Is dairy really what's making your skin break out? We asked an expert.

Fact: What you eat will eventually show up on your face. Super annoying, we know. It's just another one of those sh*t things we have to deal with - like cold Deliveroo orders and a super disappointing season of The Bachelor


But while you may know that diets high in sugar and fat can wreak havoc on your skin (read: unwanted pimples), you may not know that there's another, slightly unsuspecting culprit that could be causing your skin to break out, too. 

We're talking about ol' mate dairy. He's slid under the radar for a good few years, but we're finally calling him out - because we want to know if the rumours are true!

Watch: Speaking of's eight things eggs can do for your body. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

To get a better idea of the effects dairy can have on our skin and what we should do about it, we hit up skin practitioner Sarah Hudson from Skin By Sarah Hudson and asked her ALL the questions so you don't have to. 

Ya welcome.

Does eating dairy cause breakouts?

So, what gives? Is dairy really messing with our skin? "Whilst more studies need to be done, there are known links between dairy products and acne," said Hudson.

Knew it!

The reason? Hormone levels in milk. "It is unclear how dairy products may contribute to the formation of acne, but it may be due to the proteins in milk (whey and casein). These proteins stimulate the growth and hormones in calves and in us when we drink milk," said Hudson.

Welp. That's a bit weird.

"When we digest these proteins, they release a hormone similar to insulin (called IGF-1), which has been linked to the development of acne." 


But, hold up. This doesn't necessarily mean dairy itself should take all the blame for your skin going crazy on you - it can be a combination of different things. 

For example, if you're already breaking out (whether it be due to stress or your period), dairy might just escalate things and make it worse. 

If you experience some kind of underlying insulin resistance, this too could mean you're more prone to breakouts when consuming that sweet, sweet dairy.

My skin is freaking out. Should I just cut dairy?

If you're dealing with these kinds of skin issues (inflammation, acne, cystic pimples and the gang) and you've already tried a bunch of other things, Hudson said it may be worth cutting dairy out of your diet for a bit to see how your skin responds.

Listen to Mamamia's podcast for your face, You Beauty, where we talk about whether you should squeeze your pimples. Post continues below. 

"I have personally seen a decrease in acne lesions when dairy products are reduced in the diet," said Hudson.

Interesting! So, like, cut it out forever? *Wipes away tears and whispers sweet nothings to a wheel of brie*.

"I would first identify if dairy is triggering acne breakouts by eliminating it from your diet for a minimum of four weeks. Don’t forget to read labels carefully as dairy products are often hidden in foods you wouldn’t expect." 


"Once the four weeks have passed, then you will have an understanding if your acne breakouts are linked to dairy products in your diet."

Easy as (dairy-free) pie. 

Of course, if you're cutting out dairy you need to make sure that you're going to make up for those lost nutrients and vitamins somewhere else. "It is important to obtain calcium and vitamin D from alternate sources, such as almond milk, dairy-free margarine, tofu and almonds," said Hudson.

Before you jump in and start going hard living that non-dairy lifestyle, it's best to ensure you're still going to get enough of everything on the nutrient front. So, we reckon it's worth speaking to a dietician before making any major changes to your diet.

But cutting out dairy isn't exactly a cure-all for everyone. If you don't see any improvement in your acne or pimples after around four weeks, chances are you've got the wrong guy - milk isn't your cause. 


If the breakout feels so out of your control that you just don't know where to go, hitting up your dermatologist or doctor for some advice can't be a mistake. Just sayin'.

I can't cut out dairy (because: cheese). What else can I do to clear my skin?

We feel compelled to say that cutting dairy isn't suitable for everyone. We get it. But there are some other things you can do to help get your skin on the right track again, starting with your skincare routine.

"Ensure you are cleansing your skin twice at night and thoroughly removing makeup." Yep. Double-cleansing is your new friend. 

While it may sound like another unnecessary step to add to your routine, it's actually one of the most effective ways to get rid of all that dirt, grime, pollution and makeup that builds up on the surface of your cute face. 

Hudson said, "Often minute makeup particles that have not been removed from the skin contribute to breakouts."

So, yeah - get rid of 'em.

Instead of using the same cleanser twice, your first step should involve using a cleansing oil (this will get rid of makeup, dirt and grime), followed by your usual gel, cream or foam cleanser (for a deep AF clean).

You'll also want to up your usual Sunday face mask sesh to help nix those breakouts faster. Hudson recommends reaching for a clay mask to draw out those impurities. 

"Apply an exfoliating clay mask a couple of times per week to the area of breakouts. This can really help speed up the healing process of the acne lesions and reduce their severity."

If you're experiencing a pimple party on your face regularly, Hudson said it may also be worth looking for non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic makeup (makeup that won't clog your pores), because even if you're using mineral makeup it may still lead to breakouts on the skin.

She also said you might want to check what's in those protein shakes you're chugging down post-workout - because these may be a sneaky culprit. "Check your consumption of protein and meal replacement shakes, which can often be dairy-based and high in whey protein."

Feature image: Getty

Do you find that dairy causes your skin to break out? Share with us in the comment section below.

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