Understanding the Link Between Dairy Products and Acne

Understanding the Link Between Dairy Products and Acne

Even though food is not responsible for the underlying hormonal causes of acne, there are certain products that have the potential to exacerbate acne breakouts or prime your skin for new breakouts in the future. Dairy products are frequently cited as one of these "problem foods", which has caused many an acne sufferer to abandon some of their favorite dairy-based treats in the hopes that this dietary switch would make their acne problems finally go away for good.

Unfortunately, these drastic measures don't always provide the results that people are hoping for. Furthermore, depriving your body of calcium and proteins contained in dairy WITHOUT a healthy balanced diet may actually cause your body harm (e.g. lack of absorbable calcium and vitamin D may foster osteoporosis and weaker teeth; vitamin A is needed for healthy eyesight).  On the other hand, as we are indeed what we eat, we need to understand the potential for a possible link between acne and dairy for some individuals. Before you go on a kitchen-cleaning spree, tossing out all your favorite cheeses and ice cream, take a moment to learn the facts about dairy products. I think you'll find that when it comes to these types of food, making modifications to your intake is better than outright eliminating it.

Is There a Link Between Acne and Dairy Products?

There have been several studies conducted in the last decade that attempted to examine the link between acne and dairy products, and, as you would expect with new scientific research, many of these studies had wildly different findings, and have been creating controversy rather than providing straightforward answers.  However, the one thing that many of these researchers seem to agree on is that when dairy products do worsen acne breakouts it's because of dairy's effect on the hormonal balance of our bodies-the hormones found in dairy may create hormonal havoc and as a result may also impact our skin's sebaceous glands, "pushing" them to overproduce oil (sebum). This then clogs our pores and allows for the growth of acne-causing bacteria.

At this point, you may be thinking that it's best to just avoid dairy altogether-better safe than sorry, right? Not necessarily. Different hormones have been added to the cow's diet to induce either production of more milk or meat.  This practice has been under scrutiny, and the production of organic milk and dairy products is rapidly growing. Interestingly, cheeses imported from Europe are mostly hormone-free because the European Union has stricter food protection laws.  Since dairy provides us with important vitamins and nutrients, many of which contribute to healthy skin, it is wiser to switch to organic dairy products and to moderate intake instead of eradicating dairy from your diet (unless you are lactose intolerant, of course).  In addition, there are plenty of people in the world who eat and drink dairy products regularly without any acne problems whatsoever-providing evidence that the effects of dairy can vary wildly from person to person.

If You're Suffering From Acne, What Should You Do About Your Dairy Intake?

If you're truly worried that the consumption of dairy products could be having a negative effect on the health of your skin and the severity of your acne breakouts, the best thing to do is make step-by-step modifications, checking what works and what doesn't, instead of taking an extreme approach and eliminating dairy entirely.

Next Steps to Take

1.  If you're a big milk drinker, one of the first things you could try is switching from regular pasteurized milk to an organic variety. Organic milk does not contain hormones that many believe can contribute to acne, which could help alleviate your problems.

2.  Monitoring the amount of dairy products you consume is another wise step. Almost everything is detrimental to your health when consumed in excess, so perhaps your problem is that you're simply relying too much on dairy products in your diet.

3.  Whatever changes you make, be sure to give your body enough time to adjust to them so that you can accurately gauge their effectiveness. Monitor the quality of your skin over the course of at least a few weeks, and if you find that these changes are helping, then stick with them! If they're not helping, take a step back. Whatever you do, don't rush into things and make unnecessary and drastic changes to your diet.

Finally, when considering the effects of dairy on your skin, remember that there is no dietary change that can completely cure your acne-these changes may only make your fight against it easier. Without addressing your acne problems at their root you cannot break the acne cycle!   


With a Promise of Clear Skin,

Dr. A  

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