Acne is tough to live with and even tougher to get rid of. And then there’s the advice from well meaning relatives that makes you want to put your fingers in your ears, grit your teeth and scream very loudly…
‘Try cleaning your face more often’
‘Stop squeezing and picking’
‘Eat less chocolate and sweets’
If only it was that simple.
Acne can be triggered and exacerbated by a variety of factors including hormonal changes, stress, certain medications and diet. Recent research has found that there actually is some substance to the ‘avoid chocolate’ advice, but chocolate is just a small part of it.
The Research is in… and it’s not Great News for Dairy Lovers
There are now multiple research articles linking the consumption of dairy to certain types of acne, specifically acne that is hormonally triggered.
A 2016 study of Norwegian teens showed an association between high intakes of dairy products and acne in adolescence stating “Our findings support a hypothesis suggesting that dairy consumption may be a factor contributing to acne.”
However, it appears that it’s not that clear-cut as there is some debate over whether all types of dairy or just low fat dairy contribute to acne.
A 2015 study of US teens found that those with acne were likely to consume more low-fat or skim milk, but that there was no difference in the presence of acne among those consuming full cream milk.
Despite the conflicting research, many skincare and nutrition experts are now seeing good results from recommending dairy free diets to acne patients of all ages.
So what is it About Cow’s Milk that Contributes to Acne?
It seems that a combination of hormones from the nursing cow and certain sugars present in milk could be factors.
“Milk contains an array of sex hormones, including testosterone and progesterone,” explains Nutritionist Rachel Collins. “These androgens promote acne. In addition to this the sugar in milk promotes insulin surges in the body, which can trigger hormone-fuelled oil secretions from our sebaceous glands, creating the foundation for acne.”
Dr Michael Freeman, dermatologist at The Skin Centre, agrees.
“If someone has a very large component of their diet in the form of dairy, it has a significant number of growth factors, and it can cause acne. And there’s no doubt that sugars in general, particularly in carbohydrates, can stimulate the oil in the skin and therefore acne.”
Dr Freeman cautions that while cutting dairy from your diet may help to reduce acne, it won’t cure it. He also recommends that those suffering from acne consider a low GI diet, which can achieve the same reduction.
Nutritionist Tracie Connor has likewise seen a reduction in acne in some clients who have removed dairy from their diet, but believes that it’s often linked to digestion.
“The reason that a dairy free diet could help to reduce acne differs for each person, but for most it’s because they don’t digest dairy foods well, or simply overeat dairy,” says Tracie. “This this causes impaired gut health, leading to hormonal imbalances and toxic build up.”
The First Steps to Reducing Acne Through Diet
Because everyone is so different and different forms of acne can have different triggers, it’s worth seeing a skincare expert or dietitian first, before embarking on a treatment.
While not everyone will see results from reducing their dairy intake or following a low GI diet, it’s certainly worth trying both options to see if they help.
Once you’ve established a plan by talking with your chosen specialist, you will most likely be asked to keep a food and acne diary to uncover triggers and enable your specialists to view your dietary habits in detail. They will then suggest certain food groups to cut out over time, aiming to work out what your acne triggers are through trial and error.
Treating Acne Takes Much More than Dietary Changes
As noted by dermatologist Dr Michael Freeman, removing dairy from your diet is unlikely to totally cure your acne, but it can certainly help.
Following a holistic approach to skincare is something we highly recommend. A holistic approach means looking at all aspects of lifestyle that could impact on your skin including diet, exercise, mental health and sleep. All of those things combined can slowly help to reduce the likelihood of break-outs over time.
We also recommend looking at the skincare and beauty products you’re using (including hair care and toothpaste) as they can have an impact on skin health for some people (read more in our articles ‘Can makeup cause breakouts?’ and ‘Five ingredients we exclude from our products and why’).
Have you found any success in reducing acne by removing dairy from your diet? We’d love to hear your story.
Which AMPERNA® Products are Suitable for Acne Prone Skin?
The whole AMPERNA® range is suitable for use by people suffering from acne prone skin. Our products were formulated because AMPERNA® founder Kiri struggled with pustular acne herself.
AMPERNA® Ultra Gentle Soothing Cleanser is a light gel cleanser specifically formulated with acne prone skin, eczema, dermatitis, perioral dermatitis and rosacea in mind. This ultra gentle formulation rinses clean without leaving an irritating residue or upsetting pH levels. It contains an infusion of sage and cucumber extracts to help cool, soothe and nourish skin.
AMPERNA® products contain a unique probiotic complex that delivers good bacteria to your skin gently and effectively. Recent studies have found that probiotics can help to effectively reduce total acne lesion counts and help decrease oil production over a 12 week period (Source: aad.org)
If you've enjoyed this blog post you might also be interested in reading this one: