I didn’t experience regular acne breakouts until my early twenties. I got lucky in high school only having an occasional pimple now and then, but once college hit, so did the zits.
During the summer of this year, I felt like my skin was at an all-time low. I attributed this to several plausible reasons: maskne, stress, and most of all… my diet. During the latter half of 2020, my diet was a free for all with nightly bowls of ice cream or cereal with milk being a regular occurrence. Specifically, my dairy intake had increased significantly as I consumed my favorite comfort foods more frequently.
The link between dairy and acne has been talked about extensively, with webmd.com listing milk as one of the worst foods for acne. Particularly, the hormones found in milk are what can trigger breakouts most noticeably around the jawline, chin and cheeks (check out my before photo above… 🤔) according to the Curology blog. After a particularly stubborn cystic acne breakout appeared in late July, I decided to finally do the thing I had never tried for my acne: cut out dairy. I wanted to give the experiment 30 days to really give my skin a chance to show results.
Watch my video documenting my dairy-free acne experiment to see the change week by week at the top of this page.
The first week was hard, since dairy was such a staple in my diet. I had a few slip-ups like using milk in a sauce recipe, and forgetting potato salad is made with mayo. But by week two, I felt like I got the hang of it and actually found dairy swaps that I enjoyed. For example, even though I’d been an almond milk fan for years, I picked up my first carton of oat milk and became obsessed. It has a taste super close to skim milk— slightly sweet, and the texture is just about the same. Great for drinking plain to compliment Oreos (vegan and diary free!) or in a bowl of cereal. I also started making my own ice-cream like snack using just bananas! Check out how I do it on my Tik Tok below.
After just one week of going dairy free, I already started to see improvement. The inflammation of my worst breakout had gone down noticeably, and by week two they were completely flat with only hyperpigmentation (dark spots) left behind.
During week three, I was expecting my period and thus… period acne. However, it was night and day from what I typically expect around my time of month. Usually, I would get several breakouts right before my period and they wouldn’t begin to heal until after my cycle. This time, I was surprised to only get two small spots that healed up within a few days of them appearing!
Skin Care Products for Acne I’m Currently Using
Throughout the experiment, the biggest difference I saw was the amount of new acne I was getting on a weekly basis (so much less than what I had started to consider “normal”) and the rate in which it was clearing up. Instead of breakouts with multiple pimples in an area, new acne would be limited to maybe one or two small spots at a time that would disappear much more quickly than I was used to. At one point during this test, I went a full week without any new acne, which was mind blowing to me!
At the end of this experiment, I’d say my acne was reduced by about 85%. I think avoiding dairy both greatly reduced stubborn breakouts from popping up in the first place, and helped increase the speed of healing for current pimples. Overall, my skin is so much more manageable now. I have a much clearer baseline skin condition now. For example, it was normal for me to always have some type of problem area present before I cut out dairy. Now, I expect maybe one to two small whiteheads or closed comedones max before I start looking into a rogue makeup or skin care product.
The million dollar question: since going dairy free helped my acne, will I stay dairy free? I’m not one to stick to restrictive diets, however this one is worth it for me to adopt long term. While I may not be completely dairy free all the time, I am going to try to keep my dairy consumption as low as possible with easy swaps, indulging occasionally on the real deal.