Whether you drink it plain, add a splash of it to your coffee or tea, or consume it in the form of curd, paneer, or cheese, milk is a dietary staple. But can milk and milk products give you dairy face, and is your love of dairy causing nasty breakouts? Keep reading for all you need to know about how dairy affects the complexion, including whether a change in diet could fix your acne problem.
Can dairy products cause acne?
Nutrition research is complicated and the results are mixed, but there seems to be an association between milk consumption and pesky pimples. So let’s quickly break down the possible reasons for dairy acne.
- Growth hormones and proteins: Milk naturally contains nutrients that help calves grow. Milk proteins like whey and casein trigger growth in baby calves—and in us when we consume milk. But when we try to digest these proteins, the body releases an insulin-like growth hormone called IGF-1, which may lead to acne.
- Synthetic hormones: Dairy cows are pumped with artificial hormones to increase milk supply and ensure year-round milk production. When you consume this milk, the added hormones could confuse the endocrine system, disrupting the hormonal balance and aggravating problem skin.
- Lactose intolerance: Many adults are sensitive to lactose—a natural sugar found in milk. People with lactose intolerance usually experience digestive problems like stomach cramps, flatulence, or diarrhoea within a couple of hours of dairy consumption. That’s bad news for the complexion because gastrointestinal issues are linked with skin health, often leading to inflammation, rosacea, and acne.
- Refined and processed foods: Maybe the problem is your choice of dairy? Milk-based foods like biscuits, milkshakes and sweetened yoghurt have a high glycaemic index (GI), which means they raise insulin production. Too much insulin in the body can worsen an inflammatory condition like acne.
- Other food allergies: What if it isn’t dairy’s fault but your sensitivity to other foods? Did you know people can be allergic to cocoa beans rather than milk? Some people are sensitive to gluten, others to certain fruits, and still others get zits whenever they eat lettuce. So, don’t make dairy the scapegoat for your skin problems. Take the time to figure out what your actual acne triggers might be.
Are all dairy products alike?
If you’re trying to figure out which dairy products are safe and which are not, there are no clear-cut guidelines. Nutrition science has yet to pinpoint the bad guys of the dairy aisle. But some milk products are believed to be worse for acne than others.
For example, whole milk is preferable to skimmed milk as the latter contains whey protein for a creamier texture. While breaking down whey protein, the body produces IGF-1, which may contribute to oily skin and inflammation. Yoghurt and cheese are safer options in this regard, but as with all things dairy, moderating your intake is key.
Alternatively, you could go the organic route. Try milk from organic dairies that do not feed artificial hormones to their cows. Some people also do well with goat milk, which has less lactose than cow milk, as well as fewer allergens and smaller fat molecules that are easier to digest.
Non-dairy sources like oat and nut-based milks are great options too, and they come packed with plant proteins. The antioxidants, Vitamin E, and inflammatory properties of nut-based milks are good for the skin. Another anti-inflammatory option, coconut milk, is low in sugar and supports clear skin through nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and selenium.
While you’re at it, try experimenting with non-dairy versions of everyday products. Avocados and plant-based margarine are easy substitutes for butter, and plant-based versions of cream cheese, shredded cheese, and even parmesan are readily available too.
Coping with dairy face
Put on your detective hat and try to pinpoint which milk products (or other foods) could be breaking you out. Maintain a food diary and see if omitting high GI foods like ice cream and mithai improves your complexion. Among people with mild lactose sensitivity, eliminating milk might do the trick. But those with a severe intolerance may need to omit all dairy products—even curd and cheese. If that’s you, make sure to get your protein, calcium, and Vitamin D from other food sources. When in doubt, consult a doctor about your dairy acne problem.
Remember, changing your diet alone won’t fix dairy face. So make sure to cleanse, tone, apply Clearica Anti-Acne Cream, and moisturise daily in the AM and PM. Also, get enough sleep, avoid stress, and don’t pick at any pimples. Cutting out dairy may well be a game-changer for you, but a multi-step approach to acne care ensures a more sustainable route to healthy, acne-free skin.
Disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a recommendation or for diagnostic purposes. Please consult your dermatologist or doctor before acting on any of the information provided here.