Does dairy cause acne?

If you've ever suffered from acne, you'll know the huge toll it can take on your confidence. You'll know that you end up spending tons of money on all kinds of skincare products, only for none of them to work.

I've been there. It's not something I've ever really talked about because I've always been embarrassed to, and didn't want to draw attention to my skin at all. But now that it's looking much better I feel more comfortable discussing it. Yes, I've tried countless different skincare brands and techniques, I've been prescribed a million different antibiotics which never made the slightest difference and I've spent hours researching skin online. I even went on Roaccutane which is a very harsh drug and the side effects were so unbearable that I had to stop taking it, even though my skin had started to improve a bit.

The only thing that has actually helped my skin in any meaningful way is cutting out dairy. I want to point out here that everyone's skin is different and it's also wise to speak to a professional before making any big changes to your diet. This is my story, it might not work for you but I hope it does. Also, there are no before photos in this post because even though my skin isn't bad now, the thought of posting photos from when it was is still terrifying!

The curious thing about this is that there's not a ton of scientific research to back up the claim that dairy can cause acne, but a quick Google search will show you loads of anecdotal accounts from people who swear it was the main contributor to their acne. I have spoken to many dermatologists and while they all stress that there is not enough evidence to firmly state that dairy can make acne worse, most agree that they often see a difference in patients who cut it out. The last dermatologist I saw said she never consumes dairy for that very reason.

My skin is now the best it's ever looked.

In 2013 the American Academy of Dermatology reported that studies were beginning to show that there was actually a possible link between dairy and acne, and the Harvard School of Public Health found a "clear link" between regular milk drinkers and acne sufferers. But what exactly is it about dairy that can be so bad for your skin? The main thing is the hormones in dairy, which can encourage over-production of sebum and lead to spots forming. Everyone has a different tolerance for this, which is why the dairy affects some people's skin more than others, and why some people see no negative effects at all.

I now know that dairy definitely has a huge impact on my skin and I can see the difference when I do eat it. When I was on holiday this year I allowed myself to eat it because come on, who can say no to numerous ice creams on a hot day by the pool? When I got home, my skin was terrible, even though it was pretty much fine before I went. I didn't regret having dairy on holiday but I was strict with myself when I got home and after just a week or so being back to dairy-free my skin had almost completely cleared up.

I'm not going to lie, it's been hard. Especially because I bloody love cheese. I still fall off the wagon sometimes and indulge in spaghetti carbonara or a nice lemon cheesecake, but that's okay. This isn't a diet and I'm not going to constantly deny myself things I love or beat myself up over eating some mac and cheese.

My skin isn't perfect and I don't know if it will ever be, but this change in my diet has helped give me back the confidence that I lost a long time ago. It's kind of frustrating, though, that I spent over ten years struggling with my skin, when really the solution was pretty simple all along. I wish one of the many doctors and dermatologists I have seen had at least mentioned dairy as a possible factor, because it could have saved me years of self-consciousnes. Like I said, everyone is different but if you're struggling with acne I would suggest that you consider cutting out dairy for a month or so to see if it helps at all.

Have you noticed a link between dairy and your skin?


  1. So glad you've found something that seems to work for your skin! I've heard a few people saying that dairy seems to really affect their skin! Would be great for more research to be done in this area! My skin is incredibly oily and acne prone, so I'm always trying to keep it under control! I've not really had any major breakouts recently, but I think I'm going to try avoiding dairy for a wee bit and see if it improves my skin! x

  2. I noticed a huge difference when I cut out diary milk and switched to soya/almond. I really think there could be some truth to it!

    On another note, that top photo of mac n cheese reeeally made me hungry!

    Sinéad ♥ fabuleuse, toujours ♥