You think you have your skin figured out. You’ve got your routine. You know the cleanser that works. You know how often (and how hard) to scrub. You’ve got your favorite moisturizer.
And then it happens.
Seemingly out of the blue. Greasiness. Acne. Dry flakiness. Red, inflamed flare-ups. Itchy patches.
This happened to me (yes, to me! ugh!) a few weeks ago.
It’s such a knock to your confidence when your skin misbehaves, isn’t it?
I didn’t even want to leave the house.
And I started beating myself up inside – how can I pretend to know about natural beauty when my own skin does this?! And then: Why did this happen? What did I change??
Lightbulb moment: I made the connection.
On a recent trip I’d been eating very differently than usual – I’d eaten a ton of dairy. Yogurt with breakfast. Coffee and milk. And glorious, melty cheese with lunch and dinner.
Could this be the cause? Could dairy be the cause of my (and your) skin problems?
Can dairy products cause skin problems?
Cow’s milk (dairy) foods are a bit controversial in nutrition circles.
- Some people say milk is food for growing baby cows, and human adults aren’t meant to drink it.
- Other people are adamant that raw milk is healthy, and it’s our pasteurized, homogenized milk that’s the problem.
- Still others think that cultured dairy (like yogurt and cheese) are fine, it’s the uncultured milk that causes problems.
The jury is still out on this one.
However, from numerous people I’ve spoken with and read about, it does seem that dairy is a common food sensitivity in many people.
And a food sensitivity can cause different symptoms in each person. You might get gas and bloating. You might have aching joints, headaches and fatigue. Or you might get skin outbreaks like acne or eczema.
If you struggle with recurrent skin conditions, I think it’s worth considering a food-related cause. Two of the most common food sensitivities are wheat and dairy.
And there’s an easy (and free!) way to test if you are sensitive to dairy, using the 2 week dairy-free test below.
An easy test to see if dairy affects your skin.
The easiest (and cheapest) test to see if dairy is causing your skin problem, is to do a dairy-free experiment.
Simply to eliminate dairy completely from your diet for 2 weeks.
(This means all the obvious sources: butter, milk, cream, yogurt, ice cream, cheese … but also you need to read labels because dairy lurks in many packaged foods)
During this time, notice your skin. Is it improving?
After 2 weeks, try eating some dairy on an empty stomach. Notice how you feel. Are you feeling good, or bloated? Do you feel energetic, or headachey and tired?
If you feel OK a couple of hours after eating, then resume eating dairy for the next few days, and watch how your skin reacts.
If there’s no change (and you’re sure you got 100% of the dairy out of your diet for those 2 weeks), then dairy isn’t one of your trigger foods. (Hooray! Bring on the butter!)
If you notice your skin gets worse while eating dairy, then you have some very valuable information about your skin. Now you can choose when and if to eat dairy, knowing that your skin will react.
(I know you can also do a food sensitivity test in just 4 days … but with skin symptoms, it often takes time for the skin to heal before noticing improvement. So I recommend doing the full 2 week dairy-free experiment. But do what you can! )
Doing this test doesn’t mean you can never eat dairy!
It simply gives you more knowledge about your unique body. It lets you make an informed choice.
A big event coming up where your skin has to look great? Don’t eat dairy.
You’re in Italy at the Best Gelato Shop EVER? Eat some gelato, and just know that your skin might get a little rough – but it’s worth it for that gelato experience.
Informed choice. It’s not a rule, it’s just a bit of information that you can decide how to use.
Isn’t adulthood great?
Share your story! Have you found dairy (or other foods) which trigger your skin problems? Let us know in the comments!
Let's Trace the Roots of You
(Re)discover the foods, places, traditions, and rituals that make you, YOU.
Sign up for weekly insights to get unstuck + create a life of meaning!