Does Almond Milk Cause Acne? Here Are The Facts
Many people who are reading this post know how bad dairy milk can be for clear skin.
Is almond milk a better alternative?
Is this plant-based alternative to dairy milk good enough to replace dairy milk, or should you choose something else?
Almond milk is usually a better choice for clear skin than dairy milk, but you might be surprised to learn that almond milk does have some problems, too.
Why dairy milk may cause acne?
1. Dairy milk promotes acne-causing hormones to be released.
People who switch to low-carb or keto diets to treat acne often think that dairy is fine since it has few carbs.
Well, the truth is that dairy products, especially dairy milk, are insulinogenic, even though they are low in carbs. This means that they are very likely to raise blood sugar levels, which makes the body produce a hormone called insulin.
The scientific reason for this is that dairy has a type of protein (casein/whey) that makes insulin more than any other type of protein.
Insulin is one of the worst hormones for clear skin because it sets off a chain reaction of other hormones and chemicals that all contribute to the acne causes on face. These chemicals and hormones include IGF-1, IGFBP-3, and IL-1:
- IGF-1 and IGFBP-3 block pores.
- IGF-1 causes more oil to be made.
- IL-1 and IGF-1 make inflammation worse.
Usually, we think of carbohydrate-heavy foods like bread and rice as the ones most likely to make insulin levels rise. However, milk has been shown to cause a bigger insulin response than some of the stereotypical worst offenders, like white bread and white rice.
When it comes to your skin, almond milk has a clear advantage over dairy milk in this area.
2. Hormones that cause acne are in dairy milk.
Hormones that cause acne are released when dairy milk is eaten. Dairy milk also has a lot of these hormones that cause acne. Specifically, insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1, can cause a chain reaction that leads to more skin cells and clogged pores.
Dairy from cows, sheep, or goats is all made for the same reason: to help young animals grow. Even though this may be helpful when we are young, as we get older, our bodies become less able to handle high levels of these hormones, and acne is the result.
3. It’s hard to digest dairy milk.
Dairy milk is hard to digest for two main reasons besides the fact that it raises hormone levels.
First, casein A1, a protein found in most dairy milk, has been shown to cause inflammation in the gut and may make the gut more permeable, which can lead to a condition called leaky gut syndrome. 2
Acne is a disease that is caused by inflammation. In fact, acne is an inflammatory disease. Bacterial acne infections happen all the time on the skin. They are usually harmless, and if your immune system and skin microbiome are working well, your body will take care of them without you even noticing.
People who have acne are doing one of two things (and almost always both):
Too many acne infections are being produced by the body (possibly due to overgrowth of skin cells, like we talked about with dairy hormones).
The body is overreacting to existing and new infections, which causes inflammation.
Inflammation is what takes a common acne infection and turns it into a painful, red, protruding pimple or cyst. Without inflammation, acne doesn’t show up or doesn’t show up as much, which is why it’s so important to keep inflammation down.
Again, I go into much more detail about this in my book, but for now, I hope this quick explanation helps show why dairy can be very bad for your skin and cause inflammatory acne.
4. Dairy allergies are very common.
Some studies say that as much as 70% of the world’s population can’t handle lactose.
This may not seem like a big deal, since many lactose-intolerant people just deal with the bad effects of occasional dairy consumption, but every time a lactose-intolerant person eats dairy, their body reacts with an allergic, inflammatory response.
Because of this, both dairy proteins (casein A1 and lactose) and carbohydrates (lactose) are among the worst things for inflammatory acne.
Is it better to choose almond milk?
Okay, so after all of that criticism of dairy milk, it seems safe to say that almond milk is better for clear skin, right?
Yes, but that doesn’t mean that almond milk doesn’t have its own set of problems that can cause acne.
There are still better alternatives to almond milk, which we’ll talk about at the end of this article. For now, though, let’s focus on almond milk and see why it’s better for your skin.
1. Growth hormones are not in almond milk.
Almond milk, on the other hand, doesn’t have any growth hormones like IGF-1, which can cause skin cells and sebum oil to grow too quickly and cause acne.
Almond milk is made from only plants, so it does contain some anti-nutrients that can cause acne (we’ll talk more about this soon), but if you drink it in moderation, it’s a much better choice than dairy milk, which is full of growth hormones.
2. Almond milk doesn’t have much sugar.
Also, dairy milk is likely to cause a big insulin response, while almond milk usually causes a very small insulin response. Insulin is one of the main hormones that causes acne.
I say “usually” because it’s very important to stay away from almond milk that has sugar added to it.
When it comes to insulin-driven hormonal acne, sugar is one of the worst offenders. When you eat sugar, your body responds immediately, quickly, and with a lot of insulin.
This turns a drink like almond milk, which is already low in carbs and insulin and good for your skin, into the perfect mix for causing hormonal acne.
3. Almond milk has prebiotics, which may help the digestive system.
Almond milk also has a lot of prebiotics, which are substances that help good bacteria and fungi grow in the gut.
Studies show that prebiotics may improve the effectiveness of oral probiotics by giving these good bacteria something to “eat.”
Research on the gut microbiome is still in its early stages, but it’s worth noting that almond milk may help digestion if you can drink it.
The disadvantages of almond milk
Overall, almond milk is a much better choice than dairy milk when it comes to having clear skin. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any problems. The main ones are its high omega-6 fatty acid content and the fact that many people are allergic to almonds.
1. There are a lot of omega-6 fatty acids in almond milk.
Omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in almond milk, are a lot more likely to cause acne that is caused by inflammation than casein A1, which is a protein found in dairy.
Most foods have a healthy mix of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, but almost all of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in almond milk are omega-6.
In fact, one cup of almond milk has almost as many omega-6 fatty acids that cause inflammation as some french fries or potato chips that have been deep-fried. 5
2. Allergies to almonds are very common too
Almond milk is likely to cause allergic reactions or intolerance as well as inflammation caused by omega-6 fatty acids.
Tree nut allergies are some of the most common in the world. If you are allergic to tree nuts, drinking almond milk may make your body react with inflammation every time.
Together with the high amount of omega-6, this makes almond milk a fairly high risk for acne that gets red and swollen.
Better alternatives to almond milk
It’s worth saying again that almond milk is still a better choice for clear skin for the vast majority of people than cow, goat, or sheep dairy milk.
Still, if you’re looking for a milk alternative that doesn’t contain dairy, coconut milk and macadamia nut milk are much better for your skin.
Coconut milk and macadamia milk build on the benefits of almond milk, like how it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels, doesn’t have any added hormones, and is good for your gut bacteria. They are also easy to digest and have low levels of omega-6 fatty acids.
Both coconut milk and macadamia nut milk have almost no omega-6 fatty acids, and allergies and intolerances to coconut and macadamia nuts are very rare.
Still, no matter what dairy-free milk alternative you choose, it’s important to stay away from dairy-free milk with added sugar because it makes insulin-driven acne much more likely to happen.
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