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Milk and Spots Update

milk pustules

There was really a very impressive response to my post last weekend about milk and spots. If you didn’t read it, then I can sum it up quickly for you (or click here to read the full post): I realised that my breakout problem had completely cleared up at the same time that I stopped drinking so much milk. I had been drinking a half pint every day either on cereal or mixed into my porridge, but from mid-December I stopped. Not on purpose, just by fluke. It wasn’t until recently that I made the connection, and so I wrote about it to see if anyone else had experienced something similar.

Well it certainly seems like lots of you have – I was honestly quite taken aback when I read the comments! There were over 100 of them at last count and they are still trickling in, so I thought that the best thing to do would be to write an update post (this one) rather than repeat myself in answering everyone individually. I hope that’s OK – I also wanted to address a few quibbles and issues that seem to have popped up as a result of my post. So here goes.

1) Yes, the above photo is a picture of milk bottle sweets that have had rudimentary acne spots photoshopped onto them. It’s quite a gross concept…  But just look at those rhubarb-and-custard colours! I’m a creative soul when I put my mind to it, I tell you. Some might say “insane” – I say talented. Move over, Van Gogh, move over.

2) On a more serious note, I’d like to say this: I’m in no way asserting that there’s a link between dairy and acne. I have no real scientific proof whatsoever, and acne is a complicated and temperamental old beast. It can be caused by a whole host of things. What I do know is that when I stop drinking milk, my breakouts clear up. Last week in Paris I had cream (and about seventeen kilos of cheese) and guess what? Whopping great cyst-like spot on my cheek. I just don’t think that it’s coincidence. But although I am convinced that milk is a trigger for me, it might not be for anyone else – it’s a personal thing and I’m by no means trying to scare people off dairy or suggest that they don’t drink milk!

3) I think that it is only really milk, the liquid white stuff I pour on my cereal and use to make porridge, that causes the breakouts with me. Cheese and yoghurt seem to be OK in sensible amounts. I saw from reading your comments and emails that many of you think the same thing. Good to know! Thanks to Meg lipsofacto.com for offering to give suggestions on lactose-free options – I do think that I’ll take you up on that!

4) No, I don’t miss milk in my tea or coffee because I don’t drink either of them. I never have done. It’s not a lifestyle choice, I just never tried them and then got to being an adult and couldn’t be bothered! I drink the odd herbal tea, but nothing else. What I do love, however, is a hot chocolate. I bloody love it. Apparently it’s good with hazlenut milk and I shall be trying that shortly! (Occasional treat, not daily habit.)

5) I had thought that my spots were stress-related and to a certain extent, I don’t think that my stress levels were helping the matter. I’ve no doubt that it was probably a combination of lots of things, but – see above for latest milk/spots evidence. I’m back to working my usual 700-hour weeks and trying to do everything at once and my skin has stayed very clear apart from last week’s little blip.

6) Skincare routine: I have been using the new Alpha-H Rejuvenating Cream every other night, alternated with La Roche-Posay’s Resurfacing Serum to try and fade the marks left by the deeper spots. Both are brilliant – I have tested them separately, too, for three weeks each, but I’ll do some reviews very soon with more details.

Please do continue to comment and share – I find it all fascinating, and it’s good to get different opinions on the matter. Thanks so much for all of the feedback on this, it’s quite valuable to me if not anybody else!

(Image from – ironically, for a skincare post – “WeLuvSweets.com“. Bastardized, obviously, but still. Credit where credit’s due and all that!)

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  1. Thanks for the update. There is one acne-related topic that I would love you to cover – pregnancy acne. It has happened to me (leaving me with worse skin then when I was a teenager) and it seems to be very common. It is so distressing and being pregnant you can’t use so many of the usual treatments (salicylic acid, BHAs). I guess this would be tough to cover unless you are pregnant, but you are so knowledgeable about skincare that I’m sure you would do a great job. And who knows, it might come in handy for your one day.

    • You can’t use salicylic, you’re right – or retinol – but you can use glycolic. I think I touched on this with a Murad Q&A, unless it hasn’t published yet. I shall do a more in-depth one – good idea! x

  2. Does cream also triggers your acne or just milk?

  3. I am so happy I don’t have this problem. I’m fully addicted to my morning latte and I’d die without cheese. I always assumed Ruth if you were having a breakout it was due to an ingredient in a certain product since you try so many for your work. But maybe there is a connection.

  4. I can’t comment on milk & spots but what I do know is milk gives me eczema. I was diagnosed with many allergies in childhood and once they were eliminated from my diet I no longer had head to toe eczema. I’ve been dairy free for many many years. The great thing is that these days alternative milks are readily available, soya, oat, rice, coconut etc. The choice is brilliant it never was there when I was little. My soya milk was prescribed by the GP you couldn’t buy it at supermarkets. Do be aware that some hot chocolate powders do contain milk. I opt for a quick option and buy the chocolate flavoured soya or coconut milk and pop in microwave for a couple of minutes for an instant hot chocolate :)

  5. I didn’t realise La Roche Posay had a resurfacing serum – it looks bril. I’ve looked for it online but can’t seem to find it. Is the Derm AHA only available in the States and Canada, do you know, Ruth?

  6. After your post I am going to try cutting out my 200ml a day, for a week. I am still having the odd bit in 1 cup of tea a day but that’s it. As well as acne I hope it will help my fatigue and PMS symptoms as I’m pretty sure it’s making those worse too. I’ve done research and drinking milk from another animal as an adult is actually quite weird when you think about it!

    • Might take a little longer to make a difference, if it is that, but always worth a try. It’s free, at any rate, so a win-win situation! x

  7. I’ve been staying away from dairies as well and I gotta say: I do feel better. My skin cleared up a bit (I wasn’t suffering from acne before but I had a few spots here and there..) and I feel overly better – probably also because I started eating more healthy anyway.
    I’m a huge fan of porridge in the morning and I always make it with almond milk and water, it tastes amazing, try that! Of course you can also use almond milk only, or try soy or coconut! I guarantee you, you’ll love your porridge even more ;)
    xx Leonie

  8. I had exactly the same thing – not full on acne, but at least 1-2 deep, paintful cystic spots at any one time. About 2 years ago I read about the dairy connection, gave it up and I’ve never looked back. For me, cheese and milk are the worst. So I steer clear of them as well as yogurt, butter, ice cream etc. I’ve just reintroduced milk chocolate on occasion (because black chocolate just doesn’t cut it sometimes) and all seems to be going OK. Cutting out dairy was the best thing ever for my confidence! And so easy to find alternatives these days.

  9. First of all I have to thank you for recommending La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo, it has been doing great stuff for my skin (and it has turned me to pharmacy skin care and I found a pharmacy with assistants who really know what they are doing, so a win-win-win situation all around). But as much as my skin has gone better it is still giving me a little grief around my jaw line (all month-round), and I remember that my skin does clear up considerably when I drink more tea which in my case means by extension that I’m cutting back on my milk intake. I have been contemplating to cut back on milk and see what happens and your post has nudged me over the edge :) I am also going to try almond milk as a replacement. Is it weird that I am really excited to see how this experiment turns out?
    Anyways, thank you so much for your recommendations, Ruth! Hope you’re having a lovely day :)

  10. La Roche- Posay Effaclar line is a skin saver, I have the little spot treatment tube and you just put on some at night and the next morning it’s completely cleared out! I usually apply it all over my skin at night and the next morning my skin looks spot free. I have noticed too, that my skin reacts very bad to dairy in general. So I am kinda sorta trying to go dairy free whenever I can and eat as much fruit and veggies :) Milk tastes nasty anyway ha! xX

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