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.

Get rid of acne NOW with these diet and lifestyle changes.

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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.)

*Note: This is an affiliate link, which means we receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link. Visit our disclaimer page for more information.

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.

*Note: This is an affiliate link, which means we receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link. Visit our disclaimer page for more information.

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. Srikar says

    Hey Guys,

    Thanks a lot for this information. I was really bogged down by Acne from my teen and never understood the cause. Went to different dermatologists, tried different medications. Few worked, many didn’t. I chanced upon your website while searching for some home remedies for acne problem.
    I followed the total elimination plan and boy it gave me great results!! I never connected milk to my acne problem. In fact I hit two birds in one stone. I got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease two years back and my toilet visits were pretty high. After eliminating milk, my toilet visits reduced so did my acne!!
    I don’t have an issue with Yoghurt. I instantly see reaction in my face the next day when I consume cottage cheese or Ghee (type of clarified butter). Since I know the cause of the acne now, I can control/eliminate :). My dermatologist did give me ClindaTech if there are any episodes like these.

    Now all I am left with are the marks. Do you have any suggestions around removing the marks?

    My advice to others would be – “Be patient”. It takes a lot of time for the skin to repair itself. Even though its frustrating not to see quick results, patience is your best friend during the difficult times.


    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Srikar! I’m really glad the total elimination plan worked so well for you, that’s amazing!! Great to finally start getting rid of the acne, isn’t it? :)

      For marks, try applying aloe vera and rosehip seed oil twice daily. There are some expensive essential oil scar treatments out there, but I don’t have any experience with them so I’m hesitant to recommend any. We’re working on our own CSF Scar Treatment Formula, so hopefully we’ll have something that we feel good about recommending to people in the not-too-distant future. Don’t hold your breath on that, though, just had a baby and moving to a different state soon so things are pretty busy around here!

  2. Diyana says

    Thanks to your blog.. its my routine to drink milk every time before off to bed.. When my acne gets worsen, i started to panic.. Luckily i found this article and its really open my eyes.. Its really hard for me to eliminate any kind of diary products from my diet, they are my fav.. Will try to totally eliminate it for 2 months and see the different..
    What about people that do consume dairy and don’t get acne? How come the IGF hormone doesn’t cause them more acne? And i have backacne prblem.. Wht should i do?
    Thanks! I really wany clear skin though..

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Diyana! There are HUGE genetic differences between people, and also epigenetics – depends on what your parents and grandparents ate, lived, their environments, etc. as well as your whole life up until now. Person X will not get acne from milk, but Person Y will. Pretty complicated! I wouldn’t focus too much on other people – they’ve got their own thing, and what’s important is to focus on your own acne triggers and get that all figured out so you can stop dealing with acne and move on with your life.

      Removing dairy could be a big help for you! If it helps your face acne, it will likely help your back acne too – they tend to be from the same causes, and often clear up together when you start fixing the underlying diet/lifestyle triggers.

  3. Gail says

    Wish i would have read this years ago! Even my derm didnt think milk was causing my acne. But it was. Clear skin at last after 3 mos of no dairy!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Yay!! So glad to hear it! Yeah it’s amazing so many dermatologists haven’t caught up on this stuff yet… Congrats!!

  4. Ryan says

    Hello and thanks for the article. I’ve been researching acne for years only to give up again and again. I’m a bigger guy with a huge appetite. I’ve been drinking chocolate milk and other dairy products my whole life like it’s going out of style. I always figured I’ve just been dealt a bad hand in that area. I’m 6’5, healthy and not bad looking. I am now 34 years old and have to wear a long sleeve or 3/4 in the middle of the summer. Something has got to be fueling this, right? My brothers, cousins and friends can eat whatever they want without a single blemish. I’ve tried every over the counter product and the acne just keeps on coming no matter what. It has really hindered my existence since my early twenties. It’s going to be hard since I don’t live on my own but have to try a new diet. Was looking back and did you say no soy milk either? I have soy protein shakes I assumed were okay, guess not. I wish I could be a Guinea pig somewhere for you guys to see if this dairy free diet works. Lol. I’m going to definitely try it, I have nothing to lose.
    Thanks, Ryan

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Ryan! Really glad you found this article :). If you drink a lot of milk – and especially chocolate milk, which has the added problem of sugar – there is a lot of potential for your skin here. We do advise against soy products, but you don’t have to go soy-free from the beginning. Just cutting out dairy may make a big difference for you, but if it doesn’t get you all the way there, you might try finding alternatives for your soy protein, too. (Check out our article on whey protein for more on skin-friendly workout supplements.) Best of luck to you, and let us know how it goes!

  5. Shay says

    Great article, lots of great information. I was wondering though some people are lactose intolerant and others are just allergic to the proteins in the milk, how are you supposed to know if your allergic to milk or your lactose intolerant?

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Shay! So just to clarify, what we’re talking about in this article is something totally different from lactose intolerance or milk allergy. If you don’t digest milk well or have an immune response to it, it’s definitely wise to avoid milk! However, even if you don’t have these issues, milk can still trigger acne.

      Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest milk sugars well, and causes digestive symptoms. An allergy has a broader range of symptoms. If you suspect you might have a milk allergy, I suggest consulting your naturopath / doctor!

  6. Ryan James says

    Cut out dairy products and taking dairy free,probiotics/magnesium/multivitamin/fish oil daily. Can’t believe the results so far in 3 weeks my acne has reduced I would say by minimum 70% haven’t had and cyst or new acne anywhere which is shocking as for 2 years it was always getting worse … I was on tetracycline 300 for 7 months with steroid cream then isotrex after that epidou. Seen 3 doctors 1 dermatologist then booked to see a specialist dermatologist. They said I am a candidate for a accutane. 2 years of all this and no results… found this Web page done some research on dairy but still wasn’t sold however I’m so glad I was wrong… Sonia and Delvin you guys rock ✌✌

    Really hoping it keeps getting better until fully clear and can’t believe results so far. Thanks guys

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Wow Ryan, that’s so great to hear! I’m really, really happy for you. Thanks for sharing, and keep up the good work!!!

      • Ryan James says

        Hey guys, so been about 2 months now on no dairy/low carb diet, I take multivitamin / probiotics / magnesium / and omega 3 tablets everyday + green tea however only just started drinking and have had great results no breakout and the horrible cysts bumps anywhere however there is some redness on forehead maybe bacteria infection left !! Would you be able to give me any info to clear this I’m due to see a dermatologist in 2 weeks and he will probably give me some harsh benzoyl proxcide thing, but my best success is doing your clear skin treatment by far !!! 60% minimum my acne has reduced with all the above benefits. How Long should it take to clear the rest surly if I have had no breakouts and massive success dairy is a key trigger?? also I haven’t tried any dairy since as don’t want acne back. Any info would be great and thanks again guys !!!

        • Devin Mooers says

          Hey Ryan! Glad you’re having so much success with this program! You know, you can always refuse to the use the benzoyl peroxide that your dermatologist gives you. 😉 Sounds like you’re on the right track, and just need to stick with it a while longer and wait for things to improve. What’s your diet like? What kinds of foods are you eating?

          Also, are you supplementing zinc at all? Are you eating liver for vitamin A?

  7. Alejandro Villada says

    Thank you so much for sharing. Really informative this article. I started to cut out all diary (which is sad but I’m happy for what might come Do you think greasy food makes you get acne? my philosophy is. well I’ve tried everything (Dermatalogist, the list is really long..)I don’t think greasy food can cause acne..or can it?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Definitely! If it’s cooked in vegetable oil, anyway. Most greasy food that you buy from restaurants is cooked in veg oil (b/c it’s cheaper), so you’re best off avoiding that kind of thing (e.g. deep fried foods). If you make “greasy” food at home with good fats – coconut oil, olive oil, etc. – that shouldn’t be a problem at all.

  8. Rohan sharma says

    Hey… Here is my problem, i know that milk, penut butter and whey protein powder are triggering acne, and i have alot of acne on my face and back too but i am a gym going person(22 year old).how can i build muscles without taking milk or whey and all protein stuff.
    Plz answer it.

  9. Lea says

    This article was so helpful, I never knew up until recently that dairy caused acne. I’ve been trying almond milk or full fat milk which has been fine so far but even almond milk has loads of added things in it, so I might try making my own almond or hazelnut milk.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Glad you enjoyed the article, Lea! We make our own almond milk every few days – it’s so much more delicious than the store-bought stuff! (Though it doesn’t stay fresh for as long, just so you know…)

  10. Charlotte says

    What about people that do consume dairy and don’t get acne? How come the IGF hormone doesn’t cause them more acne?

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Charlotte! Really good question, and in fact we devote a whole chapter to answering that question in our book. Basically, it boils down to your genes (and epigenetics). Some people are just genetically more prone to acne than others for various reasons, and so certain foods or lack of certain nutrients is more likely to push their skin over the edge.

      It’s the same reason why some people can wolf down pizza and pastries and stay skinny, but other people just look at a croissant and gain a pound. It also doesn’t mean that what those skinny (or acne-free) people are doing is healthy for them – just that their body isn’t giving them the “ouch!” message in such a clear-cut way.

      Now, I do think high-quality dairy can be healthy for some people who tolerate it well, but I think that milk from feedlot-raised cows that are treated with a bunch of antibiotics and hormones is probably a net health negative for just about everyone, whether it shows up on their skin or not!

  11. Taylor says

    Hey there! Really appreciate your articles. I noticed a mention of not eating scrambled eggs due to oxidized cholesterol, but was not able to find any more mention of it in the rest of the article. Could you elaborate on that? I eat a few eggs every morning and like to switch it up a bit just so I don’t go crazy!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Taylor! Eating your eggs scrambled is probably not a major acne trigger for most people, so I wouldn’t go crazy trying to avoid that. Basically, cooking egg yolks through oxidizes their cholesterol, which seems to increase heart disease precursors (plaque build-up in the arteries) and also makes it less nutritious for you. So it’s better for you to eat eggs with a runny yolk, but the occasional scrambled or hard-boiled egg isn’t probably anyone’s biggest acne trigger! Poached, sunny-side-up, soft-boiled, and over-easy are among the healthiest preparation choices, if that helps :). Try to get eggs from pastured chickens (or other birds), too!

  12. Julia says

    Wow, I almost want to cry. For years I’ve tried pretty much everything to clear my skin up and nothing has worked, and now I know why. I probably drink six glasses of milk a day- I love the stuff. Whenever I go a couple days without it I get really moody and grumpy. There was always this joke that I was going through withdrawal and after reading this article I am realizing that maybe I was. Obviously now, knowing this, I have to give up cow milk; so do you have any suggestions of substitutes that taste similar?

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Julia! Sorry for the delay in getting to your comment! I’m really glad you found our article. I don’t know if you’ve tried reducing / giving up milk since you wrote earlier this month, but if so, I hope it’s going well for you. As far as substitutes, there’s nothing out there that tastes quite like dairy milk. If your acne is mild, you might be able to get away with simply switching to whole, organic milk (and that’s also raw, if you can get it where you live), and you might also reduce the amount you drink (1-2 glasses a day instead of 6). Other people don’t do well on any milk at all, though, so you might need to experiment!

      Homemade almond milk is my favorite alternative. (I find the store-bought stuff to be too thin, and it can’t match the fresh homemade flavor.) How-to: Soak 1 cup of (unsalted!) almonds in water overnight, then drain and blend with 2 cups of water. Squeeze the mixture through a nutmilk bag or a few layers of cheesecloth, and enjoy within a few days.

  13. Lowe says

    I don’t eat much diary sense I’m lactose intolerant and have neve liked milk in general before. Could this be my trouble then ?
    I do drink soy and almond milk that’s sweetened from alpro mostly sense I dislike the unsweetened kind. I need some sugar because I loose weight so fast if I only eat the healthy stuff.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Lowe! It’s great that you’re already avoiding dairy milk. Sweetened non-dairy milks may be triggering acne for you, though, as you suggest. If weight loss is a concern, consider offsetting the decrease in sugar with an increase in healthy fat (like coconut oil!). No one needs refined sugar; better to get your carbs from lower-glycemic, starchy (not sugary) sources.

  14. Aeriel says

    Hello! I’m so happy I happened upon your site. I am 32 and have recently started breaking out with deep acne on my jaw, neck, and back/shoulders after never having problem skin before. After initial research I thought it must be hormones, then searched out how to stabilize hormones with food. I found that milk (which I love :( ) is probably not helping my issue. So I quit cold turkey and within a week, my skin was heading back to normal. The problem is that my fridge is FULL of Dairy!!! And I’m an AVID baker. I found that carrageenan is problematic for me. Do you know if the Aroy-D has carrageenan in it? Ingredients are in german or dutch or something foreign to me. I use fresh butter, heavy cream in my coffee, I lift weights so I have a couple of protein shakes per day (with milk and greek yogurt), eat lots of cheese and love making creamy soups and dips and bake bake bake with buttermilk and butter and mascarpone cheese and CHOCOLATE!…… What on earth am I going to replace all of this with!? Please help! Thanks!!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Aeriel! I’m not sure we’ve found an ingredient list for Aroy-D that was comprehensible to us either, actually (whoops!). It might be a good idea for you to stick with a brand with an English label :). I know it can be a bummer to give up dairy altogether, and it sounds like that might be especially true for you. I would definitely ditch the protein shakes (assuming they’re whey, and since you drink them with milk), and maybe try some dairy alternatives in your cooking and baking. Some people – I’m among them – can get away with some kinds of dairy, so you might experiment on yourself to see what works for you. Butter, small amounts of heavy cream, and aged cheeses are all okay for me – provided that it’s really high-quality dairy (usually organic, preferably grass-fed, raw if it’s available), and I’m not eating a TON of it. Chocolate – there’s lots of dairy-free dark chocolates out there, so never fear!

      As far as baking – sugar is another major acne trigger (and isn’t great for female hormonal health, either, if that’s what’s going on for you), so I’d be wary of making too many yummy desserts :(

  15. Suzain says

    HI there
    So now I am almost ready to cut out dairy . Still there are stuffs that just cant go without milk so here i am planning of almond milk . How much almond milk is advisable for an acne prone female on an account of one day ? like how many glasses ?
    Thanks for the great information though !

    • Devin Mooers says

      I imagine you could drink a couple glasses a day without a problem. It’s good to find the unsweetened kind, though, to lower your sugar intake!

  16. tony says


    Thanks for your blog! It is totally true to me: i get acne when consuming dairy, milk, cheese, spicy food and so on…..

    And it is F**** tired and exhausting to avoid these food just everyday.. Is there any hidden and root cause behinds these all? Can I take any medicine or what to avoid getting acne for my diet?

    I know some people just eating sweet and drinking milk like crazy but they dont get acne… Why? :(


    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Tony, there are a ton of genetic factors (and epigenetic) that factor into whether you get acne from certain foods. Sounds like you (and I) both get acne from foods that other people handle just fine. A lot of it may also come down to the makeup and health of your gut flora. But it’s also just the low quality of foods these days – antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, artificial crap, etc. – it’s all over our food supply, and didn’t used to be 100 years ago (when acne was extremely rare).

      You might find after you clean up your diet and heal your gut, that you can tolerate some dairy, etc. once in a while with no issues. Just takes some experimenting!

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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