Visit after visit to the dermatologist, I left with a prescription for another topical treatment or antibiotic, only to find the same red marks clustering my face weeks later. After watching a video a friend had shared on Facebook, I decided to dig deeper online to find more about the connection between dairy and acne, and learn more about a dairy-free diet. 

While many dermatologists remain reluctant to prescribe nutritional changes to solve acne, research and personal testimonials increasingly demonstrate the negative effects dairy can have on the skin. Dairy products contain the growth hormone called IGF-1 that can cause inflammation in the skin. 

milk, tea, water
Alex Frank

I decided to cut all dairy for four weeks to see how my skin changed. 

Discovering the dairy free dining hall options was first on the checklist. Every dish is marked with any common allergens it contains, so I could steer clear of any marked with milk. I found my way over to our special allergy free section, trying soy milk and soy yogurt for the first time. My nightly indulgence in Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Life held up without any dairy poured over. 

My biggest weakness: dessert. It was easier than expected to pass on free pizza at campus events, but the dining hall cookies haunted me. Taking extra time at the grocery store to analyze nutritional labels, I found some of my favorites treats were dairy free, like Oreos or graham crackers. Without the constant option of treats, I found that my eating habits improved.

chocolate, candy, sweet, goody, cake, cookie, coffee, cream
Torey Walsh

At the four week point, my skin had improved, but not to the extent I had hoped for. I still had pimples spread across my cheeks and chin, and I knew that a strict dairy-free diet wasn't feasible long term. 

While I indulge in cookies and ice cream occasionally, four months later I still stick towards a dairy-conscious diet. Before going dairy-free I hadn't realized the amount of dairy I consumed, and I like paying more attention to the ingredients involved in my food choices. Limiting dairy hasn't led me to perfect skin, but it's definitely improved how my body feels all around. 

For anyone considering trying a dairy-free diet, I say go for it. With increasingly available non-dairy options (my personal favorite is the Ben and Jerry's ice cream), it's possible to find substitutes for almost anything. The worst that happens? Go back to pizza and ice cream and never look at almond milk again.