll come onto next.

3. Animal-based powder (typically gelatin or collagen-based)

The only truly acne-friendly protein powder that you can find on the market in 2022 is animal-based protein powder. Animal-based protein powders will typically use gelatin or collagen in their formulas, which isn’t going to inflame your acne or cause an increase in your IGF-1.

If you want to truly be assured that the ingredients in your protein powder aren’t going to inflame or trigger an acne breakout, the key is to go with animal-based powders. Don’t forget that you also need to ensure that your powder is free of artificial sugars, sweeteners, and additives in order to be truly acne-friendly. 

However, if you’re a vegan or you refrain from using animal-based products on moral grounds, your second best option is a plant-based protein powder. 

So, that pretty much sums up the basics when it comes to acne-friendly protein powders. Animal-based and plant-based powders should always be prioritized over whey proteins (casein), and you’ll need to make sure that you’re not ingesting artificial flavorings or sweeteners. You should always check the ingredients label on any protein powder, but especially those that come with artificial flavorings like chocolate or vanilla. 

Now – I understand that a lot of what I’m talking about in this post is pretty technical. So, to make things easier, I decided to create a comprehensive list of the best protein powders for acne-prone skin. Each product was personally selected by me and is 100% acne-friendly – I’ve scoured the ingredients lists so you don’t have to. Whether you’re looking for a vegan-friendly option or something cheap, you’ll find a recommendation for you on this list.

How I Reviewed Each Protein Powder 

As I put together this list, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going for a “one-size-fits-all” type recommendation list. While I personally prefer animal-based protein powders when I’m trying to up my efforts at the gym, I’m aware that many of my readers follow vegan or vegetarian diets. So, I’ve listed various categories and given appropriate recommendations accordingly.

I’ve also reviewed each protein powder according to what I consider to be the most important metrics for someone dealing with acne and not wishing to aggravate it further:

  • Does the protein powder contain any ingredients known to aggravate acne or acne-prone skin (coffee, phytic acid, lectins, etc)
  • Does the protein powder contain artificial sweeteners?
  • Is the protein powder laden with sugar or artificial flavorings?
  • Is the protein powder easy to buy and budget-friendly?

Based on the above criteria and my own personal experiences trying these protein powders for myself, I’m recommending what I’ve found to be the best protein powders for acne that you can buy in 2022. I’ve scoured ingredients lists from old tubs sitting in my cupboard, read certified reviews from buyers and analyzed each and every product in comparison with one another so that you can make a confident purchase.

So, whether you’re on a budget, a vegan or simply want the best overall acne-friendly protein powder, I’ve put all the top options below. 

Best Overall Protein Powder For Acne:
Ancient Nutrition – Vanilla Bone Broth Protein Powder

Not only is this protein powder completely clean and dairy-free, but it’s also paleo-friendly, formulated with collagen peptides, and enriched with hyaluronic acid. It also contains glucosamine, which has proven to be beneficial for the skin in helping reduce hyperpigmentation, increase hydration and offers wound healing benefits to boot. This truly is a great alternative to whey proteins and plant-based powders and gives a great nutritional kick to boost. 

GoodGlow Score

4.5 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating
Digestions

Supports Gut Health & Digestion

Bone broth help promote growth of healthy probiotics & gut bacteria.

natural-ingredients

Made With Clean Ingredients

Anceint Nutrition’s bone broth protein powder is sourced with clean, cage-freem non-GMO ingredients.

Good Source of Protein

Ancient Nutrition’s bone broth is packed with 20 grams of protein per serving. This is perfect for a post workout protein shake.

Dairy Free

Dairy is one of the most common acne triggers in the world. Whey protein’s popularity is one of the primary reasons protein powder is associated with acne. Anceint Nutrition’s bone broth is dairy free which greatly reduces the chance of a breakout.

Natural vanilla flavor, xanthan gum, guar gum, stevia leaf extract, luo han guo fruit extract.

When it came to selecting a great all-rounder protein powder for acne-prone skin, the most important thing for me was to recommend an animal-based protein powder with zero – yes, ZERO – artificial sweeteners, sugars, or additives tacked onto the ingredients list. 

One thing to note about Ancient Nutrition’s Bone Broth is that it’s sweetened with stevia. While the subject of stevia might be controversial amongst some acne sufferers, I’ve actually written about the benefits of stevia for acne-prone skin – however, if your skin is highly sensitive to stevia, this protein powder might not be for you. Aside from being stevia-sweetened, this protein powder ticks all the boxes for me when it comes to an acne-friendly supplement. 

Besides, stevia is objectively the best artificial sweetener on the market, and it’s pretty hard to find an unsweetened protein powder that ticks all the other boxes laid out in my criteria. 

Bone Broth by Ancient Nutrition: PROS

  • Dairy-free and soy-free
  • Paleo-friendly
  • Non GMO
  • Stevia-sweetened 
  • Contains hyaluronic acid, collagen peptides and glucosamine

Bone Broth by Ancient Nutrition: CONS

  • Not suitable for vegans, or those who refrain from using or consuming animal products
  • Contains stevia – if your skin is super sensitive to artificial sweeteners, you might not want to use this powder

Best Protein Powder on a Budget For Acne:
PlantVital – Plant Based Chocolate Protein Powder

PlantVital’s protein powder is a plant based protein powder that can be mixed with any liquid. PlantVital contains all the necessary daily antioxidants and is GMO-free. Additionally, PlantVital’s protein powder is sugar free which is perfect for keeping insulin levels in check and preventing acne spikes.

GoodGlow Score

4.1 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating
Vegan

Plant Based

PlantVital’s protein powder is completely vegan. It made up of 18 differennt fruits, vegetables, superfoods, and probiotics.

100% Organic Ingredients

PlantVital’s protein powder is certified 100% organic by the USDA.

Gluten Free

PlantVital’s protein poweder formula is absent of glutent and can be used as part of a strict paleo diet/

Essential Amino Acids

PlantVital contains 9 different essential amino acids in order to promote muscle growth and aid joint repair.

Organic pumpkin seed protein, organic chia seed protein, organic pea protein, organic brown rice protein, organic apple, organic kale, organic broccoli, organic spinach, organic carrot, organic parsley, organic beet, organic green cabbage, organic blueberry, organic raspberry, organic strawberry, organic tomato, organic spirulina, organic cacao, organic monk fruit, organic rice husk & 1 billion CFU probiotics.

If you’re looking for an acne-friendly protein powder, you might find yourself slightly limited when it comes to truly budget-friendly options.

Or so I thought! A friend recently recommended to me Plant Vital’s Plant Based Protein Powder when I was traveling and didn’t want to invest in my usual supplements on the road. While I was initially skeptical about the low price, it was so good that I actually ended up taking it home and using it for a few weeks instead of my regular. Not only was it sugar free and stevia free, it was also completely unflavored – no strange aftertaste! Yay!

While I personally prefer my regular Bone Broth by Ancient Nutrition, Plant Vitals is great if you want to get started with something cheap that still contains a fair amount of nutrients. While it’s not as nutrient-rich as some of the other powders I’ve recommended, it’s formulated with vegan-friendly pea proteins and lots of green antioxidants, and great for the price.

Plant Vital’s Plant Based Protein Powder: PROS

  • Vegan-friendly
  • Lots of greens and antioxidants, great for tackling skin inflammation
  • Great price if you’re a student or on a budget
  • Non-GMO and 100% natural – no strange additives or sweeteners that might trigger a breakout
  • 100% sugar free, so no insulin increase after use

Plant Vital’s Plant Based Protein Powder: CONS

  • Unflavored – I tested the unflavored option, so if you have a hard time drinking protein powders in general, you might struggle with this one and might prefer to mix it in with something like a juice or smoothie. There is also a chocolate version available if you really can’t stomach the natural version.
  • Not as nutrient-rich as the other protein powders I’ve recommended in this list

Best Plant-Based Protein Powder For Acne:
Garden of Life – Organic Vegan Sport Protein Powder, Vanilla – Probiotics

Garden of Life’s protein powder contains absolutely zero animal byproducts – no honey, no eggs, no dairy proteins. It’s also 100% cruelty-free, with zero animal testing being part of their production process.

GoodGlow Score

4.5 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating

Garden of Life uses 100% Organic Ingredients

100% Certified Organic by the USDA

Made Wth Real Fruits & Vegetables

Garden of Life uses organic tumeric, cherries, apples, blueberries, and gogi berries to deliver a tasty and antioxidant packed protein shake

Benefit

Ingredient Callouts

Absolutely 0 soy, gluten, or added sugars

Good Source of Protein

30 Grams of Protein Per Serving

Organic Protein Blend: Organic Pea Protein, Organic Sprouted Brown Rice Protein, Organic Amaranth Sprout, Organic Buckwheat Sprout, Organic Millet Sprout, Organic Cracked Wall Chlorella, Organic Quinoa Sprout, Organic Chia Seed Sprout, Organic Garbanzo Bean Sprout, Organic Lentil Sprout, Organic Adzuki Bean Sprout, Organic Flax Seed Sprout, Organic Sunflower Seed Sprout, Organic Pumpkin Seed Sprout, Organic Sesame Seed Sprout, Organic Flavor Blend: (Organic Vanilla Flavors, Organic Erythritol, Organic Stevia Extract (Leaf), Sea Salt), Organic Guar Gum, Organic Carob Bean Gum, Probiotic & Enzyme Blend: Lipase, Protease, Aspergillopepsin, Beta-Glucanase, Cellulase, Bromelain, Phytase, Lactase, Papain, Peptidase, Pectinase, Hemicellulase, Xylanase, [Lactobacillus Acidophilus La-14, Lactobacillus Plantarum Lp-115, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus Lb-87] (3 Billion CFU).

If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just prefer to refrain from animal products for ethical reasons, you can still use a great acne-friendly protein powder. For our vegan and vegetarian readers, I’d recommend Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder by Garden of Life. This protein powder is extremely antioxidant-rich, featuring a mix of organic tart cherries, organic apples, organic turmeric, organic goji berries, and organic blueberries. 

Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder by Garden of Life: PROS

  • Dairy free and soy free
  • Gluten free, so it’s suitable for those with gluten allergies
  • Organic
  • Vegan-friendly, with no animal byproducts used whatsoever
  • Antioxidant-rich, great for keeping skin inflammation low

Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder by Garden of Life: CONS

  • High fiber: this protein powder reports quite a high fiber content, so it might not be ideal if you suffer from IBS or other digestive or gut health issues. If you’re able to consume animal products, you might prefer to stick with an animal-based powder. 
  • Taste: because this powder isn’t artificially sweetened, you might find it a bit hard to swallow (literally.) 

Best Collagen Protein Powder For Acne:
Earth Echo’s Collagen Peptides

Earth Echo’s protein powder is that it also helps stabilize blood sugar: so it’s not just acne-friendly, but acne-fighting. I’d recommend this if you’re looking for an all-rounder protein powder for skin and health, not just something for the gym or muscle-building.

GoodGlow Score

4.4 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating

Top Source of pure Collagen

Collagen is the ideal protein for anyone with joint pain or those looking to promote hair, nail, and skin growth.

Benefit

Ingredient Callouts

Completely free of soy, gluten, artifical sweetners, corn, dairy, BSE, and TSE

Clinically Proven

No added sugars

Collagen peptides contain no sugars and are flavorless. This makes it the ideal protein powder for anyone trying to manage their blood sugar levels.

Low Calorie Protein Powder

Earth Echo’s collagen protein powder only contains 70 calories per serving. This makes it a great chocie for those who are not looking to get “bulky”

Collagen

If you’re looking for a collagen-based protein powder for acne-prone skin, I highly recommend Collagen Peptides by Earth Echo Foods. This protein powder contains zero artificial flavoring, is 100% dairy free and gluten-free and contains 17g of clean protein in every serving. Because it’s made with collagen peptides, it also comes with a range of beauty benefits, including healthy hair, strong nails and more youthful skin. When using this powder, I did notice that my acne scars seemed less prominent and my skin a lot brighter than usual, but I’ll need to keep using it to see if these results continue.

One thing I love about

Collagen Peptides by Earth Echo Foods: PROS

  • Dairy-free and soy-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Stabilizes blood sugar levels, preventing any insulin increases
  • Offers beauty and skin benefits

Collagen Peptides by Earth Echo Foods: CONS

  • Doesn’t contain as many antioxidants as the Plant Vitals or Garden of Life protein powder
  • One of my more expensive recommendations, although there is a Subscribe and Save option

Best Pea Protein For Acne:
Naked Life – Pea Protein Isolate from North American Farms

This powder is made up of just one ingredient: pea protein. So, if you’re on the fence about trying a plant-based protein powder and you want to see how your skin reacts when taking it, this is the powder to try. In addition to being completely free of any extra ingredients, it’s also non-GMO, gluten free and sweetener-free.

GoodGlow Score

4.2 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating

Good Source of Protein

27 Grams of Protein Per Serving

Vegan

100% Vegan

Naked Life’s protein powder is 100% certified vegan by the USDA.

Essential Amino Acids

Contains 5.7 grams of BCAA (branch chain amino acids).

Gluten Free

Pea isolate is 100% gluten free

rice protein, pea protein, and organic maltodextrin

If you’re not keen on animal-based protein powders, this Naked Pea protein powder is a great alternative. While my skin can’t really handle pea protein, it’s really just a question of luck – if you want to stick to plant-based powders in the future, I’d highly recommend first trying out this and seeing how your skin reacts to the protein.

Naked Pea Protein Powder: PROS

  • Great for testing out if your skin can handle pea protein (and therefore most other plant-based protein powders)
  • Vegan-friendly and non-GMO
  • 100% dairy free and soy free
  • No lactose

Naked Pea Protein Powder: CONS

  • Just one ingredient – you might find it ineffective if you’re looking for an all-rounder product such as the Collagen Peptides.
  • If you have acne-prone skin, your skin might be unable to tolerate the protein

Best Protein Bar For Acne:
Larabar – Blueberry Muffin Protein Bar (Gluten Free)

Blueberry muffin Larabars are made with just 6 natural ingredients, so you’re not dealing with a long list of artificial sugars or sweeteners. My favorite has to be the blueberry muffin flavor, but you can pick from plenty of variations. Again, NO peanut or peanut butter flavors.

GoodGlow Score

4.5 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating
Benefit

Ingredient Callouts

Larabars are free of gluten, dairy, and soy.

Travel Friendly

Larabars do not need to be mixed in any type of liquid or refrigerated. They can be eaten as a healthy snack on the go.

Vegan

100% Vegan

Larabars are 100% vegan and do not contain any animal byproducts.

Nut Free

Blueberry muffin Larabars do not contain any nuts, which make it the ideal snack for anyone with a nut allergy.

CASHEWS, DATES, APPLES, BLUEBERRIES, VANILLA EXTRACT.

Picking acne-friendly protein bars can be a real challenge, as so many of them are marketed to appeal to your taste buds, not your skincare routine or actual health. Whatever you do when choosing a protein bar, AVOID those with peanuts or peanut-butter-based protein bars. Just, trust me on this one. 

My pick for the best acne-friendly protein bar has to be Larabars.

Larabars: PROS

  • Each bar comes with just 6 ingredients, so you don’t need to worry about ingesting strange additives or artificial sugars
  • Vegan-friendly and gluten-free
  • Lots of flavors – great if you have allergies or certain food intolerances
  • Dairy-free, so no need to worry about hidden milk proteins

Larabars: CONS

  • Taste can be quite particular – it might take you a moment to get used to it
  • A little on the pricey side

Frequently Asked Questions

Does whey protein trigger acne breakout?

Yes, whey protein can trigger acne breakouts due to its IGF-1 factor.

Is plant-based protein better for acne?

Just because a protein is plant-based does not mean it is necessarily “good for acne.” You need to look at all the ingredients to make a decision if a protein powder will trigger any type of inflammation in the skin. However, plant-based proteins typically do not contain dairy, which is the primary acne trigger in most protein powders.

Need more help? Ask our team!

I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their acne naturally. If you cannot easily find an answer to your question on the website, please reach out to me by email ([email protected]) or send me a message on Instagram or Twitter. I will reply within 24 hours.

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood

Hi I’m Sam Wood. I’m the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach behind GoodGlow. I’m also an author of one of the top selling acne books on Amazon, a husband, father of two, and a pretty good cook! I’m so glad you found GoodGlow and hope the information I have spent the last 10 years cultivating will help you clear your skin and improve your overall health. I began experiencing acne breakotus as a sophomore in high school, but unlike most of my friends, my acne actually got worse as I got into my 20s. I exercised regularly, ate healthy (or so I thought) and spent hundreds of dollars a month on high end skincare products and supplements to help clear my skin. Despite these measures my acne breakouts and scarring only got worse as the years wore on. This greatly wore on my self confidence and mental health. Simple things like taking pictures or going out with a large group made me feel self conscious. So I avoided these situations whenever I could help it. As a last ditch effort I decided to try an extremely restrictive diet recommended by a close friend with an autoimmune disease. After following this diet for about two months my skin started to clear for the first time in over 8 years. The good news is that this restrictive diet is not actually necessary for 99% of people to permanently clear their skin, and over the course of a few months I was able to add back about 90% of my “normal diet”. After clearing my skin I spent the next 4 years self experimenting on myself with different diets, supplements, skincare products to try and find a pattern for what was triggering my acne breakouts. I even tried different meditation, ice baths, and accupuncture to try and isolate the root cause of the breakouts. In the end I realized that an extremely restrictive diet was not necessary for clear skin. The most important thing to do is to avoid inflammatory foods in your diet. Some common examples of this are fried foods, alcohol, sugar, and dairy. Most impoirtantly I stopped reading trendy websites for skincare advice and began reading medical journals authored by dermatologists and nutritionists. Although the information in the articles was great the information was not easily understandable to most readers (including me). I spent hours dissecting individual posts and looking up terms I did not understand. Over the next 6 months I gradually began to understand these journals and started self experiemting some of the research on myself. After experiencing quite a bit of success personally, I started sharing my research on forums and with close friends struggling with acne. When I shared the research it was in easy to understand, plain English. Everyone I talked to loved what I had to say and kept asking more and more questions. So I decided to start a blog so I could just send someone a link when they asked a question instead of rewriting something I had sent 100 times before 😅 While the same directional principles apply to everyone, acne is very personal and should be treated on an individual basis. That’s ultimately why I created GoodGlow. To help everyone reverse engineer the root cause of their acne and clear their skin permanently. To date I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their skin using a natural, holistic approach. If you are unable to find an answer to your question in any of the articles my team has written please reach out and I will do my best to guide you to the proper information and resources so you can make a thoughtful, informed decision. Read more of Sam's articles.


1 thought on “6 Best Protein Powders for Acne”

  1. Can we have an updated list for protein bars suitable for acne prone skin? I cannot access the Larabar on Amazon from UK.

    Reply

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