Has acne been troubling you for a long time now? If yes, milk must be a part of your daily diet. That’s right, some studies reveal that milk can be responsible for your skin concerns and even cause acne.
Your diet has a significant impact on your skin. Though foods loaded with antioxidants and healthy fats can benefit the skin, some foods like dairy products can cause harm.
Read on to see whether your habit of having milk is actually the culprit behind your acne.
Can Dairy Actually Cause Acne Problems?
Dairy product consumption is not a direct cause of acne. But there is evidence to prove the connection between dairy products and acne.
A study by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) shows that women drinking two or more glasses of milk daily were 44% more prone to acne than other women in that survey. There is evidence that also shows certain hormones present in dairy products can influence acne breakouts.
For over-productivity, most farms use artificial growth hormones on dairy cows. Research reports show that consuming milk and milk products from those hormone-treated cows can disrupt the natural hormone balance of your body. This in turn can trigger a breakout and other skin issues as well.
Another theory postulates that a child’s body is designed to secrete necessary enzymes that help to digest milk. But as they grow up, their ability for milk digestion reduces. This leads to lactose intolerance, which can cause multiple health issues, including flatulence, indigestion and even skin issues like acne and skin inflammation.
Another theory states that dairy products combined with high levels of refined foods or processed sugars can disrupt insulin levels in the human body. As a result, your skin becomes prone to acne.
There is a wide range of dairy products, and not all of them show a similar tendency to trigger acne. Some items like skim milk can cause acne. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, there is a definite correlation between the regular consumption of skim or low-fat milk and acne. The study indicates that people having skim milk as their regular diet tend to have acne.
How Does Dairy Affect Your Acne?
Several research studies have shown a positive connection between some components of dairy products and acne. Let's see which components of dairy products can make you acne-prone.
1. IGF-1 and Growth Hormone
The IGF-1 hormone influences the efficiency of growth hormone and other functional processes in your system. Multiple studies have been conducted to find the correlation between dairy products and increased IGF-1 levels.
Some studies have proven that milk can increase IGF-1 levels in the human body. A study on older adults showed that IGF-1 levels could be increased by 10% through daily consumption of 3 servings of milk for 12 weeks.
Increased IGF-1 level influences sebum production, along with the visible formation of skin pores and increased skin cell growth. So, it is clear that an increase in IGF-1 levels can make you acne-prone.
2. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEAS)
DHEAS is another hormone found in cow milk that has been shown to have a positive correlation with increased acne. A study showed that higher levels of DHEAS can influence acne outbreaks in a large number of women who are acne-prone.
DHEAS can increase the levels of other hormones like testosterone and DHT. Increased levels of these androgens can also contribute to causing acne lesions.
3. Insulin spikes
Just like IGF-1, insulin is a component that can also stimulate hormonal acne. And it is quite surprising that certain dairy products like yogurt can increase your insulin level even higher than regular white breads. This may occur due to the added sugar in commercial yogurt.
4. Milk Allergies & Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance can also lead to acne. Lactose intolerance  basically leads to indigestion and other gut problems. It causes bacterial imbalances in the gut, inflammation and even oxidative stress, resulting in acne.
How To Know If Your Body Accepts Dairy Or Not?
If you are lactose intolerant, you would not be able to digest the lactose in dairy products fully. A lactose intolerant person experiences the signs and symptoms of it within 30 minutes to two hours after consuming a lactose-containing food product. The most common signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance are stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
If you suspect that dairy products are triggering your acne or making them worse, it is time to figure it out. Here are the steps:
Step – 1
Try only one type of dairy product at a time. Track the amount of your consumption along with the changes in your breakouts. Doing a self-study on dairy product consumption and how your breakouts react, can help you to spot a link.
Step – 2
Try eliminating dairy products during breakouts and focus on the result. Note whether your breakout seems to improve, clear up faster than usual, or there is no change at all.
Step – 3
You can also eliminate dairy products for the long term. As acne tends to come and go, it might take a long time to identify whether it is helping or not.
If you find that home remedies are not working for your acne, it is a good idea to pay close attention to your dairy consumption to find the culprit behind your acne.
Which Milk Does Not Cause Acne?
If you have acne-prone skin, you should try to find out whether the milk you consume is making it worse. If cow milk is the culprit, you can try some alternatives, such as:
1. Goat milk
- Goat milk is a better alternative to cow milk as:
- It contains less lactose (milk sugar). Due to the minimal amount of sugar content, goat milk doesn’t cause an insulin spike.
- Goat milk is less allergic than cow’s, as it contains 89% less Alpha s1 Casein, the primary allergy-causing protein.
- Its smaller fat molecules are much easier to digest and don't cause indigestion.
- Goat milk is naturally homogenized, which makes it easier to digest. On the other hand, packed cow milk is synthetically homogenized.
- The only concern, however, is that goat milk also contains hormones to influence the growth of baby goats. So, there is a small chance of it causing acne. To make your milk consumption safer, you can opt for raw goat milk, which is well tolerated even by acne sufferers.
2. Nut-Based Milk
Instead of animal milk, you can opt for non-dairy options like almond, cashew, or other nut-based milks. Nut milk can be a much safer alternative to cow milk. The most noted benefit of almond and nuts milk is that it is not loaded with sebum-producing hormones.
In contrast, nut milk contains antioxidants and vitamin E that helps to remove the free radicals causing wrinkles. Almond-containing nut milk is especially good for acne-prone skin as almond is a rich resource of healthy fats. The anti-inflammatory property of nut milk can help you reduce the redness and inflammation associated with acne.
Go for sugar-free almond milk. Excess sugar can cause glycation which leads to overproduction of sebum, affecting water binding. So, apart from triggering acne, glycation can make your skin look greyish and less bouncy. Unwanted dark circles can also form around your eyes.
3. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is another non-dairy alternative to cow milk and a good option for acne-prone skin. Besides anti-inflammatory properties, coconut milk is a rich source of skin-clearing nutrients like magnesium (26% DV/cup), potassium (142%), and selenium. It is also low in sugar content and inflammation-causing omega-6 fatty acids.
Did You Know?
Coconut milk is also a great source of high-quality saturated fats. The fats in it help to eliminate harmful bacteria and reduce inflammation.
The inflammatory condition of acne is a complicated situation to deal with. But when you can identify a causal agent like dairy products, it becomes easy to control and cure your acne.
Results of some studies and research work show that dairy products can trigger acne in some people and worsen the scenario. But the experience is not the same for everyone. It is good to consult with a dermatologist if you find a connection between your acne and dairy intake.
1. Diet and Dermatology, 2014 Jul,
2. Dairy Intake and Acne Vulgaris: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 78,529 Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults, 2018 Aug,
3. Lactose Intolerance in Adults: Biological Mechanism and Dietary Management, 2015 Sep,
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