Why Does Eating Dairy Cause Cystic Acne?

Does dairy cause cystic acne and blemishes?

Updated 12/1/17. 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 but it’s not like they rubbed shellfish topically over the skin. The hives is the symptom of your body trying to rid itself of this allergen.

In the case of eating dairy, it is mucous forming and can be difficult for the body digest—which is why many people are lactose intolerant. For certain people, when they get too much dairy for their body to digest, it may 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? The hypothesis is that since the majority of milk in the U.S. comes from pregnant cows (and some cows are given growth hormones), the hormone levels in milk may play a role in excess sebum production, which promotes acne. Sebum production is influenced by androgens and hormonal mediators, such as insulin-like growth factors found in milk and other animal products. The consumption of milk, cheese and yogurt may 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. Read theses 8 tips for preventing chin and jawline breakouts.

For cystic acne, you really only have four 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. Start taking oral medications such as antibiotics or what is formerly known as Accutane.  I personally believe that medication should be the last resort. After all, for some, it can act as a band-aid in that it can temporarily help, but when you go off of it, it may come right back. It’s always best to see if you can find out the underlying cause. Here’s 11 common causes of blemishes.

3. Dab on Anti Cyst Treatment immediately when the cyst forms. This can dramatically flatten the visible appearance of the bump by about 50% more quickly than when using nothing at all. It has been truly a miraculous product for thousands of our customers since I developed it it 20 years ago.

4. Try cutting out your dairy completely for two weeks and and see if that improves the condition. In my 30 years of being a esthetician and skin care expert and working with clients hands-on, I have literally “cured” many of my clients cystic acne condition 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.

Disclaimer: Content found on www.ReneeRouleau.com and Blog.ReneeRouleau.com, including text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.


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  1. 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  | 

    • 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  | 

  2. 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  | 

    • Layla, do you still follow a dairy free diet? If so, are you acne-free?

      Posted By: Jennifer  | 

  3. 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,


    Posted By: Lisa  | 

    • 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  | 

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

    Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  5. 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  | 

  6. 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  | 

  7. 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  | 

  8. 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  | 

  9. 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  | 

  10. 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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