Dairy Could Be The Reason Behind Your Breakouts

Ok but dairy is good for you, isn’t it? Milk makes my bones strong and my gut healthy? C’monnn, keep up! Dairy is SO yesterday.

You might have heard in recent news that Canada is one of the first countries to cut out dairy as a necessary food group from their National food guide (see here, as well). While they are doing this primarily for peoples overall health, whether they know it or not they are also going to help save some peoples skin.

Wait wut? How can reducing dairy intake help your skin? Let me explain.

Last November I was dealing with some of the worst acne I’ve EVER had (which you may have seen in my two previous posts; Skincare To Reduce Acne, and Foreo Luna Review). At this point, I had being primarily focusing on topical skincare and not taking into account that it might be something going on inside that was affecting me.

Through my tedious hours of research one thing kept coming up and that was dairy and it’s acne-causing tendencies. I determinedly ignored this though because cheese??? Who can live without CHEESE?! and ICECREAM?!

This all happened by chance, but one week I noticed that I hadn’t been consuming as much dairy as I usually do and consequently my skin was also looking the best it had done in a while. As you can imagine I was stoked that my skin troubles seemed to be clearing up so I put it down to the fact that my dairy intake had been limited so I decided to keep it up. Low and behold my skin was SHINING.

I had been in dairy denial for so long, but once I saw the improvement in my skin it became easy to choose non-dairy options. This isn’t to say that I have cut it out completely, if I do plan on having a dairy product one day I make sure to limit it for a few days after and drink a ton of water.

Here is a picture of my skin pre and post reducing my dairy consumption.

Is has improved further since these pictures (obv because the last one was taken in March). But, the number of spots I get every month has reduced drastically, as well as the severity of the spots.

Why Does Dairy Supposedly Cause Acne?

What is SO BAD about it that it makes our skin act like an angry teenager?

“It is the evolutionary principle of mammalian milk to promote growth and support anabolic conditions” (Clemens, et. al. 2010)

Basically, mammal’s milk has hormones and proteins in it to help their babies grow and develop upon birth.

Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) & Acne:

You’ve probably heard that eating sugary foods and foods with a high-glycemic index should be avoided if you want to decrease your acne. This is because these foods lack fibre, and therefore are absorbed quickly- leading to high spikes and crashes in insulin levels.

Why are these spikes bad? High insulin causes the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum which blocks your pores.

So how does IGF-1 come into this? IGF-1 is an endocrine hormone originating in the liver that acts like insulin in the body. Therefore, it elicits a similar, pore-blocking effect on us – hence, more acne.

Cappel et. al. (2005)

  • Found that increased IGF-1 levels may influence acne – more so in women

Clement et. al. (2005)

  • Found positive correlation between acne and total intake of whole and skimmed milk

Now, if you absolutely cannot cut out cows milk, try drinking whole milk as opposed to skimmed milk, as there is less IGF-1 in whole milk.

A1 Casein & Acne:

It can’t JUST be IGF-1 that does all the damage, can it? No sir, dairy contains a number of inflammatory components, another one being A1 casein.

A1 casein comes from A1 cows. It seems that there are two different kinds of cows, A1 and A2. They were actually all A2 cows until a mutation turned some A1 which ended up becoming our main milk-producing cow.

When we consume A1 (casein) dairy products our bodies, it is altered to become a powerful inflammatory opiate known as casomorphin.

What is an opiate?

“All opioids, like opiates, are considered drugs of high abuse potential and are listed on various “Substance-Control Schedules” under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act of the United States.” – “Opiate”, Wikipedia

So, not only does dairy give us spots and make them worse, it also makes it hard for us to give up due to it’s addictive qualities. Not to be “that” person, but it kind of makes you wonder how the heck they’re still allowed to sell dairy products, eh?

Anyway, without getting all conspiracy theory on you, the main point I’m trying to make here is that A1 casein from A1 cows is an inflammatory protein and may be the reason why dairy is affecting your acne.

Excess Sebum & Acne

First of all, what the heck is sebum? Sebum is an oily, waxy substance produced by our sebaceous glands. It is meant to lubricate and waterproof our skin when secreted in “normal” quantities. We NEED sebum to maintain healthy, functioning skin, however much like many things in life – when we have too much of it it can be damaging (looking at you, pizza & wine).

We all know that zits ultimately happen when our pores get clogged, and when too much sebum is produced this is exactly what occurs. But what exactly is it that leads to our sebaceous glands producing more sebum? You guessed it! Dairy.

The Challenge

So I’m assuming that you clicked this link because you’ve been having trouble with your acne. I’m going to challenge you to cut out dairy for a week. Just a week. It isn’t as hard as it sounds I promise. But give it a week and see how your skin responds. If it responds well, keep it up.

Cutting dairy out completely can be quiet daunting – I haven’t even done it myself. However I have reduced my consumption of dairy drastically.

There are two ways you can go about reducing your dairy intake, one of which is less scary than the other:

Cold Turkey

Like I said, I haven’t even gone this far yet because of cheese. BUT if you’re feeling brave and you’re willing to try anything to get rid of those pesky zits, I would suggest cutting out all dairy for at least 2 weeks. See how your skin responds. If the going is good, continue on for another couple of weeks. If you’ve adapted to the non-dairy lifestyle then keep on going sista. If you’re missing some things, try SLOWLY reintroducing them into your diet. Start with one product at a time in a very small quantity and work your way up from there.

Luke-Warm Turkey

Try opting for more of the raw dairy products. Whole milks, and organic stuff. Like I said earlier, there is less IGF-1 in whole and raw milks. Drink lots of water on those days that you do eat a considerable amount of dairy, and really make sure you stay on top of your skin care (for my skincare routine that I used to help combat my stubborn acne, click here). And just TRY to limit your intake. I know it’s hard, trust. But it is possible! Almond milk isn’t as bad as you may think and there are dairy free icecreams that are ALMOST as good as the real thing. Should I do a dairy-free icecream review post? I know I would’ve found that super helpful when I was on the hunt.

Let me just finish up by saying that I have absolutely nothing against dairy (other than the slightly haunting fact that cows are treated awfully for it). So, if you can drink milkshakes, eat the cheesiest pizzas, and scarf down an entire tub of Ben & Jerry’s without breaking out in a single zit (aHEM… my boyfriend), then keep doing you! I put this post out purely because reducing my dairy intake has been a positive experience for my skin and I hope to help some of you out as well!

Until next time



Bongiorno, P. (2014, February 17). Got to Drink Milk? Learn Your A1’s and A2’s. Retrieved August 06, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/inner-source/201402/got-drink-milk-learn-your-a1-s-and-a2-s

Briden, L., Says, P. A., Says, L. B., Says, L., Says, L., Says, G., . . . Says, V. C. (2017, July 14). The Inflammation From A1 Milk Is Mind-Boggling. Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://www.larabriden.com/the-inflammation-from-a1-milk-is-mind-boggling/

Cappel, M. and Mauger, D. (2005). Correlation between serum levels of insulin-like growth factor 1, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and dihydrotestosterone and acne lesion counts in adult women. Arch Dermatol, 141(3). doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.4.356

Clemens, R. A., Hernell, O., Michaelsen, K. F. (2010). Milk during childhood in low- and high-income countries: Evidence for acne-promoting effects of milk and other insulinotropic dairy products. Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser Pediatr Program, 67. https://doi.org/10.1159/000325580

Growing evidence suggests possible link between diet and acne. (2013, February 8). Retrieved August 06, 2017, from https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/growing-evidence-suggests-possible-link-between-diet-and-acne

Hrustic, A. (2017, July 29). Does Dairy Really Cause Acne? Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://www.menshealth.com/health/does-dairy-cause-acne

R. (2016, July 18). What is IGF-1? | Why is it Bad for Acne? Retrieved August 06, 2017, from https://howtohelpacne.com/igf-1-bad-acne

2 Replies to “Dairy Could Be The Reason Behind Your Breakouts”

  1. […] if you haven’t already read my read my most recent post Dairy Could Be The Reason Behind Your Breakouts, go do that now! Then this will all make sense. Cows milk has proteins and hormones in it that […]

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