Dermatology Nutrition Skin & Beauty

Fact Check: Cutting Out Dairy can Cure Acne

Chocolate has long been seen as the enemy of clear skin; it’s high sugar content touted as the bringer of all spots. But for people battling against acne the advice over what foods to cut out often becomes more extreme. In recent years, the speculation over a link between dairy and acne has become a hot topic. Many people even claim that cutting out dairy has cured their acne. But does this claim curdle under the spotlight of scrutiny?

I’m not sure I could handle a world without cheese, so I turned to top London dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto and begged her to tell me it’s all a myth!

“The role of dietary triggers in acne remains highly controversial and the link between dairy products causing acne is weak at best.” said Dr Mahto. Great! But before I can even Instagram my next milky flat white, I find that the story doesn’t end there. “Small scientific studies examining the link between dairy and acne have found that low fat or skim milk seems to be more of a problem than full fat milk. At this stage, it is not entirely clear why this is the case. It’s possible that the process of making milk fat-free removes some of its healthy components. Other suggestions have included higher levels of oestrogens in skim milk.”

So what exactly is the link between dairy and acne?

Do these claims linking dairy and acne have any science behind them? Dr Mahto explains that there are a number of proposed theories. “Dairy products have the ability to increase levels of the hormones, insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) in the body. These can both increase oil or sebum production in addition to hormones known as androgens. Raised androgen levels combined with excess sebum can promote acne formation in susceptible individuals. There are also other suggestions that milk from dairy cows either naturally contains growth hormones or is treated with growth hormones. These can also increase androgen levels which drive oil glands to release more sebum.”

Medical Myth: Inconclusive

It looks like we’ll have to wait for more research to fully confirm or deny this myth. But, if you’re looking for ways to put your skin troubles behind you, the advice is clear: “There is an agreement in the medical profession that acne should not be treated with diet alone and there are more effective, reliable and validated methods for treatment.”

Next in the Doctify Fact Checking series: Does cracking your knuckles cause arthritis?

Sign up at the top of this page to receive the next article in our Fact Checking series straight to your inbox


Book an appointment with Dr Anjali Mahto