Calcium is a mineral that plays several essential roles in your body, including building strong bones and teeth, helping to regulate muscle function and maintaining healthy blood vessel dilation and contraction. Certain food sources of calcium may make acne worse for some people. However, more research is needed on the link between calcium and acne, so consult a dermatologist for more information.
The Western Diet and Acne
Some of the most common sources of calcium in the Western diet are dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yogurt. One cup of fat-free or skim milk contains 299 mg of calcium, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. The daily recommended amount of this nutrient for adults ages 19 to 50 is 1,000 mg; after 50, you should consume between 1,200 and 1,500 mg of calcium daily, notes Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian and author of “The Complete A-Z Nutrition Encyclopedia." But while calcium-rich dairy foods may be good for your bone health and other functions, they may also aggravate acne due to their hormone-disrupting effects.
Dairy and Acne
Dairy foods increase levels of the hormone insulin, which elevates inflammation that contributes to acne, according to Mark Stengler, a naturopath and co-author of “Prescription for Drug Alternatives.” Your acne can be further aggravated if you get calcium from dairy foods produced by conventionally farmed cattle, which are typically fed hormones. These hormones can trigger increases of the wrong types of hormones in your body and lead to side effects such a increased oil production in your skin, which is one of the primary causes of acne.
If you get your daily dose of calcium primarily from dairy foods and you notice that they make your acne worse, choose more skin-friendly sources of calcium. These include beans, sardines, broccoli, bok choy, kale and Swiss chard. Unlike dairy foods, these calcium-rich choices help to stabilize insulin levels — as they are low in calories and rich in fiber — and thereby keep inflammation under control. Canned sardines and salmon are also good calcium choices and contain anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids.
If you have a medical problem, such as osteoporosis, do not change your dietary sources of calcium without consulting your doctor first. If you’re not getting enough calcium in your diet, your doctor can also recommend a good supplement to take. Also, if you’ve been treating acne unsuccessfully with dietary changes and over-the-counter remedies, such as benzoyl peroxide products, it’s time to book an appointment with a dermatologist. Acne can take a toll on your skin, self esteem and social life — but with the right treatments, it doesn’t have to.
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Calcium
- “Prescription for Drug Alternatives”; Mark Stengler, N.D., et al.; 2008
- “The Complete A-Z Nutrition Encyclopedia”; Leslie Beck, R.D.; 2010
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Milk, Nonfat, Fluid, Without Added Vitamin A and Vitamin D (Fat Free Or Skim)
- University of Wisconsin-Madison: Acne
- Colorado State University: Western Diet Found to Influence Acne...; Jennifer Dimas; December 5, 2002