Dairy Face: What It Is and How to Fix It

Updated 05/27/19
Backstage at the Alexander Wang SS 14 Fashion Show. Photo: Courtesy of NARS Cosmetics

As beauty editors, we're always on the hunt for the latest and greatest products that will give us flawless, glowing complexions, but sometimes these so-called magic elixirs we come across just don't seem to cut it. Turns out this isn't necessarily the fault of our products, but rather the inner workings of our own bodies. Allow us to explain.

As the saying goes, you are what you eat, and that couldn't be truer. Your skin reacts to what you put inside your body, and in some cases, your diet can wreak havoc on your skin. Case in point: a phenomenon called "dairy face." Milk, cheese, and the like could actually be the main culprits for dark circles, under-eye bags, and acne. Why does this happen, you ask? We turned to Maria Bella to find out.

Meet the Expert

Maria Bella is a registered dietician and the owner of Top Balance Nutrition in NYC.

Bella explains that milk is a big aggravator for acne. What's fascinating is that people who eat Western diets (foods heavy in high-fat dairy, refined grains, red meat, and sugar) are much more likely to have skin issues than populations that don't eat dairy or refined carbs (like Pacific Islanders). Dairy, especially, results in an increase of sebum (the oily secretions that cause acne).

Another issue: milk hormones. These often cause inflammation of the skin, as well as premature aging and skin breakdown. Yikes! Sounds like that late night of Netflix and Cherry Garcia is giving us dark circles for reasons beyond just staying up to binge watch an entire series.

If you've noticed any of these issues on your own complexion, dairy may be the culprit. But what would happen if you cut out dairy entirely? According to Bella, it's not an issue: "There are no major risks on leaving dairy out." She explains that while adult women need 1000 miligrams of calcium every day, this can be obtained through foods like fish, beans, figs, collard greens, kale, soybeans, spinach, and hummus, among many others. You can also look into taking a daily supplement, like NatureMade Calcium Supplements ($13), but be sure to consult a doctor first.

Of course, there are also topical products that can help you get your skin back on track (in conjunction with a dietary change). Shop our picks for the best products to address dark circles, under-eye bags, and blemishes.

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% Bha Liquid
Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant $30
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This is a cult favorite for a reason. Skin Perfecting BHA Liquid harnesses salicylic acid to clear clogged pores and nip hormonal acne in the bud. It's truly nothing short of a miracle.

Odacite Ba+S Eye Contour
Odacité Ba+S Eye Contour Serum Concentrate $48
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Anti-aging baobab oil joins forces with sarsaparilla, palmarosa, neroli, and lavender oils for a potent eye serum that fixes puffiness and bags.

Sunday Riley Autocorrect Brightening and Depuffing Eye Contour Cream
Sunday Riley Auto Correct Brightening Depuffing Eye Contour Cream $65
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Dark circles, bye. It's all about the caffeine and Brazilian ginseng root extract in this brightening, skin-plumping eye cream.

Has your diet negatively affected your skin? How did you fix it? Please share with us below!

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