Milk acne: what causes and how is it treated?

From childhood we were taught that milk and fermented milk products are very useful. However, recent studies have found that not everyone needs and can use them. In particular, in many people, due to dairy products, the skin condition worsens, and painful inflammation appears on the face.

Milk acne: causes

There are several reasons why acne on the face can appear and worsen due to milk. All of them, in one way or another, are associated either with the state of human health, or with the composition and quality of products.

Individual intolerance

Milk contains many substances that can cause allergies.

The most common immune response is:

  • Lactose. It is milk sugar that raises blood glucose levels and triggers a subsequent spike in insulin. The hormone needed to break down sugars and convert them into energy can enhance the activity of the sebaceous glands. In addition to insulin, enzymes are involved in the processing and assimilation of lactose. The younger the child, the more active these substances are. With age, the ability to digest milk decreases, and age-related lactase deficiency develops . 
  • Casein and Whey Protein. Enzymes are needed to break down complex milk proteins. They are produced in the intestines and partly in the salivary glands. If these substances are not enough, then the final separation of proteins into amino acids does not occur. In this case, the immune system can perceive them as foreign and start the protection process. 
  • Particles of animal epithelium. Even store-bought pasteurized dairy products contain some epithelial cells. This allergy is essentially not food, but contact. If after communicating with a cow, goat, sheep or horse, tearing of the eyes, itching, sneezing, urticaria appears, most likely, the reaction to the milk of these animals will be similar. 

Important! An allergy can occur even if there has never been an acute reaction before. The fact is that a person may not notice mild symptoms for a long time, exactly until the immune system “trains” and begins to quickly and massively respond to the stimulus. 

Drinking milk too often

The digestive system of an adult is not adapted for a predominantly milk diet. Fans of cream, ice cream, cheese and other products have a hard time. The enzymes and hormones necessary for normal breakdown and absorption are secreted in much smaller quantities than are required for digestion. As a result, sugars begin to ferment, causing flatulence and abdominal pain, and insulin-like growth factor causes the sebaceous glands to secrete more intensively.

Fermented milk products are safer than those made from whole milk. In yogurt, kefir, sour cream or cheese, the lactose breakdown process has already begun due to lacto and bifidobacteria. However, due to their higher gravity, these foods have a higher solids content, which means the percentage of protein to which allergies can develop.

Attention! Lactose-free milk is not a hypoallergenic product. Sugars are extracted from it, but, like low fat, manufacturers add more casein and whey powder in order to brighten the taste. 

Poor product quality

Despite the quality control standards at farms and dairies, as well as the incoming inspection of stores, the quality of products from mass-produced milk leaves much to be desired. In some cases, acne is triggered by food and drink, and palm oil, dyes, preservatives, thickeners, and other additives can help extend shelf life and improve taste.

With serious technological violations and oversight of the output and input control of raw materials, antibiotics and growth stimulants can get into it, which are given to animals to accelerate puberty and increase lactation.

Why are store-bought dairy products dangerous?

Mass production and sales of food means cutting costs as much as possible, increasing the yield of finished products and increasing shelf life. Technologists go to various tricks to make the maximum amount of sour cream, cheese or cottage cheese from a liter of milk. The consumer can literally feel the consequences of such experiments with his skin.

In particular, acne and allergic rashes can appear from:

  • Starch , which is added as a thickener. In addition to the fact that fast carbohydrates often worsen skin condition, it is allergenic in itself.
  • Sugar and syrups added to yoghurts, curds and curds. Even products labeled “light” can contain record amounts of sugar. Instead of a healthy snack, a person gets a carbohydrate bomb and, as a result, a jump in insulin in the blood.
  • Palm oil and milk fat substitutes . The easiest way to reduce the cost of production of cheese, cottage cheese, butter, cream is to restore milk powder, and then partially or completely replace milk fat with vegetable fat. At the same time, the absorption of palm oil in the body is slower and more difficult, in response to an excess of complex lipids, androgens are released – male sex hormones that enhance the work of the sebaceous glands.  
  • Preservatives , which are most often used as ascorbic, phosphoric or acetic acids. They, in turn, when eaten, increase the acidity of the stomach, which means they are a risk factor for the development of gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.

Which doctor should I visit?

It’s pretty easy to figure out the link between dairy and acne. It is necessary to completely exclude them from the diet for 2-3 weeks. If the improvements are noticeable or the rash disappears completely, it means that in the future you will have to give up milk completely or significantly limit its amount.

At the same time, it is important to understand which components are causing the reaction, how strong the health consequences were, and how best to help the skin to recover.

For advice on these issues, you should contact:

  • Allergist-immunologist. He will prescribe samples and studies and will tell you exactly which products and components have caused individual intolerance. 
  • An endocrinologist to be tested for insulin resistance and glucose tolerance. Blood hormone surges, abdominal obesity, and acne problems may be early signs of developing diabetes.
  • A dermatologist-cosmetologist who will assess the condition of the skin, determine its type and help you choose the right systemic care and treatment.

How to cure acne after milk?

Fighting acne and breakouts caused by dairy intolerances won’t take long. If it’s just allergies, it will be enough to just eliminate them and pay attention to skin cleansing and skin care procedures. In the case of hormonal disruption, treatment will take longer.

In both cases, there are general recommendations:

  • Reduce your sugar and animal fat intake.
  • Drink at least two liters of clean water.
  • Clean your skin with soap and alcohol free products.
  • Use natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial substances, which are found, for example, in chamomile broth, tea tree oil, sage broth.


Milk acne is not a myth! The reasons for this may be different, but the solution is one – the complete exclusion of it from the diet. It is difficult to give up your favorite dishes and delicacies due to sudden intolerance. However, improvements cannot be achieved without diet. 

event_note November 12, 2020

account_box Dr. Peter B Milburn

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