Does Cutting Out Dairy Help Acne?

Does Cutting Out Dairy Help Acne?

The subject of whether dairy contributes to acne is open for scientific debate, and it’s still controversial. While most experts will agree that acne can be irritated by traditional milk, they haven’t figured out how exactly these two are connected yet.

We feel your frustration. Do you say goodbye to everything that contains milk? Why must all the things that are so good be so bad for us? Is cutting out milk worth it? Let’s find out.    

Are Dairy Products the Cause of Your Acne?

dairy products

The truth is, acne is a condition that can be affected by so many factors, and each skin is individual. Genetics, hormones, lifestyles, and other personal, unique elements affect your complexion. You can’t know whether consuming dairy affects your acne unless you go without it for a while and see how your skin reacts.

However, there are piles of anecdotal evidence across the internet that swear giving up dairy cures acne.

Dairy products may worsen acne because of the high amount of hormones in the milk. Cows are treated with artificial hormones that affect their milk supply. And, even without artificial hormones, cow’s milk is a liquid product produced from the mammary glands while the cow is pregnant, intended for the cow’s baby. Because we're not cows, and certainly not babies, milk can hurt our bodies.

For one thing, milk is high in saturated fats and cholesterol, which leads to obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Some studies have linked milk with prostate cancer in men and with ovarian cancer in women. And now, new anecdotal evidence is piling up, showing that the consumption of cow’s milk correlates to the prevalence of acne in girls and boys.

It doesn’t help that according to some surveys, up to 75% of the world’s adult population is intolerant to lactose. This means that if your body is intolerant to lactose, your face is surely taking some of the toll.

Can Cutting Out Dairy Clear Your Skin?

dairy products

You won't know for sure unless you try it yourself. The good thing is that so many tasty alternatives are available, like almond milk, dairy-free cheese, and more. The internet is exploding with information and mind-blowing recipes. Taking time off dairy might not feel like such a sacrifice.

But, again, is it worth the effort?

According to Insider, some dermatologists advise against milk consumption. For example, Sarika Snell, a dermatologist in Washington DC, stated: "Cutting dairy improves skin texture, skin tone, and acne."

Rachel Lapidos shares her story in Well and Good, “The benefits definitely outweigh the taste—I feel healthier, and I’ve been trying to get clear skin for years. I’ll do anything to maintain this glow.”

On the other hand, some people have had different experiences, like the one Erin Lukas shares in Instyle: “After three months of abstaining, I started incorporating dairy back into my diet after coming to the conclusion with my dermatologist that I needed an oral treatment to properly control my hormonal acne.”

What Does the Research Say?

milk products

Anecdotal evidence is great, but is there some truth in all of it, or do people just want to believe it? Well, a number of studies support the idea that milk is connected with acne development. For example, one study found a correlation between acne breakouts and the total intake of milk and skim milk in teenage boys and girls. An article that examined the correlation between diet and acne advises more experts to study this connection since dermatologists can no longer dismiss the association between diet and acne.

Another study found that milk and ice cream consumption are related to acne vulgaris. The theories and explanations behind these findings are that the growth hormones present naturally in milk can provoke acne formation. Another theory argues that the high amount of hormones in the milk can throw your own hormones off balance. Another theory presents the idea that when you combine whole milk with refined foods and processed sugars, the skin becomes more prone to acne.

How Long Until You See Results?

woman with clear skin

Some people swear they saw dramatic results after just one week of skipping dairy. Others give it more time, from 21 days to even three months. But, when we ask the experts, they agree that one week is not enough. It takes approximately three to four weeks of cutting down dairy consumption before you see improvements.

Leave time so your body can detox and push the effects of the diary out of its system. There’s no way around it - patience is key when trying to achieve acne-free skin. But, hey… going dairy free for one month is nothing compared to a life of clear skin.

Milk Alternatives Good For Acne

almond milk

If you decide to give a dairy-free diet a try, don’t despair. There are many organic milk alternatives today. You can even experiment with different flavors and find your best fit.

Our personal favorite is almond milk. Why? Well, first, it’s simply too tasty! Second, it has similar nutritional content to cow’s milk without saturated fats. Third, it’s rich in vitamin E, which does wonders for the skin.

Other Causes For Acne Breakouts

skincare and acne

You went off dairy, and nothing changed, so now what? We're sorry to tell you that if dairy was the only problem, your acne would have been a thing of the past. But unfortunately, there are many reasons why someone breaks out or suffers from severe acne.


Unfortunately, acne-prone skin is hereditary. This means that if your parents had acne, you are also more likely to suffer from frequent acne outbreaks.


Hormonal changes, like puberty, menopause, or PMS, may be responsible for your acne. Don’t forget that sometimes, certain medications, deficiencies, diseases, or other conditions can also cause a hormonal disbalance and make your skin prone to acne.



The link between milk and acne may be controversial, but the one between stress and acne is not. The more you stress, the more your skin will suffer. This is because sebaceous glands have stress receptors. When our body is undergoing a stressful situation, these receptors are triggered, and the glands start producing sebum. An excess amount of sebum leads to clogged pores and more pimples.


The location and conditions in which you live have a profound effect on your skin’s health. Sun exposure, high humidity, extremely cold weather, polluted air, and other factors can trigger acne. If you live in a place with unfavorable skin conditions, find a way to protect your face.

Make sure you keep your face clean and moisturized.

Makeup and Skincare Products


You must have heard about this one. Makeup and abrasive skincare products can do more damage than good, so be careful. Always look for non-comedogenic products, and if your skin is oily and prone to acne, avoid oil-based cosmetics. This goes without saying - never go to bed with your makeup on! Always clean your face well before hugging your pillow.

If you have acne or are at risk of developing acne, try the Complete Clear 3-Step System. With a cleanser, toner, and moisturizer, this routine is designed to treat acne, keeping your face clear and clean.


Are you confused about this one? No, we don’t mean actual dirt. We mean your hands, mobile phone, pillowcases, and everything else you let touch your face. You may not even notice it, but a lot of acne-causing bacteria come from our own destructive habits. To be safe - avoid touching your face, and desensitize your phone.

Final Thoughts


Anecdotal and science-based evidence that milk consumption can be responsible for your never-ending breakouts is abounding. However, the underlying reason is not as clear as some people think. At the end of the day, every skin is distinctive, and acne is a condition that can be caused by many different reasons. This means you have to try to know for sure.

The good news is there are no side effects to swapping out your milk. What will you lose by eliminating dairy for a month or two? You can always go back if you're not happy with the results. If you decide eliminating dairy is for you, don’t miss out on the tasty alternatives.


Diet and acne

High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne

High glycemic load diet, milk and ice cream consumption are related to acne vulgaris in Malaysian young adults

How to Treat Stubborn Cystic Acne, According to Derms

I Tried Cutting Out Dairy for a Week — Here’s What Happens

Here's what happens to your skin when you cut out dairy, according to dermatologists

Diet and Dermatology

Milk Consumption and Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review

Lactose Intolerance

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