Why Does Eating Dairy Cause Cystic Acne?

Updated 9/7/14. Why does eating dairy cause acne cysts?

Your skin acts as an excretory system to get rid of substances that don’t agree with your body. For example, if someone is allergic to shellfish, they will break out in hives all over the body. The hives is the symptom of your body trying to rid itself of this allergen.

In the case of dairy, it is mucous forming and can be difficult for the body digest—which is why many people are lactose intolerant. So when you get too much dairy for your body to digest, it can come out in the form of cystic acne (hard, painful bumps under the skin) on the chin and jaw line area.

Why the chin and jaw line area? Since most dairy cows are given growth hormones, the consumption of milk, cheese and yogurt become factors that influence endogenous hormones and mimic the hormones that trigger oil production in the skin to ignite the acne process.

The body may use the chin and jawline area to remove these excess hormones. There are a greater number of sebaceous glands in the face and since hormones are fat soluble, the body will use these glands as an avenue of excretion for fat-based hormones.

For cystic acne, you really only have three options available…

1. Get a cortisone shot injected into the cyst by a dermatologist. It definitely works, but you run the risk of a possible skin indentation. Read more about cortisone injections.

2. Dab on Renée Rouleau Anti-Cyst Treatment immediately when the cyst forms and it will dramatically reduce the infection and cut the healing time at least in half. Trust us, it’s truly a miraculous product to treat cystic blemishes.

3. Try cutting out your dairy and see if that improves the condition.

In my 25+ years of being a celebrity esthetician and skin care expert and working with clients hands-on, I have cured many, many of my clients cystic acne simply by suggesting they reduce or cut out their dairy intake. I recommend cutting it out for at least three weeks to see if dairy may be the underlying cause.

Read: How to Get Rid of a Blemish Fast

Read: How to Determine Your True Skin Type

Read: Dermatologist Vs. Esthetician: Who Has the Best Approach for Treating Acne?

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take our Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

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Comments:

  1. this is SO worth a shot, dairy caused me terrible acne for years and when i finally eliminated it along with fats.. flawless skin again! thank u for sharing the truth about this condition.

    Posted By: kelsey  | 

    Reply
  2. I suffer from this as well. I always see cysts pop up on my chin after I eat a lot of dairy products or have hormonal fluctuations due to changes in my birth control. I am going to have to get some of that Anti-Cyst Treatment!

    Posted By: Emily  | 

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  3. Would calcium pills also cause cysts to skin?

    Posted By: helen  | 

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  4. Dairy products or foods with high saturated fats does aggravate acne especially women like me who are hormonally challenged. I tested it by reducing my intake of these foods and skin began to clear within 7 days. I also suggest that you try buying only organic lactose free 2% or Fat Free milk. Its easier to digest. Havent tried Anti-Cyst treatment yet. I came across this page while reviewing it.

    Posted By: Teri  | 

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  5. Renée Rouleau

    Great info, Teri! Thanks for sharing!

    Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

    Reply
  6. Renée Rouleau

    Hi Helen,

    No, calcium in a pill form should be fine.

    Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

    Reply
  7. I am a 46 yr male that has suffered from mild/moderate acne since my teens. For the past 30 yrs, I drank a gallon of 2% milk a week. Little did I know this was the culprit. Nine months ago, I eliminted milk from my diet completely, and replaced it with either Soy Milk or Almond Milk (depending on which was on sale), and my breakouts are 99% gone. If only I had known. GRRRRRR. I should also point out that I had tremendous success with Tetracycline in clearing up my skin, but really didnt like taking antibiotics long term.

    Posted By: Neal  | 

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  8. Does anyone know if organic, hormone-free milk also causes cystic acne?

    Posted By: Julie M.  | 

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  9. Renée Rouleau

    It could Julie, so you have to experiment.

    Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

    Reply
  10. I’d like to know what causes cystic acne on the cheeks?
    That’s my problem area and they always leave a dented scar :(
    I’m 31 know and this cystic acne came out of no where when was I was 29. Always had pretty clear skin before that.
    Can’t wait to try this anti cyst treatment!

    Posted By: Izzy  | 

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  11. Renée Rouleau

    Not sure why cystic acne forms on the cheeks, we only know about why it forms on the chin area.

    Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

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  12. After almost twenty years of cystic acne on my chin, I found that cutting out all dairy took it away completly. It took about three weeks for the dairy to get out of my system but my skin finally is healthy. I find it frustrating that I asked dermotologist after dermotologist and allergist and medical doctors about this being a food sensitivity or allergy and they all said, “No.” How can so many people in the medical industery be so ignorant? Will try this product to see if I can cheat and have some dairy.

    Posted By: kathryn  | 

    Reply
  13. Renée Rouleau

    Doctors spend a lot of their training on medications to solve problems but not always look at other alternatives. I’m so happy that you have found this to be helpful for your skin! -Renee

    Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

    Reply
  14. I am a physician assistant in dermatology. Having suffered from cystic acne through my twenties and now seeing hundreds of female patients with the same problem, I have an invested interest in finding better answers to the question WHY???? It’s clear there is a hormonal component. I have speculated myself and heard similar theories about hormones and steroids that are in foods these days being the culprit. The distribution on the chin, jawline and neck is interesting to me and this explanation is one that conventional medicine tends to overlook or neglets to investigate more. I am going to start and make it more of a point to mention this theory to my patients in addition to the medications I prescribe, have them experiment, and note positive feedback.

    Posted By: adpackham  | 

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  15. Izzy,
    I’m right there with you- I’ve suffered from cystic acne on my cheeks. Started when I was 18 and I still have trouble at 22. There are times of big trouble and times of clear skin- and by clear skin, I mean acne scars. But what I’ve found through trial and error and a few different dermatologists is that hormones can cause cystic acne on the cheeks and that seems to be the answer for me. Two years ago I was going to start Accutane. I started taking the pill a month before Accutane (part of the procedure), and saw that the pill cleared my face substantially and Accutane was put on hold. Since then, I’ve had a few flare ups and some clear times- but I’m happy with Spirnolactone, a hormone pill I’m taking now. If you haven’t looked into it, you should ask your doctor… it might help!

    Posted By: Tamar  | 

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  16. Hi,

    Does anyone know if dairy also includes eggs? I’m assuming cheese is also a culprit. I’m in my early 40s and still suffering! Time for the acne to go away before I get wrinkles. :-)

    Posted By: Karen Williamson  | 

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  17. Renée Rouleau

    No, eggs aren’t considered dairy. Try cutting back cheese, milk, sour cream, yogurt and ice cream.

    Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

    Reply
  18. I just purchased my second Anti-Cyst Treatment. I also posted a month ago about reducing my dairy to almost nothing. I still get bumps but they seem to heal quicker and not get quite as large. They are on my chin and I now have one between my eyebrows. My question: I feel like I can’t eat ANYTHING. Every pasta, snack food, salad dressing, ect has whey or some type of milk in it. Is this type of dairy product off limits for a clearer face. Milk is in everything! Thank you again,

    Lisa

    Posted By: Lisa  | 

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    • Renée Rouleau

      Hi Lisa!
      Great question. It’s important to really try to determine if dairy is the cause of the breakouts. So since you have cut it out, has your skin improved? If so, then it’s certainly a sign that dairy doesn’t agree with your skin. If you have not seen any improvement at all, then it’s more than likely a hormone issue and you can introduce dairy back into your diet. If you have seen improvement with your skin since cutting out dairy, then it means that you are sensitive to it but then it’s up to you to experiment to see HOW much your body is willing to take. So for example, some clients can eat SOME dairy but when they get a lot, their skin reacts whereas some clients can eat very little. Hope that makes sense. Bottom line, you need to experiment to see how much dairy your body can take. We generally find that cheese, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream and milk are the main culprits, as opposed to salad dressing… -Renee

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

      Reply
  19. Hi, I suffered with cystic acne on my cheeks for 10 years!! I saw numerous doctors, tried anti-biotics, and the contraceptive pill..this helped a little, but didn’t eradicate the cysts completely..When one popped up it would stay there for 4 weeks, and when one went another would pop up on the other cheek…despite me leaving the alone they left scars. I got really fed up of them, I decided to try cutting out dairy, pretty much immediately my skin cleared up, no more cysts! I had some ice cream a few months ago and within 1 hour a cyst was coming up on my jawline! I will never eat dairy products again and wish I had found out years ago, could have saved myself a lot of scarring…why did no doctor suggest this?! I want to spread the word, people with cystic acne should try cutting out dairy before going on something like Accutane. So, just because the cysts are on your cheeks, not your chin/jawline, do not rule out dairy.
    There are so many other calcium rich foods; soya, broccoli, nuts, eggs, beans, sardines. I think humans are actually the only mammals to drink milk after the age of 9 months..

    Posted By: Layla  | 

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  20. Do you have any other diet recommendations for skin improvement? I am 36 and tend to get hormonal flair ups. Mainly chin and jaw line, with cystic acne once a month. Cutting out dairy and increasing water intake have been listed. Any other recommendations? I just ordered the cystic acne treatment! Looking forward to battling these bumps!

    Posted By: theresa  | 

    Reply
    • Renée Rouleau

      Your best bet it to try cutting back on your dairy and using the Anti-Cyst Treatment both when you get cysts and used a few times a week on areas prone to getting them as a prevention measure.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

      Reply
  21. I wasn’t drinking milk for a week or two and I didn’t get any cystic acne at all. I was drinking Oat milk to get my calcium though. However, I didn’t know how much avoiding dairy was helping my skin until recently when I’ve been drinking milk again, two cystic spots on my chin :(
    Okay, I can definitely go without milk.

    Posted By: Rachel  | 

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  22. Should I store anit-cyst treatment in the fridge to make the potency last?

    Posted By: Lynne  | 

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    • Renée Rouleau

      No, it’s not necessary to store in the fridge at all.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

      Reply
  23. Hi! I have cut out dairy due to cystic acne and it has stopped 100%! My question is regarding Kefir. Do you think dairy Kefir that is lactose free is ok? I cant do yogurt because of the acne but I want the probiotics. Kefir is full of probiotics and lactose free. I know the hormones and sugar are what contribute to the cystic acne. Any thoughts on if Kefir will cause the cystic acne? Its supposed to be so good for you! Thanks!

    Posted By: Rhonda  | 

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    • Renée Rouleau

      Hi Rhonda, I’m so glad to hear that your cystic acne has cleared up, that is great news! As for Kefir, it’s hard to say. I suggest that you introduce it to your system very, very slowly and just see how it goes.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

      Reply
  24. I am a mature woman in my 60s and have suffered with cystic acne most of my life. I am we’ll past menopause with full surgical hysterectomy. The cysts occur on my check and chin. The ones on my chin seem to be associated with white course chin hairs which lie under the skin and grow sideways. Hard to remove the chin hairs and suggestions.? Thank you.

    Posted By: Dara  | 

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    • Renée Rouleau

      Hello Dara,
      Your best bet for dealing with what is ingrown hairs on your chin is not to tweeze or pull the hair out, but rather TRIM the hair. I’m making an assumption that you tweeze them out when they come to the surface. This will help reduce the cysts you get. Read more about it here. http://blog.reneerouleau.com/2009/11/is-that-a-blemish-on-your-chin-an-ingrown-hair/ But the Anti-Cyst Treatment is your best bet to heal those once they occur. Hope this helps. -Renee

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

      Reply
  25. Hi, I’m a 27 year old female who began experiencing cystic acne upon turning 20. It would usually appear around my period and linger for months at a time. Birth Control helped… but it wasn’t practical to stay on it forever. I stumbled across this site and ordered the product immediately. I have noticed a drastic decrease in the cystic acne and though at present i have a huge one on my cheek, i believe its because i cheated this month and consumed way too much dairy. I’m about to order my 2nd bottle… the first one lasted really long as well.

    Posted By: Tamara  | 

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    • Renée Rouleau

      I’m so glad to hear that the Anti Cyst Treatment is working so well for you, Tamara!

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

      Reply
  26. Hi Renée!

    Thank you for this enlightening post. I’ve cut out dairy from my diet on and off my entire life, but consistently for the past 3 years with the exception of occasional butter, chocolate, and traces of dairy in some food. Recently I switched from a calcium supplement that was vegan to one that I am not sure of the origins (Quest brand). I have struggled with hormone imbalance as well since I went off birth control a few years ago, and since being back on it, have been much more balanced. I am 24, and recently noticed that my acne has been worse again, primarily along my jaw line (slightly above and slight below) and around my chin. They are painful and quite unsightly. Could what I’m describing be a result of dairy or other intolerance somewhere in my diet?

    I greatly appreciate your time and insight!

    Posted By: Brittin  | 

    Reply
    • Renée Rouleau

      It’s so hard to say why one gets breakouts around the chin but it sounds to me as it is more hormonal, especially if you’re not getting much dairy in your diet. The chin area can certainly be hormonal. You might want to get your hormones checked and see what is going on there. In the meantime, get our Anti Cyst Treatment as that will help treat those, and prevent new ones to when used a few times a week in areas prone to breakouts. Hope this helps! -Renee

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

      Reply
  27. I all of a sudden started getting cyst like acne on my jaw line! This lasted for two years until my dad read an article about lactose in milk causing acne. So I cut out all lactose, (only buying lactose free milk, ice cream, etc) and my jaw line cleared up almost immediately! I tested my theory by having real milk or cream and sure enough I would break out. So Im not sure if it would be the same for everyone but maybe before you cut out all dairy products, try lactose free dairy instead!

    Posted By: Melissa  | 

    Reply
  28. Dear Renee,

    I have PCOS, and because of this I have severe acne around my jaws and chin, and hairline, most of which is cystic by nature. I have tried everything, and nothing seemed to work. So I turned to Accutane. I did see a lot of relief, but, I think I got scared of the side effects (mainly, depression), and so I discontinued it aftera month. Now, my cystic acne have come back with more force, and I just cant deal with any more… I dont know what to do. I am 31, and cant deal with this! Please Please help.

    Posted By: Mary  | 

    Reply
    • Renée Rouleau

      Hi Mary, I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with acne. It can be so frustrating. Did you try cutting back on your dairy to see if this helps as I mentioned in this post? Also have you purchased my Anti Cyst Treatment yet to try. Those would be my two suggestions.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

      Reply
  29. If you have a dairy allergy can you still use the anti cyst treatment since it contains lactic acid?

    Posted By: Jenny Hullander  | 

    Reply
  30. I completely agree! I have been getting cystic acne since I was 13 (23 now), and I had tried everything. I eliminated absolutely all dairy and soya from my diet and not only have I lost weight, but for the first time I can leave my house without foundation, because my skin is all clear.

    Posted By: Nadia  | 

    Reply
  31. I have suffered from cystic acne for quite some time and just came across your site after hearing about the dairy correlation from another source. However would you say that it’s the dairy component that causes the acne or the fact that a lot of the cows that produce the milk have been given extra hormones and growth factors and thus drinking milk that isn’t organic causes the acne. I want to try out and see if this is the case and is what is causing my acne around my jaw line but I love love love yogurt.. So I buying organic yogurt and milk would have the same result as cutting out dairy in general that would be great! Thanks for your thoughts!

    Posted By: Kristin  | 

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    • Renée Rouleau

      You’ll just have to experiment, Kristin but most people who are intolerant to dairy cannot even eat organic dairy. I would first recommend cutting out all dairy for two weeks and then maybe slowly work it back in once you see how your skin responded to no dairy at all.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

      Reply
  32. Is it a bad thing that my cysts happen to form on my inner thighs I tried a cream and warm cloths to bring them down cus I heard the warmth of the cloth will help the cysts go down I hear people get them on there chins and cheeks is it bad that mine form on my inner thighs (worried)

    Posted By: chrissy  | 

    Reply
    • Renée Rouleau

      If your thighs touch together when you walk, the friction could cause some bumps. Generally ice is better to reduce inflammation for cysts.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

      Reply

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