The Clear Skin Diet

The Six-Week Program for Beautiful Skin: Foreword by John McDougall MD


By Nina Nelson

By Randa Nelson

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“A serious and important contribution to the whole food, plant-based world. . . Not infrequently I get asked about this diet for skin conditions-now I have a great reference to pass on to people.”- T. Colin Campbell, co-author of The China Study

From YouTube stars Nina and Randa Nelson comes the doctor-approved, clinically-tested, low-fat vegan diet that will instantly and dramatically transform your skin.

Over $3 billion dollars is spent treating acne every year. But YouTube celebrities Nina and Randa Nelson have found a solution that is easy, affordable, and as close as your local grocery store.

Based on solid nutritional science, vetted by top nutrition experts, and proven by the authors’ experiences and now so many others, The Clear Skin Diet will help you clear your skin for good. This is it: a six-week plan to take control of skin issues using the simple principles of a low-fat vegan diet, foods such as potatoes, pasta, rice, corn, beans, oatmeal and whole grains. Complete with detailed grocery lists, simple meal prep strategies, and delicious recipes using affordable, familiar ingredients, The Clear Skin Diet is an accessible guide to curing acne that will give readers, whether 13 or 43 years old, the confidence to start living life again.


Special Note to Reader

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts because of your acne, you need to seek professional help right away. We know you are really hurting, and you should talk to someone to help you get better. And you can get better, trust us on this.

This book is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in all matters relating to his or her health, and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.

Dear Reader

We are so happy you decided to check out our book!

If you’re one of those people who wants to skip ahead to see just how well this diet heals acne, then turn to the center of this book and look at the full-color before and after photos. We think you’ll be inspired when you meet people who have embraced the Clear Skin Diet and finally were able to get control of their skin.

Following this diet and healing our acne allowed us to continue our careers as commercial actors, YouTubers, and social media personalities. Our personal lives improved as our confidence was restored. The diet and lifestyle changes detailed in this book cleared our faces and have kept them clear for over three years—and brightened our outlook on life.

When you follow the Clear Skin Diet, you will:

Halt new acne breakouts and start to heal your skin

Enjoy having a sense of personal power when you gain control of your skin

Improve your self-confidence and self-esteem

Lose weight (unless you don’t wish to)

Improve your cardiovascular health

Have fun learning how to make smart and delicious food choices

Feel fantastic

The Clear Skin Diet is easy to learn and implement. You feast on the healthiest foods nature has to offer—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes—while you heal your skin. The foods we recommend don’t just decrease inflammation, they are also incredibly delicious. To make your transition as easy as possible, we have included many easy recipes that will leave you not just smiling but also healthy and satisfied. Beyond the food, we’ve shared all our tips to develop a skin-positive face care routine and a clear skin environment.

We created the Clear Skin Diet for the many people on our various social media platforms who witnessed our transformation and who wanted to be acne-free too. For this book, we consulted several well-respected medical and dietary experts to ensure that this program is both nutritionally and medically sound. We’ve worked to keep the cost of food affordable and familiar, and to minimize meal prep time—while still providing delicious results. Our top goal was to create a routine that is attainable for each and every person battling acne—whether they are thirteen or forty-three.

Is the Clear Skin Diet difficult? Well, when you are regularly bombarded with advertising for junky food, or pressured by skeptical peers or family who insist that “one little bite of this or that won’t hurt,” it may not always be easy. But rest assured, you are going to be OK, and you’ll actually enjoy the food. Most of all, you’re going to love your new and improved skin. And who cares what other people think about how you eat? It’s cool to be different.

We also want to invite you to visit us online at There you will discover additional inspiring stories and photos, special video content, and a skin-care ingredients checker. Perhaps most importantly, you can interact with many other people who are successfully doing the program!

So jump in with both feet and make a commitment to yourself. You’re on your way to freeing yourself from acne. And this kind of freedom is one you will definitely enjoy!


I am excited and honored to have been asked to write the foreword for The Clear Skin Diet. Excited because I believe this book has the potential to end the acne epidemic as we know it; honored, because I have known Nina and Randa Nelson since they were very young children, and understand how passionate they are about assisting those who are suffering unnecessarily with this physically and psychologically painful disease.

I’ve had the opportunity over the last two decades to watch Nina and Randa grow from highly energetic, curious kids to the intelligent and influential young women they are today. Their personal transformation has already inspired thousands of people on social media, and now they are on the brink of helping millions of people around the world heal their skin and recover their self-esteem.

As someone who has been practicing medicine for over thirty-three years, I have personally witnessed the tragic health consequences of the typical western diet: diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer—and acne. These are all diseases which negatively impact the quality of a person’s life, not to mention their mortality. I have unfortunately had to do my share of prescribing the usual pharmacological suspects. But pills don’t really cure, they just mask symptoms. What I discovered during my years of practice is that there is only one thing which consistently heals and cures my patients: changing their diets.

And this is where the miracle of the Clear Skin Diet begins, with food.

People suffering with acne can rejoice that they are holding the cure to their problem in their hands, right now. This book can teach you how to regain your health, and take control of your skin. It’s incredibly empowering to think how easy it is to heal your skin, just by eating the wholesome, delicious foods your body is built to thrive on. Removing inferior food from our lives and replacing them with health-promoting food allows your skin to heal. No expensive pills, potions, lotions, or other treatments required.

The Clear Skin Diet isn’t a fad or “designer” diet. It’s a low-fat, starch-based program, like the one I’ve been using for over thirty years to cure my own patients. It’s essentially the same diet I use to help my patients with heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc.; it also cures acne. This is because it is a natural diet that calms inflammation, which is what acne is at its core. The research for eating the Clear Skin way is solid, peer-reviewed, and published in major journals. A wealth of research exists showing that emphasizing whole starches, and including fruits and vegetables, is the path to glowing good health.

Acne is ubiquitous in our society, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s only “normal” in places where the “normal diet” is consumed—a diet comprised of acne-triggering foods. The acne-promoting diet is the diet eaten by most Americans, Europeans, and Australians. It’s sometimes called “the Western Diet,” but it’s taking hold in many new parts of the world, too. Fortunately, we know there are places in the world where no one ever gets acne. What these cultures have in common is that they consume a low-fat, starch-based diet that closely resembles the diet taught in this book.

As a doctor, it is my job to treat people for their aches and pains, injuries, illnesses, or diseases. Sometimes that means ordering tests to discover the source of the patient’s problem, and then prescribing medication accordingly. But there are alternatives to curing your acne, and this book offers a “clear” choice to acne sufferers. You don’t have to take medications with serious side-effects to heal your skin. If you follow the principles outlined by Nina and Randa in this book, your will be able to have the clear skin you have always dreamed of—merely by filling your plate and your body with life-affirming food.

John McDougall, MD
Santa Rosa, California

The Clear Skin Diet Team

We assembled a powerful team of experts for this book to not only make sure any advice we give is medically sound but also so that you could receive the benefit of their expertise as well. We will be sharing information we received from our esteemed panel throughout the book. This is an absolutely extraordinary group of authorities, and we’re very lucky they agreed to contribute to this project. (in alphabetical order)

Neal Barnard, MD—Founder, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (www.pcrm .org)

Chef AJ—Creator, the Ultimate Weight Loss Program (www.chefajwebsite .com)

Ann Esselstyn—Coauthor, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook (

Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., MDNew York Times bestselling author, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (www

Jane Esselstyn, RN—Founder, Health Care Is Self Care (

Rip EsselstynNew York Times bestselling author, The Engine 2 Diet (

Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT—The Plant-Based Dietitian (www.Plant

Walter Jacobson, MD—Psychiatrist, bestselling author (www.Walter

Matt Lederman, MDNew York Times bestselling coauthor, Forks Over Knives (www.WholeFoods

Leila Masson, MD, MPH, FRACP, FACNEM, DTMH, IBCLC—Pediatrician (www.drleilamasson .com)

John McDougall, MDNew York Times bestselling coauthor, The Starch Solution (

Mary McDougall—Chef, New York Times bestselling coauthor, The Starch Solution (www.DrMcDougall .com)

Jeff Novick, MS, RD—Dietitian, plant-based nutrition expert (www.Jeff

Alona Pulde, MDNew York Times bestselling coauthor, Forks Over Knives (

Irminne Van Dyken MD—Surgeon who teaches a whole-food, plant-based diet (www.outofthedoldrums .com)



1. From a Life Devastated by Acne to Clear Skin

2. Acne Activists: Why Us?

3. How Food Triggers Acne

4. Introducing The Clear Skin Diet

5. Food Facts and Fictions

6. The Elimination Diet and Other Troubleshooting Strategies



“There is no single disease which causes more psychic trauma, more maladjustment between parents and children, more general insecurity and feelings of inferiority and greater sums of psychic suffering than does acne vulgaris.”

—Marion Sulzberger, MD, 19481

It was August 2014. Acclaimed entertainer Robin Williams had committed suicide a few days earlier. I remember walking into my parents’ home office and saying to my mom, “I feel like Robin Williams.”

My mom responded, “Get your swimsuit, we’re going to the pool.”

But I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t want to be seen in public.

Up to that point, I had been a smiley, outgoing twenty-year-old girl with a burgeoning career in the entertainment industry. Why was I so depressed that I was having suicidal thoughts and wanted to avoid contact with others?

The answer was written all over my face.

Only a few months earlier my twin sister, Randa, and I were experiencing a dream trip in Europe. We toured England and France, stayed with family friends, and saw the sights. Much to our surprise, we were recognized by other kids. They would approach us and say, “Are you Nina and Randa? Oh, my gosh! Can I get a picture with you?”

That was unexpected, even absurd. Yes, we had a small but growing YouTube following. And yes, we had worked with Justin Bieber and were featured in one of his most popular music videos. But we didn’t think of ourselves as celebrities! And yet these friendly strangers thought we were Hollywood starlets who they had to meet and get a picture with.

Being a performer seemed like a relatively ordinary occupation to us. We grew up and attended a school in the Los Angeles area—Sierra Canyon—which happens to be filled with the offspring of movie and TV stars, musicians, writers, producers, and directors. So everyone and their brother, literally, had ties to the entertainment industry.

Because we grew up as performers and had several friends whose parents are in the entertainment industry, it wasn’t much of a stretch to think that a career in show business was possible. Every day after school and during summers too, Randa and I had several hours of dance and musical theater training. Our childhood normal was school and dance, school and dance, school and dance.

When we were just sixteen, a friendly conversation with a nice couple while waiting in line for a private movie screening led to our being signed by a major Hollywood talent agency. Turned out the gentleman we were chatting with was the head of the agency. After he handed us his card and told us to call him on Monday, he added, “You are going to remember this as the night you were discovered.”

We signed with his agency that week and began working frequently. Overnight, we were cast in commercials, television shows, music videos, and movies and even began modeling.

We were just a couple of high school juniors who were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. We were booking regular gigs, having the time of our lives, and increasing our bank balances. We later applied and were accepted together at the university of our choice and made plans to attend college while pursuing our burgeoning showbiz career. The summer after graduation, however, Randa and I began to consider deferring college for a year so that we could take advantage of the professional opportunities we were being offered. We met with the head of admissions at the college, who encouraged us to “go for it.” So we did.

Our career was on a roll. We starred in commercials for companies like Nintendo, ESPN Sports as the Doublemint twins, Petco, Samsung, JC Penney, Target, Taco Bell, Google, and more.

We sweated in 17 Fit Club workout videos as fitness trainers. We were featured in music videos with Ariana Grande; Tyler, The Creator; Miranda Cosgrove; Victoria Justice; Zendaya—even Pat Boone (“the Justin Bieber of the fifties,” my grandmother said; she was thrilled). We made appearances on shows like Modern Family, Good Luck Charlie, and The Neighbors. We posed in print and catalog ads, appeared in half a dozen films, and had a fast-growing YouTube channel. We also wrote songs, gave live musical performances at various venues around Los Angeles, and produced our own music videos.

I wouldn’t say that at twenty years old Randa and I were at the pinnacle of success—but we were working regularly with impressive people and having loads of fun, and our careers seemed off to a solid start.

Then the nightmare began. And our dreams started to unravel.


Randa and I had pretty much sailed through puberty and our teen years without suffering any real pimple problems. We were athletic and healthy, and we ate a good diet. While some of our friends were having issues with acne, we had virtually none.

But something completely unexpected happened when we turned twenty. Horrendous breakouts. The acne started gradually, and then suddenly was raging. An explosion of angry red spots materialized on our faces. Then it spread. Big, red painful zits and blackheads engulfed our cheeks, chins, and foreheads. The inflammation was so virulent, we looked like we’d contracted some contagious disease.

The acne horror began in early 2014, while our parents were away in Hawaii on a business trip. We both caught the flu and had to fend for ourselves. We were living on peanut butter and toast because we felt too sick to cook anything else. The acne got a toehold when our resistance was down. Suddenly, we were weak, helpless, and feeling increasingly hopeless. We texted photos of our faces to our mom, who told us to get to a dermatologist immediately. The abrupt acne onset looked too scary to be a normal breakout.

We rushed to Urgent Care, and the doctor prescribed antibiotics. He was disturbed by the virulence of the sudden breakout. The acne, and the flu, started to recede. Thank goodness! Maybe the acne was a temporary a side effect of the nasty flu. Unfortunately, after the initial relief, the flu went away—but the acne returned with a vengeance. Subsequent antibiotic courses were less and less effective.

Managing acne became a job. We embarked on a succession of ridiculously expensive, dermatologist-recommended oral and topical prescriptions. We tried doxycycline, clyndamycin, Epiduo, Retin-A, and Aczone, to name a few. Bear in mind that before this acne bout, we had taken antibiotics maybe once in our lives. We hadn’t needed them. We slathered our faces with numerous over-the-counter creams and started getting regular facials. One facial was so aggressive I ended up with second-degree burns, which required medical treatment.

Meanwhile, our professional life was crashing. We were being sent out on the same number of auditions, but we weren’t getting callbacks. If you don’t get the callback, you’re not getting booked.

Although we plastered on a ton of makeup to try and cover the lumps and bumps, the skin deception wasn’t working. We had gotten accustomed to auditions where you had banter with the casting director, schmoozing in the audition room. Now we were being hustled in and out quickly with hardly any friendly talk. The encounters started to dent and bruise our self-esteem.

“OK, you are…?” said the impatient voice behind the audition camera.

“Nina Nelson, Daniel Hoff Agency,” I said, smiling. The casting director zoomed in on my face, said nothing for a few seconds, then:

“OK, great. Thanks very much… Who’s next?”

Sometimes there was dialogue for the role, and we wouldn’t even get a chance to read the lines at the audition. And it wasn’t just the acne preventing us from getting jobs, it was our complete lack of self-confidence. Acne had taken over our lives and was mentally exhausting. Around this time some friends at Native Foods Café asked us to do a short promo for their restaurant. I had such bad anxiety about the acne that I refused to appear on camera during the shoot. Randa did the stand-up, and I did the voiceover.

There came a point when Randa and I didn’t even want to bother with auditions. Casting directors could probably sense our depression and negativity; we began to turn into young hermits, our outgoing personalities collapsing inward. We were afraid our agency was going to drop us because we couldn’t get work.

We discontinued live singing and performances and only made new YouTube videos sporadically. We assumed (wrongly) that other people would be as focused on our acne as we were. We didn’t even want to hang out with our friends and would turn down invites to parties. We were too self-conscious to be out in the world with our raging acne.

The worst part of all of this was that we felt totally helpless. When your skin is so completely and utterly out of control, you start to believe you’ve lost control of everything. We obsessed on washing our faces, trying different lotions and pills, and taking multiple trips to dermatologists and specialists who couldn’t seem to do anything but offer more drugs. Truly a vicious cycle. We tried scrubs, light therapy, and high-frequency electrical currents. We changed our special satin towels, pillowcases, and sheets daily. We were frantic to discover anything that would get the acne under some semblance of control. Nothing worked. Our skin just seemed to get worse and worse, until even patches of normal skin were gone. We were at war with our skin, and we were losing. The severe acne had captured all of the territory.

Our longtime dermatologist, seemingly as confused as we were about the source of this virulent acne, finally decided to refer us to a leading acne expert at UCLA. This was basically our last hope. We waited months to get an appointment with this in-demand doctor. Our dermatologist was optimistic, reassuring us that “they have more tools in the bag at UCLA than I have here.” When the appointment with the UCLA doctor finally came, however, he took one look at us and repeated what the other doctors had all agreed on: Accutane. Our hopes were dashed. He sent in his nurse to give us the “Accutane talk.” We were told that the potential side effects were so severe for a baby that we’d have to go on birth control in case we got pregnant. The Pill on top of pills. As a parting gift, we were handed an Accutane information pamphlet the size of a phone book. Nothing completely terrifying about that, right?

Wrong. Accutane was not an option. We had friends and relatives who had taken it and believed it had saved their skin. We also knew others who had taken it for a short time and weren’t able to tolerate it. Their skin got super dry, or their hair fell out, or they felt weird and became suicidal. One got strange rashes and very dry eyes. Another reported getting colitis and had to drop out of college to recover. Then there are the side effects they don’t even know about that might show up eight or ten years after you’ve stopped taking the drug.

Hair loss, dry skin, depression, inflamed colon—the idea that you had to take a pill for acne that might provoke destructive side effects seemed preposterous. We became even more confused and fell deeper into despair.

One of our lowest points was in August 2014, when American Idol flew us to New Orleans to audition for its show. This was a major opportunity, a chance to perform in front of celebrity judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, and Harry Connick Jr. Our acne was on a rampage. We attempted to disguise our faces with heavy makeup and big floppy hats, hoping they wouldn’t notice how ravaged our skin had become. The judges were all incredibly nice and supportive. Jennifer Lopez was especially kind, mentioning that she had her own twins and what a joy they were. But because our insecurity threw us so far off our game that day, the experience felt like a disaster. We wondered later why we even bothered going.

When we returned from New Orleans, we convinced ourselves that our goal to be professional entertainers had evaporated. Our careers were over before they began. We couldn’t be public personalities when we didn’t even want to go out in public. Randa tearfully announced she wanted to get a job at our local Whole Foods Market because she liked the people there and what the store represented. I thought maybe I could work there, too. We hoped that we wouldn’t be judged too harshly because of our tortured skin.

A few days after my troubling thoughts about Robin Williams, my parents, brother, sister, and I decided to visit our grandparents. The five of us began the trek up the Interstate 5, passing through the farmland of central California to arrive eight hours later in the San Francisco Bay Area. During the daylong road trip, the conversation constantly returned to the bane of our existence, our painful acne. We cried, we whined, we expressed our despair and frustration.

At one point my dad, probably sick of our hours of carping and complaining, asked us: “What about the amount of fat in your diet? Have you thought about that? Yeah, we all eat a healthy diet,” he said, “but maybe Dr. McDougall has information on acne that might be helpful? Why don’t you do a search?”

Dr. John McDougall is a physician and nutrition expert in Northern California who had saved my mom’s life. Literally. My mother had been diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease in 1995 and had suffered and taken strong medications to cope with it for about a year. Then she discovered a book by Dr. McDougall and, based on Dr. McDougall’s recommendations, radically changed her diet. The diet put her disease into remission, and this miracle was the reason our family had been vegan since 1996, virtually my whole life. Dr. McDougall prescribes a low-fat plant-based or vegan diet.

Back on the Interstate 5, Randa pulled up a couple of Dr. McDougall’s articles on my phone. As she read aloud his observations about acne and diet and how people in parts of the world who don’t eat the standard American diet don’t get acne, we started to feel a glimmer of hope. Dr. McDougall described how acne was cured with a very low fat vegan diet. Nuts, nut butters, soy products, avocados, coconut—these were healthy plant foods, he said, but they could wreak havoc when hormones are running wild.

This struck a chord. I remembered when the acne had first flared, when our parents were away in Hawaii. What were Randa and I living on during that time? Peanut butter on toast—fat on bread. Bingo.

All of this sounded very logical. We decided we were going to start following Dr. McDougall’s acne guidelines immediately, even while visiting our grandparents.

A new chapter in our life began with our very next meal.

When you are afflicted with severe acne, you develop the habit of constantly examining your face. You stare in the mirror, cocking your head at different angles, searching for new red areas, new blackheads, new problems. You’re instantly aware of improvement or deterioration. The obsession makes you constantly anxious. I had stared at my face so much, I knew every single spot.

So I was shocked when, after only three days of our new diet regimen, there weren’t any new pimples! I recognized that I still had a lot of active zits, and my skin still looked red and inflamed, but there were no new breakouts.


  • "A serious and important contribution to the whole food, plant-based world. . . Not infrequently I get asked about this diet for skin conditions-now I have a great reference to pass on to people."
    T. Colin Campbell, co-author of The China Study
  • "I've known Nina and Randa Nelson almost all their lives, and they recently cracked the code for curing acne with diet. These two young ladies are ideal representatives to take this important information to a desperate public."

    John McDougall, M.D., bestselling author of The Healthiest Diet on the Planet
  • "Acne is a devastating and unnecessary epidemic for many people in Western cultures. Nina and Randa Nelson, two incredibly sweet, savvy, and talented sisters, have a tremendous amount to offer millions tormented by this affliction. I'm grateful they created this wonderful resource I can share with my clients and audiences."

    Julieanna Hever MS, RD, CPT, author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
  • "As both doctors and parents of young children, we are thrilled that Nina and Randa are really poised to be able to save teens from the ravages of acne, through their dietary choices."

    Alona Pulde, MD and Matthew Lederman, MD, bestselling authors Forks Over Knives book series
  • "I met Nina & Randa Nelson when they were 12 years old, and I can say these girls know more about defeating acne than people three times their age! They're energetic, fun, inspirational, and amazing experts. I am looking forward to the huge positive impact they are going to have on the many people who suffer from this debilitating condition."

    Rip Esselstyn, author The Engine 2 Diet
  • "These lifelong vegan twins are two of the most glowing examples of health I know. And Nina and Randa are uniquely positioned to give young teens an effective alternative to the pharmacological acne solutions that often don't work."

    John Robbins, bestselling author of The Food Revolution
  • "Damage from acne is not just physical but psychological, too. Nina and Randa Nelson are successfully teaching others how to overcome the physical and emotional challenges. These girls are true leaders."

    Neal Barnard M.D., bestselling author Dr. Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes, President Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
  • "The legendary transformation that Nina and Randa Nelson have made for themselves they are now sharing with the millions who have, up to now, felt powerless to obtain optimal skin health. Their vibrant story is a gift for those who can now feel empowered to achieve similar glowing results."

    Caldwell J. Esselstyn Jr, M.D., author Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease
  • "This book is going to change the world."
    Jane Velez-Mitchell, journalist and television commentator

On Sale
Jan 8, 2019
Page Count
288 pages
Hachette Books

Nina Nelson

About the Author

Natives of Los Angeles and life-long vegans Nina and Randa were raised in the San Fernando Valley and attended Sierra Canyon School and Chaminade Prep School. They paused their college career at California State University at Northridge by taking a year off to pursue work in acting and social media. They’ve been busy building a successful social media presence and acting careers since.

Learn more about this author

Randa Nelson

About the Author

Natives of Los Angeles and life-long vegans Nina and Randa were raised in the San Fernando Valley and attended Sierra Canyon School and Chaminade Prep School.  They paused their college career at California State University at Northridge by taking a year off to pursue work in acting and social media.  They’ve been busy building a successful social media presence and acting careers since.

Learn more about this author