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One Secret Side Effect of Drinking Milk, Says Science

What your favorite dairy product might be doing to your skin
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Milk is a hotly debated topic these days, with some people loving it and others leaving it behind. Some of the benefits of drinking milk include increasing bone health and lowering your cholesterol levels, while some downsides include increased risk of heart disease and possible weight gain.

Overall, milk has pretty mixed reviews. According to Harvard Health Publishing, milk is a source of nutrients that if consumed, should be done so in moderation. And what is important is that we balance out our milk consumption with leafy greens, lots of vegetables, and protein.

So if you're someone who enjoys milk and finds that it works well for your body, then keep on drinking! But before you do, you may want to know that a secret side effect of drinking milk is that it could actually cause acne or make existing acne worse. 


Milk may cause breakouts

Milk is delicious, but if you're a milk lover who is noticing some pimples that won't go away, there may be a scientific explanation behind it. Many recent studies have shown that there is in fact a connection between drinking cow's milk and the increase of facial acne. According to a 2018 report published in Nutrients, the population that most easily gets acne from drinking milk are adolescents ages 7-30. However, people in any age group can experience dairy-induced acne.

(Side Effects of Drinking Too Much Milk)

Hormones in milk may be to blame

Even though it has been largely agreed upon by researchers that milk can cause acne, the exact explanation for why this happens is still being hypothesized. According to a report found in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, the reason could have to do with the growth hormones found in cow's milk.

Milk that comes from a cow is intended to help baby calves grow, which means that there are natural steroids and growth hormones in milk. This report states that these hormones could possibly be what leads to acne in humans because when we drink their milk, our bodies release a hormone known as IGF-1, which is known to cause acne breakouts.

Another possible cause of milk-related acne is the use of man-made growth hormones found in many adult cows on dairy farms. The growth hormone rBGH (or Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) is commonly used by dairy farmers to increase the amount of milk production, and according to the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology report, this hormone may be the acne culprit.

(Signs You're Drinking Too Much Milk)

Another reason you may get acne from drinking milk is if you have a lactose intolerance

And finally, you may get acne from drinking milk if you are lactose intolerant. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, over 65% of the population is lactose intolerant, and many people don't yet realize they are. Common symptoms of lactose intolerance include stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloating, and acne breakouts after consuming dairy products.

If you're experiencing unwanted acne after drinking your favorite milk, check out The Best and Worst Milk Alternatives. And for more healthy eating tips straight to your inbox, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

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Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha