does dairy cause acne

Does Dairy Cause Acne?

Don’t Be Scary: Find out if Dairy Causes Acne

If dairy causes acne, does that mean you shouldn’t eat cheese? Does it mean you can’t enjoy some soft serve ice cream from time to time? Does yogurt cause acne? Could it be? Or do we have a dairy and acne myth on our hands. You’re at the right place for the straight truth and for the whole story.

The short answer to “does dairy cause acne?” is not exactly. Now, dairy free skin before and after quitting dairy often does show some recovery from acne, that doesn’t mean that all dairy items cause acne, per se.

There’s Milk and then There’s Acne-Causing Milk

Various dairy cause acne, or at least are linked to it in some way. That is what we will pursue in this article. But we wouldn’t be asking “does dairy cause acne” if the answer were a simple “yes.” We’d just post the word “Yes” in 18-point font, right?

Well, what about milk? Can you go to a reddit page on “does dairy cause acne” and figure out whether you’ve had your last glass of milk or not? Not so fast.

In short, whole milk is going to work better than skim milk or any low-fat or non-fat milk. But why? How can some dairy cause acne and not others? Well, the main culprit is a protein called casein. It is what causes sebum, the oil that leads to acne. Casein is added to skim and non-fat milks to keep it from tasting watery. So the more likely dairy to cause acne would be skim milk, with whole milk being OK.

Does Dairy Cause Acne, or Inflammation?

OK, now for a big secret. One of the reasons why so many people claim that all sorts of dairy cause acne is that acne is caused by inflammation, and some dairy products can cause inflammation. An article by Emil A. Tanghetti, published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, tells us that “acne is primarily an inflammation disease.” In short, the article argues that inflammation happens in all stages of the formation of acne, not just later stages, as had previously been believed. It is the oil glands and hair follicles that are inflamed, according to an article published on skininc.com.

Well, do dairy products necessarily inflame these glands and follicles? Not exactly. Milk, in particular, can be guilty. It has acids that lead to calcium deposits, which in turn can cause inflammation. Also, both milk and cheese have casein, which we’ve mentioned before, and that is associated with inflammation.

How Do We Know It’s the Dairy?

Here’s the thing. Some people say dairy cause acne. Most people eat dairy products of some kind, and there are vegans who experience acne. Well, as we’ve seen, the science clearly shows a link between inflammation, caused by casein and other properties of dairy foods, and acne. There are also many claims out there from people who say cutting dairy helped their acne.

One can conclude, then, that while the statement “dairy causes acne” may not be, in itself, completely true, dairy products like cheese and whole milk could be your problem if you suffer acne. Dairy could possibly cause cystic acne, as well. This might be true if you know you can rule out soap, sunscreen or makeups that could be the culprit.

But we want you to be as acne-free as possible. It’s easy to think dairy causes acne if you have acne and you like dairy. But while you may indeed be experiencing some inflammation from eating dairy, that could be only one of your problems. Cutting out dairy might be like cutting down on hamburgers to lose weight, while still eating ice cream and pie. If you want to fight acne effectively, you have to look at the various factors and causes.

Dry Skin Causes Acne and Doesn’t Come from a Cow

One of the things to think about is possible causes of acne that may be more severe than dairy, particularly if your dairy intake is moderate. However, it’s important to have the facts rather than to give in to misconceptions.

It stands to reason that oily skin is the birthing place for acne. There’s a way in which that’s true. But the root cause (not dairy) of acne can actually be dry skin. Here’s the reason. When your skin is dry it causes your body to respond, trying to attack the dryness. It produces too much sebum—essentially, oil—and that is what causes acne.

In other words, if you think dairy causes acne, be sure that before you go vegan, you be sure you’re not drying your skin. Women may be in particular danger in this regard. With all the products that women put on their skin, from toners to primers to concealers, they very well may be drying their skin. However, this is true only for people who use the wrong kinds of these cosmetics. In fact, there are cosmetics of all kinds that are made for people with acne-prone skin.

Treating Dry Skin—Without Dieting

Again, the answer to acne doesn’t have to be that dairy causes acne and must be outlawed. Dry skin isn’t caused by dairy products, and it is very treatable. As one might guess (even if you’ve never wondered if dairy causes acne) moisturizers are the way to go. The Naked Chemist explains that good moisturizers include humectants, which act like a body’s natural sweat and which prevent water loss. These are often natural oils like jojoba or coconut.

Now, cosmetic companies that make all sorts of products are aware that many adults of both genders suffer acne. They also know that if their products help with the dryness issue, acne-prone people can use them and even cure their acne. Therefore, shampoos and retinol creams are often made with humectants or other ingredients (like emollients) that promote moist skin. All you have to do is use these and you should experience a positive difference.

Can Soy Be Your Savior?

Say you wanted to go off of dairy, maybe as an experiment, or maybe even longer. What would you do with recipes calling for milk or eggs? What happens when you miss cheese? If you want to find out definitively if, for you personally, certain dairy cause acne, a little break may be a way to experiment.

You should know that there are non-dairy substitutes for any dairy product you can imagine. Many of these, whether it be milk or cheese, are made from soy.

However, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s ask another pointed question: can soy products cause acne? Wouldn’t that be something?

So Do Soy Products Make You Break Out?

When asking if dairy causes acne, if soy products cause acne, if sweat causes acne, or anything else that could be a myth, it’s important to get real facts from reputable sources. No matter what conflicting reports you find, you can drill down to the best information from the sources with the most expertise and make your determination.

In this case, one great source on soy is Dr. Agnes P. Olszewski, writing for positivemed.com. Dr. Olszewski explains that “soy may possibly cause inflammation in the body.” She says “possibly” because the clinical studies, according to her, haven’t been perfectly conclusive. She says, “if you’re eating it with every meal and breaking out,” not taking vitamins supplements, you may have found your culprit.

However, if you find any soy product labeled non-GMO will be safe. What we can conclude from this is that moderate soy intake should be quite safe, and that if you switch back and forth between soy and dairy and don’t go crazy with your consumption of either, you shouldn’t find that dairy causes acne and that neither does soy. Again, other factors can be in play, and changing your diet drastically may be unnecessary.

Even if you turn to [dietary supplements] to make up for the nutrients you miss out on from cutting dairy or soy, this may not be enough.

Does Almond Milk Cause Acne?

One thing to remember is that soy is far from the only substitute for cow’s milk, butter, etc. These days, milk is made from everything—rice, goat’s milk, even almonds. But does almond milk cause acne? Hey, if we’re asking if dairy causes acne, we have to look at the substitutes, too, right?

Well, once again, the answer lies in inflammation. We think of nuts as being healthy, and you may have heard they are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory, and which have amazing physical and mental-health benefits.

While this is true, as explained in an article in the UK Huffington Post, it is also true that many nuts have Omega-6 acids, which cause inflammation. In fact, almonds contain 12.1 grams of Omega-6 per 100 grams, which is almost 4 times as many in egg yolks, as a comparison. That inflammation, as discussed above, can open the door to acne.

A good alternative may be milk made from tiger nuts or macadamia nuts, or coconut, which are all very low in Omega-6.

In short, soy and almond milk are probably not big culprits in acne, particularly as compared to dry skin, oily skin (caused by a skin’s initial dryness which makes the body produce too much oil to compensate), poor sleep habits, stress, etc. However, people with particularly acne-prone skin can’t afford much inflammation, and should seriously consider alternatives like tiger nut milk or coconut milk.

The Bottom Line

Determining if dairy causes acne isn’t very hard. It’s really about accepting the idea that it’s not completely black and white. Most evidence shows that the majority of dairy don’t exactly cause acne, but that they have properties known to be associated with it.

This means that cutting down on dairy, though not necessarily cutting it out altogether, can be a good idea. The reason that dairy’s role in acne can be questioned is that so many other causes can be in play. These can include stress, dry skin, hormone imbalances due to a number of factors, etc. In short, the damage to be done by cow’s milk, or by dairy substitutes like almonds, should be considered only one factor among these.

While you may choose to experiment a bit to find the results, it’s important not to go overboard and make drastic dietary changes that may not be completely necessary.

Melania Richardson

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most discussed