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Learn Skincare

DOES DAIRY Cause Breakouts?

Does Dairy Cause Breakouts?
For some of us, the dream of clear skin has been just that — a very, very distant dream. And for that, many of us have adult acne to thank —- which should be filed under “things no one told us sucked about adulthood.” Acne? When we already have to pay bills? Whose idea was this?  Anyway, chances are you’ve already tried every serum, facial, and cleanser under the sun to try and treat breakouts. But what if the answer is in what’s on our plates, and not what we’re putting on our face?
Enter: dairy. While we so love a good block of cheese for an appetizer (or maybe even dinner …  tell us we aren’t the only ones?), dairy is a hot topic when it comes to food-related acne. There are those that stand behind dairy-related acne, while others insist the evidence just isn’t strong enough. The controversy, right? Real Housewives who?
Since we’ve been in a committed relationship with dairy for quite some time (we’ll never forget our first slice of cheese pizza), never back down from a debate, and we know that a growing number of studies support that diet affects our skin, we did a little digging of our own to find out if dairy really might be to blame for our breakouts.
Welp, let’s do this.
One of the reasons dairy gets a bad rep is because it’s a pro-inflammatory food. Simply put, pro-inflammatory foods spike both inflammation and insulin levels in the body and the gut — which in turn increases oil production, causing more blemishes. And while everyone’s bodies are different (and thank goodness for that!), dairy consumption  — especially cow dairy — seems to be an acne trigger for a lot of people. Cow dairy in particular contains insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1, which is a growth hormone that contributes to acne by increasing oil production and speeding up skin cell growth. So what does that mean for your skin? Nothing good. Acne develops when your hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin — so when more oil comes into play and skin cell growth speeds up, your pores have a greater chance of becoming clogged, leading to major breakouts.
On top of that, dairy is high on the insulin index, which means it’s like a hype man for insulin and stimulates production of this hormone. This causes the revving up of androgen hormones, the sex hormones released by our adrenal glands and ovaries. Real talk: Androgen hormones are the primary devil when it comes to acne. They stimulate your sebaceous glands, making them produce more oil. We know — again with the oil. After this article, you probably won’t want to hear the word “oil” ever again. And all of this to say, who knew gouda could be such a complicated instigator?
So is that it? Are we doomed to never touch a charcuterie board again? Maybe, but maybe not. (We know, it’s a frustrating answer.) The studies around dairy show a correlation between dairy and acne, not necessarily cause and effect. And everybody is different — reactions to foods will always vary person-to-person. Couple that with factors like the amount you eat, your skin type, and genetics, and the answer isn’t so black and white. Those that don’t have a history of oily, acne-prone skin may be able to eat dairy more often than not — without any side effects. On the flip side, those with acne-prone skin might see a dramatic positive change in their skin when cutting out dairy.
All in all, there is no denying that food sensitivities do affect the body — your skin included. So if you suspect that dairy might be interfering with your glow, try tracking your food intake and monitoring how your skin reacts. If you notice that acne develops shortly after eating dairy, and then clears when you avoid it —- well, you have your answer right there.
But if you absolutely can’t end your dairy relationship (it’s hard to end a long-time love affair with our beloved ice-cream), it’s smart to choose organic, hormone-free dairy to lessen any possible reactions. And, if after reading all of this, you’ve decided dairy just isn’t for you and almond-based everything is your new norm, consider this your official congratulations on your (hopefully) soon-to-come clear skin.