Consuming diary products caused my acne


For a couple of months since last quarter of 2008 till about March this year, I was struggling with a stubborn case of cheek acne.  It was exasperating because I rarely had such a bad skin condition.  Initially I thought it was most probably due to the oil cleansing method I was trying out.  However, the acne did not really clear up even after I stopped using that cleansing method.  In fact, I started to develop a few more on other parts of my face. 

New diary product introduced into my diet
Then I started to think about my diet.  I knew that consuming diary products might contribute to developing acne but I had always associated that to teens.   Moreover, I had not developed any serious skin problems while consuming milk about two to three days a week for about three years now.   Yes, I had some pimples here and there but they’ve never caused me too much grieve.  But wait a minute…could it be my son’s cheese that I’ve been eating for breakfast?  It was the only new dairy product introduced into my diet and as a matter of interest, I never took cheese prior to that.

Cheek acne subsided after I cut down diary intake
And so I stopped my cheese and even milk intake and in about two weeks, I noticed a vast improvement.  The cheek acne subsided without signs of returning.  I wasn’t sure if it was entirely due to that but now I can almost confirm.   Why?  Because I started drinking milk again and also started binging on chocolates, and I can see some tell tale signs of an impending cheek acne – at the same spot!

Connection between diary products and acne
So what’s the real connection between diary products and acne?  Apparently, from what I’ve read, it could be related to hormones and iodine.

     1.  Hormones from pregnant cows
Because about 75-90% of milk comes from pregnant cows (source) and drinking milk and consuming dairy products from pregnant cows expose us to the hormones they produced!  The hormones get into the milk, and then into our system! (source)

     2.  Iodine in milk
In addition, there is apparently also a link between iodine in diary products and acne for some people.  The iodine in milk is a result of iodine-fortified feed given to cows to prevent infection and iodine-based solutions used to sanitize cows’ udders and milking equipment. Milk intake, and subsequently high iodine intake, may worsen acne in those who are predisposed to the condition of acne. (source)

HOLY COW!  In this case, any related products is going to cause the same set of problems for me.   No wonder eating too much chocolates has always brought on new pimples for me!  Lucky thing I’m not so much into ice cream and cakes!

So what does this mean? 

I would most definitely have to cut down on my dairy intake.  As it is, I’m trying to up my intake of evening primrose oil so that I won’t have to completely rely on milk to alleviate my PMS although the former option isn’t working too well for me.  In addition, I have to control my urge to binge on chocolates!  Definitely not so fun!


  1. AtelierGal says:

    I read an article few days ago, can’t remember where online, that milk causes acne. I was shocked, though I don’t drink white milk.

    These days I’ve lost interest in ice cream anyways so guess everything’s good.

    But KFC’s oil usage has increased rapidly that though.

  2. sesame says:

    Yes, it was a surprise to me too especially since we all grow up being told that milk is good for us!

  3. Paris B says:

    Am not sure about milk causing acne but I know it can cause eczema flare ups. I’ve developed slight lactose intolerancy so have cut dairy based foods from my diet. Still got acne which I’ve narrowed down to something else now.

  4. kuri says:

    That’s unfortunate, but it’s good to know the cause of your acne. Maybe there is chocolate that isn’t made with dairy products…

    I should try and see if my consumption of dairy products affects my acne. I love cheese though…

  5. sesame says:

    I can’t drink milk too often. About half a cup every two days or so. It helps curb the itch I get from spots on my body though.

  6. sesame says:

    It might not be across the board for all…but until I wrote this entry, I kept thinking that the chocolate causing pimples for me was due to “heatiness” or something. Didn’t link it to the milk!

  7. BT says:

    I’ve no problem with diary product but have the acne issue like you when I ate small green chili daily. Not known the reason why.

  8. sesame says:

    Green chilli? Oh that’s interesting. I remember some pple telling me they get acne taking chilli. Not sure if it’s red or green though.

  9. Vonvon says:

    Yes, it is possible as cow’s milk in general is high in many allergens.

    Btw, I am having a Summe Giveaway in my blog. Open to international readers as well. Do drop by if you have the time. Thanks!

  10. Sue says:

    I’ve been having acne on my mouth and chin area for quite sometimes. Used to take EPO until I’ve read your article about the benefit of drinking milk. Since then I realised the acne began to appear. Will continue the EPO and reduce dairy intake and see what happen from there.
    Do write more on how to prevent and treat acne and how to clear the red spots…I don’t really like my look now…thanks

  11. prettybeautiful says:

    eh? this is interesting. i did know milk can cause acne too. hmm recently i dont suffer so much frm cheek acne, but my jawline is! man, all the pimples started to grow along the jawline. nothing new in my routine (diet and skincare) and i js cnt figure out..

  12. sesame says:

    Okay, I will check it out soon! Thanks for highlighting.

  13. sesame says:

    Perhaps you cut down and see what happens. I try to drink it only two to three times a week. Anyway, milk helped my hormonal chin acne associated with PMS; it’s more the cheese and the overall diary quantity that affected me.

  14. sesame says:

    It took me awhile to link it to my diet especially since I didn’t have much problems with milk. I kept thinking it could be something I’m using. Anyway, acne at the chin is link to monthly PMS but the jawline is a sign of product causing breakout mostly…

  15. pf1123 says:

    You might like to up your EPO to 2,000mg daily. That helps me with acne and PMS.

  16. sesame says:

    Yup, I did but it’s not helping my PMS still…have to take milk still. I guess I just can’t drink milk, eat cheese and eat chocolates together. Maybe just keep to drinking milk only.

  17. pf1123 says:

    Oh dear, EPO not helping? Do you have it very bad?

    My PMS is not too bad. Just backache and cramps for a few days. After I took EPO, it’s only down to 1 day.

  18. Leon says:

    I completely agree with you, I stopped drinking milk recently. Initially, I felt that I was losing weight, which I think I was but I am not too sure if it caused the weight loss but it definitely gave me some acne so I stopped drinking it

  19. Product says:

    Well, I consume milk and I didn’t notice if I get more acne than usual. Maybe some people react to the milk (like people who can’t drink milk because it contains lactoze I think). My girl eats icecream and yoghurt and everything is fine with her skin… I don’t know, I wouldn’t give up drinking milk.

  20. J says:

    i think my aunty mentioned about milk being the ultimate source of acne, but luckily pour moi i don’t drink it anyway! but that means i have to eat other dairy products because i can’t go off completely without calcium, so it’s always yoghurt, cream and cheese for me.

    AND NOW I KNOW WHERE MY PIMPLES CAME FROM!! what shall i do, i don’t wanna die from athritis ?

    LOL but seriously. i don’t think that if you apply dairy products on your face (externally i mean) it’ll cause any pimples though. yoghurt mask works v. nicely for me =]

  21. sesame says:

    Yes, my PMS is very bad. Not so much of backache and cramps but very moody and mind goes blank. Once, I crash the car into the wall because I was having PMS!

  22. sesame says:

    It gave you acne too? Such a shame…

  23. sesame says:

    I don’t think it’s across the board. I’m okay with drinking milk by itself, though not everyday. Your girl is young? It shouldn’t have an effect on the young ones…probably only when they’re in their teens.

  24. sesame says:

    Applying should be okay though it might trigger for those predisposed to developing acne.

  25. Alfred says:

    milk is poisonous to our bodies… especially Asians because we lack a certain enzyme to digest it properly… our daily intake ‘needs’ is a fallacy concocted by the dairy industry… DAIRY products are a main cause of allergies… too much cow hormones… there is really no need for dairy as a form of calcium intake as there are much better substitute e.g. sesame seeds and other vergetables… drop dairy from your diet and you will be amazed…

  26. everbluec says:

    Hmm… I have ance problems.. but now it cutting down.

    Last yr(the whole yr) I have been having problems with my menses (Always late.. the most is 3mths!!) and I have alot of tiny breakout on both of my cheeks(I was thinking my hormones was mess up)

    Then I start to drink Milk(1 to 2 glasses a day) after a month… my mense start to come, my skin is getting better.

    I didn’t know why… then now you mention that milk have some homones… maybe that the reason Why!

    So.. I think Milk have its good and Bad for certain peoples.

  27. sesame says:

    Hey, now that you say this, I remember my son’s pediatrician saying the same thing! He said that milk is not suitable for Asians and encouraged us to drop it off our son’s diet too in favor of vegetables. Hmmm…but why Asians? You mean our biological makeup is different from the other races?

  28. sesame says:

    Hey, thanks for sharing your experience! Wow, milk has such a great effect on you. And it’s a mix effect isn’t it? Milk helps me but the diary products from it like cheese and probably chocolates don’t suit me.

  29. Jo says:

    Hi there, I love your blog. This article is very timely for me because I’m on the third week of a diet attempting to help the remaining acne on my jawline and the very stubborn acne on my back and shoulders. My face used to be much worse but cleared up about 80% by switching my chemical-laden skincare routine to Dr. Bronner’s tea tree oil soap, coconut oil as moisturizer and mineral makeup.

    My diet is pretty extreme right now, there’s no meat, no dairy, no refined wheat/sugar products, and for the most part no processed foods. The first week I was clearing up and then broke out after drinking soy milk and eating tofu. I cut soy from my diet and have been very happy with hemp milk instead.

    I don’t know if I will keep my diet this extreme after things improve, but I feel a lot better in general. Digestion issues were a chronic problem before and they are so much better now. (possibly related to my bad skin?)

    Right now there are only 3 new pimples on my back, which is a miracle! The scars are starting to heal as well. I used to drink a LOT of milk and eat a ton of dairy products and cheese. They are so addictive for me. I’m convinced dairy was the biggest part of my problems.

  30. sesame says:

    Glad that you found the problem to your acne and am seeing an improvement by making changes in your skincare and diet. Wow, your diet does sound pretty drastic…but at least you’re not having the same set of problems again so it’s good.

  31. deniz says:

    wow this is somthing i really need to take into consideration.
    but i had a question now that i know milk can cause acne i was wondering if meat can too? i know it has nothing to do with dairy products. i stopped eating meat for a while and a week ago i tried eating some beef but after that i got acne on my face so i was kinda wondering if that could have caused it.

  32. eliza says:

    its (for me) true that dairy products can cause acne. I don’t drink milk but each time i eat cheese, i will develop acnes. Not many but still acnes.

    to deniz: probably eating too much meat can trigger hormone imbalance (forgot which hormones @@) that leads to heatiness and sebum gland produces more oil which stuck together with germs, bacteria and thus creates acne. If its a small or appropriate amount of meat eaten, i doubt it would cause acne. But still….eat more veggy~!

  33. sesame says:

    Hmm…not sure about meat. I heard that bit about heatiness which was mentioned by Eliza. I’ll try to probe into that and see if anything comes up on my radar. If yes, I’ll put up a new post. ?

  34. sesame says:

    Cheese is not for me too!

  35. jay says:

    there are so many alternatives out there with milk that i haven’t had to eat dairy in YEARS. i’m lactose intolerant anyways. they have soy ice creams, coconut milk ice cream, you name it.
    i turned vegan after learning that food allergies can make acne worse. i avoid wheat also.

  36. Muta says:

    I actually just found out recently that I’m allergic to peanut butter. I got a bad cheek rash and pimples after eating peanut butter for breakfast for a month.

    I also found out the hard way that most seafood (crab, prawn, stingray) and dairy products give me rash and pimples…

    When I read the list of the right diet for my blood type (A), I found out these foods that give me pimples are the food that doesn’t fit with my blood type diet. Maybe you could check your blood typer diet too? ?

  37. sesame says:

    Ah…diet is so important and can affect us in so many ways and yes, seems that vegetables are really better.

  38. sesame says:

    Interesting you talk about food allergies and blood type cos my husband was talking about it. I haven’t looked at mine. I’m generally okay with taking most food and so I never really bothered. But yes, I should try to check it up.

    Btw, your blood type is the same as my husband and peanut is a big no no for him. Seafood also gives him allergies but he can eat crab though. Personally I find eating too much crab makes me very lethargic the next day!

  39. Marcy Webb says:

    I would think that consuming organic dairy products, if at all possible, is the best thing to do.

  40. sesame says:

    I’m not sure if organic diary can stop the acne. I guess it also depends on what the cows eat.

  41. Astrid says:

    I had just found that milk is the main source of my constant strike of my chin acne. It always happened right after i consumed lotsa dairy products. Unfortunately I can’t live without cheese and the place I live now is a dairy country! so I balance by taking an amount of wine everytime I feel my dairy intake is over the limit and it helps, really. I think because the alcohol in it dries out the oil in face and kills the bacteria that causes the acne.

  42. sesame says:

    Oh the wine helps? That’s interesting! Unfortunately, I’m not so much into wine. But it would be a good tip to consider if one is into cheese and all.

  43. Astrid says:

    I think any liquor that contains alcohol above 11% will do,but remember to drink it moderately. btw I love reading your articles. somehow they bring up issues I also have problem with. Maybe next time you have tips to repair acne scars?;-)

  44. Kathleen says:

    I love milk and was at one point drinking over a litre a day. When my skin started to get really bad, I went to my Dr and we discussed my diet. She said to cut down on the dairy and it made a word of difference. I still drink a good 500ml of milk a day, plus I usually have yogurt or cheese at some point, but reducing it has helped quite a bit.

  45. sesame says:

    I had a few on repairing acne scars – see one here and another here But latest I found that worked for me is Lavera Blemish Stick.

    Glad you found some info here useful for you. Come back often! ?

  46. sesame says:

    So diary can really affect our skin! Lucky thing is that though I need milk, I don’t have to drink it everyday.

  47. MISSCHANDLER says:

    Hi =)

    I bathe in organic milk and honey, but i avoid drinking it because (according to my Dr) it gives me mucus…*ewww*

    my teenage skin breaks out over everything, and anything. I guess i have to wait it out ?

  48. sesame says:

    Ya, I think it’s the raging hormones. Just try to keep your skin clean and take care of your diet too.

  49. Paula says:

    hey, is there anything i can do about dicsoloration spots and slight scarring? i’m 15 and i’ve had acne for years, and even though it was never severe, my skin is EXTREMELY sensitive and even the smallest of pimples left the most hideous discoloration marks. what can i do???

  50. sesame says:

    Try using vitamin E. If you can get the brand Fruit of the Earth where you are, it might help with your scars. I read some good reviews on the product.

  51. Jannah says:

    Hello ?

    Found ur beauty blog while googling.
    I was suprised after reading ur post. I dinnoe that milk is actually bad for us.
    I seldom dirnk milk but if i do i usually will buy HL milk or anlene 4x calcium that comes in 4 small pack. I have no trouble with acne when drinking milk.
    BUT my mortal enemy will be peanuts. I’m 100% sure that peanuts will caused pimples 2 explode on my skin. Nutella, peanutbutter, roasted nuts is a BIG NO.
    I wonder if anyone/urself has experience this before?

  52. sesame says:

    Milk isn’t bad, but it’s not suitable for everyone. Some people can break out from drinking too much milk or eating stuff made from milk. And yes, I heard of nuts causing pimples.

  53. tinkerbell says:

    Dairy makes me break out in rash like acne on my upper cheeks. When I went to Tanzania for 6 weeks I was so nervous because my skin was so bad and I knew it would only get worse because I would be constantly sweating. I had no dairy because I was scared to try when I was there, but the bonus was that I had not a single pimple the entire time…and the conditions for acne were perfect……constantly sweating. When I got back to Canada I thought maybe it was just the sun, but as soon as I returned to my regular diet – lots of yogurt, cottage cheese, and my obsession with cheese – acne returned!

  54. sesame says:

    Yup, diary products are quite a pain for many pple. You’ll need to regulate your diet to cut down the diary.

  55. Melanie says:

    I am glad I have found out this inforamtion. I’m 27 and I have several large boils./spots on my face at the moment. One on my cheek at the moment is the size of a penny. But I have been eating a lot of cheese recently because of my period lasting for 6 weeks. I think I will cut all dairy out of my diet for a month and then try new things as it may not be all diary things that are affecting my face.

  56. Krista says:

    Hi there,

    I haven’t eaten any dairy in over three years due to lactose intolerance and my choice having a vegan diet.

    I’m having major flare ups lately. It’s been constant since August. I thought it was my facial cleanser, then my concealer, and then my powder but it’s all changed and I’m still having problems..

    sigh. Maybe it’s wheat or soy?

  57. sesame says:

    Not too sure…but there are words that both can trigger acne for some people. Maybe you want to try cut the intake of these ingredients and see what happens?

  58. deviny says:

    Im so sick of hearing all these negative comments about dairy products causing acne wen i have been a diary lover: two cups of milk a day, lots of cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese and lots of cream cheese yet i hear greasy foods don’t cause acne but since ive been eating bacon and chorizo for the last month i have broke out all over my jaw and cheeks and my retin a cream doesnt seem to help any more and my birth control doesnt seem to make a difference either. to the point everything u eat causes acne its just different food per person dont blame milk! and if it is dairy in ur situation why dont u buy hormone free milk at an all natural store?

  59. sesame says:

    Hmm…didn’t you said different food per person? Plus I’m not the only one saying it – it has been proven in research to cause acne for many. You’re just lucky so count your blessings.

  60. Anne says:

    I am a teenager and am involved in cheer and gymnastics. I suffer from acne and for the past month have been desparately trying to cure my horrible acne. I have cut out most processed foods, dairy, wheat, red meat, potatoes, corn, starches, etc. I basically eat a lot of fruit, vegatables, oatmeal, and chicken because i am so hungry all the time! My mom has been bugging me and cheer is starting up soon about my lack of dairy. She is going to make me drink milk:( I haven’t seen an improvment really on either my back or my face but these could have been caused by other things. I dont know what to do… I need my calcium so i don’t injure myself and other nutrients in milk. Is yogurt bad too? Would it be better than milk? Is there any substitutions like soy milk that are fine??? Help!

  61. sesame says:

    Vegetables can give you calcium too. Or try a calcium supplement. Your issues sound like a hormonal imbalance cos you’re at the age where hormones can wreak havoc on skin.

    Try increasing your intake of fibre and probiotics. It helped with mine. See my entry here:

  62. Risa says:

    It’s true Asians are more likely to be predisposed to lactose intolerance due to our genetic make up. But not *all* Asians. Yes, you can find calcium in leafy green vegetables like spinach, but if you do the math, you have to eat a crazy amount more to get the same calcium content that you can get from milk. My advice would be to drink milk if you can. If you are indeed lactose intolerant, then make sure you can substitute the calcium intake. This is especially important for Asian women as they are 3 times or so more prone to developing osteoporosis. There hasn’t been a clear link made, but I suspect it has something to do with the low calcium diet we’ve adopted as a result of our predisposition to lactose intolerance.

  63. sesame says:

    It’s not only an issue of lactose intolerant…there are other issues as well. I read that it’s best to drink organic milk though as what you mentioned is true – we need the calcium and won’t eat enough vegetables. The alternative is to take a supplement.

  64. schaeli says:

    Dairy is for calves. 80% of the world can’t digest it. The rest don’t know that the protein molecule is sooo big it damages your intestinal villi as it tries to get through. Your skin is an organ for elimination of toxins when other systems are overloaded. Meat is just as full of junk from contaminated feed.

    Honestly, read “skinny bitch”. Read “eat to live”. There is more useable calcium in a cup of collard greens than a cup of milk plus phytochemicals to fight cancer and clean your liver. Get a clue!

  65. viv says:

    I have the same issue as you. I havent had any dairy products for months and my face cleared up ?

    If I use milk/yogurt for my masks, would that cause the same effects as oral intake of dairy products? thanks ?

  66. sesame says:

    If you use them for your skin, choose the low fat or non-fat version if you have acne issues. I use a low-fat yogurt for regular mask sessions and it works well for me.

  67. Lol says:

    I really wonder why is it that milk and cheese is like heaven! Making so much wonderful and tasty products such as pizza, yogurt, yakult, ice cream and cakes etc… Really need to stop taking and reduce intake of dairy products! Because of acne !!! Kill acne

  68. Sesame says:

    Haha…I know what you mean. These ingredients make foods that taste so delish most of the time! It’s hard to ignore them…

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