Although the exact cause of acne is not clear, pimples are the result of a buildup of bacteria, the overproduction of sebum by the sebaceous glands and the accumulation of dead skin cells, which all contribute to irritating the hair follicles of your skin. Good facial hygiene, avoiding touching your face, smoking cessation and other behavior modifications can help, but you should also consider making a few tweaks to your diet to significantly improve the appearance and health of your skin.
Relationship Between Dairy and Acne
The consumption of milk and other fermented dairy products leads to some hormonal imbalances that can stimulate the overproduction of oil by the sebaceous glands which can result in the worsening of your acne lesions, according to a review published in December 2002 in "Experimental Dermatology." Correlations between milk intake and acne have been established, at least in the adolescent population. Skim milk, cottage cheese, instant breakfast drinks and cream cheese are also associated with acne, according to the February 2005 issue of the "Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology."
Dairy products elicit the release of large amounts of insulin. Insulin is usually released after eating carbohydrate-containing foods, but the amount of insulin secreted after consuming dairy products is disproportionally large and cannot be explained by their carbohydrate content. Other factors in dairy, probably contained in the protein faction, are thought to be responsible for its insulinotropic potential. This hyperinsulinemia, or high levels of insulin, associated with dairy is also accompanied by high levels of insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1. These two hormones are involved in stimulating the production of oil and sebum, which ultimately increase your likelihood of suffering from acne.
Trying a Dairy-Free Diet
Although more research still needs to be conducted to clearly identify the link between foods and acne, it may be a good idea to do some experimentation with your diet to see whether it could benefit your skin appearance. A dairy-free diet, for a period of at least one to two months, will allow you to see if eliminating dairy help you resolve your acne problems. Taking a "before" and "after" photo is an objective way to evaluate the success of your dairy-free diet. If you see significant improvements during that period, it may be best to stick to a dairy-free diet for a longer period to keep your skin healthy and prevent pimples.
Duration of the Dairy-Free Diet
You can try reintroducing some dairy products, one by one, to your diet to see how it impacts your acne. For example, you can try adding yogurt to your diet for one week and notice if you have any zits popping out during that period. During subsequent weeks, you can play around with your diet and see whether milk, cheese or butter, reintroduced one at a time, appear to be problematic foods in the etiology of your acne. Once you have established which dairy products are responsible for your acne, you can simply avoid these foods. If you find that it is best for you to avoid all dairy, make sure you get your calcium from nondairy sources, like dark green vegetables, almonds and canned salmon with bones, or talk to your doctor for recommendations for supplementation.