Milk and Acne: Does Milk Cause Acne?

Milk and Acne

Milk and dairy products contain growth hormones and inflammatory substances that clog your pores and cause acne.

Have you heard about this yet?

If you eat milk, cheese, ice cream, or any other kind of dairy, and you have acne, this blog post could be the most important thing you read all week.

In fact – and I’m not exaggerating here – removing milk and dairy products from your diet is probably the absolute, honest-to-goodness most effective thing you can do to clear up your skin.

“Hold on a minute!” you might ask.

Aren’t milk and other dairy products good for the body, providing essential vitamins and minerals and calcium?

Even the government recommends that we consume low-fat dairy products on a daily basis, right?

Well, without getting into the politics of the powerful dairy lobby and the origin of government nutritional recommendations, the truth is that processed milk and dairy products do more harm than good to your body in general.

And this is especially true for your skin.

Watch this video to see why:


Why is Milk Bad for Your Acne?

Milk causes acne because…

  • There is abundance of a hormone called IGF-1 in milk, which is really good for baby cows, but not for you. IGF-1 is a growth hormone. It makes baby cows grow up big and strong, but in humans, it tends to make your acne grow big instead. IGF-1 is one of several factors that cause inflammation in humans, and which eventually lead to acne (and the ugly redness and swelling that makes acne so annoying).
  • Milk and dairy products cause an insulin spike in humans that cause the liver to produce even more IGF-1, leading to even more acne.
  • Dairy causes your skin to produce excess sebum (oil), leading to – you guessed it! – more clogged pores, more acne, and a breeding ground for P. acnes bacteria, which feed on your sebum and spew out inflammatory by-products.
  • Dairy glues together dead skin cells inside your pores, so they can’t exit naturally, leading to clogged pores (and thus more acne).

The milk and acne effect is well documented in the literature. In the last decade or so, a number of studies have found a strong link between the consumption of milk and increased occurrence of acne. For example, one such study found that teenage boys who drank milk broke out more often, and more severely, than those who didn’t drink milk.[1]  At least five other studies have confirmed that, in general, the more milk you drink, the worse acne you’ll get.[2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

So What Should You Do To Get Clearer Skin?

The answer is simple: cut dairy out of your diet. This includes milk, cheese, kefir, yogurt, ice cream, and so on. If it has milk in it, it’s likely to give you acne.

Okay, I know that isn’t easy, especially if you love dairy products and food that includes dairy products (like pizza, or my childhood favorite, toasted sesame bagels with cream cheese).

It’s hard, I know!

I haven’t eaten much dairy for the last 8 years or so, because it makes me break out like there’s no tomorrow. I miss it, but I like how I look with clear skin way better.

The thing is, if you want clear skin, cutting out dairy is one of the most powerful things you can do.

Now, cutting out dairy sure ain’t easy – and you might not have to commit to being dairy-free forever if you want to enjoy clear skin. To help you test whether dairy is a problem for your skin, I’ve got two options for plans to follow.

The Total Elimination Plan

The Total Elimination Plan is the most likely to get you the fastest, best results, so go for this plan if you can swing it. On Total Elimination, you cut out all sources of dairy from your diet for 30 days. You can go cold turkey if you’re feeling like a rock star, or you can gradually reduce your dairy consumption for a week or two before you start counting your 30 days.

After the 30 days is up, you’ll hopefully see some noticeable improvement in your skin! If so, if you want, you can start experimenting at this point with adding back in certain types of high-quality dairy. You might try drinking raw, grass-fed whole milk, or eating some organic kefir, yogurt, butter, or cheese. Now, don’t eat these all at once – you’ll get the best feedback from your skin if you try one thing at a time, and wait a few days in between.

If your skin doesn’t improve, that doesn’t necessarily mean that dairy is safe for your skin. What it definitely means is that there’s something else triggering your acne – maybe something else you’re eating, some nutrients you’re missing, gut dysbiosis, or some lifestyle issue like stress or environmental toxins. For you, we highly recommend checking out our ebook, Clear Skin Forever, if you haven’t already.

The Reduce and Boost Plan

Now, if you’re reeeeally not ready to cut out all sources of dairy, don’t worry. Our second plan, the Reduce and Boost Plan, is easier. If you are doing this plan, you aren’t eliminating all dairy; instead you’re just reducing your dairy intake and boosting the overall quality of the dairy you consume.

So what that looks like is 1) doing your best to avoid dairy when you’re eating out and in processed foods, since these tend to be low-quality dairy, and 2) switching to full-fat, raw, grass-fed dairy products at home if they’re available for sale or via herdshare where you live. If you can’t get the raw stuff, then try whole organic, grass-fed milk, which is available at natural food stores and even a lot of regular grocery stores these days. (More on raw milk in the FAQs below.)

If after a month or so your skin has improved, high-five! You can continue with the changes you made, or if you want to try the Total Elimination Plan to see if you can get even clearer, go for it!

If your skin hasn’t improved after a month, you could try reducing dairy further, or try the Total Elimination Plan. If you can’t reduce further or don’t want to, don’t lose hope! Acne is a complex problem with lots of potential triggers, which can make it hard to pin down, but that also means that there are a lot of other diet and lifestyle changes you can try that may improve your skin drastically! You can get some more ideas from the other articles on our website, or get the master plan for clearing up acne with diet and lifestyle changes in our ebook, Clear Skin Forever.

Are You Physically Addicted To Milk?

Surprising fact: milk contains casomorphin, which is a physiologically addictive substance that essentially does to your brain what morphine and opium do (to a lesser degree).[7]

Casomorphin binds to opioid receptors in your brain and makes you happy, and then your brain gets used to the jolt when you drink milk over and over, and you get unhappy if you try to stop drinking it. (Or eating cheese, or yogurt, or pretty much any other kind of dairy.)

Milk is yummy stuff, but it’s also literally addictive!

That tends to make it seem more tasty than it really is, in my experience.

And the acne trade-off doesn’t seem worth it. The best defense you have against relapsing into dairy-drinking is to just stop for at least two weeks, then drink some milk and see what happens to your skin. After a few times of doing that, I can almost guarantee you’ll be able to get over the addiction!

Watch Out For Hidden Milk Ingredients

Dairy is in everything.

Okay, not everything, but tons of packaged foods and restaurant dishes have hidden dairy.

Read ingredients labels before you buy anything! Case in point, a reader recently discovered that the tomato soup he was eating – which sounds healthy enough – had powdered milk in it (which is actually one of the worst forms of dairy, since it’s so heavily processed).

Other examples: mashed potatoes often have milk in them. Omelets and scrambled eggs, in restaurants, often are “fluffed up” with milk. (And scrambled eggs are bad news anyway because of the oxidized cholesterol – see below.)

The list of hidden milk ingredients is pretty long – anything with a cream sauce, anything that’s creamy (including lots of Indian food), probably has dairy. Just keep a careful eye out, and you’ll learn over time what’s better to avoid.

Frequently Asked Questions

What About Organic Milk or Hormone-Free Milk?

There’s actually no such thing as “hormone-free milk.” What producers really mean by that is that no synthetic hormones were given to the dairy cows. However, cows still pump tons of growth hormones into their milk to make their calves grow big and strong, and these natural hormones (IGF-1, growth hormone) are some of the main reasons that dairy causes acne.
So, while organic milk and hormone-free milk are almost certainly better for your skin than the conventional stuff – and some people do report that just switching to organic milk was enough to cure their mild acne – even organic dairy still causes acne for a lot of people.

What about Raw Milk?

Raw milk, raw yogurt, raw kefir, etc. are much more easily digestible than pasteurized and homogenized dairy, and some people who suffer from acne happily consume raw dairy with no problems.

(I’ve had moderate success with raw milk myself while doing a muscle-building program – I got some acne, but not too bad, and I managed to build quite a lot of muscle.)

For the majority of people, though, raw milk is still likely to cause problems, because it still contains the natural cow hormones that cause acne, and it still spikes your insulin like regular milk does (which leads to inflammation and redness/swelling of acne).

If you want to try raw dairy, I recommend that you try adding it into your diet little by little to see if your body can handle it without causing breakouts (do this after the 30 days of going dairy-free, and once your acne situation is well-controlled).

Now, it’s not always easy to buy raw milk products, as selling raw milk is illegal in most places. For more information on where to find raw milk near you, check out Real Milk’s website.[8]

What About Lactaid or Lactose-Free Milk?

It’s a common belief that lactose-free milk is better for acne in some way, but I’m going to prove to you otherwise.

Lactaid and other “lactose-free” milk is just regular milk with an enzyme called lactase added to pre-digest the lactose for people with lactose intolerance. Otherwise, lactose-free milk is still the same as regular milk.

That makes it a no-go if you’ve got acne.


Because the lactose is typically not what causes acne. (It may cause diarrhea, but not acne!) It’s typically other ingredients found in milk, suach as whey, casein, IGF-1, and growth hormone (GH), that cause acne, not the lactose.

(Geek note: Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose, the primary sugar in milk. Your gut produces lactase when you’re a baby so you can digest your mother’s milk, but a lot of people lose the ability to produce lactase after childhood or once they’re weaned. A lot of people with Northern European ancestry have inherited a gene mutation that allows them to keep producing lactase into adulthood. However, even for these folks, drinking milk is still likely to cause acne, because it’s not the lactose that matters, it’s the other stuff.)

What About Goat Milk and Sheep Milk?

Goat and sheep milk is generally easier to digest, but it can still cause acne.

Goats and sheep, like cows, pump hormones into their milk to help their babies grow. While it’s true that the A2 proteins in goat milk and sheep milk (and yogurt, cheese, etc. derived from goat/sheep milk) are easier to digest than the A1 protein produced by Holstein cows (which produce the majority of U.S. dairy), goat and sheep milk still contains IGF-1 and growth hormone, and still spikes your insulin.

Some people do find that they can tolerate raw goat (or sheep) milk without getting acne. That’s something you could try as part of the Reduce and Boost Plan, or you can also experiment with it when you skin is clear after 30 days on the Total Elimination Plan.

What About Yogurt? Aren't The Probiotics Good For Me?

Probiotics are indeed good for you, but yogurt is not the ideal way to get them! Yogurt has some of the IGF-1 removed through the fermentation process, but not entirely, and it still contains natural milk hormones and proteins that tend to cause acne. (Update: extremely acidic, sour yogurt can have significantly reduced amounts of IGF-1, but most store-bought yogurt has a pH of around 4.8,[9] which isn’t low enough to denature the IGF-1 at all.[10] )

If you’re looking to rebuild your digestive flora, a better idea is to take a probiotic supplement. One of the highest-quality probiotic supplements currently available is called Prescript Assist. It’s not cheap, but it’s different from other probiotics in that it’s comprised of soil-based organisms, organisms which are highly represented in a healthy adult’s gut. Other helpful probiotics include strains of L. acidophilus and Bifidobacteria. (Learn more about the link between probiotics and acne here.)

Especially if you’ve used antibiotics recently, I’d suggest taking a high-strength probiotic like Prescript Assist for at least 60 days. (Even if you haven’t, it’s probably worth taking some kind of probiotic from time to time unless you’re eating a lot of (non-dairy!) live, fermented foods.)

If you’re doing the Reduce and Boost Plan, you can include some whole (not low-fat or fat-free!), unsweetened, organic yogurt from grass-fed animals in your diet. If you can get or make raw milk yogurt, that’s even better.

What About Buttermilk, Or (Insert Type of Dairy Here)?

The same criteria apply to all forms of dairy. If you’re doing the Total Elimination Plan, if it is derived from the milk of an animal, don’t eat or drink it. If you’re doing the Reduce and Boost Plan, if it’s full-fat, grass-fed, and organic, it’s probably okay to consume in moderation. (Raw is even better.) That includes butter, ghee, buttermilk, cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, and kefir. Always avoid:

  • Conventional dairy products
  • Skim milk
  • 1% milk
  • 2% milk
  • Powdered milk
  • Condensed milk
  • Dairy in processed/packaged foods

If you’re really not sure about a certain type of dairy, leave us a comment below.

What About Whey Protein?

Whey protein is definitely a strong acne trigger! See our article here for more info:

Whey and Acne: Does Whey Protein Cause Acne?

What About Eggs? Are They Dairy?

Nope, eggs are not dairy, even though they are essentially baby food (for the growing, unborn chick).

Eggs do not have growth hormones like IGF-1 that are bioactive in humans. Eggs are really a fabulous food, especially farmers’ market, pasture-raised eggs. They’re loaded with choline, lutein, zeaxanthin, B vitamins, cholesterol (which is a good thing – it’s the building block for all hormones in the body, after all), and healthy fats. I eat three eggs, typically, for breakfast.

One caveat – a small percentage of people are sensitive to eggs and find that for them, they do cause acne – so pay attention to your own body’s signals.

Alternatives to Milk for Clear Skin

There are a few great alternatives to milk if you’re still hooked on liquid white stuff. Here we go:

  • Unsweetened, organic almond milk
  • Unsweetened, organic coconut milk (“So Delicious” or similar brand)
  • AROY-D 100% Coconut Cream
  • Organic full-fat coconut milk

You have to be a little careful with milk substitutes as they tend to have a bunch of added sugar and sometimes vegetable oil (both of which negatively affect your hormones and can worsen acne).

That’s why I recommend unsweetened almond or coconut milk.

(Note: by “vegetable oil” I mean canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, and cottonseed oil. These oils are highly processed and/or contain high amounts of inflammatory omega-6 fats.)

You can also make your own nut milks, of course! Almond milk, Brazil nut milk, hazelnut milk – you name it. Google around a bit if you’re curious about this – you’ll find tons of great recipes and how-to’s out there. That way, you know you’re getting just pure, healthy nuts and no funny stuff added.

My personal favorite these days is AROY-D 100% Coconut Cream. It’s prized by Thai master chefs (so I’ve read) as the best-tasting coconut milk / coconut cream around. It’s incredibly rich and loaded with healthy medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and stable saturated fats. It mixes great into green smoothies and curries.

Do Not Drink Soy Milk!

Soy milk is made from processed soybeans, which can have estrogen-mimicking effects on the body. Any food that could potentially disturb your hormones in this way is something you’ll want to avoid as you’re going toward clear skin.

Furthermore, soy contains large amounts of omega-6 fats, which cause inflammation and redness/swelling of acne unless balanced out by a healthy amount of omega-3 fats (rare in most modern diets).

Soy is also linked to increased rate of birth defects, increased chance of developing Alzheimer’s later in life,[11] and is very often genetically modified (unless organic or otherwise stated). The health effects of genetically modified foods are a hotly debated issue, but why play guinea pig on yourself when genetically modified foods are so new to our bodies?

Finally, the minerals found in soymilk are basically useless to humans, because they’re bound up by phytic acid (which is used by plants to defend against getting eaten before they flower and reproduce).

Key Take-Aways

  • Dairy is one of the worst acne triggers in the Western diet. It contains the growth hormone IGF-1 and it spikes your insulin dramatically, leading to inflammation, redness, swelling, clogged pores, and acne.
  • Try either the Total Elimination Plan (avoiding all dairy) or the Reduce and Boost Plan (reducing dairy consumption and boosting the quality of consumed dairy) for 30 days. These are among the most powerful things you can do to start clearing up your skin.
  • Dairy is chemically addictive (like opium and morphine, but to a lesser degree), so quitting dairy can be tough.
  • Watch out for hidden dairy ingredients. Read ingredients labels before you buy packaged food, and ask at restaurants for dairy-free options.
  • Quitting dairy is only one part of a holistic diet- and lifestyle-based treatment for acne.
  • Most people also need to fix the other diet- and lifestyle-based root causes of acne before they’re totally clear (and that’s what our book is all about!).

While dairy is one of the worst acne triggers out there, there’s even more you can do to kickstart your journey to clear skin.

If you’d like to be walked through the whole process of tweaking your diet for clear skin, I’ve written an ebook that does just that. It’s called “Clear Skin Forever” (surprise, surprise!).

For this complete guide to taking an all-natural, diet-based approach to getting rid of acne and having clear skin for life (no kidding!), go here.

Sources (click to expand)

  1. Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2008 May;58(5):787-93. ^
  2. Family history, body mass index, selected dietary factors, menstrual history, and risk of moderate to severe acne in adolescents and young adults. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2012 Dec;67(6):1129-35. ^
  3. High glycemic load diet, milk and ice cream consumption are related to acne vulgaris in Malaysian young adults: a case control study. BMC Dermatology. 2012 Aug 16;12:13. ^
  4. Role of insulin, insulin-like growth factor-1, hyperglycaemic food and milk consumption in the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris. Experimental Dermatology, 18: 833–841. ^
  5. Milk consumption: aggravating factor of acne and promoter of chronic diseases of Western societies. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2009 Apr;7(4):364-70. ^
  6. High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2005 Feb;52(2):207-14. ^
  7. Opioid peptides encrypted in intact milk protein sequences. British Journal of Nutrition / Volume 84 / Supplement S1 / November 2000, pp 27-31. ^
  8. Real Milk Finder. ^
  9. Are All Yogurts Created Equal? ^
  10. The Effects of Dairy Processes and Storage on Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I (IGF-I) Content in Milk and in Model IGF-I–Fortified Dairy Products. ^
  11. ^


  1. shaina says

    I am on Day 11 of no dairy and I am breaking out even worse than before. It’s interesting because I’m getting pimples in places that I’ve never had them before- like my cheeks and above my mouth. My cystic acne hasn’t gotten much better either. I do plan on weening off gluten slowly, but do you think my body is adjusting to no dairy? Do you think it’s just in detox mode?

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Shaina! That’s not the most encouraging result, is it? It’s possible that your body is detoxing/adjusting. There are other possibilities as well. Without knowing what you were eating before compared to how you’re eating now, it’s hard to guess at what might be going on for you. Also, could there be anything else going on coincidentally – life stressors, eating out a lot or eating something unusual, etc. – that might be provoking your skin right now?

      • shaina says

        Thanks for the response. I actually haven’t been eating out at all and I don’t feel stressed. I have about two weeks to go so I’ll take it from there! I just ordered the Zinc and Vitamin D-3 5,000 IU. I was reading on amazon, that you’re supposed to take K-2 with it??? Is this necessary? Thanks in advance.

        • Devin Mooers says

          Hey Shaina, taking K2 with D3 is definitely not a bad idea. K2 can help prevent D3 toxicity, though that typically only happens with HUGE doses of D3 (10,000 IU or more per day for months). I do take K2 regularly and I think it’s worth taking – I like Life Extension Super K:

          Life Extension Super K with Advanced K2 Complex 90 softgels

          The safest way to get D3 is from the sun, but if you can’t do that, supplementation can definitely be a good idea. It’s good to get your levels checked regularly, too, to make sure you’re not going over 20-35 ng/mL.

  2. Kaitlin says

    I came across this website about a month ago and decided to try going dairy free to see if it would help my skin improve. It’s been extremely difficult since I love cheese and I never realized until giving it up how often I eat it. Since doing so I’ve noticed that my skin clears up a little faster, but I’m still breaking out. My breakouts have mostly corresponded with the week before and during that “time of the month”, then my skin calms down for a few weeks and it starts all over. As a teenager I had acne but not as bad as it is now. When I turned 18 I started taking hormonal birth control pills and my skin was clear but after 4 years of not feeling like myself I stopped taking them. That was when my real acne problems began. If I had to choose again I would never take hormonal birth control pills. It took almost a year for my body to readjust but my skin has never been the same. Now in my mid 20s I’m becoming interested in what dietary changes might help (especially considering the dermatologist I saw after stopping birth control pills never suggested any such thing.) I will definitely keep trying more things suggested here, just not sure cutting out dairy was worth it for me unfortunately.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Kaitlin! For many (most) people, their diets need more attention and change than “just” eliminating dairy (though that’s a huge step). It sounds like cutting out dairy does have an impact for you – it’s just not enough to get you all the way clear, which I know is disappointing. I definitely suggest trying more of the recommendations we make on the blog – and if you’re ready to go all in, check out our book, which details our whole diet-and-lifestyle-based acne-clearing program. Especially since it sounds like your breakouts are tied to your cycles, I think you would benefit from a more comprehensive approach.

  3. Trish says

    It took me forever to realize that dairy was making me break out. In my mid-thirties I started breaking out in places I have never broken out before. My back and my neck broke out like crazy. It was so frustrating. My breakouts started about the same time I switched to natural products for my face and hair, so I thought it was the products causing the breakouts. I don’t know what initially got me on the trail of dairy, but I finally did. I noticed an immediate difference. I switched to unsweetened almond milk (love it), and started playing with other dairy items. For some reason I can still eat some types of cheese (cheddar/mozza/maybe Feta), however I cannot eat cottage or ricotta cheese, it seems like the softer ones are not allowed for me. I cannot eat yogurt or sour cream, however I still seem to be OK with my tablespoon of creamer in my coffee each morning (phew!). The hardest thing to stop eating for me has been yogurt (I miss my chia yogurt). I also will miss having an old fashioned milk shake every few years… So glad to have found your website to find the reasoning behind it all!!!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Wow Trish, that’s awesome! Thanks for sharing, and I’m glad our article helped put some science behind your personal experience. I’m the same way with dairy – some things seem to be fine, others cause problems – and a lot of it just has to be figured out with personal experimentation!

  4. Nelly Cortes says

    Excellent article…. i agree completely with the dairy issue, but i dont agree with the fact that eggs dont cause acne, they do. They might not have the same type of hormones as milk but they feed chicken certain types of hormones to make them grow too… i have completely prooved it on me and my acne. Dairy and eggs have the same effect, please check your notes and rewrite about eggs cause you can help alot of people that suffer.this terrible problem as it is acne, please review it.

    And once again. EXCELLENT ARTICLE!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Nelly! Thanks for the comment. It’s actually illegal in the US to feed hormones to poultry/chickens, so that’s probably not the issue. Some people do have egg allergies that lead them to break out after eating eggs, but for many folks, they’re a nutrient-dense food packed with vitamin A, cholesterol, choline, lutein, and other goodies that can be hard to come by in other foods. For people who have gone through our program and are still having some breakouts, we recommend avoiding eggs for a few weeks to rule that out. We just had a guy on our members-only forum who found eggs to be the final thing preventing him from clearing up his skin, actually! So you’re right, some people do have egg sensitivities that make them break out, but I don’t think it’s hormones fed to chickens.

      • Nelly says

        Thank you for your interesting reply. I’m happy I found your site. All this information can really transform lives. God Bless you.

  5. Mac says

    I KNEW IT, I KNEW IT, I JUST KNEW IT. I’ve battled with severe, cystic acne throughout my teenage to young adult life. High school was simply the worst because of it. I was a swim athlete, consuming large quantities of food with milk products ubiquitous (cheese burgers and pizza were my thing), protein shakes, dairy wherever. And ofcourse, I would break out like a pimple producing monster. It was unreal, and definitely lifechanging in terms of completely depreciating any bit of self-esteem that i was destined to have. I tried all kinds of products on my skin, Noxema, Neutragena, Clear Skin, Oil of Olay, yada yada most of which was marketed to a largely white consumers audience….I’m black. Then I tried proactiv when it first came out, which was not popularly known, and only based in california where my sister’s did college. Then I tried other things like harsh anti-bacterial soaps and scrubs, then it was anti-biotic pills and needle shots prescribed by a dermatologist who said to me, “you have the most severe kind of acne known to humans…cystic nodular acne” I excused myself to the bathroom and almost killed myself right then and there. After changing dermatologists, the Accutane conversation was brought up as a solution which I was seriously going to pursue, talks of 100% effective in treating and eliminating acne were seductive. There was another kid in my school who’s acne was worse than mine, which i thought was impossible,,(his skin was fair so unfortunately it was blaring) who tried it and I witnessed over the course of a year, his face increasingly become clear…and I was sold on it until my mother heard from the doctor….side effects include suicidal thoughts. She stopped the process instantly. I was already suicidal and she did not want to chance it. I felt hopeless, and years went by with raging acne unabated. Until I stopped competing, thinking….hmm maybe it was the chlorine, but the breakouts continued.
    Finally at the age of 25, almost resigned to living the rest of my life with acne, I spoke to a black woman selling black soap about my ordeal with my skin, she then told me “Darling, if you want to take care of your skin you have to drink much more water than you do, and stop eating processed foods, more vegetables, raw preferably, drink bitters and stay the HELL away from milk!” MILK!?!….How could I not know. It creates so much inflammation and I was always congested, nose either clogged or runny…thinking it was just my pet allergies. I stopped the milk, all milk products….consumed much more water and in all seriousness…my face cleared up like the day after a hurricane. OKay….crazy analogy. however useful because, note: the acne definitely subsided, so the damage was over, yet damage was done. After recognizing what caused the acne, truly, and putting a stop to dairy products, I now deal with the scarring that’s pretty much like the fossilfication of the acne. That’s the next chapter. I’m not entirely sure if the scarring will ever go away, without some major reconstructive plastic like surgery, but It reminds me of my long journey with my skin. I’m almost at 30 and i have many more years to go, but i’m happy to have located one very specific thing that does not help my skin or my body and rid myself clean of it. A Dairy free diet, something I can truly count on. It makes the next chapter of my skin life that much less stressful. :-)))

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Mac! Whoa, what a story – thanks for sharing! I’m so glad that woman gave you that advice 5 years ago, and that giving up dairy was all you needed to do to clear up cycstic nodular acne! Cheers to you :). As for scarring, yeah, that’s tough. We suggest aloe as a scar treatment, but it’s on a whole other level from surgical forms of scar removal. Best of luck to you as you navigate this!

  6. Breanna says

    Hi guys! I’ve been doing more cooking lately and recently subscribed to a delivery service that provides organic ingredients and recipes. All of the recipes I’ve gotten so far require all purpose virgin olive-oil for cooking, but your article says that’s bad?

    I’m also an addicted cereal consumer! Over the last few years I’ve had an increase in sebum production, leading to chest and back acne, sometimes very mild to none, sometimes horrible, and always embarrassing :( I’ve even been thinking of going to see a dermatologist for a prescription. Lately I’ve been having a bowl of cereal every morning and sometimes for lunch too. While I occasionally get some blemishes on around my chin and mouth, I have noticed that my forehead has also been breaking out despite my usual water consumption, cleansing routine and even using my microdermabrasion machine. Your article makes a lot of sense and could be the answer to my problems!!

    Lastly, is green tea as helpful as other sources say it is for clear skin?

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Breanna, so glad you found our article. It’s kind of awesome when you realize you’ve been doing something that could be a huge acne trigger – like eating tons of cereal and milk – because then there’s so much potential for positive change! I would definitely cut back on the cereal, replace it with nutritionally-dense foods, and see what happens after a month or so! I’ve got high hopes for you :)

      Olive oil – not our top choice for cooking, but if you use really low heat it can be okay. Better cooking fats include coconut oil, tallow, red palm oil – even butter is probably better than EVOO for cooking. As for green tea – we’ve got a looooong answer to that here!

  7. Danielle says

    These people are telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I’ve spent the last three months without consuming any dairy products. And my face hadn’t been that clear in over 15 years. However, a week or so ago we went out to celebrate my brother’s birthday and I decided to “treat” myself to a meatball pasta dish featuring Parmesan cheese and then ice cream for desert. Now my face is right back at square one. So watch out for those special holiday events. That special “treat” can turn out to be a trick. When looking back, dairy (especially whole milk) has always created problems for me. Dairy products are pretty unforgiving.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Danielle! Dairy can be pretty nasty, right? Depends on the type of dairy and quality, and the person, for sure, but definitely safer to avoid (especially feedlot-raised dairy) for acne sufferers.

    • Devin Mooers says

      You know, I’m not actually sure if the IGF-1 or other hormones in yogurt would have any effect if applied topically. I guess it’s worth a shot, thought we generally advise against topical treatments, preferring the “inside out” approach of fixing your gut, diet, lifestyle, etc. – eventually you get to the point where you don’t need topical treatments anymore.

  8. Dana says

    Today is day two of cutting out dairy to see if it helps my acne. I am already a vegetarian so does cutting out dairy mean I need to be vegan? I am confused about how much I need to sacrifice. Can I have ranch dressing when the 8th ingredient is milk? Can I eat whole grain bread and pasta? I eat a lot of cheese and have a Greek yogurt every morning so I have cut obvious things like that out.

    I did not know about the soy so that is helpful. I do have a vegan protein shake at least once a day but I just checked the ingredients and it says it contains hemp, cranberry and pea protein, no soy. That should be ok, right? I am a triathlete and I want to make sure I still get everything I need, especially protein.

    I am a 33 year old female and sick of my acne!!

    Thank you!!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Dana! Our book describes in detail the diet we recommend for people, and then includes a chapter on customizations for vegetarians and vegans (and no, you don’t have to be vegan – eggs are a-ok). The general idea is that it’s good to find the happy medium place between reducing foods that trigger acne and reducing important sources of nutrition! If you’re veg, grass-fed dairy products are an important source of fat-soluble vitamins that you’re not going to get from another source, so consciously choosing to incorporate certain high-quality dairy foods into your diet is probably wise. Does that include ranch dressing? Ehhh… I’m guessing probably not. (Since you’ve got a lot of different dietary questions, I’d definitely recommend checking out the Clear Skin Forever book.) Good luck with your dietary changes!

    • alice says

      No eggs are not a- ok they cause cancer and having just 1 egg a day was shown in a study to be as detrimental to your health as smoking 5 cigs a day for 10 years, so totally go vegan the animals, the planet and your body will thank you for it and check out freelee the banana girls videos, especially on eggs to educate yourself!

      • Sonia Carlson says

        Hey Alice – we’ve both been on the vegan bandwagon in the past, so we can definitely sympathize with your sentiment. However, I disagree with your assessment of eggs. Is there a link to this study that you can share?

      • Tim says

        Absolutely false claims by an improperly informed person. Speak with a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, who specializes in nutrition and you will may learn botanical properties cannot alone support the optimal physiological needs of a human being.

  9. Mae Frances Villas says

    Hi! I was searching for ways to get rid of acne and to have clearer skin, then I come across your site and find out that dairy products can cause and aggravate acne. I have been suffering acne right after I graduated from college, I don’t know why. I’m not really used seeing my skin swarm with acne, so, I do have some trouble getting rid of them. I know it may take some time but I will take the advice and try it out. Thank you for sharing. I’ll post my comment if there are improvements.

  10. Pete says

    What’s the alternative to butter? I’ve been using soya milk and dairy free butter, is dairy free butter ok or does that contain soya too? I was wondering why I still get breakouts, I had no idea soya was bad, maybe that’s the problem for me

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Pete – good question. You have to read ingredients on your dairy-free butter to see what’s in it, but most are made up of various veg oils (canola, sunflower, safflower, soy, etc.) which are very problematic for acne. An alternative depends on what you are using it for. Coconut oil can be suitable for some uses. Honestly, a high-quality grass-fed butter like Kerrygold or Organic Valley is not a terrible choice – most people aren’t consuming loads of the stuff, and it contains some good fat-soluble vitamins that probably offset any negative effects. Milk itself is much more problematic.

  11. Andrea says

    Thank you on your wonderfully explained articles, you guys are great!

    I cut dairy from my diet 2 weeks ago. My skin looks better but I have muscles pain in my legs. I also don’t take sugar so I think that that may be connected with the pain in my muscles.
    Do you have any advice or any supplements that I should take?

    I also have another question about your cod liver oil article. Can I expose to the Sun if I take cod liver oil as I read that vitamin A should not be taken when exposing to the Sun?

    Thank you very much on your answer.

    Best regards from Paris!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Andrea, that’s great that you’re seeing improvement in your skin. As to your legs, intense muscle cramping (if that’s what you’re experiencing) can be due to electrolyte imbalance. Eating enough salt and other mineral-rich foods can help that (also be sure you’re drinking enough water).

      As to sun exposure and FCLO – sun exposure is not a problem when you’re getting vitamin A in a natural form. In fact, it’s important to get sufficient vitamin D either from supplementation or sunshine to keep your A and D in balance!

  12. Sammyk1ns says

    I have just finished going through menopause and have suffered severe acne for the past three years covering my face, forehead and temples. I also suffered with digestive problems about three years ago and became worried I wasn’t getting enough vitamins etc… in my diet so I began drinking a powdered supplement that I mixed with milk and drank milk and ate a lot of yoghurts. Within the past six months I have been eating a more varied diet and have only just realized that on weekends when I would typically have eggs for breakfast my face would seem calmer only to become sore again in the week when I ate cereals – so today I googled “Can milk aggravate acne” and found your site – thankyou for the answer and the feeling that there could be a light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

Like what you read? Have something to share? Leave a comment below! Your ideas are much appreciated, though we can't answer every individual question. :)

- Devin and Sonia

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