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.