Milk Does a Body Good ― But What About Your Skin?

by | Jul 7, 2017 | Blog

Milk does a body good ― but at what cost? Many of us were told as children that dairy products help build strong bones and teeth. What we weren’t told, though, is that they may also trigger acne.

Does Dairy Cause Acne?

Acne, also known as acne vulgaris, is a skin condition that occurs when oil and dead skin cells clog your hair follicles. Symptoms of acne include blackheads, whiteheads and pimples.

Although there’s no definitive link between dairy and acne, recent studies have shown strong associations between the two. A 2008 study discovered that teenage boys who drank milk experienced more frequent and severe acne breakouts than those who didn’t drink milk.

How might dairy and acne be related? Researchers believe the hormones in dairy products ― particularly in cow’s milk ― are the culprit. When you consume cow’s milk, the hormones naturally found in the milk increase your body’s production of sebum, the oily substance that clogs your pores. This often results in acne.

If you need treatment to prevent or stop acne, ask a dermatologist!

What You Can Do

The best way to find out if dairy is negatively affecting your skin is to go dairy-free for a month and note any changes to your skin. If that’s not a sustainable lifestyle for you, there are some ways you can reduce your risk of acne while still consuming dairy:   

        1. Switch from Skim to Whole Milk

A 2016 study found that the consumption of low-fat/skim milk was positively associated with acne. Researchers in this study, however, didn’t see the same correlation in full-fat milk consumption. This is because skim milk contains enough hormones to have biological effects in consumers. For instance, skim milks often contain proteins like whey and casein to make it taste less watery. These proteins release a hormone called IGF-1, which is known to trigger acne.  


       2. Try Different Kinds of Dairy

If you notice that cow-based dairy products are causing you to break out, try dairy from different sources. Dairy from other animals, like goats, for example, may have less harmful effects to your skin.


For healthier, clearer skin, reduce your dairy intake and avoid skim milk whenever possible. If you cut dairy from your diet, be sure you still get the recommended 1300 milligrams of calcium a day by adding calcium-rich foods like kale, mustard greens, broccoli, and sardines to your diet. If you think dairy products are destroying your skin, ask a dermatologist!

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