Dairy and Your Skin

Is your acne putting you at a standstill? Are your efforts at clearing your complexion falling short? Is the idea of taking medication too intimidating?

“Many of my patient are looking for more natural approaches to treating their skin conditions,” says Dr. Miriam Hanson, board-certified dermatologist at Sanova Dermatology in Austin, Texas.”They wonder what lifestyle changes they can make to improve their skin’s health, or if their diet is contributing to their skin disease.”

For years, physicians and dermatologists dismissed a relationship between food and acne. However, recent research suggests the consumption of dairy products could be a contributing factor to acne breakouts.

What’s In The Glass?

“Drinking milk makes us grow up big and strong,” says Dr. Adam Mamelak, paraphrasing the mantra that is often conveyed to children and parents. As board-certified Dermatologist in Austin, Texas, Dr. Mamelak does not deny the benefits of milk and wholeheartedly supports this as part of a well-balanced, healthy diet, particularly for a child’s growth and development. But some have suggested that this could contribute to acne production.

Dairy products. Milk, cheese, egg, curd cheese and butter“Cow’s milk contains natural hormones that are created during the cow’s menstrual cycle, which are subsequently consumed when we drink milk,” he explains.  “These hormones could trigger our oil glands to produce more oil, which is one of the contributing factors in acne development.” Similarly, hormone fluxes produced during menstration, puberty, stress, and birth control can also stimulate oil production in the skin.

Casein, a milk protein found in dairy products and many protein supplements has also been implicated in acne production. “Whey and casein could cause insulin levels to rise quickly,” says Dr. Hanson. These hormonal stresses could initiate a cascade in the body, and send oil glands into overdrive.

What About Alternatives?

It would be safe to assume that organic and hormone-free milk would lack these hormones that cause acne, right? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Organic milk is used to describe cows that are not exposed to pesticides and insecticides. Theoretically, these cows are healthier and can in turn produce higher levels of hormones than conventional milking cows. Hormone-free milk refers to the use of hormone supplements given to conventional cows that is used to increase milk production. Lactose-free milk removes the lactose sugar from the milk, but does not remove the hormones that are linked to acne production. Goat and sheep’s milk also contain the natural hormones that are produced by these animals to regulate their menstrual cycles.

What Do You Do?

There is no specific test to determine if your acne is a direct result of dairy in your diet. As well, different people will respond differently to dairy products. Even those patients diagnosed with hormonal acne should not assume dairy is necessarily aggravating their condition. There are other well-recognized causes of acne, dietary and otherwise. “It makes it a very difficult thing to advise,” says Dr. Hanson. “I tell my patients, if they notice flares after eating certain foods, try to avoid them for a month and see if it makes a difference.”

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Trying to find the triggers for your acne flares? Contact us today at Sanova Dermatology and let us help you clear up your skin!

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