Can dairy cause acne? The relationship between diet, dairy and acne.

does dairy cause acne, dairy acne
Can dairy cause acne?

Does dairy cause acne?

I can’t concur enough about looking into interlinking role between diet, dairy and acne. In later posts, I’ll go into some interesting ideas for researching treatments but in essence most remedies are responses to the symptoms and not a bead on the cause or source. For me, diet played an overwhelming role in the cure, as my cystic acne outlived adolescence and thrived into adulthood.

Starting with dairy, I found that the elimination of certain food items made a profound difference in the condition, which in turn led to greater control. At first, I kept thinking no, there must be some mistake. My doctor, dermatologist along with conventional medical wisdom was most assure that I could crush pizzas buffets without abandon, devour sweets in epic amounts, consume chocolate in excess, and quaff gallons of milk with little or no bearing on my condition.

Well, they weren’t encouraging the excess part but they did seem to think that acne from dairy in the diet had nothing to do with my pimple turmoil. It was in all probability hormonal and whether I ate pounds of veggies or a bag of candy, the results would stay somewhat consistent and steady.

Dairy products and acne

It’s no simple hyperbole to state that my life began to change the moment I zeroed in on diet– dairy causing acne, especially. Milk/dairy was the first major groupings of items to eliminate. It helped. Cyst formation diminished in both frequency and intensity. Eliminating milk/dairy wasn’t the only piece in the puzzle but it was a main one.

From reading and researching about the growth hormones given to cows or how the majority of cows being milked are pregnant [1] with all the cascading hormonal responses that ensue, it opened my eyes. Too many cows are milked to the point of excess, causing chaffing, bleeding, infections, and the increased use of antibiotics to combat the issues. Not good!

Thankfully, I’m sure the cows love being confined, forcibly impregnated and milked until their utters become fountains of pus. No doubt every small calf aspires to such lofty and productive dreams. Ok, grossness aside, it is a serious issue.

Now, let me be blunt: I’m not trying to bag on farmers, the dairy industry or all the copious companies that are attempting to do things the right way and make this world a better place to live, but it’s my opinion that at least some of what I’ve listed can and should be improved. That starts with an educated consumer who should perform the tasks of due diligence and carefully consider their food sources and the various production methods that they entail.

How to treat acne caused by diet

To this point, in my searches for this topic I found a cool vlogger who I resonated with. His authenticity seems solid from the videos I’ve watched. His story is inspiring. He started with severe acne and has managed to corral it and get it under control. The advice is simple and on point and was what resonated with me.

The take home is to listen to our bodies. Milk causes acne for some. Plenty of what he reiterated worked for me. Start by eliminating common acne triggers like dairy, sugar and high glycemic dietary items (breads, pastas, deserts, etc) [2]; add in heaping portions of veggies and plenty of distilled water for hydration; throw in better hygiene practices like changing bedsheets, especially pillow cases more frequently, and it stands to reason that a healthy portion of respondents would achieve a minimal to substantial improvement in several weeks.

Not a bad starter plan! Some of this same advice may hold true for a general improvement in other ailments as well.

Treat cystic acne by diet change

In addition to this, one may wish to gradually phase out or cut back other potential food triggers [3] — a list of which each person should prepare based on their own first hand experience. After a suitable time, it may make sense to slowly reintroduce some of these items back into the diet to confirm their effects. The hard and sad of it is that some of these items may have to be eliminated form your diet on a permanent or semi-permanent basis.

Also, key nutrients like Vitamins A, D, Calcium, along with Omega 3 fatty acids tend to play a pronounced role in the body’s response mechanism in regards to insulin and its cascading inflammatory effects on skin and health. [4] That’s not to suggest that these are the only or the most important nutrients or vitamins, only that some research has given a positive confirmation of their efficacy in containing and maintaining the body’s response that can manifests into acne vulgaris.

cystic acne, get rid of cystic acne, does dairy cause acne
How to treat acne

Other options?

Ok, you like some or even most of these ideas in principle but in practice find it difficult to near impossible to make such a drastic transition. Maybe you don’t get to make the dietary decisions or are constrained by a tight budget or for no greater reason than simple habit inertia (habits reinforcing habits). I get that. That’s why I don’t like to propose a one size fits all solution.

Skim milk and acne

One solution involves trying to use a full-fat milk, as a recent study showed a positive association between the consumption of low-fat/skim milk, but not the full-fat version. The skim milk acne association is intriguing. [5] This still leaves other variables discussed earlier unaccounted for but it may offer a simple and easy answer for some.

Milk inflammation

There’s no denying dairy causes acne for many people and that milk and inflammation are linked. Unfortunately, it’s found in many food sources and has health benefits (vitamins, proteins, minerals), if you ignore the side-effects. So what’s another good compromise? Something that can give you all or most of the benefits without the painful zit causing downside?

Alternative milk/dairy substitutes [6]

I wanted to give a quick rundown on the pros and cons of these various milk alternatives. It’s worth noting that none of them are flawless but the trade off could mean fewer boils, blackheads, outbreaks or whiteheads, which should more than offset the increase in expenses incurred, if any.

  • Almond Milk


  1. Low Calorie
  2. High in Vitamin E
  3. Contains other minerals and vitamins


  1. May contains emulsifiers such as carrageenan
  • Soy Milk


  1. High amounts of proteins
  2. Good source of potassium


  1. Possible estrogen-mimicking effects (hormonal acne complications)
  2. Increased digestive gas a possibility
  3. Some brands add cheap oils, increasing calories
  4. Most soy is a GMO
  • Cashew Milk


  1. Texture is similar to regular milk
  2. Great source of fortified vitamins and minerals


  1. Low calorie count means heavy dilution
  2. Low amount of nutrients found compared with an equivalent cup of nuts due to this dilution
  • Hemp Milk


  1. High in Omega 3 fatty acids
  2. High in Iron
  3. No need to worry about GMO
  4. There’s no psychoactive ingredients, hence the lack of legal restriction


  1. Low in protein
  2. Usually high in a sweetener like rice syrup or cane sugar
  • Coconut Milk


  1. Has a good taste, some say similar to low fat cow milk
  2. Has medium-chain-fatty acids (MCFAs) which are thought to increase metabolism


  1. Low protein
  2. Need to be careful of container– carton better than can due to less exposure to bisphenol-A (BPA)
  • Rice Milk


  1. Many types have a good taste because of enzymes added to convert starches into sugar
  2. Hypoallergenic (rice is the main ingredient)
  3. Fortified with minerals and vitamins and is a good source of both


  1. High amount of carbohydrates because of sweetness factor
  2. Great care is needed when selecting a brand due to elevated levels of arsenic in some rice crops grown overseas

Tasty alternative

Without getting too deep into the nutritional waters of paleo vs. vegan vs whatever, I did want to share a favorite morning recipe I find that tastes good, is nutrient dense and has a low glycemic impact. What I find is that by being creative with the other ingredients, the taste of an unsweetened milk alternative (if you go that way), can be more than palatable.

  • 1 scoop of chia seeds
  • 3 tablespoons of hemp protein
  • 3 tablespoons of vegan protein
  • 1 to ½ tablespoons of cacao
  • A touch of cinnamon
  • 2-3 tablespoons of organic applesauce (optional)
  • A cup to a cup and half of favorite milk alternative (see list above)

Now, these proportions are approximations and you may find a better blend by playing around with the amounts to a small degree. The applesauce, which really adds to the flavor and texture, does contain sugar but with all the fiber in the other ingredients, it shouldn’t spike the glycemic index that much.


So in summation, can milk cause acne? Scientific studies and anecdotal evidence point to yes. I discussed some of the remedies that can be implemented and utilized, but in no way should these ideas be considered a compendium. Research is ongoing but sometimes the best answers lie within a case study of one—you!

Work Cited:

[1] High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2005 Feb;52(2):207-14.

[2] Fact or Fiction?: Fatty Foods Equal Pizza Face. Consumed fat does not reappear on your face, but it may trigger a hormonal response that leads to pimples. Scientific American, 2007 May 31.

[3] Growing evidence suggests possible link between diet and acne. American Academy of Dermatology, 2013 Feb 5. 

[4] The relationship of diet and acne: A review. Dermato-endocrinology. 2009;1(5):262-267.

[5] Consumption of dairy in teenagers with and without acne. LaRosa, Caroline L. et al. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology , Volume 75 , Issue 2 , 318 – 322.


Other links:

#milk inflammation, #why does milk cause acne, #does milk cause acne, #does drinking milk cause acne,

High glycemic load diet, milk and ice cream consumption are related to acne vulgaris in Malaysian young adults: a case control study. BMC Dermatology. 2012 Aug 16;12:13.

Opioid peptides encrypted in intact milk protein sequences. British Journal of Nutrition / Volume 84 / Supplement S1 / November 2000, pp 27-31.

Dietary glycemic factors, insulin resistance, and adiponectin levels in acne vulgaris. Cerman, Asli Aksu ET AL. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 75, Issue 1, 155 -162.

The effect of a high-protein, low glycemic-load diet versus a conventional, high glycemic-load diet on biochemical parameters associated with acne vulgaris: a randomized, investigator-masked, controlled trial. Smith, Robyn N. ET AL. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 57, Issue 2, 247 – 256.

#can dairy cause acne, #acneageddon, #does dairy cause acne, #acne and dairy, #dairy causes acne

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8 thoughts on “Can dairy cause acne? The relationship between diet, dairy and acne.”

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