Back when I started my dermatology training, there were still a number of older dermatologists who had trained before the era of widespread use of antibiotics, who told their acne patients to stop drinking milk to improve their acne condition. That advice became unpopular for about 30 years, with the easy use of tetracycline to calm acne and avoid the issue.
But during the past decade, a study on nurses and then two subsequent studies on their sons and daughters (published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 2005-8,) demonstrated a definite association between drinking milk, and especially skim milk, and acne occurrence.
The fact that skim milk had a greater association suggested that it was not the fats, but possibly the hormones in milk, which were causing the problem. Milk contains hormones like progesterone, because 80% of the cows producing milk have recently been pregnant.
But milk also possesses a number of androgen-related hormones that go on to influence the sebaceous gland unit to form an acne lesion. Dr. William Danby, who was involved with these studies and lectured on this subject at the recent American Academy of Dermatology meeting, pointed out that the androgens in cows' milk cause acne, but are different than human androgens.
As a result, the production of the body’s own androgens are not turned off by their presence, as in a normal feedback loop situation. That would be like having another heater in your house not wired to the regular thermostat, and wondering why it was getting so hot. So cow’s milk androgens turn up the male hormone activity that is driving the acne. I will discuss other ways milk may aggravate acne in future blog. Do your own dairy experiment by cutting it out of your diet completely and see if it has any effect...
To your health,
Dr. Alan M. Dattner
New York, New York
As always, the content of this blog is for information and education purposes only, and should not be used to prevent, diagnose or treat illness; please see your physician for care.