From tofu to milk, soy has become a hot ingredient in recent years—and not just in the dairy aisle. Skin-care companies often include soy in products such as face washes and creams. Usually targeted toward people with sensitive skin, soy cleansers tend to be gentler than other face washes. But can soy really help your skin?
"Soy is a terrific ingredient," says Francesca Fusco, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai School in New York City. "It helps even out skin tone by fading dark spots, and it inhibits enzymes that can break down collagen and elastic fibers." It's also known to brighten skin, decrease redness, and boost collagen production [Source: WebMD (Jaliman)]. "Soy is great for patients who have a sensitivity like rosacea or pigmentation," says Leslie Baumann, a Miami-based dermatologist.
The active ingredients in soy are called isoflavones [Source: WebMD (Soy overview info)]. When looking for soy on a product's ingredients list, keep in mind that it could go by a variety of names other than "soy," such as soy- isoflavone and genistein, which is the most frequent isoflavone used in skin-brightening creams and lotions [Source: WebMD (Jaliman)].
Soy compounds even skin tone by stopping melanin pigments from clinging to skin cells [Source: WebMD (Jaliman)]. However, the ingredient is most effective when used in lotions or creams (rather than face wash). "Soy works best when it has a longer contact time, and since face washing is a quick event, the ingredients don't have enough time to be absorbed by the skin," explains Fusco.
Some people are extremely allergic to soy and should not use anything containing a soy-derived ingredient (unless otherwise advised by their doctor), warns Fusco. If you're allergic to soy, try products containing retinols, which can also improve dark spots and may yield even better results [Source: WebMD (Jaliman)].