We all grew up believing in the wholesome goodness of milk - and there is no doubt, milk is a wholesome drink. However, it turns out that researchers have found a correlation between milk intake and acne. Their research reveals that milk drinkers develop more severe acne than non-milk drinkers. In a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Scientists examined the diets of teenage boys and girls and found that those who drank the most cow's milk developed the worst cases of acne.
The results of this study concurred with previous studies in which teenage girls were asked to monitor their diets and record acne breakouts. The findings revealed that girls who had diary-rich diets had more severe acne than those who limited their intake of dairy.
In each of these studies, the kind of dairy was not limited to whole milk and products made with whole milk. In fact, skim-milk was the worst offender (so the milk-fat is not to blame).
In one study, women who drank 2 or more glasses of skim milk per day were 44% more likely to have acne than the other women in this study.
So Why Does Milk Appear to Exacerbate Acne?
There are a number of reasons why cow's milk appears to exacerbate acne and it gets a little scientific. But basically, researchers believe it’s the hormones found in milk that contributes to acne activity.
Milk is naturally filled with androgen hormones (testosterone) which have long been associated with the development of acne. The testosterone in the milk, through a complicated chain of events, creates di-hydrotesterone (DHT) which signals the body to produce more sebum (oil in the skin), resulting in over active sebaceous glands that can block pores and stimulate acne breakouts. People with a genetic predisposition to acne usually have a stronger reaction to the hormones in milk.
Then there is the fact that many dairy farmers do what they can to increase milk production and will inject cows with growth hormones to achieve that. The result is that most milk is very high in IGF-1 – a growth factor that peaks in humans during adolescence when acne is often at its worst. IGF-1, along with testosterone and DHT, trigger acne breakouts.
Finally, there are studies that find drinking milk also increases insulin levels in the body - high levels of insulin have been linked to acne. Insulin itself will stimulate the production of sebum oil and is also linked to a number of hormones (like testosterone) in the body that have a significant link to acne problems.
What to Do?
Not everyone who drinks milk regularly suffers from acne, although some physicians are now limiting diary in some patients with success. However there have been no conclusive studies that link milk consumption with acne and there are many benefits to drinking milk.
For those who have severe acne and have had no luck with conventional treatments, limiting milk consumption and tracking the results might be enlightening. Some people have found that giving up milk or cutting down their intake has partially or completely cleared up their acne.