Addressing Acne From the Inside Out: Dairy and Diet

Woman leaning into the fridge

Acne is a controllable but not a curable disease. Only the body can cure itself of acne by reaching a natural hormonal balance. However, we can help this to occur more rapidly and reduce the severity of acne with good dietary management coupled with a well-managed skin care regimen. This blog will focus on acne management through diet. To read more on the causes of acne in adults and the skincare solution, click here for my blog ‘Breaking Down The Breakouts’.

Recently studies and a comprehensive medical article written by Mark Hyman, MD concludes that dairy and sugar both cause spikes in acne producing hormones. As consumption of refined sugar and dairy has increased over the last generation, so has the number of people with acne. Over 80 percent of teenagers suffering varying degrees of acne.

It is now more important than ever to educate acne sufferers of the importance of an anti-acne nutritional regimen, coupled with good skin care – based on scientific studies and not celebrity infomercials coupled.


Our typical Western diet is full of inflammatory fats. These are saturated fats, Trans fats, excess omega-6, inflammatory fats and processed vegetable oils (soy and corn oils). These increase IGF-1 and irritate cells in pores. Inflammation has been linked to acne.


The typical Western diet results in imbalances of sex hormones like testosterone, IGF-1, and insulin, which trigger acne. The biggest factors affecting hormones is a high glycemic index in the diet. Large, randomized controlled trials found that individuals consuming high GI diet (more bread, rice, cereal, pasta, sugar, and flour products) had significantly more acne.


Traditional dietary guidelines suggesting we drink at least 3 glasses of milk daily for good nutrition have now been strongly criticized by many including leading nutrition scientists from Harvard such as Walter Willett and David Ludwig. The lactose (milk sugar) in a glass of milk can spike insulin levels 300 percent and is the equivalent sugar content of a can of soft drink.

One scientist referred to milk as a “complex aqueous, suspended fat, liposomal, suspended protein emulsion”. Milk is evolutionarily designed to provide nutrition for calves. It is naturally full of anabolic hormones (the same ones that body builders use for muscle growth, and which also cause bad acne). There is no such thing as hormone-free milk.

Only recently have clinical studies confirmed the acne dairy link. In 2009, a review of twenty-one medical studies and six independent clinical trials, found clear links between acne and dairy products. Two controlled trials found that cow’s milk increased both the number of people who suffered from acne and the severity.


There is no magical dietary cure for acne. However the best solution is to avoid sugar, refined carbs and dairy, and consume an antioxidant-rich, plant-based diet with lean animal protein.

Here are some simple dietary steps to help prevent and treat acne.

Stay away from milk and other dairy products

Substitute for rice, hemp coconut and almond milk. There are some great dairy-free milk and yoghurt substitutes.

Eat a low glycemic load, low sugar diet

Opt for whole wheat bread, pasta, quinoa and brown rice. Studies show that dark chocolate does not increase the severity of acne – so treat yourself!

Make sure to eat your vegetables

Make sure to eat 6-9 servings of vegetables daily, with an emphasis on leafy greens and red/orange/yellow vegetables.

Consume omega-3 and omega-6 ‘good fats’

These fats have anti-inflammatory properties, but be sure to consume these fats in the correct proportion. Fish oil and flaxseed oil are excellent sources of balanced omegas and supplements are recommended.

Nuts, seeds and spices to improve acne

Eat more seeds, raw nuts and good oils by adding flax seed oil, coconut oil, walnuts, brazil nuts and almonds to your diet. Spices and teas such as turmeric, ginger and green tea are excellent anti-inflammatories. Make sure to eat at least eight servings of vegetables daily, with an emphasis on leafy greens and red/orange/yellow vegetables.

Take anti-acne supplements
  • Vitamin A: 25000 IU/day for 3 months (do not take if pregnant)
  • Vitamin E 400 IU/day.
  • Green Tea supplements 5000mg/day
  • Evening primrose oil: 2000mg/day
  • Zinc citrate: 30 mg/day
  • Probiotics as directed for improving gut flora
  • Omega fats if dietary intake is inadequate
Food intolerances that have been linked to acne:
  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Yeast
  • Lactose

Diet is one of the largest factors of acne, but for some further advice on how to manage acne click here for my blog ’10 Tips For Controlling Acne’, or watch me chat further on this topic of acne and diet here.


  • Blem-X as a spot treatment directly onto blemishes or congested areas.