3 Reasons To Avoid Dairy If You Have Cystic Acne

3 Reasons To Avoid Dairy If You Have Cystic Acne

Why does my Skin Coach keep telling me to avoid dairy? Studies show dairy and cystic acne go hand in hand and is one of the main food groups to avoid if you have acne. You may be thinking dairy is a large food group to avoid! There are so many delicious foods that have dairy – ice cream, pizza, queso, yogurt, cheeseburgers, and the list goes on. While some people may be able to eat dairy who have acne and not see any side effects, the majority of acne sufferers should avoid dairy if they don’t want to increase their chances of a flare-up.

dairy and cystic acne

The Link Between Dairy and Cystic Acne

Acne, especially cystic acne is an inflammatory condition, so if we put anything in our body that can cause inflammation, we could trigger an acne flare-up. It has been said over and over that dairy is an acne culprit. So, what exactly in dairy that causes an acne flare-up?

1. When you consume milk-based products, our bodies breakdown the proteins found in milk and release growth hormone, IGF-1 into our bloodstream. This growth hormone, IGF-1 has been linked to acne, because it works directly with testosterone. Increased levels of testosterone increase the amount of sebum (oil) in your pores, leading to clogged pores. Teenagers already have increased IGF-1 during this rapid growth phase in their life, so adding even more IGF-1 to your body from milk products can trigger acne.

2. The added hormones in milk can affect our own hormone levels. It has been proven time and time again, an imbalance in hormones can lead to acne. So, adding more hormones that your body isn’t naturally creating could lead to a flare-up.

3. The lactose in dairy, which is a sugar can also trigger acne. When lactose is broken down in the body, the sugar is then released throughout the bloodstream. An increase in sugar throughout your body leads to inflammation, which could cause acne. Also, not only is the lactose causing an increase in sugar, but many milk-based products have added sugar like ice cream and yogurt. So, you could be getting a double dose of sugar!

What to Eat Instead?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine giving up pizza or ice cream forever. With the current health trends, there are plenty of options for enjoying delicious dairy-free food and not having to worry about a flare-up. Siete has delicious dairy-free cashew queso. Restaurants are starting to offer dairy-free pizza, like Via 313 in Austin. Nada Moo has delicious coconut milk ice cream. Many other dairy-free brands are starting to hit the grocery store shelves. Just make sure when you choose a dairy-free option, you look at the sugar content on the label to make sure they didn’t add a ton of sugar.

dairy and cystic acne

Austin’s own Via 313 offers Dairy-Free Pizza!


If you do indulge in dairy, check out some of our dairy and cystic acne breakout tips over at the Fab Fit Fun article on How to Deal with Post-Facial Breakouts. And if you feel like you need professional help, feel free to book an appointment with one of our Skin Coaches to get to the root cause of your acne, whether it is diet, hormonal, or genetic. Our Skin Coaches do a full consultation to help you determine what could be causing your breakouts, and support you every step of the way in clearing your acne!


Milk contains Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), which is a hormone that is similar to insulin. IGF-1 can confuse the hormones present in our bodies and cause acne breakouts by increasing the growth of sebaceous glands, inducing hyperkeratosis, etc. Our bodies work hard to self-regulate hormone levels, which are always ebbing and flowing. When we introduce certain foods into our diet, like milk, we can easily offset our delicate hormonal balance, which can have all kinds of ramifications.Milk and your gut

In addition, for some people, the lactose in dairy is generally difficult to digest so you may find that even if it doesn’t cure your acne, you have more energy, better digestion, and a healthier gut. If you are breaking out and have never tried an elimination diet, it’s worth considering.  At Austin Skin+, we include a dietary evaluation in your consultation….ensuring the best overview of getting your skin into glow-mode!

I know giving up the food you may love is not always the most fun, but it is well worth it when it comes to your skin!  Hippocrates wrote, “Let food be your medicine, and let medicine be your food.”

Carly @ Austin Skin Plus

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