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Dairy & Cyst Acne

By Kay Uzoma ; Updated July 18, 2017

Acne blemishes may appear as whiteheads, blackheads or as deep, inflamed cysts. Severe acne with cysts causes significant scarring to your skin and may take years to treat. Emerging scientific evidence is linking dairy foods to acne. Limiting these foods in your diet may help to speed your skin’s recovery. However, if you are on a special diet or have a medical condition, consult your doctor before altering your diet to treat acne.

Cystic Acne and Inflammation

Fortunately, acne cysts are uncommon compared to blackheads or whiteheads. They may develop on several parts of your body, including your face, back, chest and shoulders. Acne cysts are nodules of inflammation that may be filled with thick, yellow pus. They can be painful and become infected, and in some cases, may need to be drained.

Dairy and Acne

Dairy foods feature heavily in the American diet and, in some acne sufferers, can worsen factors that cause acne. For instance, most commercial milk comes from cows that are pregnant, and as a result has high hormone levels. These hormones can disrupt hormonal activity in your body and increase insulin levels. Insulin boosts levels of inflammation in your skin, which worsens acne. Also, hormones in dairy may boost oil production in your skin, one of the main causes of acne.

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Eliminating Dairy Foods

Limiting or cutting out dairy foods completely doesn’t have to be detrimental to your health. Many of the nutrients found in milk -- such as calcium, protein and vitamins A and D -- are present in more skin-friendly foods, such as vegetables, fruits, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, soy and calcium-fortified foods. It may take about six months to see any improvement in your skin after cutting out dairy, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. However, if you are suffering from a condition such as osteoporosis, speak to your doctor about ways to boost your calcium and vitamin D intake, such as supplements to protect your bones. Frail, thin bones are not equal tradeoffs for clear skin.

Medical Treatment

Due to the pain and unpleasant appearance that cystic acne can cause, you may be seeking a quicker remedy. Your dermatologist may recommend an aggressive regimen of antibiotics or corticosteroid injections, which can get rid of the cyst within three to five days. In other cases, you may need to take isotretinoin, an oral medication that is the only known cure for acne. When medications fail, you may need surgery to excise the cyst after drainage. If the cysts leave permanent scars, your dermatologist or a plastic surgeon can perform procedures such as microdermabrasion, laser therapy or soft tissue fillers to minimize their appearance.

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