I Went Dairy Free to Clear Up Acne-Did it Work?

I’m no stranger to a hormonal breakout, but my skin was on a whole other level this summer. In June, one side of my forehead started breaking out like crazy which hasn’t happened in a really long time, and then my chin took a turn for the worst. It was getting a little ridiculous. Was it my pillowcase? Change of seasons? I’ve tried different topical treatments over the years, but I felt like those were more of a temporary fix. There had to be a better solution.

Dairy Free To Clear Acne, Does it Work?
Dairy Free To Clear Acne, Does it Work?

For me and for probably many others, acne seems to be the result of something going on internally. Not saying topical treatments don’t help or that some products don’t exacerbate the issue- a good skin care routine with the right products is essential. But when it comes down to getting to the root cause and cure I had to really look at internal factors since topical stuff wasn’t really helping me much in the long run.

While researching hormonal acne, I found that dairy could be a big contributor. Dairy isn’t that good for you, or at least as good as many of us were led to believe growing up. I’m not going to get into every detail, but the bottom line is that there are so many things added to dairy products that can cause many negative side effects, one of them being-you guessed it- acne. And that’s exactly what I was binging on for a solid week or two at the start of summer. Lots and lots of ice cream.

Even though I had this dairy info lurking in the back of my mind for a while, I would think to myself that there was no way I’d ever give up dairy! I love cheese, milk, and ice cream…it didn’t sound like something I was interested in trying and thought it would be too hard to give up. But right around the middle of July I’d had enough. Curiosity got the best of me, and was becoming more and more weary of milk. I was desperate and it seemed worth a shot.

Getting Started

I swapped out regular milk for almond or coconut milk, started using dairy-free creamer in my coffee, cut out butter, ice cream, pretty much anything made with milk or had milk products in it. Was it hard? I’d say trying to figure out alternatives was more of the hard part, not necessarily not being able to eat it. But once I had replacements in stock, it was much easier. I missed having a slice of cake here and there, but I found a way to make a mug cake without butter, along with other ways to eat my favorite desserts without dairy.

Dairy Free Alternatives
Dairy Free Alternatives

Notes and observations

The funny thing is, I didn’t miss milk at all, or ice cream and cheese products despite thinking I’d crave it non-stop. I think subconsciously my body knew it wasn’t doing me any favors and I started associating it with acne, so it made it easier to not miss.

There is dairy in soooo many things. Baked goods (my weakness), some breads, some cereals and dishes…If you’re experimenting going dairy-free, it has to be cut out completely for at least a few weeks to know if it’s really the cause of something. I had to do a bit of research and read labels of everything I wanted to consume.

It’s not convenient when you’re traveling or not at home. Nowadays places like Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks have dairy-free options which is awesome, but no one I know has almond milk sitting around their house or too many dairy-free foods. I never expect anyone to, but I needed to be prepared. In these situations I tried to avoid dairy when I could, but I didn’t freak out if it wasn’t really an option. To me it was just another way to see if having it would cause a breakout and go back to being dairy-free once I was able to.

I lost weight the first week, but learned how to compensate. So yes, it is possible to lose weight from cutting out dairy. But I also got into the mindset that since I couldn’t have milk, then heck yes I was going to eat a bunch of Oreos (which are actually dairy-free)!!! Soooo I gained it back. Amazing the possibilities.


I was close to two weeks being totally dairy free (weddings? Forget it. I’m eating cake and cheese) and have been mostly dairy free since. I can’t believe it but my chin acne cleared up pretty much entirely, and my forehead did too! I do get clogged pores and some occasional zits, but the crazy cystic acne that wouldn’t leave me alone pretty much went away. My skin for the most part has been enjoying fewer breakouts and is much clearer than it’s been in a while. It’s definitely not perfect and there is some of that spotting left behind from old breakouts, but I will take that over what it used to be like any day! I also feel less bloated overall, and not to be TMI…more regular which as far as I know is a good thing for your body!

Do I think dairy was the culprit all this time, including the times when hormonal acne would come around once a month? I do believe it played a big part for sure, considering my chin hasn’t really been this clear for this long since who knows when! Even if it wasn’t 100% the cause, it definitely didn’t help either.

My Present and Future with Dairy

I’ve started incorporating dairy in small increments back into my life. So when I’m away from home, when it’s the only thing around to eat, or when I’m craving just a piece of something, I don’t mind having a little. I will have a touch of butter or sour cream. It’s been a good way for me to see how much I can tolerate without turning into a pizza-face, and I can see if I need to scale back or how far I can push my limits. I’m not going to go crazy on dairy and have it in bulk, but I’m not nervous to have some if I want some.

I will continue to do without cow’s milk in my cereal- I like almond and coconut milk, so will probably always keep it in stock as well as the dairy-free creamer. I never thought I’d say this but I don’t think I’ll be buying regular ice cream any time soon. As I said before, I don’t miss it. Ben and Jerry’s makes some pretty good dairy-free ice cream if I ever have a craving, so if I want a fix, there are options. I will probably limit my intake of baked goods too, if not for the dairy in it then for the fact that it’s not the best for me anyway.

Final Words on Dairy

I don’t think total and complete dairy elimination is necessary for me to have clear skin (thank goodness) but the frequency and quantity more than likely have played a role in my acne. Milk itself, regular ice cream and heavy cheeses will probably be avoided altogether if I can help it, and dairy overall will be eaten in moderation. I am happy with my skin and I can say eliminating dairy has made a pretty big difference for me! I plan on sticking with being dairy-free as much as I can, but if I want some in moderation, I will be having some!

With all that being said, I can still get a breakout here and there. But I also haven’t been as strict about my dairy intake lately so I’m pretty sure that could be why along with stress or other factors. I don’t think dairy is the only cause of my acne (my skin seems unpredictable nowadays), but I do think dairy and diet can trigger a larger breakout.

I want to disclaim that this was my own personal experience. Everyone is different, and everyone’s cause of acne is different. I won’t make a blanket statement and say this is the end-all be-all solution for everyone with acne, just that going dairy-free may be worth a shot to see if it makes a difference. For me it definitely did!

Have you tried going dairy-free or an elimination diet of any kind? What was your reasoning? Do you find that it helped you? Do share! 

Xx, Jen

4 thoughts on “I Went Dairy Free to Clear Up Acne-Did it Work?”

    1. Isn’t it crazy how much food affects your body?! I definitely have fallen off being dairy free lately- I’ve indulged in slices of pizza and other stuff I’m supposed to be steering clear of haha! X

Leave a Reply