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. Nur says

    Hai ! This article really helps me a lot . I have cut all dairy products and my skin is slowly getting clear but I do have some questions. What about whitehead and blackhead ? How to actually make our pores clean ? Thank you !

  2. Stuart Wilkinson says

    So confused about IGF-1. Not only is it in milk, but it’s apparently in meat too. One of the best things for acne is supposed to be vitamin A of which liver is the best source. IGF-1 is produced by the liver so I assume it’s chock full of it and probably why bodybuilders love it just like milk/whey protein. So many conflicting messages–can you guys shed some light?

    PS To make yogurt you have to heat milk past the pasteurization temperature.

    • Devin Mooers says

      My growing sense is that the IGF-1 that’s naturally occurring in raw, grass-fed milk is probably fine, but that the insanely high levels of IGF-1 you find in milk from cows given rBST might be a problem. My guess is that the amounts in liver and meat are fine too. I haven’t been able to source how much IGF-1 is in liver, do you have any data on that? Just because it’s synthesized in the liver doesn’t mean it’s stored there in large amounts. Could be created and immediately transported into serum.

      Most yogurt uses thermophilic cultures, which desire hotter temperatures and firm up better. But you can certainly make mesophilic yogurt (warm, but not hot). I’ve done this many times by just adding a bit of yogurt or yogurt starter to a jar of milk and keeping it in a warm kitchen, or oven with the light on, for 12-24 hours. It turns into more of a drinkable yogurt. Best with raw milk!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Glad you liked the post, Leonardo! Rice milk can be okay… but there are a couple reasons it’s not ideal in my view:
      – Arsenic levels in brown rice
      – Often made using fluoridated tap water (in US)
      – Occasionally contains added sugar, vegetable oil, etc.

      You might be okay trying to source raw, grass-fed milk. Google Real Milk Finder for sources!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Glad you liked the post, Leonardo! Rice milk can be okay… but there are a couple reasons it’s not ideal in my view:
      – Arsenic levels in brown rice
      – Often made using fluoridated tap water (in US)
      – Occasionally contains added sugar, vegetable oil, etc.

      You might be okay trying to source raw, grass-fed milk. Google Real Milk Finder for sources!

  3. Melissa says

    What are your thoughts on eggs? I have been weaning my self off the dairy. But eggs are a hudge part of my diet. Thanks.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Definitely recommended! On the one condition that the chickens actually eat healthy, high-quality food. When chickens eat allergenic, moldy, pesticide-ridden, low-quality feed, they’ll pass some toxins and allergens into the eggs and also fewer nutrients. Truly pasture-raised hens fed high-quality food (ideally organic) provide super nutrient-dense eggs without the toxins. I personally eat two eggs every morning from a local farm (poached is my favorite).

  4. Mike says

    Can Organic Homogenized whole milk still cause a breakout or pimples? This milk is manufactured by trader joes and claimed that it is produced without any hormones, antibiotics or pesticides. So im wondering if milk without hormones is fine to drink. Also does it matter what time I would drink the milk for example in the morning or at night time.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Mike! Don’t think AM or PM matters. I’m not a huge fan of homogenization – I believe it disrupts the lipid structure and makes the milk more difficult to digest (but don’t have any hard data on that). If you can get some local milk – ideally, raw grass-fed milk – that’s probably going to do you better, and is a richer, healthier food with more immune-boosting cofactors and iron-binding lactoferrin and whatnot. A lot of folks find raw, grass-fed milk does their skin some good. Try this Real Milk Finder to find local farms, sources, etc.:

  5. Emma says

    This article was so helpful, thank you! I’m 28 and I’ve always had mainly clear skin other than a few areas where I continuously break out (between my eyebrows, mainly). Recently it’s gotten worse to the point that other spots (really deep, painful, red) are emerging whilst some are still there and it’s started scarring. I’ve also started getting a few around my hairline and on my chin. I went to the doctor this morning and found out I had adult acne! I’ve spent years trying to make a connection and this seems like a great thing to try, so I’m quitting dairy for a month from now. Gaaahhd I love cheese and chocolate though. Also eat Greek yoghurt every morning and drink decaf lattes daily. I stopped drinking and eating sugar at the beginning of Jan for a month but still breaking out so fingers crossed this helps! One quick question – they’ve given me a topical antibiotic cream to use daily for 3 months to see if my skin clears up. Are these advisable to use in your opinion? Sorry if this answer is already on your site, I haven’t looked around yet. Thanks again, Emma

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Emma! Probably way too late on this comment, sorry! But yeah, definitely would recommend NOT using the topical antibiotic cream. Will not make the root cause of the problem go away (you need to make diet and lifestyle changes to do that, as outlined in our book).

  6. Ryan James says

    Hi guys, just wanted your opinion on IgG food intolerance tests, weather you feel this is worth doing. Any info would be appreciated 😃 Thanks

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Ryan! Sorry I missed your comment! I’m not a huge fan of them, I just think they tend to give lots of false positives and make you avoid more foods than you really need to. The elimination diet is really the gold standard for diagnosing your own food intolerances, IMO. Or you can attack common problem food groups one at a time, like cut out nightshades for two weeks 100%, then reintroduce a whole bunch of them in one day and see what happens. Do the same for eggs, then for nuts/seeds, etc. Does this make sense?

  7. Lolo says

    Thanks so much for the info. I’m 3 days in on a dairy free diet and I am almost 100% that dairy is the reason for my adult- hormonal acne. I’ve come to terms with quitting milk for…ever. But the thought of leaving behind cheese makes me so sad because I’m such a cheese lover. I’m planning to stay dairy free for at least a month but then hope to reintroduce cheese. Will that tottally backtrack my process? Are milk and cheese equally just as bad? Thanks!

  8. Nancee Lim says

    Hi hi I’m so glad i bump into your website! Thank you so very much for your information about milk and yogurt. I just sent it to a friend of mine who think milk is so good. He drinks chocolate milk everyday. Hope he got the message. Thanks again!
    Nancee from Singapore

    • Devin Mooers says

      Oh yikes, yep, he might benefit from stopping the chocolate milk. Good on ya! Glad you’re liking the blog! 🙂

  9. Mark says

    I am just leaving a comment here to share my personal experience.
    Dairy does cause my skin to break out. I went on an elimination diet which had me remove dairy among other foods and the results were great but when dairy was reintroduced some problems returned. Yes I am allergic to dairy and I believe that is the reason that it caused my skin to break out but regardless whether it is an allergy or not dairy does cause my skin to break out.

    Please keep in mind that not everyone has the same sensitivities and allergies.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Absolutely true, Mark! Thanks for sharing your experience. That’s why we really encourage people to experiment with different foods and see how they react to them, since everyone’s so different.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Astrid! You mean our general recommendation for avoiding dairy when struggling with acne? The added growth hormones are only one issue with dairy. I would say, generally speaking, the milk in Europe is MUCH higher quality than US milk, but some people have trouble even with the most natural, grass-fed, raw/unprocessed milk available. There are something like 59 natural hormones present in the milk, whether or not exogenous hormones are given to the cows, and these can cause hormonal issues for many people struggling with acne.

    • Nicole says

      Cow’s milk is designed to rapidly grow their calf to 4 times their birth weight within 4 months. That is the IGF-1. It is also a contributor to far more diseases in humans than acne! IGF-1 fuels the proliferation of many kinds of cancers.

      • Devin Mooers says

        It also gets a bit complicated as grass-fed dairy contains a lot of CLA, which has a potent anti-cancer effect. It also contains decent amounts of iodine, which protects against cancer as well (especially breast cancer). IGF-1 levels vary a lot based on whether cows are given hormones, too. My current question is, to what extent do the baby calf’s growth signals come from milk hormones from their mothers, versus from endogenous hormones their own bodies produce? It’s entirely possible that their bodies produce a good chunk of these growth hormones. Human children, for instance, experience large growth spurts intermittently, long after they’ve weaned off of milk.

  10. Beth says

    I thought this was a pretty credible article until I read the bit about soy… Organic soy products are not bad for you. If you’re eating a lot of it, maybe, but too much of anything is no good. With that being said, I consume soy products about 5 times a week, have been dairy-free for around four months, and my skin has never looked better or clearer. The second I do consume dairy, my skin breaks out, so I’m glad the word is getting out about how bad it can be for skin.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Beth! Thanks for your thoughts around soy. I would add that the fact that you can eat soy with no issues doesn’t necessarily mean everyone can. Lots of folks break out when they eat soy, even organic soy. Seppo over at Acne Einstein is a great example.

  11. Jo says

    Hello there!
    So Im 16 and my agne es moderatly bad. I really liked the article and I want to try this out. However, I also trying to gain muscle and I’ve been getting a lot of protein from milk source products. Do you think if I go elimination it will hurt on my gains?
    Thank you very much!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Jo! Great question. In my experience, drinking/eating tons of dairy has been the only way I’ve been able to gain lots of weight quickly. For instance, I once put on 25 pounds in 2 months, and I was eating 1/2 gallon of yogurt per day, and taking 4 scoops of whey protein. Did I get acne from that? You bet! And as soon as I STOPPED pounding dairy, and started eating normally again, I lost the weight pretty fast. Another time I did GOMAD with raw milk for a few weeks. Definitely gained some weight, but also started breaking out, so I stopped. Dairy almost always helps you gain weight faster. But in my experience, it does NOT necessarily lead to long-term gains. I think it’s more effective to figure out how to eat more calories SUSTAINABLY. If you don’t want acne, that means NOT using dairy as a main source of calories, protein, and hormones, but instead just eating more of calorie-dense, protein-dense, healthy foods. If you don’t figure out how to eat a larger amount of food sustainably, but instead try to go on a big mass building program, you might gain weight fast, but will almost certainly lose it later. It’s like winning the lottery. People tend to blow through the money quickly, because they don’t know how to HOLD ON to it. Same with weight gain. You have to learn how to HOLD ON to the weight. Gaining it can be easy. Keeping it is another thing entirely. Have to build regular, repeatable habits that include lots of high-quality calories and heavy weightlifting – and keep doing this as long as you want to keep that muscle – and your body will gradually grow into that level of weight. Does that make sense? Mass gain programs are like get rich quick programs. You might gain some weight quickly, but you’ll lose it just as fast if you don’t tweak your regular habits and lifestyle to MAINTAIN a higher level of muscle mass.

      • Jo says

        Thank you very much for you attention. It’s been a while now since a cut down quite mech 80 % of dairy from my diet. My gain este went down quite a bit. However I did not get the results from the acne that I expected. It might have been that it tales time for your body to react to the change and therefote, reduce the breakouts. Anyways, I started using benzoyl Peroxide and my acne went away in a large scale and it has just been 4 days. What are your thoughts on this method. If you have an article about it please link me on it.

  12. Brianna MB says

    Hi everyone!
    In a few months I will be turning 20 years old, and am still dealing with annoying acne.
    When I was in 11th grade by acne was brutal. After following some treatments it started to get much better by the time I reached grade 12. In 12th grade my acne started to improve, and I only delt with random annoying blemishes.
    A year ago, when I started university I noticed that my skin started to get MUCH worse. I was the only person in my program who had the face of a 13 year old. Perharps the stress is what brought on the acne.
    Though, I noticed that I primarily got acne around my mouth/chin/lower cheeks. I read up online that this is due to hormone imbalance. A girl in my program suggested that I start taking the contreceptive pill since it helped clear her skin significantly. Therefore, I did it.
    It’s been a year now since I’ve been on the pill and my acne has gotten better. I still deal with annoying break outs around my mouth, but it’s much better than before. I’ve been wanting to go off the pill, but I’m scared my acne will come back (that’s what every website says). I did not think this through a year ago apparently… It’s been so nice having better skin, but I know the pill is not a permanent fix. I may have put myself in a worse position by starting the pill in the first place. I feel as though the longer I use these fake hormones, the worse my problem is going to get. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that diet could have such a strong impact on hormones too.
    Has anyone else delt with this dilema?
    I’m thinking of starting Devin and Sonia’s diet for a few months and then go off the pill once I adapt to the new diet and lifestyle. Changing my diet and lifestyle and going off the pill all at once may be a bit too hard for me to do. I’m also in my second year of nursing school and am stressed out to the max… 30 hours of class of week, working weekends, and then homework – reducing stress is not very easy for me right now.
    Any advice is appreciated. My main concern right now is getting off the pill in the safest way for my skin though…

    Thank you so much!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Brianna! Sounds like a wild ride you’re on right now! It’s often true that people get flareups when they go off the BC pill after being on it for a while, which makes sense, since you’ve been dumping a bunch of estrogen and progesterone into your hormonal works, which can upset the delicate dance of hormones in your body. Also, the BC pill tends to make the body store excess copper, so it can cause a zinc/copper imbalance. Are you supplementing zinc at all? It might be worth experimenting with 30mg of zinc a day or so (our blog post on zinc is here), and maybe also 300-400mg of magnesium glycinate to help deal with the stress a bit better. Stress depletes magnesium in the body, and getting some extra magnesium tends to improve sleep, relax the nervous system a bit, and so on. Even 5 minutes of meditation a day, or even just taking 10 slow, deep breaths once a day in the morning, can really help set the stage for a (slightly) more relaxed day!

      DEFINITELY recommend doing as much of the diet stuff as you can feasibly do with your hectic schedule. That tends to pay big dividends. But I wouldn’t obsess over every detail of it – the bigger strokes like removing dairy, veg oil, and sugar are huge. Can leave minutiae until later when you’ve got a bit more time on your hands!


      • Devin Mooers says

        Realized I didn’t actually answer about how to get off the BC pill. Not sure what the best way to do this is. Maybe start the diet stuff for a while, and the zinc/magnesium, and then after a few months, try to get off the pill and see how it goes?

        • Brianna MB says

          Thank you for you help! I will definetely go out and pick up some zinc and magnesium. I looked through your other articles and they are very handy. Thanks again!

    • Luna says


      I had the exact same issue for years… On again, off again it was a nightmare. Acne came, acne went. Finally I had enough, I research all hours of the night. Till I came across a website about ‘weaning off’ the pill. Google it. It worked for me after 10 years of being on the pill I finally have great skin.
      Except when I have dairy! Cut dairy out. For me it was dairy and suger… Grrrr! My two favourite things.

      Good luck.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Still down on Greek yogurt – it’s quite high in casein, a milk protein which boosts IGF-1 levels in the body. It’s also usually not very sour, so I’m guessing it’s not low enough pH to get rid of the IGF-1 already present in milk either. :/

  13. Gerda Martinez says

    I just turned 75 and the last couple of years I noticed getting whiteheads. I’ve tried everything on the market plus included trying to steam them out. Bought a comedone extractor only to find out that I don’t know how to use it correctly. With that said, I do drink milk daily, eat butter (not margarine), eat cheese and yogurt. So, I will try to go 30 days without consuming dairy and see if it helps.
    Thanks for the advice.

    G. Martinez

    • Devin Mooers says

      I hope this helps you, Gerda! You might still be able to consume butter with no issues (though we definitely recommend grass-fed / pasture butter), but most dairy tends to be a big trigger for people. Interested to hear how this is going for you so far!

  14. Corie Ananth says

    Amazing to actually read a well put together article. Have for years observed the connection of milk or soymilk in the diet and the acne breakouts. Though your’s is the first article that we’re reading, that clarifies the observation.

    We’ve been moving into coconut oil too and dumping the canolas and other vegtable oils, which also seems to make things a lot better. Not just skin, but generally our energy levels.

    The only time we get caught out is when we eat out and we can’t really control what’s put in the food or beverages which almost always have some milk in them…

    • Devin Mooers says

      Good to hear you’re finding some good diet tweaks to make, Corie! I hear you on the eating out thing… it’s tough sometimes. Good idea to try to be kind to yourself nonetheless, and recognize that you can’t control your diet all the time, and that that’s okay! The letting go part can be really hard, but it’s a good practice to… well, practice. 🙂

  15. Tom says

    Funny. I’ve had this hunch for a few years now. I have face,chest,back and even my arms get pimples and blackheads. My face has a lot of bumps that can easily squeeze out tons of stringy crap. They fill back up every couple of days. Same pores every time.
    I came up with the hunch of dairy dew to the smell of the crap coming out of my face. It really has that odor of bad milk or bad cheese. I just didn’t totally convince myself because I love cereal. I eat 2 to 3 bowls a day. Shredded wheat. Wheeties.
    I guess I’ll have to quit it for good. My face has already taken a beating tho. I’m 36 now. Plenty of scars.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Wow, sounds like you got some visceral feedback that it might be the dairy! I can relate – I ate 2-3 bowls of cereal a day until I was about 17, when I started hacking my diet to get rid of acne (over 10 years ago now). It was hard to give up, but well worth it. I now eat things like poached eggs, sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli, pastured bacon, etc. for breakfast and don’t wish for cereal anymore. Give it a shot if you can, it can make a huge difference in your skin and overall energy to boot!

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