Skin is your body’s largest organ. It's the one you show to the world and, like every other organ, it is hugely affected by your diet and lifestyle. While it's extremely important to understand that you're beautiful no matter how many pimples you may have, and learn to love every aspect of your body, it's also important to recognize when your body is trying to tell you something. When your face suffers from acne breakouts, it may affect your confidence, but it could also signal something deeper — a systemic issue that needs to be resolved. And most of the time, the answer could be hiding in your plate!
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Before we talk health, take a moment to recognize your beauty. Acne is more prevalent for some skin types than others, so everyones journey is going to look different. You are unique and beautiful whether you have 10 pimples or none at all. Acne is quite common, and exists as a way for your body to communicate to you that something is wrong internally (kind of like tonsils!). So before you even begin to think about changing your lifestyle, take a moment to thank you skin for flagging this underlying issue. You're lucky that your body has the ability to communicate with you, now let's talk dairy.
Yes, there is a correlation between dairy consumption and acne, not only in adults, but in children too! Several studies have shown that the more dairy products a person consumes, the more likely it is that they develop acne and in more severe ways. A quick search on the Internet will also give you many stories of people who were finally able to get clear skin by ditching dairy (MamaSezz even has an awesome transformation story about clearing PCOS-related acne with plants here.
But, what exactly in dairy products drives acne development?
Think about it, what's the purpose of cow milk? To turn a newborn calf into a 1,500 pound cow. In order to achieve this, milk is loaded with growth hormones, with insulin-growth factor-1 (IGF-1) being one of the most important. Studies have shown that people who drank three servings of milk daily for twelve weeks had 10% higher levels of IGF-1 than those who didn't. Incidentally, this particular hormone has been associated with increased sebum protection, which contributes to blocked pores and acne.
Another way dairy products lead to acne has to do with the two main proteins in milk: whey and casein. These two proteins when ingested increase IGF-1 levels in the body, resulting in acne breakouts. In addition, the high levels of iodine in dairy, a mineral that cows are fed to prevent infections and a known comedogenic factor, have been blamed for acne exacerbation in people who regularly consume dairy.
So what happens when you ditch dairy and change to a diet focused on whole, plant-based foods? Your skin clears up! It's brighter, and smoother, and breakouts become less frequent. You glow from the inside out!
Why does a WFPB diet help bust acne?
It's attributed to two things: the lack of natural and artificial hormones found in non-dairy products, and the abundance of phytochemicals, antioxidants, and vitamins found naturally in plants that have anti-inflammatory properties.
Antioxidants are used to prevent oxidative stress to the skin which would ultimately cause acne breakouts. Additionally, the lack of saturated fat and added sugars contribute to open, clean pores, and a healthy, normal sebum secretion that promotes a healthy-looking skin.
While yes, we covered that a WFPB diet is great for clearing up acne, if you're new to the plant-based game you may need a little more guidance.
Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds! (Here are some of the very best WFPB diet foods you can eat for beautiful skin.)
As for what to minimize, try to eat less or eliminate processed junk food (even if it's plant-based!) to reap the full benefits a plant-based can have for your skin.
(Oh, and by the way, yes...you can get plenty of calcium without eating dairy.)
- There is a link between dairy and acne. Studies show those who eat dairy have more skin issues than those who do not. This is thought to be caused by the growth hormones found in cow's milk, the proteins found in dairy (whey and casein), and potentially the iodine given to cows by dairy farmers.
- A whole food plant-based diet can help you achieve clear, healthy skin by loading you up with antioxidants, which prevent oxidative stress and breakouts.
Rafaela Michailidou is a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, and a freelance health and wellness content writer, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.