Dairy and acne – does giving it up really help your skin?

One Marie Claire staffer gave up milk with a very surprising effect on her skin

I had never thought of giving up dairy for my skin, nor had I considered there could be a link between dairy and acne.

In fact, the reason I stopped drinking milk all came down to a harrowing video I watched on Facebook. I’ll spare you the details, but I couldn’t get over it and so vowed to never drink milk again.

I didn’t give up all dairy though. I’m mildly addicted to cheese and the thought of never eating a baked Camembert or enjoying a goat’s cheese salad again was just to much for me to bear.

But what started out as a ban on milk, simply because I didn’t like it any more, turned into something much bigger for my skin. And I couldn’t ignore the effect it was having, so eventually, I even cut back on my beloved cheese intake.

Of course, the changes didn’t happen immediately. But over the period of about 3 months without milk, I noticed that my skin was less inflamed and I wasn’t suffering from as many regular breakouts. It was clear that there was relationship between my intake of dairy and acne.

My daily flat white became a thing of the past, Oatly! replaced Cravendale milk in my family home fridge, indulging in cheese became a monthly treat and leafy greens like bok choi became my primary source of calcium.

After years of visiting dermatologists, changing my skincare routine and subjecting myself to medications like Minocycline, a change in diet proved to be the salvation in my battle against acne.

What does research say about dairy and acne?

While the NHS says there’s no evidence to suggest that diet impacts acne, for some people there’s a clear link between consumption of dairy and acne prevalence.

‘There are a number of proposed hypotheses surrounding how dairy products may worsen skin disease. For instance, it’s possible that dairy acts by a similar mechanism to diets rich in carbohydrates by promoting insulin and IGF1 production’, says Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation spokesperson.

There are also other suggestions that milk from dairy cows either naturally contains growth hormones or is treated with growth hormones. These can in turn increase androgen levels, which drive oil glands to release more sebum.’

In fact, doctors have suspected a connection between gut and the skin for well over 50 years now, with studies showing that people with acne have a far stronger reaction against gut bacteria.

Dairy and acne before and after

dairy-free

That’s not to say that this happens to everyone. I know a lot of people who consume dairy all the time with no side effects whatsoever. But it’s definitely something to consider if it feels like you’ve tried all of the best acne treatments, but to no avail.

The whole experience has actually forced me to love my skin again too. Treat it with respect and nurture it, instead of continuing with (what was for me) bad habits and covering it up with make-up.

I didn’t always have acne – in fact I didn’t get my first pimple until I was 26. And I spent most of my young life downing milk by the pint glass. So although I can’t exactly pin point what caused my acne, but I can say with a lot of certainty that cutting back on my dairy intake has helped tenfold.

For me, the relationship between dairy and acne is undeniable, and I won’t be turning back…

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