Does Dairy Cause Acne?

Marissa Morris
May 21st, 2022

Have you ever noticed a breakout after recently having a milkshake, slice of pizza, or even an iced caramel latte? Studies show a positive correlation between dairy and acne and it is more popular than we think. 65% of the world is lactose intolerant and dairy is pretty much in everything! Cream, milk, cheese, whey, pancakes, mashed potatoes, and butter are just a few of the many that contain dairy. In simpler terms, to be lactose intolerant means the body rejects all things dairy. 

Acne is a common chronic inflammatory skin disease of sebaceous follicles. The sebum (oil) production in the skin increases and papules, pustules, open and closed comedones start to become present. So basically when the glands in the skin produce more oil, pus-filled pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads start to appear. 

What causes the glands to produce more oil? Diet and activity levels influence growth hormones in the body. One of the hormones known as insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) can be stimulated by certain foods causing an increase in  sebum (skin oil). Studies have concluded that dairy products are the culprit. Milk, yogurt, and cheese have been linked to causing a spike in acne in individuals aged 7-30 years old. 

How do you know if dairy is affecting you? The elimination diet is the answer! Stay away from all foods that contain dairy for 30 days and observe any changes in your skin. 

It’s not just about acne. It’s also about health. Saturated fats contribute to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Milk and other dairy products are at the top source of saturated fats and even increase the risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer. It is important to be conscious about what is going into the body. The food everyone grew up with is not the best for our health and in some cases, skin. 

 Health concerns about dairy. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2022, from

 Juhl, C. R., Bergholdt, H. K. M., Miller, I. M., Jemec, G. B. E., Kanters, J. K., & Ellervik, C. (2018, August 9). Dairy intake and acne vulgaris: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 78,529 children, adolescents, and young adults. Nutrients. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from,heterogeneity%20and%20bias%20across%20studies. 

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) test: Medlineplus medical test. MedlinePlus. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from 

Lactose intolerance - statpearls - NCBI bookshelf. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2022, from 

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