Dairy Face: What It Is and How to Fix It, According to a Dietician

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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 more true. 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, yogurt, 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 dietician Maria Bella to find out.

Meet the Expert

Maria Bella is a registered dietician and the owner of Top Balance Nutrition in New York City.

The Cause

Bella claims 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 more likely to have skin issues than populations that don't eat dairy or refined carbs. Dairy, especially, might result in an increase of sebum (the oily secretions that cause acne).

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

The Solution

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 says that while adult women may need around 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 ($12), 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.

2% BHA liquid exfoliant
Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant $30.00

This is a cult favorite for a reason. Skin Perfecting BHA Liquid harnesses salicylic acid meant 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 $48.00

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 $65.00

Dark circles, bye. It's all about the caffeine and Brazilian ginseng root extract in this brightening, skin-plumping eye cream.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Can the right diet get rid of acne?

  2. Katta R, Desai SP. Diet and dermatology: the role of dietary intervention in skin diseaseJ Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014;7(7):46-51.

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