Adolescents and acne….the two often go together. With so many options, both over the counter and prescription available, most teens who are interested in treating their acne can achieve clear skin. The first step is typically making sure that the tween-teen is washing their face every morning and before bed…which proves to be difficult for some.
Interestingly, diet may also play a role in acne. While we were told years ago that french fries and greasy hamburgers may cause acne a new study suggests that milk may actually be the culprit and contribute to the development of acne. I can even remember the dermatologist many years ago asking my sons (who unfortunately all dealt with acne) if they were big milk drinkers.
There have been earlier studies (2005 - 2008) which showed a correlation between milk intake and acne…and the risk seemed to be greater in those that drank non fat milk over whole milk. The newest study published in 2016 looked at teens with acne compared to controls who did not have acne and found “positive associations with total dairy and non-fat dairy, but not with whole-fat or low -fat dairy. In other words it seemed that skim milk might be involved in the pathogenesis of acne?? There have been proposed mechanisms as to why this might occur, but much of it is speculative.
At the same time that teens are developing acne they are also growing and building healthy bones, which means more calcium is needed in their diets. Nutritional guidelines recommend 1,300 mg of calcium every day for adolescents. Much of the dietary calcium intake comes from dairy products including milk, yogurt, and cheese. It is often very hard for adolescents to meet the daily calcium and vitamin D requirements and stopping dairy may put them at risk nutritionally.
But, with that being said….in cases of teenage acne that do not seem to be improving on a well prescribed skin care regimen, it may be prudent to do a dairy free trial to see if this makes a difference in their acne. During the trial you can easily offer a calcium supplement. If the teen’s face does not seem to improve with a 2-4 week dairy free trial I would recommend to resume normal dairy intake - but maybe use whole-fat or low-fat dairy rather than non fat.
This would be a good topic for discussion with your own dermatologist.