If you have acne, eczema, or other skin conditions, you may have wondered if cutting dairy out of your diet could help improve your skin. Dairy contains hormones and proteins that can worsen inflammation and trigger breakouts in some people. So how long does it take to see results after going dairy-free?
What is dairy?
Dairy products come from milk produced by cows, goats, sheep and other mammals. Common dairy foods include:
- Ice cream
Dairy contains proteins like whey and casein, natural sugar (lactose), vitamins, minerals, and varying amounts of fat. It also contains hormones like insulin growth factor 1 (IGF-1), estrogen, and androgens.
How dairy may affect skin
Research shows a link between dairy intake and acne or eczema flare-ups in certain individuals. Possible reasons why dairy may worsen skin inflammation include:
- Hormones like IGF-1, estrogen, and androgens that stimulate oil production and skin cell growth.
- Growth factors and inflammatory proteins that promote inflammation.
- Fat content, especially from high-fat dairy foods like cheese, butter, and cream.
- Lactose and whey, which trigger inflammatory responses in those with sensitivities.
- Antibiotics, steroid hormones, and other drugs found in non-organic dairy that may disrupt skin microbiome balance.
However, dairy doesn’t seem to affect skin for everyone. Research findings are mixed, and many people can tolerate moderate amounts without issue.
How long it takes skin to improve after quitting dairy
So if you decide to experiment with a dairy-free diet, how long should it take to notice clearer skin? Here’s a general timeline:
- After 2-4 weeks: You may start to notice some improvements like less oiliness, fewer new breakouts or smaller existing pimples.
- After 2 months: More significant changes emerge. Redness, inflammation and breakouts should be notably reduced.
- After 3-6 months: Skin may be fully clear for those who see complete resolution of acne or eczema flares.
However, timeframes vary a lot between individuals based on factors like:
- How much dairy you ate before removing it
- How sensitive your skin is
- If you have any food intolerances
- Your genetics and natural skin type
- Other dietary and lifestyle habits
- Use of skincare products and medications
Some people see an almost immediate improvement within days or weeks. For others it takes several months to experience the full benefits. It really depends on the individual.
Tips for clearing skin faster after quitting dairy
Here are some tips to help your skin improve more quickly after removing dairy products:
- Cut out all dairy 100% – no cheating!
- Read ingredient labels carefully and avoid hidden dairy like whey
- Choose dairy substitutes like almond milk, coconut yogurt, vegan cheese
- Increase intake of anti-inflammatory foods like fatty fish, vegetables, nuts/seeds
- Stay hydrated – aim for 2+ liters of water daily
- Manage stress levels with yoga, meditation, sleep, etc.
- Avoid inflammatory foods like sugar, refined carbs, alcohol
- Take probiotic and omega-3 supplements to reduce inflammation
- Use gentle, fragrance-free skincare products
- See a dermatologist if symptoms don’t improve within 2-3 months
Signs your skin is improving after quitting dairy
How can you tell if going dairy-free is actually helping your skin? Signs your skin may be looking better include:
- Decreased redness and irritation
- Less acne pimples, cysts, nodules
- Smaller existing breakouts
- Faster healing of breakouts
- Less flaky, itchy or scaly patches
- Less oiliness and shine
- Smoother skin texture
- Less frequent eczema flares
- Reduced use of acne or eczema medications
Keep a skin journal to track symptoms daily. Take photos to compare week-to-week progress. It can take 2 months or more to see big differences, so be patient.
Other dietary triggers to avoid for skin
In addition to dairy, other foods may also trigger breakouts or skin reactions in sensitive individuals. Some top dietary acne and eczema triggers include:
- High glycemic foods: Sugar, refined grains, potatoes, etc.
- Fried foods: High in inflammatory fats.
- Caffeine: Can increase stress hormones.
- Alcohol: Dehydrates skin and increases inflammation.
- Seafood: Can provoke immune reactions in those with sensitivities.
- Eggs: Contain hormones and allergens.
- Whey protein powder: Contains dairy proteins.
Work with a registered dietitian or dermatologist to identify your unique trigger foods beyond dairy. An elimination diet can help pinpoint problematic items.
Should you reintroduce dairy later?
Once your skin improves after quitting dairy, you may be wondering if you can add it back later on. There are a few options:
- Strict dairy avoidance: Necessary for those with true dairy allergy or intolerance.
- Limit high-fat dairy: Limit butter, cheese, cream, ice cream which are higher in hormones.
- Fermented dairy: Yogurt or kefir may be better tolerated due to lower lactose content.
- Goat or sheep dairy: Contains different proteins than cow’s milk, so may be easier to digest.
- Grass-fed/organic dairy: Lower in hormones, antibiotics, chemicals that can disrupt skin.
Reintroduce dairy slowly and one food at a time while monitoring skin closely. Limit portion sizes. This allows you to pinpoint your tolerance levels.
Other ways to keep skin clear after quitting dairy
While diet plays a big role, other factors also affect acne and eczema. Here are some additional ways to keep skin clear after going dairy-free:
- Find allergy-friendly skincare. Use products free of fragrances, dyes, and common allergens.
- Reduce stress. High stress worsens inflammation so make time to relax.
- Moisturize skin daily. Hydration helps strengthen the skin barrier.
- Avoid irritants. Limit use of harsh soaps, scrubs, and astringents.
- Wash face gently. Over-washing can dry out and irritate skin.
- Shower after sweating. Rinse away dirt, oil, and bacteria.
- Avoid touching or popping pimples. To prevent spreading infection and scarring.
- Take targeted supplements. Fish oil, vitamin D, zinc, and probiotics support skin health.
Work closely with your dermatologist to create a comprehensive skincare plan. Be patient – it can take months to undo years of dairy intake. But sticking to a dairy-free diet and skin-friendly lifestyle can provide lasting clearer skin.
Cutting out dairy may help improve inflammatory skin conditions like acne and eczema, but how long it takes to see results varies. You may notice small changes within weeks. But it can take a full 2-3 months to experience the maximum benefits for skin clearing. Be strict with 100% dairy avoidance, choose nutritious anti-inflammatory foods, stay hydrated, manage stress, and use gentle skincare. With consistency, a dairy-free diet can result in lasting clear, calm skin.