After a thorough review of the literature up until today…

This is what scientists know:

Hormones: Milk contains hormones such as IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) and androgen (male hormone) precursors.

Iodine: Milk often contains iodine, largely due to farmers dipping the teats of cows in an iodine solution before milking in order to sterilize. At large doses, iodine can cause what are called acneiform eruptions. Acneiform eruptions look similar to run-of-the-mill acne vulgaris but are different in important ways.

This is what scientists postulate, but don’t know:

Hormones: IGF-1 and androgen precursors in milk could theoretically lead to increased skin cell production, causing pores to become clogged. IGF-1 and androgen precursors could also theoretically lead to increased skin oil production. Since we know that acne does not flourish in low oil environments, perhaps the hormones in milk might help provide an oily fertile ground for acne.

Iodine: The link between iodine and acne is even more theoretical than with dairy. However, some select scientists put out the possibility that if iodine does in fact aggravate acne, since milk contains iodine, milk could lead to more acne.

The bottom line:

What stands out strongly now that I have read all of the evidence is that the design limitations in dairy and acne studies thus far leave us without any concrete answers. After performing a thorough review of existing evidence, authors in the Journal of Clinics in Dermatology agree: “Our conclusion, on the basis of the existing evidence, is that the association between dietary dairy intake and the pathogenesis of acne is slim.”

My common sense takeaway:

Northern Europeans were the first to domesticate animals and drink milk past childhood. In fact, the last genetic adaptation we see in humans is the gene which allows people of Northern European ancestry to digest lactose. If you can drink milk and eat dairy products without stomach aches, excess gas, or discomfort, perhaps ingesting dairy is part of a healthy lifestyle for you. However, for the rest of us, me included, if you do not have the gene, and dairy gives you issues, that’s a pretty clear sign that your body isn’t crazy about dairy. It might be a good idea to steer clear of it for overall health. As far as acne in particular is concerned, we just don’t know yet. I personally love pizza more than breathing šŸ˜‰ and I’m not going to give up dairy completely until I see more concrete evidence linking it directly with acne or other serious negative health consequences.


Leave a Reply

  • Sierra117

    “I personally love pizza more than breathing šŸ˜‰ and Iā€™m not going to give up dairy completely until I see more concrete evidence linking it directly with acne or other serious negative health consequences.”

    Amen to this.

  • wikiderm

    In the largest study ever done, the “Nurses” study from Harvard 2005, pizza did NOT show up as a risk factor. We suspect that the heat of the pizza oven destroys at least some of the hormones, probably the IGF-1 and other polypeptide/protein hormones and growth factors. We still do not know the temperature that will inactivate the androgen hormones.
    If pizza does anything negative, it might be from the high glycemic load of the pizza crust, but no studies on this have been done.

  • Mambo Italiano

    Would warming milk lessen the chances of digesting these hormones & iodone?

  • Josh

    Ugh… I feel like every research topic is going to be like this. Nothing new. šŸ™ Oh well.

  • Chris

    I’m sorry to stray off the topic of the post here but,

    pleeeassee lets get a spot treatment update.

    Good research by the way!

  • V

    Warming is not going to destroy iodine for sure. Iodine is one of the basic elements šŸ™‚

  • Ken

    I notice that my acne is much reduced since I switched from regular milk to soy milk and stopped eating cheese.

  • Matt

    I went 100% milk-free like a year ago and it helped my skin A LOT.

  • Floydeth

    I am 28 and have cut dairy out of my diet for 5 years now and don’t get any spots/have any problems until I eat out – which is very rarely now as I get really depressed about spots, especially on my face. I am constantly looking for ways to reintroduce milk back into my diet as it is frustrating not being able to go out for a meal or having to cause a fuss round friends houses. I even make sure I there isn’t any dairy in my choice and explain to the waiter but still get really painful spots (assuming its from badly cleaned pots and pans etc)
    Does anyone know if there is anything that can be done I have tried antibiotics when I was younger and this didn’t help and doctors just say it ‘might’ go away in a few years?
    Every time I search for solutions there are sites like this that aren’t that helpful – there must be something that can be done?

  • Anonymous

    I’ve also noticed that cutting out dairy has helped my skin. When I cheat I inevitably break out šŸ™