Is Dairy Actually Bad For Your Skin?

Dairy products are a great source of protein and can be part of a healthy diet (via Verywell Fit). However, you may have heard that dairy is bad for your skin, able to cause acne and other issues. And it's true that for some people, eliminating dairy products can produce great results for their skin.

The American Academy of Dermatology has listed cow's milk — not yogurt or other milk by-products like cheese — as a driver of acne breakouts. One study highlighted by the organization found that women who drank more than two glasses of skim milk daily were 44% more likely to have acne.

It's all about hormones or rather, the way your body produces hormones when you consume dairy products. And whey, a protein found in dairy products, may be to blame. "Whey increases the production of Insulin-like Growth Factor 1," dermatologist Corey L. Hartman told Harper's Bazaar. "Insulin increases the production of oil, which contributes to the development of acne. It also triggers androgen production, testosterone hormones that stimulate oil and cause acne."

Should you cut out dairy?

The quality of the dairy you're consuming matters as well. "Since most dairy cows are given growth hormones,"  celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau told Byrdie, the dairy products you eat can "become factors that influence endogenous hormones and mimic the hormones that trigger oil production in the skin to ignite the acne process."

Ultimately, before you think about simply cutting out dairy to solve your skin woes, consider your diet overall. Eating a high-sugar diet may be just as detrimental for your skin. A 2019 study found that people with acne were more likely to eat dairy on a daily basis, but the researchers also found a link between daily consumption of high-sugar treats and participants having acne (via Healthline). Eating a diet that's lower in processed foods but packed with fiber and healthy Omega-3 fats may lead to better skin.

And remember, play detective when it comes to the effects that food has on your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology notes that you should pay attention to see if any food or beverage tends to trigger breakouts. And if you suspect dairy may be the culprit, try removing it from your diet for a few weeks and see how your skin reacts. You may find that dairy is a trigger or you may realize there's another food wreaking havoc on your complexion.