Myth or Fact: Does dairy really affect the skin?

Updated: May 7, 2020

I grew up being told that by eating too much chocolate gives you spots and this identical attitude towards dairy and how it affects the skin has been duplicated in today’s culture. The influx of veganism, nutritionists and general awareness of how our eating habits affect every part of our body, has caused us to question what food groups should be discarded from our diets, in order to look and feel good.

Instagram tells us dairy is bad for us. Vogue documents how by simply by eliminating cheese and milk products from your diet, you can rid your acne for good. Bloggers are trying the dairy-free movement out for themselves, and noting equally positive results. With over 65% of the human population developing some kind of lactose intolerance following infancy, it’s difficult to not question whether dairy products are good or bad for us. What exactly we do know about dairy and how it affects the skin? Can we bid farewell to blogged pores and excessive sebum production, simply by cutting these foods out of our lives or is it all just a myth? This blog post breaks down how and if dairy is a no-go if you want flawless skin, and how industry discussions have led us to this point.

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via Giphy

Why do we consume dairy?

Dairy products are high in calcium, a vital mineral the human body needs to build and maintain bone health. Calcium helps with muscle contraction, blood clotting and even heart rate. Nearly 100% of calcium in the human body is in our bones and teeth. Despite our dependence on this mineral, our bodies cannot produce it so we source it from foods and dairy products, are the main source of this.

Most of us have been educated with that same, familiar chart, indicating the perfect balance of food groups we should be consuming every day for perfect health. This information has rarely been questioned until recent years, as dairy intolerances and skin issues such as acne, are evidently on the rise.

balanced meal

via Flickr

How does dairy affect the skin?

Studies have been carried out since the 60s, to understand the potential effect of how consuming dairy products has on the skin.

The milk we drink comes directly from impregnated cows and these animals are known to produce the hormone known as bovine growth (or IGF-1) to help develop calf’s into adult cows and bulls. When consumed, the hormones in milk, may affect the hormones in the human body.

The effects of hormones and how they affect the skin are not completely understood at this point, however some clinical studies have shown the direct link between consuming IGF-1 and increased sebum production.

The high sugar content in milk can also lead to acne flare-ups and other skin conditions.

Whey protein found in skim milk is pro-inflammatory and can lead to inflamed skin conditions such as acne and rosacea. However, it is important to know that these results vary from study to study.

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via Giphy

Do we know for sure, that dairy is ‘bad’ for the skin? 

The answer to this is quite simply, no. We do not have enough concrete evidence to show how it affects everyone’s skin and whether it does induce skin flare-ups. The dairy-free trend and knowledge we have today, is based a lot upon client and dermatologist’s testimonials of their own experiences.

It is also difficult to pinpoint if dairy is the sole problem in each individual case as so many other factors can contribute to skin conditions such as UV and environmental exposures, age and genetics and our overall hygiene and the products we use in our skincare regimes.

The risk of going dairy-free 

We know from test subjects and those that have tried the dairy-free diet themselves, that cutting out these foods can lead to: 

Less bloating

Weight loss

Clearer skin

More energy

But generally, by cutting out dairy in your diet, it can also lead to diminishing bone health. Most experts agree that some people are more sensitive to dairy products than others and so it is ideal to not exclude dairy from your diet completely if you have no reason to.


via Giphy

It is useful to know that there are other foods out there that contain sources of calcium, such as rich leafy greens such as kale and spinach, nuts, soya beans, brocolli and sardines.

Dairy-free calcium alternatives

Unsweetened yoghurts, and dairy alternatives such as soy, almond and coconut milk are a good place to start if you would like to try it for yourself. It is recommended to consult with a nutritionist first before making any drastic adjustments.

We still do not have enough information to conclude whether the effect dairy has on the skin is negative or not. Dairy plays a significant role in providing calcium to the body so if you are considering making any changes to your diet, it is important to source it from other foods as listed above. Have you gone dairy-free and noticed any positive changes? I would love to hear from you, so either comment below or email me.

Have you heard of Vitamin B3? Find out how it can benefit you and your skin type, and where to find it in your skincare products. 

#dairyfree #dairyfreediet #health #howdairyaffectstheskin

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