Does Milk Cause Acne?

Many of us like drinking a glass of warm milk before going to bed in order to sleep better. Besides, you were told that milk is a great thing for your overall health since it contains tons of nutrients, such as vitamin A that improves your skin’s health, calcium that helps combate skin cancer, and a protein that keeps your skin supple and elastic.

However, it is one of the commonest misconceptions that milk is the best thing for your body, especially when it comes to your skin. If you are interested in finding out why exactly milk isn’t a healthy option for you, read this text to learn more.

How does milk cause acne?

Actually, it isn’t milk that triggers acne. The main culprit for this huge skin problem are the hormones produced by cows that milk contains. These hormones, which are good for baby cows, but not for you, may turn on oil glands.

Milk is also loaded with other substances that may lead to acne formation. Let’s see which ones.


IGF-1 or Insulin-like Growth Factor is a type of growth hormone that is found in cow milk and its main function is to enable the growth of a baby cow. However, as for your skin, it isn’t beneficial at all since it increases its proliferation, makes it produce more sebum, and, what is more, it also makes the dead cells glue themselves together, which makes harder for your pores  to remove them.

Because of all this, if you drink too much milk and have acne, IGF-1 found in it may have caused them. Some studies have even shown that it’s more harmful for women than for men in this sense.

Moreover, with drinking milk not only do you get this hormone from it, but your liver produces more of it as well. And the higher the concentration of IGF-1 in your blood is, the more acne you will have.

DHT and testosterone

DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) and testosterone are two types of androgens that cause the increase in muscle mass, change in voice, and more hair growth in men. As for women, these hormones increase their sexual drive.

In order for these changes to occur, these hormones have to bind to the several androgen receptors in your body. For instance, for hair growth, they need to attach to the receptors in your hair follicles.

When DHT and testosterone bind to the receptors in your sebaceous glands, these glands then become hyperactive, which means more sebum. This is ideal for acne formation.

If you are wondering whether there is testosterone in the milk you drink, the answer is very likely to be yes. Actually, several types of hormones can be found in milk and you would never expect them to be there. Those are, for instance, estrogen and progesteron in large amounts. Starting from the 80’s farmers have been injecting farm animals with hormones of growth to make them bigger and heavier. These hormones may lead to hormonal imbalance in people.


Your body produces insulin, a hormone that enables the transport of glucose to all the cells and gives them energy. Drinking too much milk may cause an excessive insulin production. High insulin levels cause more sebum production. What is more, when insulin levels are high, the level of IGF-1 is often high as well.

Inflammatory chemicals

Many cows are bred and kept in unfavourable environments filled with pesticides, bacteria and chemicals that are a threat to their immune system. Consequently, cows’ bodies develop antibodies to protect themselves.

However, a cow’s immune system cannot completely eliminate these substances and microorganisms, even after the process of pasteurization. So, the pesticides, chemicals and bacteria are transferred in their milk.

When you drink milk, your immune system reacts in a similar way  to the cow’s in order to get rid of the said harmful substances. In these circumstances your pores become larger and inflamed.

Can you get acne if you are lactose intolerant?

Lactose is the main form of sugar that can be found in dairy products. If you are intolerant to lactose, your body cannot digest it effectively because you probably lack the enzyme lactase in your intestine. The commonest symptoms of lactose intolerance include stomach pain, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea.

When it comes to skin problems, lactose intolerance generally shouldn’t cause them. If it does, it might be an allergic reaction, that is, milk protein allergy. It’s the negative reaction of the body against the protein that milk contains. The symptoms are very similar to lactose intolerance, so it is often difficult to distinguish these conditions. Both of them may cause abdominal pain, but only milk protein allergy causes hives and rashes. It can be mild or severe, depending on the response of your immune system.

If you are found to be lactose intolerant , after reading this, you are probably considering lactose-free milk. However, as this condition has nothing to do with acne, lactose-free milk won’t do anything to deal with this skin problem. It may only help you with lactose intolerance.

Can organic milk lead to acne formation?

The answer is definitely yes because organic milk doesn’t exclude these harmful substances cows are exposed. They are only less toxic than usual. Although these cows are generally healthier, in their milk even more hormones can be found.

What should you do to get rid of acne?

The answer to this question is very simple: avoid dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir, ice cream and everything that has milk in it. Because any food that contains milk can lead to acne formation. If you aren’t sure whether milk causes your skin problems, there are two options you may try: the Total Elimination Plan and the Reduce and Boost plan.

The Total Elimination Plan

You should try the Total Elimination Plan if you can handle it, since it can give you the best and the fastest results. On this plan you should cut out all the sources of dairy from your diet for 30 days. You don’t have to do this abruptly if you aren’t able to, you can gradually reduce the consumption of dairy products for a week or two before you start counting these 30 days.

After 30 days, you may notice some improvements in your skin. Then you may start adding some high-quality dairy like raw, grass-fed whole milk, or some organic kefir, yogurt or cheese. But don’t eat all these at once, you had better eat one of them at a time and wait several days in between.

If the problems with your skin don’t improve, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t avoid dairy. There may be something else responsible for your acne, like for example, somehthing else you are eating, then you may miss some nutrients, or you may lead an unhealthy lifestyle.

The Reduce and Boost Plan

If you cannot stand cutting out all the dairy from your diet, the Reduce and Boost may be the option for you. On this plan you don’t eliminate all the dairy, you just try to reduce your overall dairy intake and opt for high-quality dairy.

Actually, if you are following this plan, you are trying to avoid dairy when eating out and in processed foods as much as you can and you start including full-fat, raw, grass-fed dairy products  or whole organic, grass-fed milk that you can find in natural food stores and a lot of grocery stores.

If your skin becomes clearer after a month of following this plan, then feel free to continue with the changes you made. If not, try to find out some other problem that is hiding behind your acne.

You can also try Milk Substitues

If you have to avoid milk in order to get a clear skin, you can try some of the milk substitutes that are completely safe. There are a lot of them available on the market.

These include soy milk, coconut milk, and almond milk. Neither of them contains the hormones cow milk has that cause acne.


Although there is no doubt that milk is a healthy drink in general, if you have acne, you should cut off it from your diet, like other dairy products as well. Your skin will then improve in only a few weeks.

However, as acne is a complex problem that can be caused by many factors, cutting off milk isn’t the only thing you should do to completely get rid of them. You should also have a good skin care. So, the most important thing when it comes to combating acne is considering all of the factors that may be responsible for them.