This is a guest post from thee lovely Katie of Sleep Health Energy!
You know that feeling of triumph when you finally figure something out?
Comprehension suddenly dawns, and you wonder how it took you so long to put two and two together.
That was the case with me and my skin. I suddenly realized that the key to keeping my complexion spot free was cutting out the dairy from my diet.
I was a long-standing vegetarian, and I have to admit I wasn’t very good at looking after my health and making sure I was eating a balanced diet.
In my (incredibly under-researched) opinion, all I needed was to eat plenty of cheese and eggs every day to get all the protein that I was missing out on thanks to my meat-free diet.
You see, that belief gave me a free pass to eat as much cheese as I liked at every meal.
That meant that my meals were incredibly dull and unvarying, as I relied on the cheese for the flavor and didn’t bother experimenting with spices.
But also, my skin was constantly flaring up, and I just couldn’t figure out why.
Now, I have to admit that I, in general, have been very lucky with my skin.
I never had a face covered in acne even at the height of my moody-teenager years. But I would always have a few big spots on my face that were very noticeable and hard to cover up.
It didn’t matter how well I cleansed my face and or how many remedies I tried.
Oh, the different products I tried and the water I drank… it didn’t matter, they’d keep popping up, and I just couldn’t figure out why!
When traveling in South America, the lack of vegetarian options available meant that I relied extremely heavily on cheese, even more so than I usually would.
After one particularly pizza-filled week, I had such a large spot on my cheek that my face was so swollen it looked like I’d been punched.
That’s when I began to put two and two together. But it wasn’t until a good few months later, back on home turf, that ethical concerns drove me to give veganism a try.
The results were pretty instant.
I didn’t drink much milk anyway, so switching to plant-based alternatives for my cereal didn’t make much of a difference. But taking all of that cheese out of my meals meant that my skin suddenly cleared up amazingly.
The Science Behind It
I was pretty sure that I had cracked the reason behind my breakouts, but I wasn’t quite sure whether it was just me.
But once I started looking into the relationship between dairy and acne, I realized that a lot of people have the same problem.
Turns out, there’s been plenty of research done in recent years that backs up the idea that there is a link between acne and dairy consumption.
It’s down to the fact that acne is all about inflammation.
Acne breakouts, as you probably well know, happen when oil gets trapped in your pores and they become clogged, allowing bacteria to grow.
The body then responds with inflammation, which is why you get raised bumps on your skin.
And Cow’s Dairy is Certainly Inflammatory
Cow’s milk is an inflammatory substance too. That’s thanks to the concentration of a hormone called IGF-1 in milk. I does calves who have a lot of growing to do a lot of good, but isn’t such good news for your skin.
The combination of the hormones in the milk and the testosterone inside you means your body produces more sebum. This clogs up your pores, and inflammation is made worse.
What’s more, dairy can also mean that dead skin cells clog together inside your pores more than they normally would, making the problem worse.
Dairy can also be hard to digest for a lot of the population, causing problems in our guts. As our gut controls 70% of the immune system, when it’s unhappy acne can be a symptom.
Although the reasons have yet to be fully established, some people think that whey and casein, proteins found in milk, can exacerbate the problem.
However, there’s often extra of these added to skim milk so it keeps its creaminess. So whole milk might be a better bet if you can’t bear the thought of switching to a plant-based alternative.
Will It Work For Me?
There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment when it comes to skin. Just because going dairy-free has made such a big difference for me, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be the key for you.
If you’ve noticed that you tend to break out after a bit of a cheese or ice cream binge, it’s a good idea to try cutting out dairy for a while and see if there’s any difference. It can take up to a month to see the effects.
If you can’t quite face giving it all up at once, start with something easy, like swapping out your milk.
Be a little careful here, as some milk substitutes are full of sugar, which can cause acne too. Always get the unsweetened versions.
Then try cutting out all kinds of dairy down the line if there’s no improvement.
After you’ve avoided it for a month, introduce it again. Stick to high-quality dairy products, preferably organic and grass fed.
Don’t throw milk, yogurt, butter, and cheese at your skin all at once, try one every couple of days and keep a close eye on your skin to see what happens.
You might be lucky and find that dairy was the root of your problem all along. But the majority of people will see some improvement, even if there is some other diet or lifestyle factor that means that their acne still hangs on.
Good luck with your skin care journey!
Katie is a natural living expert who spends most of her time writing for Sleep Health Energy. It’s a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about enjoying top-to-toe health and getting a restful night’s sleep, which will leave you bursting with energy.
When she’s not writing, you can find her experimenting with plant-based recipes in the kitchen, trail running, exploring the world on a vegan diet, or reading a good book. Follow along on Twitter.