Can Dairy Products Cause Acne? (THE MISSING LINK)

Who seriously doesn’t love indulging in ice cream? Or some yummy brie and gouda cheeses? How about some half and half to go with that morning coffee? Or pizza??

I’ll be straight with you.

Unfortunately, there’s a connection between consuming dairy and acne. Isn’t dairy, especially milk, the world’s perfect food? It contains calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients to build strong bones and keep individuals healthy.  Well, this topic is going to be a bit controversial and then some.

Let’s jump right in- shall we?

“Got Milk” campaign has been endorsed by celebrities and athletes for decades by sporting the famous white mustache, stating that milk is the most nutritious food available- well, not so much if you have acne.

Did you know that 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant?


Dairy is hard to digest for most peeps because milk/dairy is heavily processed through pasteurization process, which entails lactose component (milk’s sugar). When lactose isn’t digested properly due to pasteurization, various health issues occur such as: gas, bloating, cramps, diarrhea- and in this case, ACNE.

Now, not 100% of peeps out there have acne related to dairy, but in most cases, yes. The reason why dairy products are difficult to digest is because the common produced dairy contains two crucial elements that you need to understand that’s related to acne.

Why Pasteurization is Bad

First, all dairy products must be pasteurized in most countries, which is actually detrimental because pasteurization process is what kills off and strips all essential nutrients that milk contains.

Lactose intolerance isn’t really an allergy or intolerance to dairy. It’s inability to digest and absorb pasteurized milk that no longer contains an enzyme known as lactase that’s a necessary element for processing lactose, the sugar in milk that makes it taste sweet.

There are three ways milk is pasteurized: high-temp pasteurization, ultra-pasteurization, and ultra-pasteurization- all bad. Isn’t the whole idea of pasteurizing milk is to kill off the dangerous bacteria so we don’t get sick? Isn’t this the point, FDA? Well, let’s look at why the process got started in the first place back in 1800’s.

Post-War of 1812 resulted in a standard method of pasteurization process of milk in American cities. The industrial-scale feedlots began feeding cows “hot slop,” which is non-nutritive (but inexpensive) waste product of whiskey production collected from nearby whiskey distilleries.

The cows that consumed this hot slop became diseased and emaciated due to its toxicity, and yet continued to generate “milk” in abundant quantities- of the filthy and absolutely-unfit-for-consumption variety.

So, pasteurization came to the rescue!

At least that’s how it went back then to cover up for the major shortcomings of milk, which was heated solely for the purpose of killing it so it wouldn’t kill the people who consumed it. Therefore, pasteurization was born and still remains as a standard practice till today, all because of one incident that took place of ill effected cows- which is NOT the case in this day and age. 

Pasteurization is basically heating up milk to certain degree, but essentially killing off all nutrients and enzymes that are beneficial to better digest it, leaving all the components of processed dairy, which then cause a great burden to the skin.

Hormonal Imbalance

The second element to dairy is that it creates hormone imbalance in your body if you’re suffering from cystic and chronic acne. Hormone imbalance is a tricky area to treat because there are other factors in play…stress, unhealthy food, birth control pills – all feed into this equation. My post on “Why do I have Adult Acne,” covers more in depth on the previous sentence.

With the added dairy being consumed, it only creates more imbalance. Let’s look at why dairy creates this MAJOR health problem in our bodies.

Milk already contains its own hormone related proteins from the cattle and you’re consuming it.

This alone, should be a complete and simple explanation why this creates hormone imbalance…you’re consuming another species hormones and it’s messing with your human hormones!

Specifically, (IGF-1) – Insulin growth factor is one of the growth hormones found in milk that raises insulin levels. IGF-1 increases sebum production, and stimulates the growth of skin cells.

The faster the skin cells grow the faster they also die. This translates to more dead skin cells blocking the pores, which in turn creates pimples to rise.

Higher insulin levels usually mean higher rates of acne. Insulin alone stimulates sebum production, but more significant than that is the fact that insulin levels correlate with the levels of IGF-1 and several sex hormones.

Cows are consistently producing hormones that are meant to help their calf’s grow and hormones are required to aid its pregnancy. The hormones contained in the milk of a pregnant cow may break into androgens, which can contribute to increased oil in the skin and of course, acne.

Milk Types

What about skim milk, 2 % milk?

They’re all pasteurized (even processed on heavier levels because all fat and whatever nutrients remained are completely stripped – pertaining to skim and 2%) and contain the IGF-1 hormone that was mentioned earlier; therefore, even worse for acneic skin.

Cheese (all sorts)

Cheese is just as bad if not worse than milk because most cheeses are aged, which presents a higher percentage of IGF-1 in the ‘aging’ process- sort of like fermentation, but in a different direction.

Organic fermented kefir?

This is the only option of dairy that I could ever suggest to consume. It’s fermented, which acts as a probiotic. Kefir is great for your gut; kills candida overgrowth (another big issue with acne sufferers); boosts immunity; fights allergies. Kefir has more health advantages and because it’s “fermented, “ it should actually not affect your acne the same way that milk does.

Raw & Organic Milk

So, is raw and organic dairy the only other option if I suffer from acne? To a point, yes, it’s better because it’s not processed and comes from healthier treated cows who are kept in better conditions – less bacteria, chemicals, herbicides, toxins, pollutants, etc.

However, the bigger issue is that even raw and organic dairy still contains the insulin growth hormone, which impacts sebum production and spikes up the insulin level in bloodstream- thus, causing inflammation, which then leads to acne. It’s a vicious cycle…

Regardless, acne victims would be wise to avoid all milk. The acne causing hormones are present in raw milk also. They are there because a baby cow requires them for growth and development.

Adult humans don`t need them anymore, at least not in such quantities. Milk drinkers expose themselves to these hormones, and that can lead to various health problems – acne being one of them.

Soy Milk & their Counterparts

Soy based products work the same way as dairy, because soy contains phytoestrogens, which are plant based hormones that affect human hormones (creates imbalance from estrogen & progesterone) when consumed regularly. This is why soy based products are also a complete no, no for peeps suffering with acne.

From The Truth About Cancer site:

What you won’t hear on the news is that scientists have known for years that isoflavones in soy products can depress thyroid function, causing autoimmune thyroid disease and even cancer of the thyroid. Scientists have known for over half a century that soy negatively impacts the thyroid gland. Research in Japan concluded that daily consumption of only one ounce of soybeans over the course of ninety days caused enlargement of the thyroid and suppressed thyroid function. Some subjects even developed goiter.

As far back as the 1950’s, phytoestrogens (estrogen-like substances derived from plants) were being linked to increased cases of cancer, infertility, and leukemia. According to Dr. William Wong, “Soy is poison, period!” In his article entitled “Soy: The Poison Seed,” Dr. Wong describes several reasons why soy is poison. Two of the isoflavones (genistein and daidzein) which soy contains are basically built in insecticides for the soybean. He asks, “If they kill bugs, are they good for humans?”

What you just read above, concludes why you should stay away from soy – acne or not. It creates imbalance in your hormones and plays havoc on thyroid function. Should I say or quote some more?

Milk/ Dairy Alternatives

If you can’t have milk in your favorite latte, then what’s left?

Coconut milk is a great place to start, just make sure you’re not allergic to tree nuts. Almond milk is also a great choice; however, some peeps seem to have an allergy here as well, so please test out and see what works and what doesn’t. Hemp, oat, macadamia, and hazelnut milks are also sold at health food stores for your convenience- see what tastes good and doesn’t interfere with your acne.

This is a MAJOR point– only purchase the “unsweetened” milk variety from the choices given! Read your labels! Sugar spikes your glycemic index, which then creates inflammation- increasing acne.

Oily Skin Syndrome

Having a face that shines and shines throughout the day no matter how many times you may wash it with specific soaps and cleansers is far from being on trend. Oh, and if you’re a lady- you know all about those blotting sheets you pull out every hour- on the hour- every 20 minutes on your complexion! Oh my!

Well, do you know what causes such a high sebum production that’s glistening your face every day and never, ever stops?

The same subject we’ve been discussing in this post- non-other but dairy consumption! Why does it create oily skin? Simple- dairy causes overactive sebaceous glands (skin oil producing glands). Stop consuming dairy and skin should start balancing from very oily/ greasy to just a little oily within a couple of months.

Yes, it takes a while for the body to stabilize the oil glands.


One of the most frequently asked questions if one was to give up dairy- where to get that calcium, if it’s not coming from milk?

Here are the answers-

  • Dark green leafy greens (spinach, kale)
  • Sardines
  • Wild caught salmon
  • Sesame seeds (tahini)
  • Quinoa
  • Chia seeds
  • Broccoli
  • Oranges

Do I have to give up dairy forever to have clear skin?

The thought of giving up dairy terrifies most- it’s a food that we all grew up on and loved since childhood. It’s what comfort food is made of, its where desserts give off their tastiness, it’s the morning coffee that isn’t complete without its best friend.

But, if you want to get serious about clearing up your skin for once and for all, giving up dairy for as long as you have to is one of the best answers to recovery.

I personally thought this would be one of the hardest things I’ll ever do- but once the decision was made, it was a lot easier to dismiss that dressing on a sandwich, or ask for no cheese on a dish, etc.

There are plenty of alternatives for your fave foods popping up in many grocery stores around- just take some time and look around! Once skin balances and complexion heals- you could try to incorporate dairy back into your life, little by little, and see how you do.


I haven’t given up on pizza, tiramisu, and other indulgences, but I DO keep myself in check by eating these foods as a treat, not making them as an everyday nor every week part of my meals.

Giving up dairy for a period of time to get your body healing and detoxing from inflammation will go a long way to your road of recovery.

However, this period of time could be a 60, or 90-day elimination. Or could be longer, depending on how dairy effects your system. Some individuals realize that dairy is the ONLY missing link standing in their way to clear skin and give it up completely.

Others have other factors to resolve besides just eliminating dairy- it’s up to your body’s response system to tell if you’re on the right track and for how long.

After acne clears, some individuals will consume dairy based products once a week- indulge in that pizza or ice cream- you can’t hold off forever, but again it all depends on how serious your dairy allergy/sensitivity is.

In conclusion, please re-think your choices of milk and dairy consumption because your acne and oily skin could all be the serious effects of it all!

It sure is for many people that are suffering from acne and don’t know what’s the first step to take- this should be one of the VERY first steps that will steer you on the right turn to a healthy and clear complexion!

Don’t you curse me now on “giving up” one of your most beloved foods! I was a mouse (who loved cheese very, very much) too, ya know!

Have you noticed more acne when you over indulge on dairy products? Share in the comments below!

Sources + References (click link below)

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