Is milk giving you acne?

Thursday, 17 July 2014 - 5:11pm IST

Some studies say that milk can cause acne because of hormones present in it. Experts give their take.

Do you always get bogged due to your acne problem? Some of you must have tried a plethora of creams and medications and still not found relief, and wonder what on earth could probably be giving you that unsightly acne. Little do you know that the culprit could be camouflaging in your diet. We’re talking about milk.

Case in point
Megha Shukla (name changed), 20, had very oily skin and suffered from a grade III acne vulgarism. She tried various medications but her condition wasn’t responding to them. In her history, she had a particular habit of having three glasses of milk and a lot of cheese everyday. After counselling, she was advised to cut down her milk consumption to one glass a day and in conjunction with other medications, she responded very well in three months and had acne clear skin, recounts laser physician and cosmetologist, Dr Amit Karkhanis, Dr Tvacha Laser Clinic.
Nishi Mehta (name changed), 27, suffered from pustular acne. After cutting down her consumption of milk, cheese, yoghurt and ice cream her acne subsided rapidly. She was also treated with topical Benzoyl Peroxide 5 per cent and Retinoic acid 0.025 per cent at night, recounts cosmetologist Dr Satish Bhatia, who has encountered many patients who consume dairy products with severe acne.
What studies say...
Studies which found a link between milk and acne conducted their research on teenagers. NaturalNews, a health website reported about a study that found those who drank two or three glasses of milk a day had 44% higher chance of developing severe acne. A study by Dr William F Danby, Adjunct Assistant Professor Dermatology at Dartmouth Medical School, US, explores the link between the two. Here’s what he had to say: Milk raises insulin levels and insulin-like growth hormone-1 (IGF-1) levels. These two polypeptide hormones work together to open the male hormone receptors — also known as androgen receptors — that turn on acne. (And this happens in both males and females) The milk also contains several male steroidal hormones that go directly to those open receptors... So it’s nature’s perfect food for making acne.”
Expert speak
Milk and dairy products may cause acne in particular individuals. Though there are studies to support both views, diet and acne is very individualistic. “All people respond differently to their food habits. Milk has been shown in studies to increase sebum production on the face. There was a large study in 2005, which showed a 8% chance of an outbreak in acne and milk. However, the benefits of milk specially the bones and weight control also has to be considered. Probably, moderating milk and dairy products in people having serve outbreaks and a particularly over oily skin would be a good idea,” informs Dr Karkhanis.
Milk causes acne because of the hormone IGF-1, which causes a sebum spike which is a breeding ground for P. acnes bacteria in human skin causing acne. Dairy products glues together dead skin cells which leads to black heads or comedones. This is well-documented in literature, opines Dr Bhatia.
On the other hand, aesthetic physician and anti-ageing expert Dr Jamuna Pai whose practice spans over 20 years, where more than 50% of her clientele suffered from acne-related problems, hasn’t had any case where a client has reported about acne being aggravated due to milk consumption. “I will not say that milk and dairy products are directly linked to acne and acne related problems in an individual. There are many reasons, most important being heredity and hormonal imbalance. Yes, there are factors like hygiene, stress, etc, which can lead to a flare up of the existing breakout. In these factors, I would say that milk and dairy products when consumed in excess can at times lead to aggravation of acne breakout but may not solely be responsible for it,” she says.
What should you do?
“If the cause of acne has really been traced down to milk or any other dairy product consumption, as can happen in case of lactose intolerance or any allergies to milk products, I would advise to completely go off that product for a period of at least two to three months. During this time, the client has to keep a close watch on the progress of acne. If it is noticed that the severity of acne has reduced by going off milk and milk products, I would ask him/her to gradually try skimmed milk. If there is no aggravation in the condition, then they can make a switch from whole milk to skimmed milk,” advises Dr Pai.
Dr Bhatia recommends totally cutting off dairy products and soy milk. Raw milk and organic milk are more easily digestible than pasteurised/homogenised dairy. The best products would be unsweetened organic almond or coconut milk.

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