Dermatologist Recommended

Your Cart is Empty

Start your journey to clear skin.
Take the quiz
Shop all products

Milk and Sugary Food Can Cause Adult Acne - Study Proves

Milk and sugar cause more acne

Adult acne is a common skin condition that affects many individuals beyond their teenage years. While hormonal fluctuations and genetics play a role in acne development, recent research has highlighted the impact of dietary choices on adult acne. A groundbreaking study published in the Journal of the American Association of Medicine examined the link between food types and adult acne in 25,000 adults. The findings shed light on the association between consuming fatty and sugary products, sugary beverages, and milk and acne in adulthood. This article explores why sugary foods and milk can contribute to adult acne, backed by clinical evidence and expert insights.

Why Do Sugary Foods Cause More Adult Acne?

1. High Glycemic-Load Diet and Hormonal Effects:

Consuming a diet high in glycemic load leads to increased levels of insulin and IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1). This elevation stimulates the mammalian target of rapamycin one (mTORC1) activity, which promotes cell proliferation and inhibits apoptosis. Consequently, this imbalance triggers higher levels of oxidative stress and inflammation, contributing to the development of acne.

2. Androgen Stimulation:

High glycemic load diets also stimulate the production of androgens, which are hormones associated with sebum production. Increased sebum production can clog pores, leading to the formation of acne lesions.

Clinical Evidence Supporting the Impact of Sugary Food on Adult Acne:

A study conducted by Ismail and his research group compared 44 acne cases with 44 controls and found that the acne group had a higher glycemic load according to their 24-hour dietary records. Additionally, several other researchers have established a correlation between a high glycemic load (characterized by high carbohydrate consumption) and the presence of acne.

Why Does Milk Cause More Adult Acne?

1. IGF-1 and Insulin Effects:

Milk consumption increases the production of IGF-1 by the liver and raises circulating insulin levels. Even after pasteurization, homogenization, and digestion, both IGF-1 and insulin remain partially active within the body. Consequently, the effects of milk consumption on acne are similar to those of a high glycemic-load diet.

2. Role of IGF-1:

Observations of Laron syndrome patients who do not produce IGF-1 and do not develop acne unless supplemented with this growth factor further suggest a significant role of IGF-1 in acne development.

Clinical Evidence Supporting the Impact of Milk on Adult Acne:

Adebamowo and his colleagues conducted a study that revealed a significant association between milk consumption, particularly skimmed milk, and acne in women. This association remained even after adjusting for age, age at menarche, BMI, and energy intake. Similar results were reported for adolescent boys and all adults.


The recent large-scale study published in the Journal of the American Association of Medicine emphasizes the link between adult acne and dietary choices, specifically sugary foods and milk consumption. The study highlights how high glycemic-load diets and milk intake can lead to increased levels of insulin, IGF-1, and androgens, ultimately promoting the development of acne. These findings provide valuable insights for individuals seeking to manage or prevent adult acne by making informed dietary decisions. While further research is necessary to explore the intricacies of this association, this study serves as a crucial stepping stone in understanding the impact of diet on adult acne.


Q1: Can sugary foods directly cause acne?
A: Sugary foods can indirectly contribute to acne development by causing hormonal imbalances, oxidative stress, and inflammation, which are associated with acne formation.

Q2: Does the consumption of milk products worsen existing acne?
A: Clinical evidence suggests that milk consumption, mainly skimmed milk, is associated with acne in both women and men.

Q3: Are there other factors besides diet that contribute to adult acne?
A: While diet plays a significant role in adult acne, other factors such as hormonal fluctuations, genetics, stress, and skincare routines also contribute to its development.

Q4: Are there any dietary recommendations to prevent adult acne?
A: While further research is needed, adopting a low glycemic-load diet and reducing milk consumption may help manage or prevent adult acne. Consulting with a dermatologist or healthcare professional can provide personalized advice.

Q5: Are there alternative treatment options for adult acne?
A: Alongside dietary adjustments, dermatologists can recommend topical treatments, oral medications, lifestyle modifications, and skincare routines tailored to an individual's needs.


1. Aizawa H, Niimura M. Elevated serum insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) levels in women with post-adolescent acne. J Dermatol. 1995;22(4):249-252.
2. Ismail NH, Manaf ZA, Azizan NZ. High glycemic load diet, milk, and ice cream consumption are related to acne vulgaris in Malaysian young adults: a case-control study. BMC Dermatol. 2012;12:13.
3. Adebamowo CA, Spiegelman D, Danby FW, Frazier AL, Willett WC, Holmes MD. High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005;52(2):207-214.
4. Adebamowo CA, Spiegelman D, Berkey CS, et al. Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls. Dermatol Online J. 2006;12(4):1.
5. Adebamowo CA, Spiegelman D, Berkey CS, et al. Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;58(5):787-793.
6. Juhl CR, Bergholdt HKM, Miller IM, Jemec GBE, Kanters JK, Ellervik C. Dairy intake and acne vulgaris: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 78,529 children, adolescents, and young adults. Nutrients. 2018;10(8):E1049.
7. Juhl CR, Bergholdt HKM, Miller IM, Jemec GBE, Kanters JK, Ellervik C. Lactase persistence, milk intake, and adult acne: a mendelian randomization study of 20,416 Danish adults. Nutrients. 2018;10(8):1041.

To find the right acne treatments for your unique skin, take the free skin assessment by clicking here.

Start your journey
to clear skin

  • Custom acne treatment cream, cleanser and moisturizer
  • Unlimited Dermatologist support
  • Ongoing skin monitoring