March 17, 2008

Just Say Soy: The Dairy-Acne Connection

If you've been battling acne around your jawline and chin that just won't go away, try this simple, very cheap solution: eliminate dairy from your diet.

In December, out of nowhere, I started getting cystic breakouts around my jawline. After my mom commented on them while I was home at Christmas, I booked an appointment with a reputable dermatologist here in NYC.  In the middle of our session, he asked, "Do you consume a lot of dairy?" I was surprised by his question because he isn’t a holistic doc.

"Yes," I said. "Milk on cereal almost every morning and a couple servings of ice cream a week."  (Dang you, Ben & Jerry's!)  I also told him that I had started working at a new publishing company, whose brand of milk in the fridges (which I have on my cereal while reading email every a.m.) was different than at my former company. Would that matter? What’s dairy got to do with it anyway?

To summarize his explanation and subsequent research I did later, since milk is from lactating cows it is loaded with hormones.  Our bodies break down these hormones into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).  DHT stimulates the skin's sebaceous glands, increasing oil production.  (Excessive DHT is also responsible for male and female pattern baldness.)  I also learned that hormonal acne typically occurs around the jawline—exactly where my zits were.

I traded in my regular milk for organic soy milk and (painfully) quit ice cream. I was stunned.  Within just three days, the cysts were gone and no new ones were in their place. Even better, my face was significantly less shiny at day's end.

It’s now been two months since I quit milk and ice cream (can't part with cheese), and the jawline breakouts are completely gone.

**By the way, drinking hormone-free milk likely won't keep zits away because all cow milk contains hormones. Hormone-free just means that the cows weren't given extra, synthetic hormones.


Anonymous said...

I'm delighted to see the message getting out.
One thing -
He NEEDS the positive feedback, so he will keep asking the question.
If you just cancel your appointment because you are all better he will not get the message.
Spread the positive word.
Thanks for the post. MANY thanks.

Lindsay B. said...

Thanks for the comment, MilkDerm! Yes, during a follow-up appointment with my derm, I told him I cut out milk and ice cream and he noticed the results!.

Anonymous said...

Question - I realize that a lactating cow probably has oodles of natural hormones that get excreted in milk, but has any one compared organic milk to regular commercial stuff? I'm loathe to eliminate dairy! I have recently switched to organic for other concerns and have seen a difference in my skin (~3 months). But this observation is not scientific at all b/c I also switched up some skin cleanser/cream and am taking some new supplements. Any thoughts?

Aly and Elroi and Avie said...

Long time lurker, first time commenter...I'm veg and have been off milk for YEARS. However, I just went off soy six months ago b/c I discovered that it's also full of hormones--phytoestrogens to be precise. I had high-normal thyroid levels (not so good for a lady trying to get knocked up) and my internet research suggested a link between my soy intake and my thyroid trouble. I cut out the soy and my thyroid levels dropped. Long story short-- I suggest rice milk for folks who want to make a less hormonal choice. :)

Anonymous said...

Happy to find this worked for you. I also had my skin improve dramatically after quitting dairy (ALL dairy, even cheese) and I will never go back.

On a side note another benefit has been fewer bronchial issues. In the 4 years since being dairy free I've only had 2 colds, and no antibiotics needed for anything. Huge difference from my life before.

dirtysouthfemme - thanks for your tip on rice milk, I'll look into it.

Fabuless Beauty said...

Yep! Unfortunately, dairy contributes to my breakouts. I rarely drink milk. I definitely would choose soy milk over regular milk.

Anonymous said...

fyi, eggs are not dairy.

Anonymous said...

Careful - I gave up dairy products, my acne improved, but when I started eating soy I got worse acne. The scars are still healing.

My skin is clear now, but eating any dairy, soy, or beef will cause a break out. Any food that alters my hormone levels wreaks havoc with my skin.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I'm a veggie but for about 6 weeks now I have stopped eating milk products and my acne cleared up. But then like others experienced, consuming lots of soy products made my acne come back worse. Now I drink rice milk, which is yummy and all I have left are the scars, which is a lot easier to cover with make up!

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit late with posting this, as I've just stumbled upon your blog and this post in particular. But I wanted to thank you very much for sharing this information and your experience, as I've been battling horrible cystic jawline acne for a couple months's painful and extremely unsightly.

The breakouts coincided with a change in my diet -- about 2 mths ago I started to eat cereal for breakfast everyday, and of course with that, more milk! Before that I have very little milk except once in a while in my tea. I racked my brain to try to think of any other changes I had made in the past 2 mths that would contribute to such horrible breakouts, and couldn't. So I figured that dairy had to be the culprit.

I then googled online to see if there may be a link, and low and behold, I find your blog, as well as other sites including studies that indeed show a correlation between milk/dairy consumption and hormonal acne on the jawline/neck.

So I just want to thank you again for sharing this! I now know that I'm not alone, and what I will need to do to take care of this problem. Bye-bye milk!


inadequate nature said...

this news makes me sad.

Anonymous said...


I want everyone to know that I have had the same experience. I never drank raw milk so I can't say if it is different but pastuerized organic milk was causing acne for me, even while I was on birth control pills. I am not BCP free and Milk free and yes acne free! Its unbelievable to me that this is just surfacing.

Anonymous said...

I have had really bad acne for the last 8 months or so. Prior to that I was nursing my son and he couldn't tolerate me consuming dairy, so I hadn't had any milk in quite a few months. Then when I started back on the dairy I had extremely painful cystic pimples all over my forehead. So finally I challenged myself to do a dairy detox for 3 weeks, and now my beautiful clear complexion is back and better than ever. If I have even a teeny tiny bit of cheese or butter I will get a pimple the next day. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

i wanted to suggest almond milk as an alternative, too. i love the stuff!
my breakouts are (seemingly) random but frequent and very frustating. i stopped buying milk ages ago for other reasons, but i do have it from time to time and i eat a fair amount of cheese. i'm going to try eliminating all dairy to see if it makes a difference. thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have never commented on a blog or thread or chat discussion in my life...I always just selfishly read them go about my life.

Yet, for this particular topic, I felt compelled to chime in and corroborate the plethora of commentary regarding the link to acne and dairy. I could not for the life of me figure out why, after all these years, with no apparent change in lifestyle, I had consistent jawline and neck breakouts. Not huge cysts, just ongoing blackheads and pimples. I read the thread, overhauled my fridge and COMPLETELY eliminated dairy. Nada. no butter, milk, cheese, nothing. It is eerie how immediate the change was in my complexion. Almost within the week.

Here is my question: while I opted for rice and almond milk, I hesitate around soy milk because of other's feedback. What about soy products though? Like soy meatballs and what have you? Any input? Indebted and grateful for everyone's input-it has changed my life.

Anonymous said...

This is remarkable!

I've been eating alot of dairy over the last 3 months, milk, cheese, and literately a whole 250g tub of low fat cottage cheese per day. (Increasing my protein intake)

As you can imagine I started getting these huge cystic acne not just on my face but on my head.

I did a google on acne, found out about the dairy and after removing it from my diet, I have seen results within a day, the acne started dying down.

Anonymous said...

I love that the word is spreading about the connection between diet and health. I just want to let all of you know that too much soy is not good for you. It contains a lot of hormones, can mess up your thyroid and is highly processed. There are so many delicious dairy/soy milk alternatives out there. I love so delicious coconut milk, almond, oat and rice milk! It is good to switch it up, too much of anything is not good for you.

Anonymous said...

Not just milk, also look into wheat- I cut out a lot of dairy and sugars, but it wasn't until I went Primal/Paleo, and eliminated grains, that ALL comedones cleared- no new bumps!

Anonymous said...

I went off milk and most dairy about 2 months ago-except for cheese maybe once a week at most. My acne has worsened. Most people are noticing quick results, but has anyone experienced it getting worse before better ( like a detox affect.)

Anonymous said...

Soy is not all it's cracked up to be.

Anonymous said...

Try almond milk!! It is soy and estrogen-free!

Marcus said...

Hi Thanks for the comments. My derm told me it's the hormones that cause the acne, not the milk itself! Shocker.

Acne Treatment

emmasmommy said...

I have been battleing acne on my chin for years and I've always had a hunch that it could be hormonal because the symptoms would temporarily improve when I was on birth control or pregnant. I have just had my 2nd baby and not more than a few months after giving birth my horomones went crazy and the ance on my chin is more persistent and painful than ever! I hesitate to go see a dermatologist who I fear will just prescribe me some topical chemicals to rub on my skin so I am thrilled and so excited to try eliminating all dairy from my diet, I hope this works and will post more feedback if/when I see results. By the way I have heard that soy milk is not a healthy alternative to cow's milk as well so I will be trying Hemp and rice milk. Thank you so much for addressing this topic and providing such helpful information!!!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone wonder why consuming dairy products affects some women and not others?? It just really bothers me that my friend who eats cereal daily and tons of junk food has a clear skin! Lol!! Where is the justice?!! :)

Nate said...

I never consume Milk or Ice Cream yet I have the typical jawline/chin breakouts, I do consume cheese though, could this contribute?

I really like to add cheese to alot of meals, so I would hate to cut it out completely, what are the alternatives? Is there non-hormone type cheeses?

Unknown said...

I am truly amazed at the results that I have had from avoiding dairy and soy.

Stopping soy cleared my forehead, but my stubborn jawline acne wouldn't stop popping up even though I had eliminated most dairy except for Lactaid milk in my coffee in the morning.

After eating a lot of cheesy pizza one night studying in November, I had the worst breakout of my life and I finally vowed to see if dairy was the culprit. After 1 month of (nearly) no dairy or soy, I was 95% clear!

I made the switch initially to store bought almond milk, and have since started making my own nut and seed milk blend with my vitamix blender.

The improvement in my skin has been incredible! I think it's the combination of removing those triggers along with the powerful anti-inflammatory effects of the nut and seed milk.

I bought in bulk online and have been blending a 2 cup mixture of raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and brazil nuts with water to make 2 liters of milk. I use an inexpensive nylon paint straining bag from the hardware store to strain out the pulp. We go through it in about 3 days and it's perfect for creaming my coffee and using on cereal.

For those wanting to try the low or no dairy and soy experiment for your skin, earth balance makes dairy free and soy free margarine now too. :)

Anonymous said...

I had acne on my face but now their scar remain on my face.I went to Dr but the creams didnt work so i decided to use natural drug. What is the best way for removing the scar of acne? What kind of foods prevent acne? under skin pimple

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