Food Science/Acne & Dairy


QUESTION: Hi Mr. Polidori,

I have recently read that acne may be linked to dairy products, especially milk. I am 21, never really had acne as a teenager, just a little pimple or two quite rarely. Though, since two years ago or so ago, I've started to change my diet and decide to have cereals with milk every single morning. There might probably be a link or maybe not, but around the same time I've started having pimples on both sides of my chin. There's always a pimples on my chin and sometimes, it's nodular and quite painful. I did not try Accutane or anything strong, but I have tried tea tree products, Proactive and many other such products, but nothing really worket to prevent breakouts.

I was simply wondering if there's really a link between milk and acne. I've decided to cut off milk for a few weeks or so since this Monday. No breakout yet, but I'm not sure about later on.

Though, I'm quite used to having milk in the morning and I have no clue with what to replace it. Any ideas? Or maybe, isn't it a good idea to cut down on milk? I still need the calcium and vitamin D, don't I? But I don't NEED any more chin acne!!! :(

I'd appreciate your insight on this.
Thanks a lot,

ANSWER: Hi Alessandra,

Acne is related to dairy consumption.  The theory technically has to be proved by a double-blind study, but there is no placebo to give for milk.  You cannot remove the hormones that are the causitive factor in acne, so you cannot give a placebo that has all of the other ingredients of milk without the hormones.  

That said, leading dermatologists involved in studying this are not concerned about whether or not dairy is the cause, but what exactly is in dairy products that cause and worsen acne.

Enough studies have been done to show that dairy is the causitive factor in many cases to initiate acne or make it worse.  Hormones normally present in teenagers entering puberty, most importantly Insulin Growth Factor, are believed to be the cause.  Teenagers produce enough of the hormone to cause acne.  Adding IGF from cow's milk exacerbates the problem, causing acne in some clear skinned kids and making it worse in teens already suffering from acne.  

Some milk has an increase of 10% of this factor because of rBGH injected into some of our dairy herd.  rBGH is an artificially created hormone owned by the Monsanto company.  They sell it to factory dairies to boost milk production.  Unfortunately it compromises the cow's immune system and forces the use of large amounts of anti-biotics to keep the cows alive.  Many cows treated with rBGH  develop mastitus inside the udder which adds puss and blood to the milk in addition to the metabolites of the anti-biotics. These added contaminants can only cause more problems for anyone ingesting them.  The milk will be doing enough damage on it's own.

The FDA and the USDA will tell you that there is no significant difference between milk from organic/conventional cows and milk from rBGH treated cattle.  They are playing semantics, as the milk produced by the cows' mammary glands is nearly the same, but what gets mixed in with the milk is not the same.  They acknowledge the increase in some hormones that are normally in milk, but ignore the puss and blood that also shows up in these mis-treated cattle's milk.  The increase in hormone levels can start an acne problem or make an existing one worse.

More bad news about milk, both conventional and organic, is that pasteurization and homogenization damage and destroy many nutrients making milk a bad thing to drink.

The folks that are fighting the connection between dairy and acne are, of course, The Dairy Associations, the FDA and the USDA all stating that there is not enough proof to say milk causes acne.  But again they play semantics with our health rather than address the strong evidence that dairy is associated with acne.  

Knowledgeable and well established dermatologists state emphatically that dairy consumption causes acne.  They are not concerned about the "Does dairy cause acne?" question any longer.  They are concerned with the "What is in dairy that causes acne?" question now.  I can give you extensive information from the internet if you want to see this for yourself.

Please let me know.

The information you have already found on the internet connecting dairy and acne is accurate.  If you look at my answers to other questions here at All Experts you will see that I am not a fan of drinking any milk unless it is raw organic milk. (Look for my answer to the question by Ben "Just Wondering..." asked on Jan 24th 2008).

Of course the FDA and the USDA are against anyone drinking raw milk and in many states it is illegal to purchase it.  But there are legal ways around this so you can enjoy the nutrition, taste, and SAFETY of milk.  Unfortunately, even raw milk will have the hormones that can trigger acne.  But maybe you will find that the other contaminants and damaged nutrients were the actual cause of your breakout if you do decide to try the raw milk.

I hope I was able to help you, Alessandra.
Please feel free to ask follow-up questions.
Michael Polidori

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Polidori.
Much appreciated. I have read that the hormones in milk may trigger acne. I will look-up for journal articles on this topic.
For now, I will simply avoid milk for a while and see what happens. I have to try this too b/c I can't stand my stubborn pimples anymore.

I have tried organic milk before, but it's a little more expensive. I had no idea milk can be so bad these days, it's quite unfortunate we don't even know what we drink or what we really eat. As I do not have a cow in my backyard :D, what brand of organic milk would you recomend? I wonder if people who work in the dairy industry and know exactly what's in that milk actually also drink it.
Thanks again.

Hi Alessandra,

I would buy the "name brands" of organic milk such as Stoneyfield or Horizon.  My personal preference for organic dairy products is Organic Valley.
I don't know enough about how organic milk ends up as a "store brand".  There may be a quality issue or it may be excess production of the same milk in the name brands.  Since I don't know I would pay the extra money for the name brands.

I used to be a big fan of milk all the way into my forties, but I was sick all the time.  When I stopped drinking milk I stopped getting sick.  
I did not make a deliberate decision to stop drinking milk, but just slowly got away from it and started drinking Tropicana  Pure Premium juices Immunity Defense and Healthy Kids.  Pasteurized juice has many nutrients destroyed, just like pasteurized milk, but if I can't get a good supply of fresh oranges I will drink the juice.  

Unfortunately I won't drink the Immunity Defense any longer because Tropicana added selenium.  Selenium RDA is measured in micrograms and neurological side effects occur with only 3-4 times the RDA.  It is very easy to overdose on selenium if you take a supplement.  I have written to the FDA and to Tropicana about the problems associated with selenium but so far I have heard nothing from them other than "We will look into it and get back with you..." from Tropicana.

I don't know if people working at a dairy are turned off of drinking milk from their experience.  I will look to see if any information is out there on the internet about that.

Thanks again for your question.  Sorry about having to give you the not-so-good news about milk.

Michael Polidori

Food Science

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Michael Polidori


I can answer questions about food safety issues and benefits vs risks issues related to the growing, environmental effects and health effects of conventional, organic and gene altered food (GE GMO genetically engineered), both plants and animals. I can answer questions related to the cause and treatment of nutritionally related disease (including immune related diseases) and nutritional problems related to healing physiological or nutritional injuries.


I have been studying food growing methods, regulatory rules and organic/conventional/biotechnological methods of producing foods since 1998. I have prepared materials for distribution concerning health safety issues, lack of regulation, environmental dangers and industry sponsored research of genetically engineered plants and animals. I have also created similar materials promoting the benefits of organic agriculture for not only direct health benefits but for dramatic reductions in pollution, indirectly benefitting our health. I have prepared research materials for and participated in Public Television talk and radio shows regarding the issues surrounding genetic engineering and organic foods and debated in college forums with mainstream scientific experts about the safety & regulatory issues of gene altered foods. 2000-2002 I managed booths at major North Carolina events interfacing with the public (including farmers) on organic vs GMO benefits and dangers. I understand regulatory practices, shortcomings & revolving jobs doors of the FDA, USDA and EPA and the industries they regulate. I have been involved in nutrition, health care, prescription drug, vaccine, disease, immune and wellness issues since 1997 reading and writing on the internet and in practical applications with myself, family and friends leading to paths of health, wellness and fitness.

North Carolina Citizens For Safe Food, Public Citizen, Organic Consumers Association, Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Working Group, PSRAST.

No Degree, but some college in the sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Calculus, Astronomy and Physics). I have also taken several courses in Logic and Philosophy. I am involved in extensive research using mainstream websites (many of which I am on mailing lists for) such as - peer-reviewed publications (The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, others), PubMed database of research studies, National Institutes of Health, FDA, USDA, EPA, University Research libraries, hospital databases (John Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, others). I also regulary contact/correspond-with manufacturers/suppliers of food products, pharmaceuticals (including vaccines) and supplements with questions, recommendations, criticisms and complements. Every week, I learn something new!

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