Milk and Acne: Does Milk Cause Acne?

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.

Want to listen instead of reading? Check out our podcast episode about milk and acne:

> Subscribe to the CSF podcast on iTunes!

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, 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. I’m not saying it’s a good idea to go cold turkey on all dairy. Try this: gradually cut out milk and dairy products over a few weeks, and maintain this dairy-free diet for at least 90 days to see if it makes difference for your skin. I’m confident it will, and that you will love the improvement so much that you’ll never want to consume dairy again! (In fact, chances are you’ll start seeing improvement in a week or less! Usually, if I eat some dairy and break out, my skin clears up again in about a week after I stop eating dairy.)

Example Plan

Start with breakfast. Cut out dairy products from your morning routine, and eat eggs and bacon instead, or whatever else you’d like that doesn’t include dairy. Do that for a week. The following week, cut out dairy from your lunch as well. The third week, do dinner. This is a good way to ease into things. Going cold turkey on dairy can be tough, as it’s so dang tasty! (Dairy is also physically addictive, as it contains opioid peptides that mimic the action of opium.[7] )

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, sorry, organic milk and hormone-free milk are not much better for your skin!

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 90 days of going dairy-free, and once your acne situation is well-controlled). Now, it’s not 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. Why? 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 still tends to 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. You might find that you can tolerate raw goat milk, for example, without getting acne, but I strongly suggest you cut out dairy for at least two weeks, ideally 90 days (to allow time for all your clogged pores to un-clog themselves), before you start experimenting with things like raw goat milk, raw cow yogurt, etc.

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.

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.)

What About Buttermilk, Or [Insert Type of Dairy Here]?

No go, sorry! All dairy products (except ghee) contain suspect milk proteins and hormones that tend to cause acne for all the reasons listed above. Here’s a list I’m going to add to over time with dairy products that should generally be avoided (unless you’re deliberately testing on yourself):

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Buttermilk
  • Skim milk
  • Organic milk
  • Pasture-raised milk
  • Raw milk
  • Goat milk
  • Goat yogurt
  • Goat cheese
  • Sheep cheese
  • Powdered milk
  • Condensed milk

Just because X form of dairy isn’t on this list does not mean it’s okay for your skin! Leave me a comment below if you’re really not sure about a certain type of dairy.

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, and cottonseed oil. These oils contain high amounts of inflammatory omega-6 fats. Olive oil, on the other hand, is fantastic! Just don’t cook with it, as it’s unstable to heat and forms skin-damaging free radicals. Other good fats to use for clear skin are red palm oil, coconut oil, and animal 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.

But Cereal’s No Good Without Milk…

You’re absolutely right! The alternatives to milk, like almond milk and coconut milk, really aren’t as good, and eating cereal becomes a lot less enjoyable without real milk. I’m going to propose something drastic: if you’re quitting milk, you might as well quit cereal and kill two acne-causing birds with one stone (excuse the violent phrase).

The main thing is that cereal can destroy your gut, especially if you’re one of the 70% of people that are probably sensitive to gluten. That opens the floodgates for systemic inflammation (redness/swelling of acne), food allergies, and majorly worsened acne. Even gluten-free cereal tends to be loaded with sugar and/or baked in some kind of vegetable oil, which leads to lipid peroxidation. Peroxidized lipids are BAD. They can directly damage your skin’s cell membranes, and if your immune system is already compromised from eating gluten and processed foods, you can’t really neutralize the peroxidized lipids as well, so they wreak havoc. I’m going to write a post soon about cereal and/or gluten, and I’ll link it here.

The best thing you can do, cereal-wise, is to stop eating it altogether. I ate cereal + milk for breakfast every morning for close to 15 years, but now I know that it gives me acne, taxes my immune system, and drains my energy, so I’ve switched to pasture-raised eggs, bacon, and green smoothies for breakfast. Give it a try – your skin will thank you!

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 (used by plants for defense against getting eaten before they flower and reproduce). Tempeh is much better in this regard, as the phytic acid is broken down by the fermentation process. By some accounts having around half the phytic acid.[12]

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). 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.

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?

Eggs are fantastic! 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.

Poaching or soft-boiling are you best bets for healthy eggs. Sunnyside up is a solid method. I strongly advise against scrambling your eggs, though (I used to do this all the time). When you scramble an egg, you oxidize the cholesterol in the yolk, turning an otherwise healthy nutrient (cholesterol) into a dangerous substance (oxidized cholesterol), which tends to take up residence in your arteries. Yikes.

The healthiest way to cook an egg is to keep the yolk intact and runny – poaching is definitely my method of choice. Give it a shot if you haven’t yet!

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 cutting out processed milk and dairy products from your diet for 90 days. It’s one of 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.
  • The minimum I recommend, if you’re really addicted to dairy, is to cut out dairy 100% for two whole weeks, then re-introduce it and see what it does to your skin. If you break out, you’ll have more evidence and stronger desire to quit dairy long-term. (You may have to repeat this process a few times – it took me many cycles of this before I was able to quit dairy 100%!)
  • 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.
  • You also need to fix the other diet- and lifestyle-based root causes of acne (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. ^
  12. ^

For You:


  1. Nicole says

    Hello, your website is a wonderful site full of knowledge! I would have never thought about dairy as my main problem. I have had acne since I’ve been 15 years old. I’m now 26. I’m suffering with Jawline acne at the moment and I have been for about 2 years. I’ve had such bad experiences with doctors, and dermatologists. So much so that while I was taking tetracycline I experiences pseudotumor cerebri, caused from the acne medication. I will now deal with pseudotumor cerebri for the rest of my life because I was on the cycling medications for to long.
    I know that jawline acne is sometimes a different than regular acne. Will the dairy effect jawline acne too?
    Thank you!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Nicole! I’m really glad you found our site, welcome! Wow, bad experiences indeed :(. Well the good news is that eliminating dairy from your diet doesn’t come with any lasting harmful side effects – and yes, cutting out dairy can improve acne that occurs anywhere on your body, including the jawline. For some people – and you may be one of them – that’s all that you need to do. If, however, you cut out dairy for awhile and don’t see any major improvement, don’t lose heart – sometimes additional diet and lifestyle changes are necessary to achieve lasting clear skin, which we talk about elsewhere on our blog, and more in-depth in our book. All that to say – yes, I definitely suggest you give it a go!

  2. Kathleen says

    Hi, I’m a teenager and, big surprise, I have horrible acne and have for years. Ridding my diet of dairy sounds promising, but there’s a problem- currently I’m in a sport for my school where we train and workout for hours a day, not to mention I have a very active lifestyle in general. my mom doesn’t want me to cut dairy from my diet because she thinks I won’t get enough calories, protien, calcium, etc. to supplement my lifestyle. How would you recommend I recieve the necessary nutrients that are most commonly found in dairy like calcium?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Kathleen! See this article for more on calcium:

      We survived for hundreds of thousands of years, before agriculture, without getting calcium from dairy. There are lots of excellent sources like leafy greens, almonds, and bone broth, and lots of others you wouldn’t expect. As for calorie/protein intake, that’s relatively easy to make up by eating more meat (ideally grass-fed / sustainably raised). I know it doesn’t say so in this article, but we also recommend going 100% gluten-free. To replace those carbohydrates, you can also eat more sweet potatoes and other starches (potatoes, white rice in moderation) to replenish glycogen stores after exercising.


  3. Sonda says

    Thanks so much for this article. I have cut dairy cold turkey and I can tell a big difference in my skin in less than one week. Your article didn’t talk about protein powders, though. I was using a scoop of whey protein powder daily and wondering why my skin was suddenly flaring up. When I realized whey is a milk byproduct, I quit it and am switching to a plant based protein powder instead. Thanks for the great info and for countering the mainstream acceptance of dairy.

    • Devin Mooers says

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article, Sonda! See here for in-depth info on whey protein:

      I’ll add a link to the milk article to make it easier to find.

    • Devin Mooers says

      You mean like as casein protein powder? If so, I wouldn’t recommend it, since casein could potentially include some of the same hormones that probably end up in whey protein after processing. I don’t have any hard data on that, though. Check out this study:

      It says that casein actually boosted IGF-1 levels in young boys, whereas whey protein only boosted fasting insulin, not IGF-1 levels. If casein is boosting IGF-1 levels, that’s a strong reason to avoid it.

      And here’s a rat study that found casein to boost endogenous IGF-1 levels:

      For protein powder, I’d instead go with egg white protein (for optimum digestibility) or something vegan (e.g. Vega, sprouted brown rice protein, hemp protein).I mean, really the best thing is to just eat whole food proteins, though. Just eat more meat! Sorry rambled a bit there – did that answer your question?

  4. Jessica says

    I had severe cystic acne and after trying all kinds of drugstore products with no luck I decided to do my research and figure what caused the flare up in the first place. I read a lot about dairy causing cystic acne especially in adult women and I decided to cut as much of it out. OMG, what a drastic difference! It’s like instantly I felt less irritation and I would wake up without the pain of a new oncoming acne bump on my jaw line. I also decided to go the more natural route and stuck with organic and gentle remedies to cleanse my skin and it all works great for me. My question is this… if I were to use dairy topically, say as in a mask, will it affect my acne the way ingesting it did? I wanted to stick with natural remedies and a lot of masks ask for yogurt but I’m afraid that it will make me break out.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Jessica! I’m so glad you’ve had such great results from cutting out dairy!! As far as using yogurt in masks and such, my sense is that it would probably be ok. Dairy causes system-wide problems with insulin and inflammation, and applying it topically isn’t going to have those effects. If you try using yogurt on your face and start to see a worsening of symptoms, though, you might want to consider steering away from that after all.

  5. Kim says

    Your site has been a wealth of information and found at just the right time, as I am having a breakout. I’ve had antibiotic resistant/severe cystic acne since I was fifteen. I took a round of Accutane (I was one of the first people to take it, yikes!) then and again ten years later. They had wanted to send me to Duke to be observed at the time, but it was several hours away from where we lived and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a guinea pig. Sometimes I wish I’d gone if it could have produced the knowledge we have today sooner. I’ve long suspected some of the culprits for the cause, but hadn’t pieced all the components together. Unfortunately in my search for alternate/more healthy diets I’ve often been eating what seemed healthy to be only triggering and sustaining the cycle of breakouts. You recommend Dr. Ohhira’s probiotic, but it looks as if it contains fermented soy and safflower oil. Is this a form that is acceptable or are the amounts tolerably low in terms of triggering an inflammatory response and whacking out your hormones? I noticed that some of the other probiotics contain casein (milk). I thought I’d seen somewhere on your site a soil-based probiotic suggested, but now can’t seem to find it. Are there any fungal etc., issues with these like with coffee? I’m currently on my third round of unsuccessful antibiotics now for smaller, but very painful debris filled bumps that seem to heal then come back. I’m hopeful to find lasting relief without unhealthy drugs that disrupt my system even more. Thank you

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Kim, wow – it sounds like you’ve been on quite the ride, as far as acne treatments are concerned! Welcome to CSF; I’m glad you’re exploring natural alternatives and found our site. Thank you for your question about Dr. Ohhira’s probiotic – we actually stopped recommending that one some time ago (a number of people let us know that they didn’t respond to it well), and you’re right, the ingredient list isn’t so clean. It looks like we missed updating that bit of this blog post – so I just did update it (see above). We most highly recommend Prescript Assist these days – that’s the soil-based probiotic you’d have seen referenced elsewhere on our site. I’m not aware of any risk of mycotoxins in the probiotic / haven’t seen any indications of that. Especially if you’re taking antibiotics now, I definitely suggest getting on this or another high-quality probiotic.

      I wish you good results and speedy healing!

  6. Bruno says

    Hi there, good article!

    I am 28 and for many years I used to drink plenty of milk on a daily basis. A year ago I passed through a very stressful stage in my job and this acne started to appear from nowhere, specially in the forehead and after drinking milk or any other products with milk (even cakes).

    Is this going to last forever?

    Now I do not drink any milk and I am careful with the food (except for Christmas or special occasions) but I really want to know if there is anything I can take to stop this.

    If I was a teenager it would be fine but as an adult it makes my moral goes down every time I see my face full of red spots.

    Thank you for your attention,

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Bruno! It sounds like you’re pretty frustrated that this acne suddenly appeared out of nowhere a year ago, and wondering how long you’re going to have to put up with it. My first question is – do you still experience breakouts if you avoid dairy products, or does not drinking milk seem to take care of it? It sounds like you might be asking if there’s anything you can take – a pill or something – that would enable you to drink milk again and still be acne-free. You can try taking the supplements we recommend elsewhere on our site and in our book – vitamin D, fermented cod liver oil, a probiotic, and zinc if you’re vegetarian or eating lots of grains/beans – but as to whether that’s going to be “enough” for you, I can’t answer that, since how far you have to go is different for everyone. If making dietary changes doesn’t cut it, then I would point to the stress you experienced as another acne trigger that might be useful to look at. Are you still experiencing that kind of stress at work, or in some other area of your life? We talk more extensively about the connections between diet, stress, and acne in our book, but there are lots of resources out there that can help with managing stress in healthier ways. I hope this helps – and that you find a really workable solution for you!

  7. Ari says

    I read this post a while back, roughly a year ago. And what I did was I cut out milk and all dairy for a few weeks. To my surprise, I had very little active acne going on. Obviously a few months later I was back to drinking milk. I genuinely can’t live without the stuff. However lately I’ve made a New Years resolution to myself to keep away from all dairy products. I am now back to acne-free skin and it feels great! I have begun buying unsweetened almond milk but I’m not sure I am used to the taste. But all in all everything this article says is 100%. By the way drink loads of water ! At the very minimum 2 litres!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Ari! Getting solid personal evidence that a food you love is an acne trigger for you can cause mixed feelings of disappointment and excitement. Kudos to you for going dairy-free again, and I’m so glad you’re seeing the pay-off in your skin. Almond milk isn’t the same as dairy milk, it’s true (though we make our own at home, and it’s super fresh and tasty), but as with most things that you stop eating, after awhile I suspect you’ll “forget” what dairy milk really tasted like. (And even if not, you might find it’s still worth the sacrifice!) Keep with it, and best wishes to you!

  8. nguyen truong says

    Thank you so much for your article. I really love the almond milk since I have a moderate break out (not a serious type but not a good experience I wish for). After then, my skin gets clearer everyday except for the last 5 cystic acne (the toughest kind in acne race). Hence, I have few red bumps on my cheek and my skin compares to before is obviously darker. I believe it’s a mild acne scars. I hope you could give me some advice to brighten my skin. I’m thinking to try DIY mask: matcha green tea+yogurt+honey and use AHA/BHA exfoliation products from Paula’s choice
    p/s: I will give coconut milk a try

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Almond milk is a great choice – just make sure the kind you’re drinking is sugar-free and all-natural. For tips on reducing scars, check out our blog post on aloe – it’s a slow but effective and very safe treatment for scars. I don’t know what steps you’ve taken to treat your acne with diet changes, but for most people, cutting out dairy products isn’t enough; other diet and lifestyle changes are in order as well. To learn more, read around our blog and check out our book!

      Finally, we don’t focus too much on topical treatments of any kind, and so I can’t comment on the mask you mentioned. If it’s all-natural, though, I say give it a try and see how it works for you! In addition, I encourage you to continue to focus on curing your acne from the inside with diet and lifestyle changes! Best wishes to you!

  9. Daniel says

    I was wondering if there is enough milk in the cheese of a pizza to make your skin break out after a while of no dairy

    • Devin Mooers says

      Oh yeah, DEFINITELY. That’s the kind of thing where you could wake up the next day with a new breakout, no question. Cheese is basically concentrated casein, with all the additional bovine hormones concentrated in the fat, and most pizza that you buy isn’t going to be using grass-fed cheese or anything. :D

  10. Bryce says

    Hi, this is probably a dumb question, but I was wondering to how far of an extent I should go on avoiding milk (I started the nondairy diet today). Obviously I should not eat milk, cream, cheese. Yogurt, ice cream, etc. but what about if milk is cooked into something like a dough. There’s butter in baked goods and milk and butter in plenty of foods that are prepared like pasta noodles, etc. should I avoid basically everything? (I’m not going gluten free or sugar free as I planon starting up my own bakery and need to taste my foods) I’m just wondering about dairy!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Bryce – that’s a great question! We encourage people to go 100% dairy-free, and that’s because 1) it yields the fastest results, and 2) a lot of those foods that have milk or butter as an ingredient are foods that trigger acne in other ways. However, if you’re starting a bakery, it might make the most sense for you to do exactly what you described – avoid the obvious sources of dairy, but don’t worry too much about the small amounts contained in your baked goods. Some people are sensitive enough to break out consuming very small amounts of milk products, but for many people, reducing their intake will lead to an overall improvement in their skin!

  11. Alan says

    I had an acne problem, more so in college than high school. After college, I went into the military and seemed to have less of a problem. I did have cysts and acne on my back for a while but into my 30’s it all seemed to disappear. My son is a college athlete, playing football. I know they give them supplements and protein drinks, and I know he loves milk. He seems to break out worse in college than high school. Similar to what I did. I am not sure he cares enough to give up milk. I just wonder if it is hereditary and will go away or if he will have to give up milk someday or always have a problem.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Alan, good questions. It sounds like you’re wondering if your son’s acne will just go away over time like yours did, or if it will persist until he makes dietary changes. I can’t answer that for you, unfortunately – acne has a genetic influence, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your son’s experience will mirror your own. Either outcome is possible. Protein powders – especially whey protein – can be problematic for sure. If he doesn’t want to give up the milk or supplements, he may experience a reduction in his acne if he switches to a different type of protein powder, a non-dairy variety (see our article on whey protein for our suggestions on that). He might also switch to organic milk if that’s feasible for him – we’ve had a few readers now mention that switching to organic milk helped immensely (read below). If he’s reluctant, it can be helpful to think in terms of just trying it for a short amount of time – 2 weeks, 3 weeks, a month – to see if he notices any changes. Psychologically, that’s much easier to sign on to than “forever”!

      Your son is lucky to have such a caring dad – I hope you find a workable solution together!

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