Does Dairy Cause Acne? (Short Answer: Yes!)

Does Dairy Cause Acne? (Short Answer: Yes!)

by Kali Kushner


We’ve all heard this one before, to clear your acne just stop eating dairy. Wait what, dairy? Who, why, when, how could such a delicious beautiful food make my skin feel so bad? It tastes so good there’s no way it can be wrong, I can’t give up cheese! Plus, tons of other people with clear skin eat dairy so it can’t possibly be affecting me. If you’ve been told to stop eating dairy for clear skin, I’m sure you’ve thought at least one of these things. And while I wish I could tell you that it’s hogwash or a silly myth, the dairy acne link isn’t just an ole wives tale anymore folks- it’s really real and pretty frightening.



igf-1 and acne


There’s IGF-1 is in all of us, your mom, dad, brother, sister, aunt, uncle , and yes- even you. IGF-1, known as insulin-like growth factor 1, is the key to both hormonal and inflammatory acne. High IGF-1 levels lead to changes in gene expression, that cause inflammation, hormonal imbalances, increased oil production, and acne.


Acne sufferers naturally have a higher level of IGF-1 in comparison to those who aren’t acne prone. This perhaps explains why a person who isn’t acne prone is able to eat certain foods like dairy and refined carbohydrates without triggering a breakout. Both dairy and refined carbohydrates spike IGF-1 levels, which can trigger inflammation and acne in those who ARE acne prone since they naturally suffer from higher IGF-1 levels to begin with. For acne sufferers, it’s like your body is taking 2x the impact, creating an unmanageable level of inflammation throughout the body. This can show itself in fatigue, achiness, inflammation and of course, once again, acne!




the dairy-acne link


It’s long been suspected that dairy affects acne, dramatically making it worse and turning small whiteheads into throbbing cysts. All dairy contains IGF-1, which is great for growth in baby cows and also great for growth in acne. Dairy is also responsible for the redness and swelling that makes acne so dang annoyyyyyingggg.


Not only does dairy contain IGF-1, it creates a spike in insulin levels that cause the body to produce even more IGF-1! This, of course, leads to even more acne. This could also explain why a low GI diet- which helps to control insulin and blood sugar levels, is often recommended for the treatment of acne.


Dairy also causes your skin to produce excess oil or sebum leading to more clogged pores and more inflammatory acne. The excess sebum is a breeding ground for p-acnes bacteria, which feed on the sebum and create even more acne as a by product. On top of this, dairy makes it harder for skin cells to shed naturally, glueing dirt and oil inside the pore- creating those tiny under the skin bumps.



the reserach surrounding dairy and acne



The effect of dairy on acne is strongly documented throughout various research studies published both online and in text. It has been proven, the greater consumption of milk, the greater severity of acne. For example, a study published in pubmed, found that teenage boys who drank milk had increased acne and severity compared to those who did not.

I could go on for hours discussing the various studies proving the connection between dairy consumption and increased acne severity. You can read about three others, here, here, here, anddddd here or simply search “dairy and acne” into



kicking dairy to the curb


If you’ve reached the end of this article hopefully I’ve convinced you that cutting out dairy is one of the most powerful things you can do to help clear your skin. Dairy is addicting, there’s a reason it’s so delicious and hard to quit- it actually links up to the feel good receptors in your brain. More scientifically speaking, dairy contains casein, a protein that has opiate molecules built in- making it hard to ditch your favorite soft cheese.


The fastest way to see results (and what personally worked best for me) is quitting dairy cold turkey. You’re probably thinking there’s no way I could possibly do that- but hear me out! There’s tons of dairy free substitutes that taste equally delicious and after a 30 day dairy free detox- you won’t even crave it anymore!


Perhaps you can’t completely cut it out right away, but even reducing your dairy intake to once every few days or once a week can show noticeable results over time. If you’re looking to kick dairy to the curb you can read more about delicious dairy free substitutes in this article here.


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