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. Kimora Daniels says

    I have had acne since I was 9 and now I’m 10yo and I feel insecure about the ance since I’m the only one in 5th grade that has it. Today I’m starting to go on a dairy free diet until January 5, 2018. I can’t wait to find the source that may have contributed into making me have acne.

  2. Aj says

    I can’t really agree or disagree with this article because I definitely had more acne when I didn’t drink milk. I still break out but not as much anymore, and I drink milk every day now.

  3. Yen says

    Agree with milk caused acne. Every time i drink i get acne the next day.
    However, i m taking butter but it doesn’t caused acne. Is it because of no lactose or the cow hormone IGF-1?
    I am yet still trying out cream cheese but thats ok so far nothing comes up.
    What about other cheese like cheddar and parmesan? Does it contain lactose and IGF-1 too?

    • Devin Mooers says

      I think butter is safer actually because it doesn’t have casein (milk protein). A1 beta-casein, found in most modern cows of European descent, contains largely A1 casein, which acts like an opioid in the body and slows down your immune system (among other negative effects). Generally speaking, goat/sheep dairy is much safer, especially with cheese, milk, yogurt, etc. Cow butter or ghee is the safest form of cow dairy, UNLESS you’re sure that you have A2 cows (requires genetic testing for some breeds).

  4. rach says

    I love milk but the more I drink the more I get acne. I stopped drinking for a week and lo my skin improved. someone told me that milk with turmeric is good for skin but really scared to try it as milk makes acne worse. is warm milk with turmeric in it okay for acne? can’t do without milk eh!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Rachel! What kind of milk were you drinking? Brand, type, etc.?

      Also, do you live in a place with fluoridated tap water? And/or do you use fluoridated toothpaste? Sometimes the iodine in milk can cause flouride/bromide purging, which causes transient acne. This can be a good thing, as you want the iodine, and you want to get rid of that fluoride/bromide.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Den! FWIU there’s a big variety of snacks in there. Do you have specific ones you want to ask about? In general I’m a fan of the idea of “the less processed the food, the better”, so most packaged snacks don’t fit in too well to that idea, but it’s all over the map, some much better than others.

  5. Nishant says

    Thanks for this great article. I used to drink espresso , milk on daily basis and my acne was keep geting worse. It’s been 1 month since I have cut down coffee and milk from my diet and started taking lots of vitamin rich foods resulting I do not have any new acne .My only concern with no milk policy is that milk is great source of calcium if I cut down milk from my diet from where do I get daily dose of calcium. Thanks in advance.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Nishant! Well, eating some high-quality, grass-fed dairy (cheese, milk, kefir, etc.) can provide good calcium. Calcium is most absorbable from raw, un-pasteurized dairy. Some people have good success with such dairy without getting acne (myself included). Quality makes a huge difference. But generally speaking, dairy isn’t necessary to get enough calcium – lots of foods have trace amounts of calcium, including veggies, beans, etc., and especially leafy greens have quite a lot.

  6. Penny says

    The new Oui French yogurt by Yoplait is supposedly less processed and better for you. Would it be okay if I’m trying to reduce and boost?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Penny! I personally would never trust or eat Yoplait at this point. I’m incredibly wary of all large food brands. In general, the smaller the farm or food company, the higher quality the food. Marketing/scamming is widespread in the food industry. For yogurt, if you want to experiment, I’d find some locally produced grass-fed yogurt and give that a try. We have Grace Harbor Farms here, for instance (Pacific Northwest area). Recently, though, we’ve been getting local raw grass-fed Jersey milk delivery from a local farm and making our own yogurt!

  7. Mai Bell says

    Hi! Great Article! I’ve been on dairy free & gluten-free diet for about 3 weeks now and I noticed a huge improvement on my skin. I’d say 90% clearer and I haven’t had a new breakout. It’s been hard cutting dairy out completely and I’d still want to have some every now and then, so I was wondering if heavy cream would be the best option? I hear a lot of people get heavy creams with their coffee instead but I’ve never actually heard about the end results regarding acne! Help!!!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Mai! That’s great news, congrats!! Heavy cream is okay in my book, but I’d make sure it’s from grass-fed cows. You don’t want all the fat-soluble toxins that tend to be higher in grain-fed / feedlot animals.

  8. CharleneApril says

    Hi! Thank you for sharing this great info! I’m 42, and I’ve had mild to moderate acne since I was 13. I had very little acne while on birth control pills (most of my adult life). I have been off birth control pills for several years and have these constant breakouts. Ironically I don’t like drinking milk (on its own). But- as cheese, or flavored as in chocolate milk, or in smoothies and shakes, and in processed foods… I was eating a lot of it. And ice cream of course. Mostly a life long love affair with cheese and ice cream. I’m about 2 weeks into being dairy free. And increasing my intake of fruits and veggies also. My skin is looking amazing. It kind of went through a purge stage. I had a lot of pimples and smaller cysts that first week being dairy free, but they were soft, easy to squeeze (sorry for being gross) and healed quickly. I’m using coconut oil as a moisturizer. Right now I just have one active pimple as compared to about 200 pimples… a lot of little bumps I had on my face, chest and back. A moderate case of acne. It’s only week 2 of no dairy. Month 2 of improving my diet and weening off dairy. I’m very excited! There are great vegan products and dairy substitutes. I love almond milk. Just after two weeks being dairy free, I only have one mild pimple…my skin is healing and starting to look great. Adding in 3 fruit and veggie green smoothies a day with almond milk sure has helped too! Thank you! Hoping those of you with acne can experience improvement with a dairy free diet as well!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Charlene! Thanks for sharing your story – sounds like you’re getting some great results with removing dairy, that’s amazing!! Keep up the great work, and hope you can get to total skin clearing soon! 🙂

  9. Nina says

    I have tried cutting dairy completely. I started it on May 27 and today is 8th of July. I had acne on my skin since I was 14 or 15. I am 27 years old now. My sister also suffers from acne and she treated herself wih accutane but her acne is coming back over time, not as massive as she had but still.

    I could not believe that Cappucinos I was drinking were giving me acnes. I read this article and it was hard to believe from me. I made milkshake for me and next morning I had 8 more acnes on my face.
    So I said to myself what if they are right and I cut completely milk and dairy. Only few times I ate some cheese.

    Results – on my face right now I have zero acne. I still have on my back but it’s not so much as it was before. And my biggest problem was this big red swollen painful acnes, I don’t have them even on my back. I am continuing reading your website.

    Now I planned to cut of coffee and so on.

    If till 3 months I will not have any more acne I will buy your book as thank you.

    I suffered from acne really years. I was so ashamed that I am so old and I still have acne.

    Thank you for this article.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Nina! I’m really glad you’re getting great results from trying this, that’s awesome! Thanks for sharing your progress! 🙂

    • Barbara says

      Hi there, I have also always suffered from acne since I was 16, trying to find the reason; why???
      I had first suspected, milk products could be the cause, only few years ago. Trying all sorts of cleansers, creams, contraceptive pills (that only cover the problem) etc; thinking it could be genetic, since my brother suffered even more, and our father had it too. 3 years ago I was diagnosed with Lactose intolerance, so I started avoiding few milk products, switching to lactose-free milk. I already had to get used to the idea of not eating everything I want or see. Living in Europe and for the past 7 years in Switzerland, the quality here is simply the best (but that does not help, since I cannot eat it anyway :). This summer holiday in Canada, I avoided milk products even more, because there was lack of lactose-free milk products in general. After 3 weeks, it was clear to me. Milk is causing it!!! Now I am trying to leave out most of the things, but still have to get used to drinking black coffee, brr :). My face and back is clearing out nicely, but there are still some breakouts in my lower back area. I am of the meaning, that it also influenced a lot my hair and nail growth; therefore I am now taking some good natural vitamins, that support the health of all 3 things.
      I wanted to quickly check, what people on the internet think about this, and I have stumbled upon your article. You have just proved to me, that I was right. So thank you for all the great input and I will definitely spread the word to others.

      • Devin Mooers says

        Thanks Barbara for the kind words and for sharing your story! Best of luck in the continued skin clearing!! 🙂

  10. Bruce says

    I have been off dairy for 3 years now and over the 4th of July had pizza and home made ice cream and yup a zit appeared! Dairy truly is the culprit. But I do eat high fiber cereals each day but do so with unsweetened almond milk. No more dairy for sure.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Bruce! I’m curious, where was the pizza from? I’d put my money on that being a trigger rather than the homemade ice cream.

      That said, what did you put in the homemade ice cream for ingredients?

      Experientially, homemade ice cream from raw, grass-fed milk actually doesn’t seem to break me out. But commercial ice cream certainly can depending on the ingredients. YMMV on this. Coconut Bliss ice cream is a great-tasting non-dairy alternative when you have an ice cream craving!

    • Devin Mooers says

      I think it’s probably fine if grass-fed. Dairy is a tricky thing – the butterfat contains a lot of hormones from the cows, and I’m still not totally sure whether the amounts are small enough to not have substantial effects on the body. Recently read a study that suggested the levels of estrogen are very small compared to what your body actually produces, but not sure. I do eat some dairy now, though it’s mostly raw and grass-fed (e.g. raw Jersey milk, raw sheep cheese, etc.).

      Personally, I prefer I butter to ghee, but that’s because I’m not a big caramel flavor fan! 🙂

  11. Diane says

    This is stupid. Raw grass fed milk has more bacteria (Salmonella, E.coli, Listeria etc) and literally shit (have you seen the ways cows are milked?) in it because it is unpasteurised. That is why pregnant ladies should avoid them because it is a risk for them and their babies… Why would you drink something that poses a risk to your health?
    And there is no difference between normal milk and organic milk. Organic is just a gimmick farmers use to make money. Do you know how bad the welfare of cows is if they can’t have prophylactic treatment just to be organic eg. foot problems, worms??
    Just admit it acne = bad skin.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Diane! Thanks for your thoughts, and you’re totally entitled to your opinion here. Personally, I’ve gone to a number of small ranches that raise dairy cows for grass-fed raw milk, and the cows are quite healthy. Raising heritage-breed, hardier cows makes a big difference, IMO – modern Holsteins are pretty weak in comparison to Jersey, Guernsey, Brown Swiss, etc., in my estimation, and more susceptible to disease. Feedlots are also a big disease incubator, but open pasture is a wonderful, healthful place for cows to live without disease. I’m not against prophylactic treatment, personally, but I don’t think antibiotics are a good way to do that. I think proper diet/lifestyle/environment is the best prophylactic treatment, for humans as well as animals. I do also know there’s a lot of “organic-washing” out there, and if I had to choose between organic store-bought milk, and non-organic but grass-fed raw local milk from heritage-breed cows on a small farm, I would DEFINITELY choose the latter. Also, have you seen the way cows are milked on many small farms? We lived in Bend, OR recently and there was a dairy farmer nearby (Windy Acres dairy), and the woman who runs it was incredibly fastidious about the purity and cleanliness of her milk, much more so than most commercial dairies. I felt absolutely fine about consuming that dairy raw.

      FWIW, fresh produce, like spinach, is responsible for a lot more cases of food poisoning than raw dairy. Why do you eat raw spinach or lettuce if you might get E. coli or Listeria from eating it? Granted, there’s a lot more spinach eaten than raw dairy in the US, I would hazard to guess, so I’m not sure how the numbers would adjust, but yeah, I really think most disease from dairy is due more to unhealthy cows raised in unhealthy conditions (requiring pasteurization for safety). But again, you’re totally entitled to your own opinion on this! 🙂

  12. theena says

    hey, ive been wanting to ask wether if fermented milk/cultured milk has hormones in it and causes acne and i dont mean kefir , i mean the ones in stores like vitagen and yakult which are cultured milk brands

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Theena! Not sure, it would probably depend a lot on the cows that were milked, as well as the resulting pH of the cultured milk. I’m really skeptical of most store-bought dairy, due to the prevalence of feedlots and the financial incentive to produce dairy as cheaply as possible, and I really recommend sourcing dairy from a local farmer whom you know and trust (or at least can have a face-to-face conversation with). And getting raw, grass-fed dairy. It makes a huge difference to the quality of the resulting dairy.

  13. Sheryl says

    Recently my skin really, really, broke out bad. I’m 59 yo. So bad I went on a garlic & liver cleanse for seven days, thinking I had an internal yeast build up. That helped a little, but my skin kept breaking out. Then I acquired some copper colloidal products and applied them to the surface of my skin and stopped it after three days. But then it started up again. So, I asked out loud, what am I eating that is making me break out? I had a flash of thought that it might be a dairy allergy and queried the internet and found your article, and read through your story. Sure enough, my thoughts went to what I had been eating a lot of, recently, and it turned out to be vanilla ice cream- comfort food. I had no idea that even the organic dairy was full of the hormone IGF-1, and that it acted like an opioid. Thank you for the article, I’m now going back to almond, and coconut versions of milk and ice cream.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Sheryl! I’m glad to hear you got some useful info from the article, that’s awesome! I’m curious – what brand of ice cream was it that you think was triggering acne? Wondering if there were any other weird ingredients in there.

  14. Kris says

    Hi! Earlier today I decided to go dairy free to see if hat was causing my acne issues (which have been going on for 7+ years and I’m so over it). I ran into this and thought everything was so interesting! I’m definitely going to try the 30 day no dairy! I was going to do just 14 days, but if it’s already half a mont, why not do he second half too? Anyway, is article was super interesting and I loved it!

    Also, I had non homogenized milk when I was in Germany recently, and I had this massive breakout. Do you think that could have anything to do with dairy? Thanks!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Kris! Glad you’re giving this a try! Any updates on how it went with no dairy? Not sure about the Germany trip, depends a lot on the quality of the dairy, probably, or could have been caused by the stress of travel, other foods you ate in Germany, etc. Lots of variables!

  15. qina says

    hi!! really really great & sourceful article. i have a question, recently i bought borage oil to use topically. what are your thoughts on borage oil? according to some articles i’ve read, it seems to be good for acne? im not planning on consuming, only to use as a face moisturizer. thanks beforehand & ur blog is amazing.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Qina! Glad you’re enjoying the blog! No experience with borage oil. Looks like it’s around 70% PUFA, though, which would make me hesitant to put it on my face – PUFA is one of the main contributors to lipid peroxidation in the skin, a chief acne trigger. I’m a big fan of shepherding your natural sebum as much as possible, by not washing or rinsing your face most of the time, and avoiding topicals altogether.

  16. Mona Humaida says

    Hi dear Devine thank you for article .what about rice bran oil is it OK , as well as tomatoes and tomatoes paste??

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Mona! Not a fan of rice bran oil just like I’m not a fan of borage oil – higher in PUFA, which can worsen lipid peroxidation in the skin (and consequently acne). Tomatoes are something I’m on the fence about. Personally, I avoid them, because of taste and because they seem to affect my sleep negatively, but YMMV on that.

  17. asha says

    hello …waw this was really so well explained ..but what I’m really concerned about is that I actually drink milk because I need to reduce my PMS symptoms which I feel like milk is helping me somehow ..still I always get a break out once every month and its driving me crazy because if I cut the milk I get bad PMS and if I dont I get BAD acne even if its just one pimple but it leaves a red spot and its red everywhere .. 🙁

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Asha! Do you drink fluoridated water? Does your town/city fluoridate? The only reason I can think of right now for why the milk would be helping your PMS symptoms is due to the iodine content, which assists proper hormone function (esp. thyroid). Reducing fluoride exposure via drinking water, pesticides, etc., and boosting iodine intake in the diet, can really help with cycle-related acne.

      Also, if you’re going to drink milk, I would recommend trying to source raw, grass-fed milk if at all possible – it seems better tolerated in folks with acne. Google “Real Milk Finder” for a way to find raw milk, if you’re in the US at least!

  18. Taton says

    I have clear skin and drink loads of milk. I drink at least two full glasses a day along with other dairy products. – So…… not getting it:)

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Taton! Well, it’s certainly not the case that every person in the world who drinks milk gets acne. I think increasingly it has a lot to do with milk QUALITY, too. For instance, I am now able to drink lots of raw, grass-fed milk with no acne whatsoever. Lower-quality milk tends to trigger more acne in folks, though, especially skim, homogenized, rBST, UHT, etc. milk.

      You’re a lucky one, perhaps! What kind of milk are you drinking?

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