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Does Dairy Cause Acne? (Everything You Need To Know)

Recent studies have suggested a possible link between dairy intake and acne vulgaris, a common skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide.

While the exact relationship between dairy and acne is still a subject of research, the evidence indicates that dairy, especially milk, may increase the risk of developing acne in some individuals.

In this article, we'll explore how dairy affects the skin, the reasons behind the focus on milk, and the best milk alternatives for acne-prone skin.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

Biggest Take-Aways:

  • There is evidence to suggest that dairy, particularly milk, may increase the risk of developing acne in some individuals.

  • Dairy products contain hormones and growth factors that can stimulate oil production and inflammation in the skin, leading to clogged pores and the formation of acne.

  • Removing milk from the diet can lead to potential nutritional deficiencies if important nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 are not obtained from other sources.

  • Focusing on skincare habits and using a targeted approach to address acne specifically, is safer and more effective than solely making diet changes. Exposed offers a complete skin care system that has helped over 400,000 customers achieve clear, healthy skin.

Man drinking a bottle of milk

What Science Says About Dairy Intake and Acne Vulgaris

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of 78,529 children, adolescents, and young adults found a positive association between dairy intake and acne.

While the study did not establish a causal relationship between dairy and acne, the findings suggest that a higher intake of dairy, particularly milk, may increase the risk of developing acne.

How Does Dairy Affect the Skin?

Dairy products, especially milk, contain hormones and growth factors that can stimulate oil production and inflammation in the skin. Increased oil production and inflammation can clog pores and lead to the formation of acne.

Of course, not everyone who consumes dairy will develop acne, but the evidence does suggest that dairy may contribute to acne development in some people.

How Does Acne Start?

Acne starts when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, creating an environment for the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes to thrive. This can cause inflammation and the formation of pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads.

While diet may play a role in acne development, other factors like genetics, stress, and skincare habits also contribute to the development of acne.

Young woman trying to pop her acne

Why the Focus on Milk?

Milk is a common staple in the Western diet and has been the primary focus of research examining the relationship between dairy intake and acne.

Milk contains a higher concentration of hormones and growth factors that can affect the skin compared to other dairy products.

Best Milk Alternatives for Acne-Prone Skin

While some individuals may find that reducing or eliminating dairy from their diet helps improve their acne, it's important to consider alternative sources of nutrients that dairy provides.

Good milk alternatives for acne-prone skin include almond milk, coconut milk, and oat milk. These milk alternatives are lower in hormones and growth factors than cow's milk and can provide important nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.

Do keep in mind though, that added sugars and oils to vegetable milk can potentially have a negative impact on acne as well.

Not All Dairy Is Created Equal

It is important to note that different types of dairy products may have different effects on the skin.

For example, cheese and yogurt may have less of an impact on acne compared to milk. This is because cheese and yogurt have lower levels of lactose, which is a sugar found in milk that can also contribute to acne development.

Cheese wheels being stored

Moreover, some studies have suggested that fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir, may have probiotic effects that could improve gut health and thus benefit the skin.

More research is needed to understand the differences between dairy products and their effects on the skin. Some researchers speculate that skim milk consumption is possibly one of the worst types of dairy consumption for acne breakouts.

If an individual suspects that dairy may be contributing to their acne, It's OK to try reducing intake of all types of dairy products or experimenting with different types of dairy to see how the skin responds.

Can You Get Rid of Acne with the Right Diet?

While diet may play a role in acne development, it is not the only factor. Other factors, such as genetics, stress, and skincare habits, can also contribute to acne.

However, maintaining a healthy diet and reducing dairy intake may help improve acne in some individuals. A healthy diet that includes whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats can provide important nutrients that support skin health.

5 Reasons To Focus On SkincareAnd Lifestyle Instead of Diet Changes

  • Skincare habits, such as cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing, can completely eliminate acne and improve skin health in general.

  • Focusing solely on diet changes may not be effective for everyone and may not address all factors contributing to acne.

  • Skincare can be a more targeted approach to addressing specific skin concerns, for example acne.

  • In addition to skincare, a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management can also help improve skin health.

  • Dietary changes can lead to nutritional deficiencies. You don't run that risk with a skin care routuine.

If you're looking for an effective solution to finally say goodbye to acne and hello to clear, healthy skin, our complete skin care system has helped over 400,000 satisfied customers achieve the skin of their dreams.

With a gentle yet powerful morning and evening routine that includes cleansing, exfoliation, treatment, and moisturization, Exposed effectively manages acne by removing excess oil and dead skin cells, unclogging pores, and promoting healthy skin turnover.

Our system combines the best of science and nature, with a potent blend of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.

Potential Nutritional Deficiencies by Removing Milk from the Diet

Milk is a good source of several important nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Removing milk from the diet can lead to potential nutritional deficiencies if these nutrients are not obtained from other sources.

  • Calcium is important for bone health, and low calcium intake can lead to conditions like osteoporosis.

    While other foods like leafy greens and fortified non-dairy milks can provide calcium, it may be difficult to obtain the same amount of calcium from non-dairy sources.

    Individuals who do not consume enough calcium from their diet may need to consider calcium supplements.

  • Vitamin D is important for bone health and immune function, and low vitamin D levels can increase the risk of several health problems.

    While the body can produce vitamin D with sunlight exposure, many individuals do not get enough sun exposure to meet their vitamin D needs.

    Milk is a good dietary source of vitamin D, and individuals who do not consume dairy may need to obtain vitamin D from supplements or other dietary sources like fortified non-dairy milk, fatty fish, or mushrooms.

  • Vitamin B12 is important for nerve and blood cell health, and low B12 levels can lead to anemia and other health problems.

    While vitamin B12 is naturally found only in animal products, including dairy, individuals who do not consume dairy can obtain B12 from fortified non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, or supplements.

Milk in glass and pitcher.


The link between dairy and acne is still subject to research. Having said that, the evidence suggests that reducing or eliminating dairy intake, particularly milk, may help improve acne in some individuals.

Don't haphazardly change your diet, though. It is very important to maintain a balanced diet that provides important nutrients for overall health, and to consider alternative sources of nutrients if dairy is removed from the diet.

In addition, skincare habits and a healthy lifestyle can help improve skin health and reduce acne. Ultimately, working with a healthcare professional can help individuals identify the most appropriate approaches to managing acne and achieving overall skin health.

Does Dairy Cause Acne FAQs

Does ice cream consumption cause acne?

There is some evidence to suggest that ice cream consumption can contribute to the development of acne.

Ice cream is a high glycemic index food, which means that it can quickly raise blood sugar levels and stimulate the production of insulin. Insulin, in turn, can promote inflammation in the skin and contribute to the development of acne breakouts.

However, like milk consumption, not all individuals who consume ice cream will necessarily experience acne, as other factors such as genetics and lifestyle also play a role.

Can milk consumption cause severe acne?

There is evidence to suggest that milk consumption may contribute to the development of severe acne.

Milk contains hormones and growth factors that can stimulate oil production and inflammation in the skin, leading to acne breakouts.

Can growth hormones in milk cause acne breakouts?

Growth hormones present in milk, particularly bovine growth hormone, have been associated with increased acne severity in some studies.

These hormones can lead to an increase in insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in the body, which can stimulate the production of sebum and lead to acne breakouts.

How can I lower the glycemic index of milk products?

To lower the glycemic index of milk products, you can choose low-fat or fat-free options, which will have a lower glycemic index than full-fat varieties.

Additionally, consuming milk with foods that are high in fiber or protein can help slow down the absorption of glucose and lower the glycemic index of the meal.

Can a high glycemic load diet affect acne severity?

Research has suggested that a high glycemic load diet, which is characterized by the consumption of foods that quickly raise blood sugar levels, may contribute to the development of acne.

These foods can lead to an increase in insulin levels, which can stimulate the production of sebum and promote inflammation in the skin. Choosing foods with a lower glycemic index, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, may help improve acne severity.

Bowl of salad.

Is teenage acne more common from eating dairy than adult acne?

While dairy consumption has been linked to acne in both teenagers and adults, it may be more common in teenagers.

This is because hormonal changes during adolescence can make the skin more susceptible to the effects of dairy hormones and growth factors. However, dairy can still contribute to acne breakouts in adults, and individuals may benefit from reducing their dairy intake to improve their skin health.