There are foods that cause acne, and dairy appears to be one of them. For years, dermatologists have told acne patients that foods did not affect their pimples and blackheads. Well, a recent scientific article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology has us rethinking that. Among the dietary advice I'm now giving my acne patients (both teenage and adult acne patients) is that they should limit their milk and cow dairy intake.
Interestingly, it's not just the fat in the milk, nor is it the added hormones. It seems to be the milk itself.
Why does eating and drinking dairy foods cause acne to get worse?
Reasons that might explain milk's role in acne include (science geek facts):
- Milk contains substances that your body converts to testosterone (a hormone that affects your pores, causing oil production and acne).
- Milk stimulates your body to produce a natural chemical called insulin-like growth factor (IGF). This IGF increases your body's own natural testosterone hormones. It also increases how well these hormones effect your pores, causing more oil production and possibly more pimples and blackheads.
Skim milk products seem to be the worst for acne, though all cow dairy milk products may play a role regardless of whether they're made from whole milk, low fat milk or skim milk. The authors of this new scientific acne diet study conclude that more research is needed to fully understand what role dairy foods play in causing acne, but for now I think there's enough information to be concerned.
People avoiding dairy need alternate sources of calcium for bone health. Ask your primary care physician for recommendations.
Non-milk sources of calcium include:
- calcium supplements,
- calcium-fortified foods,
- green leafy veggies like kale and spinach,
- other veggies like broccoli,
- whole grains, nuts, and
Lastly, the diet studies looking at milk and acne have not looked to see if there is a difference between cow dairy and other sources of dairy products like goat milk. Goat milk is significantly different from cow milk in many ways and it will be interesting to see if this makes a difference to acne; my hunch is that it will.
Diet and acne is a fascinating topic. Patients have known there was a link for years and scientists are just now agreeing.
For more on foods and acne see my other posts on the subject:
While you are sorting out your dietary triggers to acne, click here for the skin care I recommend to help you help fight acne.
Whitney P. Bowe, MD et. al. Diet and Acne, J of the Am Acad Dermatol 2010;63:124-41
Photos: Much thanks and gratitude to Kyle May and Steve Arnold