Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Ditching the dairy during lockdown

I have suffered from hormonal acne around my chin, jawline and forehead since 2018. I tried what felt like absolutely everything to clear my skin, but nothing worked.

Almost two years, at least 50 skincare products and countless doctor’s appointments later and I am still suffering from acne. I thought it was the perfect time to try to clear my skin through dietary changes during lockdown, which is when I decided to part ways with my love for milk and went dairy-free for the first time.

Milk is an easy source of nutrients such as calcium, protein and vitamins D and B12. As clinical dietician and blogger Toby Amidor suggests – “there aren’t many other single foods that come close to the nutrients you get from one cup of milk.”

I was surprised at the number of food products that contain dairy

However, there is some evidence to suggest that dairy consumption is linked to acne. There’s been a lot of debate in the scientific world about the connection between the hormones in milk and exacerbated acne. A study in 2018 found a “positive relationship between dairy, total milk, whole milk, low-fat and skim milk consumption and acne occurrence.” It is thought that the hormones present in milk can cause the skin to produce more sebum, which in turn can cause breakouts.

I imagined that the switch to a dairy-free diet would be tough. There would be no chocolate, no cheese and no milk in my tea. When I suddenly made the switch, it was a lot easier than I had expected and there are many delicious dairy-free alternatives out there. I was surprised at the number of food products that contain dairy, and I found myself checking the ingredients of everything I ate.

The first step in my dairy-free diet was finding a good quality milk alternative. I tried pea milk first, but I found it disgusting, and I just knew I would never be able to get used to the taste. I can’t have almond milk because I am severely allergic to nuts, and this was something that made the switch to dairy-free a little trickier for me. I decided to try oat milk which I discovered was bearable in tea and cereal and I am now used to the taste.

I still haven’t yet found a vegan cheese that I can bear the taste of

Most supermarkets have a great range of free-from alternatives to butter, yoghurt, biscuits, chocolate, cake and ice-cream. I have a sweet tooth and was happy to find alternative products which pretty much taste exactly the same.

Switching from cheese to a vegan alternative was the hardest part of going dairy-free and I still haven’t yet found a vegan cheese that I can bear the taste of. The smell was the most off-putting part before I even tried any. Although, I did find that dairy-free cheese and ham in a toasted sandwich tastes delicious when the cheese melts. I discovered a spreadable dairy-free cheese which was bearable and tasty on crackers and toast.

When it comes to eating out, I expect that finding a dairy-free takeaway or an alternative option in a restaurant will be tricky, but these are both things I am yet to try.

It’s important to remember that everyone’s skin is different

After two months of having a dairy-free diet, I can definitely see a difference to my acne. My spots have reduced in size and redness and my skin is looking a lot clearer overall. I didn’t see a difference straight away and at first, my skin wasn’t improving, but I’m putting that down to stress and other factors.

I saw the connection between milk consumption and aggravated breakouts, but it’s important to remember that everyone’s skin is different. This was by no means a scientific experiment, but I do believe a dairy-free diet, in combination with a good skincare routine has improved my skin and my overall health and wellbeing.

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