Dairy and Acne

When we talk about nutrition, we often think of how the diet affects specific organs, like the heart, the intestines, the liver… but one organ that is commonly overlooked is skin… the largest organ in the body.


Ok so you kind of forgot, or maybe just didn’t think of skin as an organ, right? It’s okay because I actually seem to forget this quite a bit as well.

I’m usually stuck thinking the appearance of my skin, specifically my face, is from my skincare routine: wash and moisturize twice a day, toner once a day and exfoliate every other day. Everyone does it differently for their own skin type.


But I always forget that I may be doing everything just fine from the outside, but what about from the inside? Am I feeding my skin what it needs, or maybe too much of what it doesn’t need?

The reason I bring this up is because lately, I’ve unfortunately been suffering from a bit of acne. I’ve never had a full-face of breakouts and still don’t, but what I mean is that there are more blemishes that seem to be reappearing once I seem to finally tackle them. This is a big issue for me currently because of this internship, I’m meeting a lot of new people and making a lot of first impressions. I’m in my twenties, I thought this shit was suppose to end, not get worse, what’s going on!?


Like I said before, I forgot that my skin is an organ too. And once I remembered, I realized that maybe my diet is what needs some adjusting… to make changes and work on my skin from the inside out.

Since being on a budget, many times I go for calorie-dense foods in order to get more bang for my buck, which often times includes dairy… like cheese, cream, milk, yogurt, etc. Well, one big controversy in the world of nutrition is with acne and dairy. It’s been studied and studied and studied, but even though there are many signs pointing to dairy in the diet being the culprit, there is hardly any scientific proof that it does in fact cause acne. It’s suggested that the hormone in cow’s milk (IGF-1) affect our bodies and the normal balance, and also that the dairy increases the amount of sebum, or oil, that we produce.


So, since evidence is sparse, I thought maybe I would do a little self-study of my own and see how my skin would react to this change. I’ve read a lot of stories where people mention they saw a difference in their skin in less than a week, so my goal is to cut dairy from my diet completely for two weeks. This works out pretty well actually because in preparation for our apartment move, we have been in “Operation: eat everything in the kitchen” mode, so we don’t have a whole lot of food lying around. In terms of dairy, we do have about a half-gallon of milk and a few yogurts, so I’ll be starting this little dairy-free adventure on Sunday once that’s all gone.

This means, of what I currently eat, no…

  • milk
  • sour cream
  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • ice cream/froyo
  • butter (rarely, if ever used)
  • whey protein

If you know me, you know that I love overnight oats (goodbye yogurt), protein smoothies (goodbye whey), ice cream (goodbye, my sweet love), and anything with cheese… So this is not going to be a walk in the park for me. But I’ll survive.


Depending on the outcomes of my experiment, dairy may, sadly, just need to be eliminated from my diet. I’ll need to shift my focus from trying to recreate the same dairy-heavy meals and snacks. But since this is a totally new thing for me, I think substituting.. or at least trying to substitute.. for the lack of creamy-yummy-goodness will make a huge difference in my happiness. Obviously there are different kinds of milk to choose from, and I’m on a mission to find nutritional yeast, but does anyone have any other suggestions for replacing dairy products? Vegans, I’m looking at you because I know you have ways of making things “creamy” and “cheesy”!

Any suggestions?


18 thoughts on “Dairy and Acne

  1. I’m lactose intolerant and was a HUGE dairy lover until then (I still do the yogurt in overnight oats, I can’t say no) so I understand the difficulty of eliminating it from your diet. My suggestion, Trader Joe’s! Their refrigerated unsweetened vanilla almond milk is a staple in my fridge. I’m on a measly, post grad, minimum wage budget (but I got an internship so things are looking up!) so sometimes I have trouble justifying forking up $3 for a half gallon, but I think it’s worth it. They also have coconut milk which if I’m correct has more protein. Almond milk has like 1 g…pathetic. Trader Joe’s also has a variety of soy desserts. I would recommend the Soy Creamy Cherry Chocolate Chip Soy Ice Cream. To die for. Good luck 🙂

    • Sadly, the closest TJs to me is in Naples, 90miles away!! They are suppose to be putting one in South FL sometime in 2013 but the data is still pending 😦

      • What? No way! I still stand by my almond milk recommendation! Other than TJ’s, I like Blue Diamond almond milk. From my experience in general I would say if your grocery store has a specialty or natural foods section and browse the alternatives. Also, since I lose a lot of protein sources since I don’t eat dairy I try to bump up my protein from other plant based sources. Hello quinoa and peanut butter!

  2. I’ve been starting to think that dairy actually has a negative effect on my tummy (I think you know about my saga of indigestion/anxiety/nausea/etc) so I’ve been trying to cut down on it lately too. I actually don’t regularly buy milk anyway, I prefer almond milk (I know I’m weird). And if lactose is the culprit, Greek yogurt actually has less lactose than regular yogurt since it’s strained!

    Otherwise, some substitutions I can think of are blended frozen banana for froyo (it is ACTUALLY amazing) and coconut oil for butter! Also, maybe goats milk/cheese would cause less of a problem? You definitely have lots of experimenting to do!

    • Ah yes hippie ice cream!! I love. And I read that it is dairy from all mammals, so goats milk would still be a nono. But like Greek yog, it has way less lactose. I guess we will see!

  3. I’m curious to see how your experiment goes! In the past few months, I’ve been frustrated by a few blemishes (I feel bad complaining because literally, it’s, like, 3, but it still bugs me!), but when you’re not used to something it’s maddening. After taking a good honest look, I realized it was most likely stress and a few too many first-date glasses of wine. I’ve started to notice some changes finally after making a few little changes. Haha I’m also going to try using avocado as a face mask today.

  4. I’m interested in following your experiment! How long are you going to try to stay dairy-free? I think 2-3 weeks should allow your body to adjust to the changes in order for you to see optimal results! As for dairy, I can’t stand cow milk but I love almond milk! Soy yogurt is really good too although kinda pricey :/ There are plenty of plant-based, non-soy protein powders for you to try out for your smoothies! I think the hardest part for me would be cheese… I love cheese too much!

  5. I work with a few vegan ladies, I’ll ask them and get back to you! I know one of them swears by coconut milk yogurt and ice cream-how do you feel about those?

  6. Going without dairy is not nearly as sad as it seems!! It takes some getting used to, but there are so many alternatives out there and you will just be challenged to create vegan versions of your favorite foods!! I had a blast with that!

    • Yesss I need to try that daiya cheese stuff that you eat sometimes, because as much as I think I can live without cheese, I forget how much I love pizza! Pizza needs cheese like fish need water

  7. Pingback: Cheesy and I love it | Have Your Cake and…

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