Doctor's Note

More on the link between dairy and acne:
Saving Lives By Treating Acne With Diet
National Dairy Council on Acne and Milk
Skim Milk and Acne
The Acne-Promoting Effects of Milk

Also, check out my other videos on acne

For more context, see my blog post: Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk.

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  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on acne. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • Jennifer Eldred

    What about dairy on the skin? Should we stay away from soap, lotion etc with it? I’m assuming all milk too even goats milk?

  • If it’s hormone content that causes acne to break out, would one solution also be to consume organic milk products?
    Can dairy alternatives made of soy also have a negative affect on acne?

    • All non-plant milk has hormones in it. The entire purpose of mammals producing milk is to provide growth hormones to their offspring.

  • JJ

    Well, it didn’t work for me. I’ve had acne problems ever since puberty. I stopped dairy 5-6 months ago and I still have the same annoying problem at the same severity. This is very disappointing tome since I was really hoping that if I gave up my favorite foods, I would loose the acne problem.

    I wonder if the acne-dairy connection is a myth and there is some kind of flaw in the study. Just wondering.

    • Toxins

      The main thing about dairy we are worried about is the insulin like growth factor. What else are you eating on a daily basis as some foods (like soy protein isolate found in clif products) prove to be worse than dairy. Also, are you supplementing any proteins? This will have a similar affect. Are you eating a lot of meats?

      • JJ

        Toxins: Thanks for your interest.

        I have been a vegetarian for 15 years and went completely vegan in the last 5-6 months. The only bars I am eating are bars like Lara Bar which is just fruits and nuts with no protein isolates. I do not add any special proteins to my diet other than what comes naturally in beans, whole grains like quinoa, and some organic tofu. In the last 5-6 months, I started cooking all my own foods from recipe books that are vegan, low or no-fat and based on whole plant foods.

        Just to give this a complete fair shot, I even stopped sampling cookies and other goodies that co-workers bring to work. When I slice cheese for my dog once a week, I make sure to put the knife right in the dishwasher so that I don’t use it for myself. A couple weeks ago, I even cooked and packed all my own foods for a three day seminar instead of eating the foods that everyone else ate so that I would be eating both vegan and healthy.

        As a sample of what I eat: yesterday’s lunch consisted of home-made African Kale and Yam Stew (delicious–and with organic kale and organic yams) from the Happy Herbivore cookbook and “Hippie Loaf” from the same cookbook with a mushroom gravy on top that came from a book on preventing and reversing heart disease – or maybe it was the one on preventing diabeties. I can’t remember right now, but they are both good books.

        As near as I can tell, I am eating the ideal diet for health (and slaving away in the kitchen for what feels like forever) and my face is still a mess. I don’t think we understand acne very well at all.

        • Toxins

          You are in fact eating extraordinarily well. Good job, I cannot assist you but I will notify Dr. Greger for you and we will see what he thinks is the issue. But as far as I can tell your diet is spot on.

        • Jennifer Eldred

          Are you using any products on your face?

          • JJ

            Jennifer: Thank you for your interest too.

            I do use an over-the-counter acne medicine–sometimes. Sometimes I just give up and do nothing. I haven’t used any kind of make-up in over 20 years. Other than the acne medicine and soap, I put nothing on my face.

          • Muffy

            Vinegar is a great skin cleanser. It helps kill some of the bad bacteria while keeping your skin soft. At first, you may want to dilute the vinegar with water [I boil mine, let it cool] until you find the right balance for your skin. I now use full-strength and I haven’t had a blemish in 10+ years!

        • JonK

          I still had acne after eating healthy and exercising. I think probiotics were the ace in the heart of acne for me. I was eating yogurt and drinking store bought kefir but it wasn’t enough for me… So I looked up homemade kefir and purchased some kefir grains online and now my acne has finally disappeared. Also having a good lotion in the winter helps if you have dry skin, a few drops of jojoba oil mixed with the lotion helps as well.

    • M. K.

      Great job on becoming vegan! I thought I might let you know that mine is a similar story: 100% vegan, low-fat too and still troubled by acne. First of all, just because there are some counter-examples such as us, does not mean that an overall trend is absent. Although a vegan diet has failed to solve this specific problem that we have, it still works with the *majority* of people. So I wouldn’t doubt the study that Dr. Gregor cites. My suggestion to you is to keep experimenting. You have tried diet, what about sleep? Are your sleeping patterns somewhat irregular? What about trying to go to bed earlier? Remember: diet, as important as it is, is not the only factor controlling acne. You might also want to experiment with natural anti-biotic substances like vinegar or a tea tree oil cream (just don’t get in your eyes!).
      Lastly think about this: for you a vegan has not cured your acne, but think of all of the other problems you are saving yourself! Heart disease, diabetes, cancer… its a long list! Keep experimenting and stay vegan. Wishing you the best!

      • JJ

        Thanks for the thoughts M.K. You are right about the other benefits. I don’t think I made a bad decision. Just doing truth in reporting my experience.

  • allank

    Hello Dr. Greger,

    This site is an excellent easy to understand source of health information! Thank You!

    Are there any other studies that show links between diet and acne? There are sources that claim certain foods are bad and others are good, but none have research.

    Also, is inflammation like acne isolated or does it indicate inflammation in the rest of the body as well?


    • Thea

      allank: re: “Are there any other studies that show links between diet and acne?”

      I can’t answer your question definitely, but I can suggest that you keep checking back on this site for the current “video-of-the-day”. Dr. Greger is going through volume 8 of his DVDs. I haven’t watched all of volume 8 (while I own the DVD, I prefer the pace of watching one a day), but I have seen the chapter headings. It looks like Dr. Greger will be covering more studies related to acne soon. So, maybe at least some of your questions will be answered by video.

    • There is a new study not yet published except on line in the J Amer Acad Dermatology. I can provide a pdf if you (or Dr. Greger) can send me a live email address that I can send an attachement to.

  • Yuli

    Dr. Greger, it happened the opposite on me. I have more acnes now after I became vegan than before. My puberty years I didn’t get much acnes, now I am in my thirties, I get them a lot on the side of my face near and behind the ears to my neck. I am wondering what I did wrong. My personal toiletries are the same.

    I became completely vegan a year ago from fulltime meat eater; breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am lactose intolerance so I didn’t consume dairy much, except occasionally ice cream and pizzas.

    I eat lots of fresh veggies, beans, salads, rice, Ezekiel bread, sweet potatoes, tofu, nuts and seeds. I limit processed vegan diet, such as tofurky. I am using oil for baking and stir-frying.

    I am happy with vegan diet I can control my weight easily than before. But I hate my acnes.

  • Meggy

    So dairy free almond milk is a safe bet?

    • Dr Danby

      Yes, but keep the sugar content low (unsweetened) in all non-mammal milks. I know, the French Vanilla and Chocolate are soooo tempting – but such a no-no. Those carbs absolutely are a significant part of the problem.

  • Hahd

    Dr Michael Gregor I have tried everything to get rid of acne I am vegan myself however I feel its hormonal balance that is triggering my acne I am on antibiotics and a topical cream the acne I am getting is severe big lumps under the skin which is painful what can I do?

  • River

    Does this apply to all dairy products or just milk? I don’t drink milk but I do eat aged cheeses. Thanks!

    • Thea

      River: I used to be in the same boat as you in that I didn’t really drink milk, but I was addicted to cheese. I think a lot of people are that way. The thing is, cheese is just concentrated dairy. It is basically dairy solids. So, while not necessarily always true for every issue, most of the time, if something applies to milk, it applies double or triple for cheese. For more information about dairy, here is the NutritionFacts summary page: Good luck. Good luck.

    • Cody

      Hi, I’m a volunteer for Dr. Greger. I think your question is an excellent one; many studies talk only about milk consumption and the relation to acne, but what about cheese? If you notice in the last research article that Dr. Greger refers to in the video, it mentions that dairy as a whole should be minimized to reduce acne. Other evidence suggests that all animal-derived foods, including meat and dairy, may lead to higher rates of acne. Diets low in these animal foods and high in plant foods may help alleviate the issue. Check out this video for Dr. Greger’s research-based recommendations:

  • nicolestier

    Any studies on Rosacea?