Does dairy really give you pimples?
September 22nd, 2020

Does dairy really give you pimples?

You may have heard that giving up dairy will literally dissolve your pimples. Is this true? Is it just as simple (or as difficult) as giving up milk? There's a bit more to it than that. We dive into this theory with a few experts for help. 

First of all, there is some proof that dairy causes acne and it's based on various studies of men and women aged 9-30, which shows an increase in acne among people who drink milk. 

Then there's another study, done on 47,355 women (that's a lot for a study!) and it also pointed to milk, particularly skim milk, increasing the incidence of acne. 

There isn't enough evidence however for it to have dietary restrictions on it by the government and the advice is still to consume dairy for calcium.

Why milk? 

They don't know why exactly why dairy causes acne in a lot of people, but experts link the hormones in milk (from cows giving hormones via milk to their young who are generally supposed to be the recipients of cows milk), to increasing hormones in our bodies when we drink it and therefore increasing the number of pimples you get.

Add that to the fact that 65% of humans are lactose intolerant (and those are just the ones we know about, there will be more people who don't know they have symptoms or report their symptoms), and you have a recipe for stirring up acne flare-ups. 

BUT. You might be fine

Naturopath Anthia Koullourous says that everyone is different. "Dairy might not be the culprit" says Anthia, "the easiest and fastest way to know is to cut dairy out of your diet for four weeks - six if you can manage - and see what happens. If your spots clear up, great! If not, then you're fine to keep on drinking milk and know that it's not affecting your skin." 

A lot of the time, if you are going to have a reaction to dairy, it's milk that's the issue. Cut all dairy out at first for 4-6 weeks, then slowly introduce other dairy products back into your life like yoghurt, cheese and butter. Do this one at a time so you can test how they affect you. Anthia recommends introducing one product over two weeks and gauging the difference before introducing the next.

Which milk? 

The other difference is the quality of milk. Mass produced, factory farmed milk from cows stuffed with antibiotics and growth hormones is not going to be good for most people and it's certainly not the stuff our grandparents used to drink, straight from the farm. 

Where you can, buy organic unhomogenised milk so that it's less processed and you are drinking less hormones from cows which may just tip you over into acne territory. Failing that, there is A2 milk on the market, which is the better choice as a lot of people find they have worse reactions to the A1 protein which is in all milk unless it's taken out. 

But how do I get my calcium? 

Great question! Here are some other foods to get calcium from. It ain't all up to milk. 

  • Sesame seeds. Increase the amount of tahini you eat, sprinkle sesame seeds on salads or veggie bowls, dip veggies into hommous.¬†
  • Raw almonds
  • Tinned salmon and sardines with the bones
  • Dark green leafy vegetables¬†particularly collard greens, kale and bok choy
  • White beans
  • Soybeans (edamame)
  • Tofu fortified with calcium


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