Milk and Acne

Milk is supposed to be good for you, right? It certainly does have benefits: It can help strengthen your bones, provide good nutrition and even solve some tummy issues. But milk has also been shown to cause acne for some people, or to make it worse if they already have it. Three large-scale studies published in the American Journal of Dermatology focused on the question of whether milk and acne were related. There was found to be a definite link between milk and acne.

Can Milk Cause Acne?

But how exactly does drinking milk lead to acne? You might be surprised at the variety of ways this can happen. Though this discussion is about milk, please keep in mind that all dairy products can cause these same problems.

1. DHT

Dihydrotestosterone is a hormone that naturally occurs in milk. Since the vast majority of cows that are milked are actually pregnant, and since DHT occurs naturally in pregnant cows, it makes sense that it gets into the final milk product. However, DHT has been proven to be a serious problem for those who suffer from acne. DHT can spur the skin glands to produce higher amounts of sebum, which then clog pores and cause acne. Keep in mind that this is not a product that is added to the milk, but rather is already present when the milk is produced in the cow.

2. IGF-1

Many growth hormones are found in milk. Some of these are naturally occurring – after all, milk got the “healthy bones” reputation for a reason – but some of them are also artificially inserted by giving cows growth hormones during their lifetime. This particular hormone, known as insulin like growth factor-1 or IGF-1, can lead to faster aging of the skin, more dead skin cells and more acne. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t killed off during digestion, but instead winds up in the bloodstream.

3. Insulin

In most cases, higher levels of insulin lead to more problems with acne. When you drink milk, you can severely increase your insulin levels. In addition, insulin can increase the sebum production of your skin, as well as affect the production of various growth and sex hormones. These are all tied to problems with acne. The longer your insulin levels are out of whack, the more likely you are to have serious, ongoing acne problems.

4. Inflammation

When a part of your body is injured or when you become ill, your body’s response includes inflammation – the area around that injury becomes red and swollen. The same happens when bacteria invades your pores. Your body senses a foreign invader, and immediately begins to turn on the inflammation as a natural response. This is typically a good thing, but for someone who suffers from acne, it can be a difficult problem. Your body’s natural response is now becoming a serious issue! Unfortunately, modern milk products come to us with more than a few issues of their own, including pesticides, dioxins, antibiotics, added hormones and much more. Any of these added chemicals in milk can lead to inflammation in your body as it tries to fight off that foreign invader, and that can lead to even more acne.

What about Raw Milk?

There has long been a debate about which is better: raw milk or pasteurized milk. On one hand, pasteurized milk has been “cleaned” of most problems that can lead to allergic reactions or otherwise make you sick. But raw milk hasn’t been processed, and often comes from much healthier cows that are fed organic foods and no antibiotics or growth hormones, making it healthier for your body.

However, keep in mind that even in milk that comes straight from the healthiest cows, there will be major doses of growth hormones in there. That’s because the cow produces this naturally, as a way to feed her calves and ensure they get appropriate nutrition. There is no way to remove these hormones from the milk, as they are naturally occurring.

Though the best step would be to avoid milk altogether, that might not be a feasible or suitable option for most people. So which one to choose? Even though raw milk might still have many allergens in it that can cause reactions in humans, the risks of raw milk are much, much lower than the risks associated with pasteurized milk products.

Before you make any decisions on choosing raw milk over pasteurized milk, make sure that you don’t have any medical conditions that prohibit this choice. Some people must have milk that is pasteurized, such as small children or those with certain medical issues. Talk to your doctor about your choice before you take the plunge.