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No Milk = No Spots. Coincidence?

Ruth Crilly A Model Recommends

Look, I just want to put this out there. There’s no risk-free way, at present, of me proving or disproving this little theory I’ve come up with, but I have convinced myself that it’s true and so I want to share. This isn’t intended to be a scaremongering session by any means, I’m just interested to hear your thoughts and own experiences.

You’ll know, if you’re a regular reader, that I suffered quite badly with breakouts on my jawline and then cheeks from about mid-August until mid-December last year. Various skin treatments did help to keep my skin clear at various points, and I will hold up La Roche Posay’s Effaclar Duo as one of my heros, but it was quite a dire situation. Model + Temperamental Skin = Disaster. Now, here’s where things get interesting. On the 22nd December, I had my last drink of milk. I think it may have been a hot chocolate (naughty!) but whatever it was, that was the last time that cow’s milk, in its milky, liquid form (ie not cheese or yoghurt) passed my lips. Do you know when I last had a spot? Can you guess?

Ten thousand points to all of those who guessed “22nd December” – you guessed correctly! The thing is, I’m not saying that my skin cleared up tremendously since then, I’m actually saying that IT IS PERFECTLY CLEAR. Better, I think, than it has ever been. I had some quite deep marking on my face, and have been working on that (post upcoming), but in terms of breakouts, spots, even tiny pimples: nothing. It’s nothing short of miraculous, is what it is, and the only thing I can think of that has changed is that I’m not drinking milk.

I worked it out when I was in America; I was looking at a menu in a diner and thinking about the breakfast video that I did (see here) and lamenting the absence of porridge. (I know it’s a weird thing to miss, but when you’ve done pancakes and eggs and all that kind of thing for over ten days you become a little homesick.) I realised that I hadn’t eaten porridge since before the 22nd – and that’s a whole half pint of milk a day that I hadn’t consumed. Add to that the fact that I hadn’t had any hot chocolate (my winter vice; I make it at home with Green & Blacks as a treat) and that my yoghurt consumption had probably more than halved, and you have something of a situation. (Read the next bit as though Carrie Bradshaw from SATC is saying it): Was Milk Breaking Me Out? Had my relationship with Milk come to an end?

It could, of course, all be psychosomatic. Perhaps I had looked so hard for a cause of my breakouts that I had invented one and the subsequent relief had made my skin clear up. Perhaps it was the sun (but skin is still clear), perhaps it was lack of stress (almost certain this is also a factor) or perhaps it was the daily dose of topical vitamin C that I’ve been applying (Skinceuticals Phloretin Gel). But I don’t think so – surely it’s too much of a coincidence to ignore? No milk, no spots.

The only way to really find out for sure is to start on the cow’s milk again. I’ll admit that I’m tempted – the sceptical part of my mind is asking me why I would all of a sudden be sensitive to milk, and I also miss my porridge – but I’m enjoying my clear, glowing skin far too much. I hope to high heaven that this post doesn’t tempt that evil sod, Fate. That would make me look incredibly silly, wouldn’t it?

Comments below, please: has anyone else noticed a link between a food allergy and breakouts? Anyone suddenly went all lactose-intolerant on themselves? Let me know!

You can find all of my acne-related posts here if you want to “follow my breakout journey”. (Ugh.)

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  1. It’s the same here. I started living without cow milk (sheep and goat’s just fine!) about 9 months ago because my skin condition was a catastrophe for me and I didn’t know what else to day. Some people had claimed cow milk could be one of the causes and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to start a 2 week experiment. This experiment is now 9-10 months. It’s been fine so far my skin has never been better my whole life. – yes – sometimes there is a small blemish -but it disappears quite fast, it’s smaller and doesn’t bother as much as the spots before that never really seemed to heal in time for others to arrive…

    I’ve found I can eat goat and sheep products. I’ve been drinking soyamilk and am liking it more than milk itself in coffee. I’ve done a before/after post on my blog with some skin tips that have been working for me -but it’s in German so I don’t know if linking to it would be a help.

    But cow milk is known to have effect on skin. A while ago I read it somewhere in a beauty magazine even (though you never know what hype they’re pushing now, but for what it’s worth). My experience confirms the claim and some readers had left comments stating the same on my blog. I guess some are better off without cow milk products! And by the way my whole body reacted: skin on the whole body much gentler and I’ve been loosing weight as if the milk hat glued some pounds to me. Very strange.

    • I’ve read somewhere that in order to induce cow to lactate year round (for the milk), cows are injected with hormones which will be in the milk they produced.

  2. Yes! I have experienced the same skin problems and thought that milk was the culprit. When I stopped drinking milk it definitely helped the cause. I do however eat cheese and yogurt so I didn’t cut out all diary and it would be a shame for you to stop eating oats because they are so good for your skin (I don’t get into soy, so now breakfast is untoasted muesli with fruit and yoghurt). I also think holidays, sun and relaxation (plus less mirror squeezing time) also can help patch things up!

    I have two other theories thou. I am the same age (give or take 18months) as you so maybe it’s a hormonal thing as I never got spots on my cheeks, jaw line until I was 30. My second theory is that I have had more spots on my right cheek and left jaw line that I attribute to how I sleep on my pillow and hibernate under the doona, so maybe its to do with that (clothing detergent/ material on your skin?)

    Try not to worry, you always look beautiful anyway! I also think everyone thinks their own spots are much larger or more obvious than anyone else does. Ah, to be a perfectionist…

  3. I’ve personally noticed a connection as well – not only with spots, but with my rosacea. Drinking regular American milk causes my rosacea to flare and I often get a few blemishes to boot. I HAVE tested it several times and the reaction happens the day of and is pretty easy to pinpoint.
    I’m not a doctor, but this reaction doesn’t happen when I drank organic milk (you know, the stuff that’s $15 a liter) or when I drank the delicious milk when I lived in Germany (where additives are regulated and added hormones are prohibited by the government). The only difference is the hormones with which the cows that produce regular milk in the US are treated – and I’ve found that if I avoid that kind of “industrially-produced” milk, the skin issues don’t happen. I usually drink soy milk now, which is cheaper than organic milk, at least in the US! So maybe you changed what kind of milk you buy, or you had a slight hormonal shift (as is normal over time) and developed a sensitivity? I don’t know anything about Britain’s regulation of such things, but it might be worth a bit of research.

    Also, skim milk especially has been found to have a connection to breakouts. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, but there’s definitely a connection between dairy consumption and skin health for those with sensitivities (even previously unknown ones).

  4. Yes – dairy makes me break out too. My love affair with Stilton, creamy puds & hot choc made with milk over Christmas was a bit of a toxic one. Suffice to say, my January complexion has been pretty vile so have had to make the switch – especially after re-reading the amazing Caroline Hirons’ acne cheat sheet!

    I usually have porridge every day Ruth, but with sugar free almond milk – have you tried this? It gives a really lovely creamy & slightly nutty flavour – I couldn’t stand to have porridge with just water!

  5. absolutely, i gave up dairy long ago and i feel and look much better because of it. who wants to be drinking an animal’s breast milk anyway? we can get all the calcium we need from vegetables, milk schmilk!

  6. Yes, it makes total sense. I break out with dairy too, like..nodulo-cystic, painful, crazy, strange. Everytime I’m tempted to try it again, specially because in some places it’s hard to fin soy yogurt, I break out badly again. With milk the reaction is quicker than with yogurt, yogurt than with cheese, etc. I guess it’s allergy to lactose. Found out in late 2010, accidentally, during a trip where I was “forced” to change milk for tea.

  7. Yes, definitely. As soon as I start (as I did this week ugh) eating too much dairy I break out plus it does not agree with my stomach, so I’ve been feeling kinda sorry for myself this week. My skin is in hell which is worse than anything right now, and I think this one on my cheek will scar, I stupidly used a too-harsh face scrub and scrubbed the top of it off and it’s made a blinking crater in my cheek! ;(

    Back to cutting it almost completely out for me (except for occasional cheese!) No more milk chocolate or hot chocolate or yogurts in particular which have been this week’s culprits. Off to the shop later for alternative yogurts and dark chocolate! I have porridge every morning with part water and part almond or hazelnut milk, so you don’t have to miss out on your porridge, because it’s sooo good.

    Oh and I love green and black’s hot chocolate too, but there’s no actual harmful amounts of dairy in it, it used to be classified as vegan, but they issued a statement a while back saying that new rules mean they have to put milk powder as an ingredient on the jar (and on their dark chocolate bars, but again they used to be labelled vegan which) because it’s made in the same factory as milk powder products blah blah blah for people with severe allergies to know etc. So it’s still good for general avoidance! A combo of soya milk and hazelnut milk with green and black’s hot chocolate is amazing!

  8. Ruth, I know of another blogger who has tried this. she suffered with acne and decided to give up milk.. If you want to know how she got on I can you her details. I’ve mentioned before I am a beauty therapist, from the way you described where your breakouts have occurred it sounds more like a hormonal imbalance that had happened with you. You had been under stress when it first started, and stress is known to affect the body. I’m not saying that the milk theory is wrong.. as its known sugar can increase breakouts. But I know you have a good diet, and you take care of your skin, so I believe it is more likely a hormone imbalance that occurred with you. Spots in the chin area are generally hormonal with us women. If you get them on one side of your face.. check if thats where you put your phone, or where you rest your hand.

  9. Hi Ruth, I’m exactly the same, I worked it out last year that it dairy was a HUGE contributor to my breakouts. For me cutting it out completely was the only option, no cheese, no yogurt and certainly no milk. I switched to dairy free everything for a few months and my skin was so clear!
    I even went to the GP about but they were quite dismissive.

    It’s unlikely it’s an allergy or intolerance though. That’s what I initially thought, as I had been weened on soya milk as a baby because milk made me sick. I thought maybe my intolerance had returned or something. There are a lot of articles though that state it’s the growth hormones the farmers pump into the cows to make them lactate all year round that’s the problem as it raises our testosterone levels.
    I allow myself little bits of cheese occasional because I love it & can’t find a decent alternative but no cream, milk, yogurt etc I switch to Alpro and skin has been much better. Stress was also a culprit for me though too x

  10. Definitely agree with this! I stopped having milk and dairy last year and I only get breakouts at that time of the month or if I’m feeling stressed. I switched to almond milk which I actually prefer and apparently its a even better for you! :)

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