[dropcap]S[/dropcap]uffering from acne is no fun, especially when you’re a model or are over your 20’s. Good news: you might be helped by excluding milk from your diet! 

Milk and dairy products are consumed most in Western societies. Among these societies, 79-95 % of adolescents suffers from acne, 40-54 % of men and women above 25 years old suffers from some degree of facial acne and 12 % of women and 3 % of men suffers from persistent clinical facial acne up until their middle ages.
Interestingly, outside of Western societies acne is a very uncommon phenomena. An example of this can be found among Paraguayan hunter-gatherers and Kitavan islanders from Papua New Guinea, who live on a low-glycemic diet and do not consume dairy foods. None of these people show signs of acne. There is much more research available on this topic and it is not that we can draw conclusions from this example, but it illustrates the effect of milk and dairy products on acne.
Excluding milk and dairy from your diet
Epidemiologic observations point to the role of Western diet in acne. Studies show that acne is aggravated by consumption of (sufficient quantities of) milk and dairy products, as they stimulate insulin and IGF-1 (growth hormone) levels. In turn, increased insulin and IGF-1 levels stimulate sebaceous glands, which results in acne.
Do you suffer from acne? You might be helped by excluding milk and dairy products from your diet*. Start by slowly bringing down your milk and dairy intake until you have completely excluded milk and dairy from your diet. Make sure you also check food labels! Keep this up for at least 3 weeks to see if you notice any positive changes to your skin. Here’s a list of the most common milk and dairy foods:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Quark
  • Butter
  • Sour cream
  • Milkshake
  • Pudding

[toggle title=”More detailed info about milk containing products and reading labels for hidden milk protein” state=”close” ]Contain Milk:

Butter [artificial butter, artificial butter flavor, butter, butter extract, butter fat, butter flavored oil, butter solids, dairy butter, natural butter, natural butter flavor, whipped butter]

Casein & caseinates [ammonium caseinate, calcium caseinate, magnesium caseinate, potassium caseinate, sodium caseinate, hydrolyzed casein, iron caseinate, zinc caseinate]

Cheese [cheese (all types), cheese flavor (artificial and natural), cheese food, cottage cheese, cream cheese, imitation cheese, vegetarian cheeses with casein]

Milk Cream, whipped cream



Dairy product solids



Half & Half

Hydrolysates [casein hydrolysate, milk protein hydrolysate, protein hydrolysate, whey hydrolysate, whey protein hydrolysate]

Ice cream, ice milk, sherbet

Lactalbumin, lactalbumin phosphate

Lactate solids

Lactyc yeast

Lactitol monohydrate



Lactulose Milk [acidophilus milk, buttermilk, buttermilk blend, buttermilk solids, cultured milk, condensed milk, dried milk, dry milk solids (DMS), evaporated milk, fat‐free milk, fully cream milk powder, goat’s milk, Lactaid® milk, lactose-free milk, low‐fat milk, malted milk, milk derivative, milk powder, milk protein, milk solids, milk solid pastes, non‐fat dry milk, non‐fat milk, non‐fat milk solids, pasteurized milk, powdered milk, sheep’s milk, skim milk, skim milk powder, sour milk, sour milk solids, sweet cream buttermilk powder, sweetened condensed milk, sweetened condensed skim milk, whole milk, 1% milk, 2% milk]

Milk fat, anhydrous milk fat

Nisin preparation



Rennet, rennet casein

Simplesse (fat replacer)

Sour cream, sour cream solids, imitation sour cream

Whey [acid whey, cured whey, delactosed whey, demineralized whey, hydrolyzed whey, powdered whey, reduced mineral whey, sweet dairy whey, whey, whey protein, whey protein concentrate, whey powder, whey solids]

Yogurt (regular or frozen), yogurt powder

May Contain Milk: Natural flavoring Flavoring Caramel flavoring

High protein flour Lactic acid (usually not a problem)

Lactic acid starter culture

“Non-dairy” products may contain casein

Rice cheese

Soy cheese

Source: kidswithfoodallergies.org[/toggle]

Meanwhile, continue to make healthy choices regarding your diet. I will not go deeper into that now, but the bottom line is to incorporate enough calories, protein, healthy fats, slowly digestable, fiber-rich carbs, eat enough fruits and vegetables, limit sugars (especially those with a high glycemic load and glycemic value, such as honey) and exclude processed sugars. Also, take a calcium supplement (Orthica is a high quality brand or chose Pure Vegan cal/mag), as milk and dairy products contain lots of calcium, or consume more of the following foods:

  • Dried fruits (like figs)
  • Oils
  • Fatty fish (like sardine, shellfish like crab and shrimps)
  • Legumes
  • Vegetables (mainly leafy vegetables like spinach, cabbages like broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts)
  • Seaweed
  • Nuts (like almonds and cashew nuts)
  • (certified) tofu and soy products


After three weeks, decide for yourself if excluding milk and dairy works for you, meaning that your acne has calmed down. Note that if you make any other dietary, skin care or cosmetic changes at the same time, it will be hard to determine if an improvement of your skin will be due to your milk and dairy exclusion and if it is wise to continue a dairy free diet. It is therefore best to make one lifestyle change (another cleanser for your skin, another make-up product, one dietary change etc.) at the time. Also, an increase of stress will negatively affect your skin condition, so keep your stress low!
My own experiences with going milk and dairy free
I have tried excluding milk and dairy products myself two and a half years ago, which wasn’t without results: after about a month or so, my skin really started to show a lot less inflammation and after 2 months it was completely spot-free. Up till now, I am happy to see my skin looks smooth and, except for a single once-a-month-occurrence, is spot free. I do eat dairy or milk products once in a while though, but this is extremely limited. I would say I consume goat yogurt once a month or so, and once every 2 months a good old 1 liter Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cups ice cream. The latter absolutely negatively affects my skin (and intestines), but hey, that’s a concession I do not mind to making 😉

Substitute your milk
Hard to not drink milk? Used to drinking a nice cappuccino, café latte or a nice breakkie with milk, like your fav porridge? You can substitute your milk with organic almond milk (give my DIY almond date milk a try), rice milk, oat milk, soy milk or DIY cashew milk.


DIY Home Made Cashewnut milk

[toggle title=”Refrences” state=”close” ]

>Melnik, B. (2009). Milk consumption: aggravating factor of acne and promoter of chronic diseases of Western societies. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges., 7(4):364-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1610-0387.2009.07019.x

> Cordain, L., Lindeberg, S., Hurtado, M., Hill, K., Eaton, S. B., Brand-Miller, J. (2002). Acne vulgaris. A disease of Western civilization. Arch Dermatol, 138:1584–90.[/toggle]


* Consult your doctor before excluding dairy and milk products from your diet.


About Author

Hey! I'm Angela; a 30-something mommy and a now REAL #fitchick, digi nerd, photo & film shooter hobbyist, MSc specialized in Health Education, marketingspecialist and an international fashion model for 20 years. I've worked for eg. Viktor & Rolf, Nivea, Escada, Elle, Vogue and Glamour.

I write about everything that I find worth sharing. Go ahead an take a look around. Don't hesitate to share your thought sor opinions. Enjoy!

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