Milk has been the subject of a dozen million dollar advertising campaigns over the past several decades. The dairy industry is driven to persuade you that milk is a healthy, delicious beverage that you should be consuming at every opportunity. Are they right?

There’s a popular theory that’s been floating around since the 50’s that dairy consumption causes acne. There’s still quite a lot of scientific debate surrounding this theory, but the bottom line is that skim milk consumption is consistently linked to an increase in acne. While some papers have found a link between acne and general dairy consumption, (including whole and low-fat milk) these results have not been consistent.

Milk is an incredibly complex substance. It’s rich in proteins, fatty acids, hormones and vitamins. Recent studies still cite a large degree of uncertainty regarding which parts of milk are responsible for promoting acne. A protein called IGF-1 may be related to acne and further studies have found people with acne tend to have more IGF-1 in their blood than acne-free people. IGF-1 is naturally produced by the human body and is important to many processes, including both the reproduction and the preservation of cells. Increased IGF-1 levels have been associated with higher IQ in children, while low IGF-1 levels may lead to hearing loss. In other words, having a “balanced” IGF-1 level is important.

In recent years, dairy production has increased immensely to keep up with the growing population and demand for dairy products. The farming process is no longer a natural process. To stay active in this lucrative dairy market, famers have started using hormones, growth factors and antibiotics to artificially increase milk production daily. The excessive use of hormones and antibiotics outweigh any health benefits that dairy once had, creating and confusing an unnatural process in our digestive system. This causes both inflammation and stress throughout the body.

What about the other stuff in milk like whey? At least one study has shown a strong correlation between the consumption of whey protein in bulk and acne. Whey protein also has been known to affect your gut health and digestive floral, which can lead to side affects such as inflamed acne lesions and rash like bumps on the forehead. Whey protein supplements should be avoided if you are acne prone and want clear healthy skin.

So what does this mean for you? Should you drink milk? If you’re striving for your skin to be as healthy as possible, you should stop dairy products altogether. This includes, milk, cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. Be sure to read all the ingredients in your favorite recipes, canned goods, and daily meal plans, as dairy can be hiding anywhere. Whether you cut out dairy from your diet or not, keep in mind that cows milk is made for cows, not people. Just a little fun fact, we are the only other mammals that consume milk after the natural weaning process. Many alternative options such as coconut, cashew, rice and almond milk are made to be both tasty, and healthy for humans and are easy to incorporate into your diet. In this day and age we are fortunate to have so many choices that have been progressively advancing to even better and tastier dairy alternatives.

Written by Leah LaVanway