My skin hates dairy!

Cheese and acne

My skin hates dairy!

So I love love love dairy especially cheese even the smelly foot blue cheese, but it makes me breakout big time! So this week I may have had a cheese binge, which lead me to eat more cheese and crave even more. Even now while writing this all I can think of is cheesy enchiladas and gluten free cheesy pizza! Lets face it cheese is delicious, but it isn’t exactly the best choice for me. Not only do I find my tummy feeling heavy, my skin is greasier and my sinus gets congested.


So is there a link between dairy and acne?

Unfortunately many of us have been told what we eat doesn’t influence our skin health. However this in fact has been based upon very outdated clinical trials (in the 1960’s) which suggested no link between chocolate and acne in males! In fact the most recent trial I could find only had 14 men participate who were given cocao and not sugary dairy filled chocolate (3)!


In a 2009, systematic review of 21 observation studies and six clinical trials found clear links between dairy and acne. One large randomised prospective controlled trial found that people who had higher sugar intake and high glycaemic load diet (more bread, rice, cereal, pasta, sugar and flour of all kind including wholemeal) in fact has significantly more acne than those who ate a more whole food diet.


Along side this the famous Nurse’s Health Study examining health habits of 47,000 nurses found that those who drank more milk as teenagers had much higher rates of severe acne than those who had little or no milk as teenagers. If you think it is the fat in milk, think again. It was actually the skim milk that had the strongest risk for acne. In a similar study of over 10,000 boys and girls from 9 to 15 years old, there was a direct link between the amount of milk consumed and the severity of acne (2). 


For me the evidence is clear in my face, unfortunately! Including this big red dot on the middle of my nose right now, and some juicy ones on my cheeks.


The Chinese Medicine view point 

From the Chinese Medicine view point foods that are damp or heat causing can either cause of flair up breakouts and acne. Dairy is considered a damp causing because it is difficult for many to digest especially in the large quantities some consume it. For example those with lower levels of lactase found in many Australians find themselves consuming dairy at almost every meal quite easily; breakfast could be a coffee with milk or cereal, lunch may be sandwich or warp with cheese and dinner may be a risotto or pasta dish, then and added treat of dairy containing chocolate or ice cream.


So when we eat too much dairy but not digest it well it manifests in the body via sinus congestion, phlegmy cough, loose bowels, and even breakouts! Although many sources suggest that milk not cheese can cause breakouts and acne, I personally find its cheese that tends to be worse for me.


So if I avoid dairy, what about calcium?

Everyone asks this question. There are many non-dairy sources of calcium. If you are avoiding dairy you need to actively include other calcium sources in your diet. Of particular note are sesame seeds (including tahini), fish with soft bones (salmon and sardines), tofu, nuts and green leafy vegetables. Many lactose intolerant are faced with similar problems. You can also consider a calcium supplement as needed.


Removing dairy from your diet is not the end of the world. If you feel better for it, then it may very well be the start you exploring new foods. And it may not be forever either.


Chinese Medicine skin tips

  • Follow a diet full of vegetables and whole foods, with minimal dairy products
  • If you have digestive complaints consider probiotics and digestive enzymes
  • Stick to natural skin care, simple is best. Its easy to try adding 1000 different products to fix your problem skin but most of the time you are being sold a promise and not a result.
  • Consult a professional if symptoms don’t stop



  1. Dr. Mark Hyman (Posted: 02/12/2011 12:10 pm EST Updated: 05/25/2011 6:30 pm EDT); Acne: Are milk and sugar the causes?;
  3. Caroline Chaperton et al (2014); Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Assessing the Effect of Chocolate Consumption in Subjects with a History of Acne Vulgaris;


About the author

Lauren LanzoniLauren Surridge is the Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist and owner of Balanced Life Health Care. Lauren has a bachelor of Chinese Medicine and specialises in Women’s health, gynaecology and infertility. She has a passion in educating women in the basic lifestyle changes that they can make at home to improve their health, hormonal balance and fertility. To find out more about Lauren click here  and to make an appointment to see Lauren at her clinic in Ferntree Gully click here