Got Milk? Got Acne?



It makes for a great blog headline. But is it true?

Moms have been saying for ages that eating too much pizza, French fries, and chocolate is what causes acne. Until recently, we didn’t have any research to support or refute Mom’s theory. Now there are studies linking high glycemic diets (that is, diets high in sugar and simple carbohydrates) with acne; so it looks like Mom might have been right.

But the strongest relationship between diet and acne is actually with milk.

There are current studies showing that there is an association between drinking milk and having acne. In the May issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers found that drinking skim milk was associated with increased severity of acne in teenage boys.

Blockage of pores caused by hormone induced changes in your skin is a known cause of acne. Milk might contribute to acne, therefore, because milk contains hormones (androgens) that can act on your skin just like your natural hormones.

Does that mean you should stop drinking milk?

No. These findings, although interesting, do not prove that milk causes acne — many people who don’t drink any milk still get acne. But if you have acne and have difficulty controlling it with washes or other acne therapies, then you might consider cutting back on milk to see if that helps.

Remember, though, that milk is a good source of vitamin D and calcium which are critical for bone development in your early teenage years.

You might also like:

The Proper Way to Pop a Pimple

How Do Birth Control Pills Control Acne?

Are You Over-Scrubbing Your Face?

Like this blog? Grab The Derm Feed

Photo: William Morgan Hsu

29 thoughts on “Got Milk? Got Acne?”

  1. Great Blog – useful info.

    Maybe you can help me – I’m allergic to lots of things including parabens, which seems to be in everything.

    I am looking for parabens-free products. I found a nice moisturising cream at and other things at a British site called elave – now I would like to find parabens free shampoo

    Any ideas ?

    What about blogging about sensitive skin and hypoallergenic products

    Keep up the good work

  2. Russ-

    That is a great topic. I’ll do a little research and write a post for you on it. Thank you for suggesting it.

  3. perhaps certain ethnicities that encourage the drinking of milk, are genetically susceptible to getting acne?

  4. I’ve never had any such reaction from milk, so perhaps it might be an individual thing? A particular body chemistry that just doesn’t jibe well with dairy products or something?
    The increase of the hormones in teenage boys is probably more the culprit, then you add milk and ‘poof’ – Acne Explosion!

    By the way, I love milk!! 😉

  5. Those are Great Tips! Thank You for this in depth information about acne and how to get rid of it.

  6. I’ve had acne for the last 13 years (I’m 30 now). Until recently I read that milk can cause acne. I decided to forgo anything dairy in my daily diet, i.e. no milk, no cheese, no milk chocolate. After 2 months I can definitely see a whole lot difference it makes on my skin. I guess it could be all that hormones in the milk was causing MY hormones to be haywire. I feel better about myself now.

    Instead of drinking milk, I take calcium supplements and eat a whole lot of calcium-rich vegetables like broccoli and bak choy.

    But then again, the cause of acne is different from one person to another. I still do have an occasional pimple once in a while at that time of the month, but I guess that’s from my own hormones!

  7. Tim C-
    The best way to treat acne is with medication (or just wait long enough, as it improves with age in most people).

    Perhaps, although it appears that the hormones in milk are responsible for causing acne and as such would not be impacted by ethnicities at all.

    Fitness diva-
    Milk surely is a small contributor to acne. Hormones peaking during teen years are a large factor. I love milk myself.

    Thank you.

    Thanks for sharing. You are not alone, there are certainly many people whose acne benefits from less milk.

  8. I’m one of those who do not drink milk but still get acne. I always had acne during my teen years(sob) but it disappeared when I was in my early twenties.

    This is very informative, if it works for you then good. Teenagers should be informed of this.

  9. Excellent info in regard to acne. This is a serious topic, and it is so hard to find reliable acne information online. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  10. I don’t know if I can give up my love of milk for the few pimples I get a month. But it would explain why nothing helps any more.

  11. Something to point out, skin allergies happens for some rare cases when the patient consume milk.

  12. Thanks for this! I’ve had acne problems for 20 years (I’m now 36). Acne creams and Retin A didn’t help much. In April, I gave up drinking skim milk (though not yogurt and cheese yet). My skin’s finally started to clear up. I really wish I’d tried cutting back on milk years ago.

  13. I cured acne after reading a book called No Acne for Me. I thought there were no cure or treatment but apperently I looked the wrong places. Acne free and acne cure – get this book.

  14. I am proof this is true! My nutrition coach mentioned cow dairy was bad for the skin – being a cheeze lover I was reluctant to give it up. I did leave cow dairy behind and have found a better complection, but I find that goat dairy is not as abrasive and I still enjoy my milk and cheeze! All I can say is seeing is believing and I am a believer!

  15. I agree whole-heartedly that drinking milk (whole milk is my fave) gives me, or at least has strong positive correlation to, acne development. Two years ago, a dermatologist told me that she could tell by the type of acne that I have, that I am an avid milk drinker and suggested that I cut it out for a while to see the difference it makes. I too am continually struggling to give up milk, but have not fully cut it out of my diet. As soon as I cut milk out completely, my skin clears up so nicely that I get lots of compliments. As soon as have a few glasses of milk, the zits resurface within 24 hours. I wish I was aware of this correlation years ago. I shared this story with an acquaintance who also suffers from (more severe) acne. I saw her a month later, and her skin looked great. She said she cut out dairy. Hopefully sharing this story will help those who suffer from milk/dairy-induced acne.

  16. Hey guys!!…
    Just to make things more clear!!…
    Acne is primarily a kind of body malfunction!! When the body fails to breakup blood lipids into energy… the body gets rid of these lipids through the sebaceous glands and blockages happen and acne are born!! The main reason as to why this malfunction happens is not quite known!! most probably it is a genetic factor!!
    So when drinking milk!! notice that milk contains about 4% fat content about 32 grams of fats in a liter of milk!! which is about more fat in the body to get rid of through the face!! and thus more acne!!..
    Even when drinking skimmed milk!! acne will occur.. that’s actually is the key to know how to cure acne!!… the BIG portion of calories of skimmed milk comes from sugars!! As we know .. the body adapts well for any change!! A diet high in sugars and carbs compels the body to be sugar burner!! Sugar metabolizer… So it will go for sugar and burns them for energy instead of burning fats into energy!! and fats thus is accumulated or thrown out through the skin and face!!.. Not to forget that carbs and sugars are inflammatory agents!!So … what’s the key here? Try to eliminate carbohydrates COMPLETELY from your diet for a while!! and depend ONLY on fats and some protein!!! This way..!! you will be forcing your body to be a FAT Burner and thus it will be more efficient at burning fats and lipids for energy.. and no fats are expelled through the skin!! At first you will see your acne is getting worse!!.. maybe for a week or two!! then your skin will be less oily, and healthier and toner…!! after you have the clear face you want which might occur after a month! you can start introducing carbs again to your diet!! even milk!! but be sure to keep your diet low on carbs and high in fats!!! You can supplement with B-Complex or Pantothenic acid for fatser results.
    THAT’s HOW I CURED MY 10 years-OLD ACNE!!

  17. Very useful information, I recommend everyone to learn from this and take advices.

  18. Cows milk cannot be properly utlised by the human body. We have totally different digestive systems to a calf. The calcium/nutrients in cows milk are thus not absorbed by the human body, and the body sees milk as a type of ‘poison’ that must be expelled. Thus we get toxicity in the body that the body may eliminate in several ways, ACNE being one of them.

  19. wow is all I can say. I’ve been suffering with mild cystic acne all through my late 20s. I always drank lots of milk and ate cereal almost everday. Once I heard about Milk being a possible culprit I stopped drinking it. I saw results instantly. Within a week my skin was 100 percent clear, I cannot believe this, why didn’t I try this earlier. How is this not more mainstream knowledge! My dermatologist, whos regarded top in his field in my city, never once mentioned to stop or cut down drinking milk. Now 6 months later, haven’t had a single blemish or zit since. I felt obligated to find somewhere to share my story with, so here I am. Hopefully, it’s not long before this becomes a well known cure for acne…it’s terrible thinking about all the people suffering from the self conscious issues as well as forking tons of money over on treatments when there is a cheaper and instant REAL fix to it.

  20. this is such a buzz killer! im only 14 and im a little short for my age so i been doing this thing where i drink alot of milk right? and since im in my early stages of puberty, my acne is KILLING ME. its coming in too hot and it makes me mad because im a boy and as a 14 year-old boy, girls are my #1 focus and this acne is not helping. so i am going to try this not drinking milk thing. but what do you recommend to use for my face besides medication? my mom wont get it for me! 🙁

  21. i thing right milk cause acne bec they sec sex hormones.but yoghurt better than milk…….

  22. I never comment anything anywhere, but i am doing it here just to say this is true true true (at least in my case), it took me 26 fricking years to find out this, i am 45 now and if i drink milk i get acne every time, makes me mad cuz i love milk but it makes me even madder thinking about all those humilliating days i spent as a teenager with my face full of pimples being laughed at by the boys and getting all these looks of disgust from the girls i loved, damn you milk i hate you (even though i love drinking it). So it’s been a hard choice for me, i actually a loner now with a face full of pimples cuz no one will bother giving me a second look, please someone invent something that i can have cereal with cuz i need a woman too, anybody don’t believe me and have a face full of bumps jsut try quitting milk for a week, just try it and see if it works for you. pleaaaaase

  23. Shocked… and pissed. says:

    Wow, I just recently had a HUGE breakout out of nowhere. I’ve been good for about a month and a half, and it really seemed my skin was finally healing. Then I had this horrible breakout about 5 or 6 days ago. Though I am a 15 yr old girl (obviously hormones should be taken into effect), I’m so cautious with everything I eat and drink! My diet is not full of processed foods. I have 6-7 servings of vegetables and fruits a day. I only get carbs from whole grain. Plus, I get protein from lean meats. I also drink the suggested ounces of water each day… Ugh, I’ve been SO cautious.

    I have no less then 5 horrible blemishes (before I didn’t have a single one). I thought back to anything and everything that could have caused this, but my hygiene and diet are fine! Then it hit me – you were out of Silk (soymilk)! I used 2% milk with cereal the other day… and BAM! I haven’t had milk or any high dairy foods in months, and I believe that (for me) this article is 100% true. I had a diet that was low in dairy, and I’m still upset, but I’m somewhat glad that I can see a visible difference after the effects of drinking milk – finding the underlying cause of a majority of my acne.

    I’m personally going to abstain from milk for as long as I can.

  24. Alternatives says:

    Just drink Soy Milk, Almond Milk, Coconut milk… or Rice Milk!
    There are a ton of natural alternatives to milk that even taste better than milk!
    (Try coconut milk with chocolaty whole grain cereal, or almond milk and granola!)
    It might not be possible to completely eradicate all dairy, but I know it’s possible to substitute most dairy. So don’t give up – though switching to an alternative may not always fix your acne… it may help. So give it a try, I can almost guarantee you’ll find something that you like more than milk. I know I have and it helped my skin a lot.

    And don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world.
    I’m sure there’s someone out there looking for you!

  25. Elizabeth says:

    I read about milk causing acne a month ago, and since then i have tried to avoid milk and dairy products. I am lactose intolerant and i use to have skim milk but now i have gone to soya milk and i avoid dairy products all together and i can see a massive difference in my skin! i dont break out much anymore, my acne was sore and painful, stayed on my face for was bad, but my non dairy diet change worked big time. i also changed my sheets a lot, sleep with a night cap to avoid grease from my hair transfering from my pillow and use simple foam wash and mosturiser twice a day. Cutting down on makeup, only wearing it when im out. hmm it may not work for some people, but it worked for me, milk does screw up your hormones, it played with mine for years.

Comments are closed.