In almost any acne blog or forum you will find a lot of advice on dairy and acne. Most of it will suggest that cutting dairy from your diet will reduce acne. For some people this is true. But, if you dig a little deeper, you will find a whole group of people who cut dairy but their acne didn’t disappear. Why is this?
The answer is that not all dairy is scary and not all healthy alternatives are healthy.
But before we delve to deep, a little science..
Acne is an inflammatory condition and any factor which increases your body’s inflammatory response is likely to cause your acne to flare.
The American Journal of Dermatology has stated that cows milk contains, on average, 60 different hormones which are present in all types of cow dairy including male sex hormones such as testosterone and IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor). IGF-1 in the body is known to be a cause of inflammation and, as a double kick, is also known to increases the production of sebum in your skin, the oily substance that clogs your pores. Unsurprisingly it is a key part of the acne-chain formation process.
When we consume dairy, these naturally occurring hormones do not just ‘pass through’ but instead biologically effects us. In fact, IGF-1 may be either absorbed from milk, or stimulated by its ingestion, or both.
To add insult to injury, not only do dairy product contain acne causing hormones, they can also cause a spike in your insulin levels too which can also result in more acne formation.
To further add to our milk-misery, dairy is actually a triple-whammy of bad as dairy from cows also contains a protein called ‘A1 beta-casein’ which forms a powerful inflammatory opiate called casomorphin in the body.
The combined effect of all of this? the more milk you drink, the worse acne you’ll get. In fact, the link between the consumption of milk and increased occurrence of acne is well documented in scientific studies.      
Ok, so why does stopping dairy not work for everyone?
Well, dairy is sneaky and is in more foods than you might realise. Milk and modified milk ingredients are frequently added to fortify our foods with protein and calcium, enhance flavours or lengthen shelf-life. Dairy can be a master of disguise, names on product labels can be deceiving, and many foods that are sold as whole foods may actually contain milk. Fish fingers (milk powder in the coating), Nutella (whey powder) and even Ragu Original Pasta Sauce (Romano cheese) all contain dairy.
But let’s assume that you dear reader, are keen to cut back on dairy, study every ingredient to avoid it, have also cut out sugar and gluten but your acne still persists, then what?
Well the answer is any factor which increases your body’s inflammatory response is likely to cause your acne to flare. Controlling inflammation is one of the key things we need to do in order to fight acne and so it’s time to crack down on the foods that could be causing inflammation within the body.
If you’re reading this in the UK, Europe or in the US then chances are that your diet is high in inflammatory Omega-6 which is hidden in many of our ‘western’ foods. Anything fried in a vegetable oil (sunflower/rape/canola/corn/safflower/soybean/cottonseed) is a big no-no when it comes to skin as it will likely contain a high percentage of inflammatory Omega-6.
Omega-6 didn’t really exist in our diets until 100 years ago and our bodies are not designed to handle it in large amounts. Soybean oil is currently the biggest source of Omega-6 fatty acids in the USA – consumption has risen from zero to 11 kilograms per person per year. That’s a lot of Omega-6 that we didn’t used to consume.
One of the best ways to lower the influence of Omega-6 in our diet is to get the right balance of Omega-3. The ideal ‘caveman’ ratio is between 1:1 and 5:1, but studies have shown that our modern diets (lacking anti-inflammatory Omega-3 and with too much inflammatory Omega-6) require a ratio of between 15:1 to 16:1 
So no milk, no fried, what can I eat?
There are quite a few Omega-3 superfoods – Mackerel (4107 mg per serving), Salmon (4023 mg per serving) and Herring (3181 mg per serving) are highly nutritious and much higher than supplemented Cod Liver Oil (2664 mg per serving) but the real (and far less fishy) superfood is Chia Seeds (4915 mg per serving). If fish isn’t your thing eggs, meats from grass-fed animals, hemp seeds, flax seed oil, walnuts as well as some vegetables like spinach, Brussel’s sprouts and purslane contain high levels of Omega-3. If you don’t like any of the above, then consider taking a supplement. It is both cheap and effective.
Dairy might still be on the menu
Yes, ‘real’ dairy could still be on the menu even with acne – but the right type of dairy, and only after you give your immune system time to reestablish itself. By real, I mean actual milk from a cow and not hemp milk, rice milk, almond milk or any of the other milk alternatives. Some of these are all good alternative choices (hemp milk is relatively high in Omega 3) but they do have their limitations, especially when added to hot beverages and food. Also some alternative milks contain vegetable oils and added sugar which are counterproductive for getting your hormones and acne back on track. Soy milk is particularly high in Omega-6 and reported to aggravate acne.
To recap, milk contains beta-casein. There are two types of beta-casein: A1 and A2, both found in cow’s milk produced by European breeds of cow, including the black-and-white cows (Holstein Friesian) which produce most of Europe’s dairy. Some cows produce the A1 protein, and others the A2 protein. They are all very normal cows, not even a farmer could tell them apart without a genetic test. But scientists have discovered that the natural milk they both produce can have very different effects on people.
While some dairy can be highly inflammatory (A1 casein should be avoided by anyone who suffers from acne or any sort of hormonal issues such as endometriosis, PCOS and even just chronic PMS) the other type of dairy (containing A2 protein or predominantly fats) can actually be beneficial for our skin as it contains vital fat soluble vitamins and plenty of healthy fat. In the UK you can pick A2 milk up in your local supermarkets or, if you live outside the UK, you can easily find where to buy it online.
If dairy has influenced your acne in the past, and you want to drink milk again, I would recommend only introducing a very small amount of A2 Milk into your diet and then only after at least six weeks of ‘no dairy’ to give your immune system time to re-balance itself. Try a tiny amount (say a teaspoon) and if that feels okay and the usual symptoms you experience with cows’ milk don’t re-appear then introduce two teaspoons after a couple of days and so on. A2 milk still contains IGF-1 hormones (there’s no such thing as ‘hormone-free’ milk) and still will spike insulin levels so you may find if your acne is more than just ‘mild’ that it continues to cause breakouts, although perhaps not as severe.
Lactose-free milk is not the same thing at all and will cause you just as many problems as ‘normal’ A1 milk as lactose is not linked to acne (lactose-free milk is just regular milk with an enzyme called lactase added to pre-digest the lactose for people with lactose intolerance). Likewise, Organic milk is normal milk containing the same ‘natural’ cow produced hormones and will still cause acne issues in the same way as regular milk.
But what about the butter?
It goes without saying that spreadable butter made from vegetable oils (sunflower/olive etc) is a total no-no when it comes to acne. Sunflower oil spread contains about 3x as much Omega-6 as Omega-3 while Olive oil spread contains over 4.5x as much.
Butter is an exception though (as the blog title suggests) – in fact butter and ghee. Some (very good) nutritional blogs  suggest butter and ghee can be from ‘normal’ A1 cows as it’s predominantly fat and very little protein. Butter can be melted as an alternative to vegetable oils and also contains about 225iu of vitamin A (retinol) per tablespoon which has been clinically shown to reduce acne severity. Some bloggers have reported humble butter as a ‘superfood’ for acne and with good scientific reason; after all your body needs more than just blended vegetables at breakfast to balance your hormones and clear your skin.
However, your mileage may vary – this may work well for some people and for others it may be a total non-starter – but if it doesn’t work well for you, you could give making your own A2 butter a go.
About 28 Day Skin
28 Day Skin Therapy approaches the whole acne forming process to resolve acne. Using a combination of blue/red photo-therapeutic technology to eliminate acne causing bacteria, innovative sebum controlling topical skin care and nutritional supplements to help balance acne forming hormones, 28 Day Skin alleviates the suffering and eliminate the root causes of acne.
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 Milk & Acne – the best milk for acne
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