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Feed Your Face: The Dangers of Dairy If You Have Acne

By Dr Jessica Wu

If you suffer from pimples -- whether you have teenage acne or adult hormonal breakouts -- pledge to stay away from dairy products. The reason? Dairy stimulates the body to produce a variety of hormones, including insulin and insulin-like growth factor, that can aggravate acne. While the research on this has been around since the 1990s, doctors for the most part are just now paying attention to it. I hope that dermatologists will eventually put this knowledge into practice to help people cut back on antibiotics and other pills. In fact, many of my patients, including those with cystic acne, have even been able to avoid taking isotretinoin (previously available as Accutane) by cutting out dairy. For more detailed info (and before-and-after photos), check out Chapter 4 of my book Feed Your Face.

In the meantime, here’s what to avoid if you're prone to breakouts:

  • Whole milk and full-fat dairy products, including cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and ice cream. Instead, try unsweetened soymilk or almond milk. If you can’t make that kind of commitment, then at least try nonfat organic milk and other dairy products, which contain fewer cow hormones. (Hormones are concentrated in milk fat.)
  • Instant breakfast drinks, energy bars, protein drinks, hot chocolate mix, and even luncheon meats -- these often contain “hidden” dairy in the form of whey and casein, which are cow proteins.
  • Creamy sauces, spreads, butters, and condiments like mayo, ranch dressing, and dips.
  • Creamy toppings and desserts like pudding and mousse, unless they’re dairy -free.

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