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The link between dairy and acne

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June 7, 2011 Reviewed by admin 3 Comments
Pizza, soda, fried foods, greasy takeout,  and chocolate were my diet staples throughout high school, and of course a constant complaint of my parents. Even though I was practically healthy as a horse despite my poor choice of foods, my skin didn’t have the same fate. I was constantly breaking out but dermatologist after dermatologist kept insisting that my diet wasn’t to blame.

I eventually kind of outgrew my breakouts, it was probably stress related the doctors said, but there are many advocating that milk is to blame for problem pimples. Milk was among one of my daily intakes in high school so it might make sense. But is there any truth to this? Especially after doctors have been saying for years that what you eat shouldn’t affect your breakouts.

A study from the February 2005 issue of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology would say yes. After analyzing responses from 47,000 women, women who drank more than three servings of any type of milk per day were 22 percent more likely to report having had severe acne than those who drank only one (or less) servings per week. Those who consumed two or more glasses of skim milk daily were 44 percent more likely to say that they had been diagnosed with severe acne as teenagers.

That’s right; skim milk also seems to be a culprit in causing acne. A study published in the May 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that amongst boys, those who drank skim milk tended to have worse acne. Though it’s only speculation, it is believed that whey added to skim (to give a creamier texture) might be to blame for the heightened cases of acne.

This leads us to milk; you must be wondering what is in milk could have such harsh effects on the skin.

Milk contains androgen hormones which have been linked to the formation of acne breakouts. The reason teenagers are often thought to have acne breakouts is due to testosterone, which in itself is an androgen hormone. Testosterone, through a complicated chain reaction, creates di-hydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT stimulates the sebaceous glands, which creates an oilier skin that is more prone to pore blockages. The more clogged your pores are, the better chance you’ll have at a breakout.

But it isn’t just androgen that might be an issue; dairy farmers actually inject Genetically-engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH) into their cows to increase milk production. The growth hormone also stimulates the liver to increase IGF-1 levels in the milk of those cows; IGF-1 is a growth factor that reaches its peak in adolescents, a time when breakouts tend to be at their highest.

Not only have these hormones been linked to acne, there is a concern that they might be linked to cancer. Gone are the days of the friendly farmer and here to stay are franken-farmers, pumping cows full of hormones to get higher yields. By the way, if you are worried about this, try organic milk. It is typically pesticide, antibiotic, and injected hormone free but there will  still be natural hormones in the milk.

But in the defense of milk, studies have shown that milk might make acne more severe but doesn’t cause it. It’s also hard to study the connection between the two because it seems as though people react differently to milk and you can’t have a double-blind study since there isn’t a placebo for milk. What this means is that it’s just hard to point the finger at milk and say “You sir are to blame for acne!”

So while we can’t say for sure what milks role is when it comes down to acne, we can say that if you’re struggling to fight breakouts, it probably won’t hurt to quit dairy for a while and see if your skin improves.
  • June 9, 2011

    by Sunday

    I switched to Almond milk about 2 years ago and am so glad I did ~ I was taking a Gym class and the instructor would give 'homework' suggestions after each class, like try Almond-butter on your whole wheat toast or add 1 tbsp of sugar free jam to your plain greek yogurt etc... Anyway one day she was suggesting any milk alternative of your choice and the very diverse class of all women who already had given up drinking milk for various reason were very quick to suggest Almond milk.

    Many of them had already switch their milk for their teenagers for this very reason! I used to get EVERY month a few deep flare-ups that never came to a head on my chin and lower cheek area...EVERY month without fail and of course I always thought they were hormone related (because they were) and most of them ended in leaving behind a brown mark - no matter how nicely I treated them!

    So maybe it took about 4 months for me to stop craving Milk (and at first I did really miss chugging milk & I'm a big cereal fan) but in the last 18 months or so my flare ups are next to none and linger less when I do get one.

    Also I think Almond milk adds better flavor to cereal ~ I buy Almond Breeze original 60 calories per serving.

  • June 9, 2011

    by primrose krasicki

    Hullo all you beauty gurus ! Most interesting what you commented on re milk and teenage skins .On the inner side for my age groups Iam having great results since using a very simple organic skin cream product created here in Australia called MooGoo. It is not expensive I checked the website which told me to stick to it for three weeks .And it has done a lot of skin improvement for my tetchy old skin . Its softer I dont get reddish breakouts, and vanity here,lines seem faintly better ! Using pure cow cream this cream originated from milking,dairy cows who suffered dry and cracked udders.You cant have that for the girls .For a simple non perfumed cream that works for me, well its worked wonders for me.You will find it on Google,dont forget to add au after the com . And the models are gorgeous !! Kind regards Primrose ,Melbourne, Australia,9/6/2011

  • June 8, 2011

    by wikiderm

    For more details on the acne-milk connection, see
    There is nothing for sale on the site. It is purely informational.

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