The Best Paleo Makeup for Dry Skin

The Best Paleo Makeup for Dry Skin

Recently, I was offered the chance to try a new skincare and makeup line featuring all-natural, clean ingredients and nothing more.

I get offered these things from time to time and enjoy trying them because I’m always looking for something that can appeal to myself and the women I write for and that won’t make conditions like hormonal acne or dry skin worse.  As I get older I’m also looking at products that can help prevent signs of aging.

I know many of my readers want the same.

I’ve tried lots of products and some of them are really great!  But I hadn’t yet found a whole line that I really felt met all my needs.

Until now!

Annemarie makeup and skincare use organic, truly natural ingredients to make gorgeous mineral makeup, facial oils, moisturizers, and cleansers.

What I love about this skincare and makeup line is the versatility.  Dry skin products are often so oily that skin looks shiny long after application or they don’t quite have the moisture you’re looking for.

With natural makeup, coverage is also an issue.

The coverage of the mineral foundations from Annemarie can be changed based on how much of the powder and oil you use.  Not only that, but a fine dusting of powder and you are shine free, no extra product needed.

The makeup lasted me all day and I’m a face toucher for sure! I was really impressed with how long it lasted and I felt like it beat other natural makeups I’ve tried that tend to wear off or melt down on a hot day.  The ability to customize the thickness and oil content was a huge plus here too.

The anti-aging oils are packed with nutrients for skin and moisturize and protect at once.  They also smell AMAZING.

Like lavender and happiness.  Seriously.

Everything is formulated with health in mind, so those with hormonal acne have nothing to fear.

Remember, with hormonal acne, oil on the skin is not the problem.  The problem is primarily internal and has much more to do with what you are eating than what you are putting on your skin.

Skin dryness is a similar issue, so make sure that in conjunction with great skincare/makeup products like these you are also using enough Omega 3 oils (find them here) and eating a diet that eliminates dairy/gluten and focuses on gut and liver recovery. 

For those of you with sensitive skin, I tried these myself and have what I’d consider sensitive skin and they felt just fine.

The cleansing wash did a good job removing makeup and making me feel fresh, and the toner was a nice touch as well.

All in all, I was genuinely impressed with these products. I think you will be too.

Annmarie Skin Care has put together a trial package where you can try any of 3 special sample kits that include some of their best-selling products. You can choose a sample kit based on your skin type — normal, oily, or dry.

These kits are $10 each AND when you order one (or more) you’ll receive a $10.00 off coupon that you can use for a future purchase. Annmarie Skin Care is also offering FREE SHIPPING for these kits – anywhere in the world.

Also, when you get a sample kit today, you’ll get their newly updated Toxic Free Home Guide. This is an in-depth, beautifully laid out guide that exposes the worst and most common chemicals you can find throughout your house — in cleaning products, toiletries, even your couch — and shows you safe alternatives to use.

Their comprehensive, easy-to-read Toxic Free Home Guide is full of tips for creating a beautifully natural home, with lots of product recommendations and DIY recipes for everything from deodorant to drain cleaning solution.

If you order a sample kit today, you’ll get this guide — free — which is a $24.95 value.

Finally, as an extra added bonus, if you’re one of the first 100 orders, Annmarie Skin Care will send a travel-size Neroli Toning Mist — a $7.95 value — to you for free. If you’re one of the first to buy, this bonus gift will not show up on your online receipt but will be included in your order.

So for $10, you can try this award-winning skin care line AND get your own digital copy of Annmarie Skin Care’s newly updated Toxic Free Home Guide. You’ll also receive their travel-size Neroli Toning Mist as a gift if you’re one of the first 100 to place an order.

Get Your Sample Kit and Bonuses Here

And come back and let us know what you think after you try the products!  I want to hear your feedback ALWAYS 🙂 🙂


So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

Why I love using bentonite clay on my face

Why I love using bentonite clay on my face

Most regular readers of my blog know by now that I have the skin sensitivity of a poor kitten’s underbelly.

I cannot tolerate moisturizers, cleansers, or toners, even those billed as “natural” or “organic.”

When I try, my skin becomes red and inflamed, almost instantly. Every time I put on a new lotion or cleanser it’s the same.

On a very rare occasion I might try a brand “for sensitive skin” such as Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula (fragrance-free, which is the moisturizer I currently use), but it is quite rare for me to find something that suits my skin.

To that end, I stick to a simple warm washcloth and water, and an occasional spray of topical probiotics.

And because topical probiotics have worked so well for me in the past, I have promoted the company Probiotic Action’s products regularly on this site for a long time. I think they’re great.

I have also had the incredible fortune to become somewhat of a friend to the director of Probiotic Action.

This summer, the director sent me an email and told me he had developed a new cleanser, one made out of bentonite clay.

I responded, laughing. I remember the one time I got a 15-passenger van stuck in a field of bentonite clay out in Wyoming. I said, “you’ve got to be kidding me!”

He said, no, he certainly wasn’t. Bentonite clay, he explained to me, has a simultaneous exfoliating and moisturizing effect on the skin, leaving it smooth, clean, and not inflamed or overly-dry once washed.

Bentonite — and I do remember this from my days studying earth science (And getting stuck in the mud in Wyoming!) — has a special ability to bind to complex molecules, such as dirt and toxins.

I agreed to test it.

I have now been using the bentonite clay cleanser on my skin for weeks and I can honestly say it’s the only cleanser I have ever used that hasn’t made my skin worse. It feels soft and gentle and still very clean to the touch after I wash my face. I still do use my Palmer’s moisturizer, but I need less.

The cleanser:

A close up of MY FACE after using the cleanser:

Probiotic Action developed this cleanser in the pursuit of an all natural soap, one that is powerfully cleaning but free of typical additions to purportedly natural cleansers such as sodium laureth sulfate and benzyl alcohol. This is a fully natural product with no synthetic elements – and it passes all the natural standards of the holy grails of US mainstream cleanliness, such as Whole Foods.

So I wanted to share with you, as we head into the dry winter months, my favorite cleanser. I couldn’t recommend bentonite (as a cleanser or a mask) highly enough. Nor could I recommend Probiotic Action, which is an earnest and passionate company that makes high quality products at the lowest prices possible.

PLUS, Probiotic Action has so kindly created a discount code JUST FOR US! 

It’s a 15% OFF coupon. Use the code VPDVXYHZMR81 at check out!

So do check out the bentonite clay cleanser if you have super sensitive skin like me! I would love to hear what you think of it and if it works as well for you as it does for me. 🙂

Here is the probiotic action site:

Here is the link to purchase the clay cleanser:!/Bentonite-Clay-Cleanser-4-fl-oz/p/73168511/category=0

Please do let me know what you think! <3



So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

5 Signs You Suffer from High Testosterone and the 5 Reasons Why

5 Signs You Suffer from High Testosterone and the 5 Reasons Why

High testosterone in women is one of the most common hormone disorders. Literally tens of millions of women suffer from it in the United States alone. So how do you know if you have high testosterone?

1. Acne

Testosterone is elevated around ovulation cycles if you are menstruating which can lead to hormonal acne breakouts commonly around your jaw or chin. If you have PCOS you may be suffering from breakouts like these most of the time.

2. Irregular Menstrual Cycles

Having irregular menstrual cycles creates a hormonal balance allowing testosterone to become dominant or recessive. Another reason you may be having irregular menstrual cycles could be stemming from PCOS.

3. Blood Sugar Swings

Insulin encourages the ovaries to produce more testosterone

4. Low Libido

Your testosterone levels can be high but if your other primary sex hormones are not balanced, then high testosterone will not result in higher libido

5. Male Pattern Balding and Hair Growth

Another sign of high testosterone hormone imbalance is male pattern balding and hair growth.


So why is your testosterone elevated?


1. Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

If you have type I or II diabetes or know that you are insulin resistant, high testosterone is probably a problem for you.

Approximately 25% of the testosterone in female bodies comes from the ovaries. This is natural. However, insulin in the bloodstream stimulates the ovaries to produce more testosterone. This can seriously increase the ovaries’ output of testosterone.Depending on the severity of the dysregulation, insulin can lead to a significant increase in testosterone in the bloodstream. This is as much as 2 or 3 times over the optimal and healthy testosterone levels.

This is very often the case in polycystic ovarian syndrome.

2. Thyroid Disorders

Sex hormone levels and thyroid hormone levels are intimately related in many ways.

One important way is through Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). When thyroid function slows — as in hypothyroidism — SHBG levels fall. SHBG binds excess hormones to it in the blood. It is incredibly important for maintaining healthy hormone balance. When hormones like testosterone threaten to increase and there is bountiful SHBG then it can bind the testosterone and minimize its threat. Without SHBG, excessive hormones can become a real problem.

In healthy women, 80% of testosterone is bound by SHBG in the blood. With decreased SHBG however, significantly more testosterone runs free and causes testosterone-related issues.

3. Stress

Stress can have a wide variety of negative impacts on the female body. Many of these have the potential to elevate testosterone levels.For example, stress can cause hypothyroidism and the concomitant decreases in SHBG.Stress can also decrease levels of estrogen and progesterone in the blood. Estrogen and progesterone perform a counter-balancing function to testosterone. Without them, testosterone levels can rise to unhealthy levels.

Stress also causes a rise in DHEA-S, which is a male sex hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is not testosterone – but it is one of testosterone’s closest cousins. It acts in a chemically similar way and will often cause the same hormone disruptions. Read more about this process here, and about how stress negatively impacts hormone production here.

sleep and stress effect testosterone

4. Fasting After Workouts

If you work out frequently and do not eat afterwards, your testosterone levels – specifically as a woman, can rise. After intense exercise, several hormone levels are elevated including Cortisol – the “stress hormone” – and testosterone.

Cortisol levels fall naturally after a workout. But testosterone levels do not. They remain very high and decrease much more slowly if you do not eat afterward. If you do this on a regular or even daily basis this can cause a chronic problem.

testosterone increase from fasting

5. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Finally, the most common cause of high testosterone in women is PCOS.

Read about the in’s and out’s of PCOS

Now, it is not altogether clear what causes what: does high testosterone cause PCOS, or does PCOS cause high testosterone? There is no certain answer. But what is certain is that the two are inextricably linked for many women. It may very well be the case that they both cause each other: high testosterone causes PCOS and PCOS causes high testosterone.

PCOS stands for Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome and is the condition of having multiple cysts on one’s ovaries. There are three criteria used in diagnosing PCOS. In order to be diagnosed you must meet two of the three criteria: irregular or absent menstrual cycles, elevated testosterone or other male sex hormone levels, and cysts on the ovaries as demonstrated by an ultrasound.

PCOS affects as many as 15% of in America today, and is actually the leading cause of infertility, by a long shot.

So if you suffer from symptoms of high testosterone, from any of the above conditions such as hypothyroidism, stress, or insulin resistance / diabetes, you may want to investigate PCOS as a potential underlying cause or secondary effect of your condition.

PCOS may be a complex condition but this does not mean that it is insurmountable. I myself overcame my own PCOS (despite receiving terrible medical advice). So many of the women I have worked with on the issue have, too.

To read more of my work on PCOS and find out how it’s unique from what other people have done, check out any of these posts: What is PCOS? PCOS Treatment OptionsThe PCOS Diet, or my program on overcoming PCOS, PCOS Unlocked: The Manual.


So that’s it for common causes of high testosterone. Do you have other ones in your own experience? Questions, concerns? I’d love to hear about it – please let me know!


So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

The Acne and Vitamin B12 Link: How Healthy Food Can Give you Pimples

The Acne and Vitamin B12 Link: How Healthy Food Can Give you Pimples

Bacteria are incredibly important for the quality of your skin. (I have talked about this on the blog previously in this post: Topical Probiotics: Can applying bacteria to your face cure acne?)

Recent studies have shown that they are even more important than we ever thought.

It has also been rumored in the dermatological community since the 1950s or so that vitamin B12 causes acne.

Molecular pharmacologist Huiying Li decided to investigate both phenomena at once. Is there a relationship between vitamin B12 and skin bacteria?

Li and team examined the gene expression of bacteria on people’s skin, and then injected them with B12 and examined them again.

They found that vitamin B12 altlers the metabolic activity of the skin bacteria propionibacterium acnes.

These bacteria, propionibacterium acnes, naturally secrete vitamin B12. They create it on their own. Yet when the supply of B12 to the skin from the human host increases beyond natural levels–such as when injected with B12 or when taking a multivitamin–the bacteria stop producing their own B12.

When they stop producing their own B12, they begin producing porphyrin molecules.

Porphyrins cause inflammation, and therefore acne.

This effect was witnessed by Li and team when they injected people with clear skin with B12. Before the injection, their skin was clear and the genetic expression normal. After the injection, the genetic expression was altered and the skin was no longer clear.

In fact, the amount of genetic expression of the propionibacterium acnes of this B12-related gene decreasedd in these people who had previously had clear skin to levels of genetic expression Li and team saw in people who already had acne.

Basically, vitamin B12 injections made clear skin become acne prone skin.

A week after receiving the vitamin B12 injection, one of the 10 participants broke out in pimples. That person’s P. acnes gene-expression pattern also changed, the researchers found. Before the B12 injection, it was similar to those of the other healthy participants, but 14 days after the vitamin B12 shot, it looked much more like an acne patient’s pattern.

The researchers also did experiments on P. acnes growing in lab dishes.They found that when they added vitamin B12 to the bacteria, the microbes started producing compounds the porphyrins, which promote inflammation and acne.

What to do about it

-Do you suffer from acne? If you eat a nourishing, high-quality whole foods diet and do not take any supplements, you probably don’t have anything to worry about from vitamin B12. 

In case you are curious, however, foods that are naturally high in vitamin B12 are liver, eggs, red meat, shellfish, crab, cheese, mackerel, low fat dairy products, tuna, turkey, poultry, and all seafood products.

Basically, B12 is found in high quality animal products. Liver is the highest dose of B12.

I always wondered why I broke out when I ate liver, even though it was supposed to be such a healthy food. This problem with B12 explains why. Knowing this reassures me about my health when I eat liver. The reason I was breaking out wasn’t because I was unhealthy, but was rather because of the genetic expression of the bacteria in my skin. I should keep eating liver (or taking desiccated liver supplements!) like I always have been, despite the occasional zit.

-If you take a multivitamin that contains B12, a B-complex with B12, or Brewer’s yeast, you may wish to lower your dose or to stop taking the supplement for 2 weeks, to see if you notice any changes in the quality of your skin.

-I highly recommended considering a high-quality topical probioitic which will increase the amount of “good” bacteria in your skin and reduce its level of inflammation. You can use a probiotic spray like I do. This is the one I personally use, by the company Probiotic Action, here.

-You can also use a probiotic moisturizer. My favorite is the Eminence Clear Skin Probiotic Moisturizer, which you can get on Amazon here.

-If you want to learn more about acne, check out my post on the topic: Everything You Need to Know about Acne in 3000 Words, the very popular Hormonal Acne: Where It’s Coming From and What to Do About it or The Ultimate Hormonal Acne Treatment Plan. Or take a look at my page on acne, and see all my favorite acne links!


What do you think? Might there be a relationship between B12 and acne in your experience?


So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

PCOS and Acne: The Paleo Way to Overcome Both at Once

PCOS and Acne: The Paleo Way to Overcome Both at Once

Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndome (PCOS) is a fertility condition that affects between 10 and 15 percent of women in the Western world.

All of these women suffer from at least some of the symptoms of PCOS: irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, difficulty with weight loss, low libido, facial hair growth, balding, and, perhaps most popular of all, acne.

PCOS and acne are inextricably linked. Why? Because PCOS is caused by an underlying hormone imbalance. The very same underlying hormone imbalance causes acne. It is possible to have PCOS without acne, and possible to have this kind of acne without PCOS. But quite frequently they occur together.

Here in this post I explain the hormone imbalance that causes PCOS, and the ways in which it also causes acne.

Also, and importantly: after figuring out how to overcome my own PCOS and acne, I wrote a manual on overcoming PCOS. It’s PCOS Unlocked: The Manual, and you can read all about it here.

PCOS and acne: the underlying hormone imbalance

Most medical professionals understand the hormone problem that underlies PCOS to be quite simple: elevated insulin levels cause the ovaries to produce excess testosterone, which throws a wrench in the menstrual cycle and causes irregularity, cysts on the ovaries, and infertility.

This does indeed happen to be the case for many women with PCOS. Testosterone is their biggest problem. In my PCOS manual, I call this “type I PCOS”.

Yet there are other types of PCOS.

Low female sex hormone levels are another cause of PCOS.

Why? Because–even though most medical professionals don’t understand this–PCOS is not just about high testosterone, but is rather about a fundamental imbalance between testosterone and the female sex hormones.

When estrogen and progesterone levels fall, they get out of fundamental balance with testosterone, which also throws a wrench in the menstrual cycle.

Estrogen and progesterone levels fall for any number of reasons, though by far the most popular reasons have to do with stress and with starvation. 

The thing about the female body is that it is highly sensitive to any conditions that may impair it’s ability to healthfully bear children. If you imagine life millions of years ago back on the savannah, it would be quite common for natural disasters or tribal conflict to create stressful times that could hinder a healthy pregnancy. It would also be quite common to come into a period of famine, in which case pregnant women would not be able to get enough food to sustain their pregnancies.

In periods of stress and starvation, pregnant women die more easily.

In order to prevent this from happening, the female body shuts down hormone production when it detects the slightest bit of stress or starvation. Shutting down hormone production prevents the body from becoming pregnant, which would have saved an ancestral woman’s life in the long run.

Our bodies do the same thing.

If we count calories, resrict food intake, limit carbohydrates or fat too much, yo-yo diet, or excercise excessively, our sex hormone levels fall, and our estrogen and progesterone levels become too low both for a healthy menstrual cycle and for clear skin.

You can read more about the female body and psychological stress in this post: psychological stress and hypothalamaic amenorrhea, and more about the female body and starvation-type stress in this post: metabolic distress and hypothalamic amenorrhea.

There is yet one more popular hormone problem that causes PCOS. It’s what happens when DHEA-S levels rise.

Elevated levels of DHEA-S contribute to PCOS because DHEA-S is also an androgen, or male sex hormone.

DHEA-S and testosterone act very similarly in the female body. The primary difference is that testosterone is produced by the ovaries, and DHEA-S is produced by the adrenal glands.

DHEA-S levels rise in response to stress. Whenever you feel stressed out, your body has a choice to make: it can continue to direct it’s hormonal resources toward sex hormone production, or it can divert those resources toward stress hormone production.

This process is often called “pregnenolone steal.” The reason we call it a “steal” is that hormonal resources are literally stolen by the adrenal glands and used for sex hormone production.

Thus you end up with lower hormone levels (like estrogen, progesterone, and the pituitary signalling hormones LH and FSH), as well as elevated DHEA-S levels, which can cause testosterone-like symptoms in the body: PCOS, infertility, facial hair growth, and acne.

So in sum, there are several hormonal factors that may be at play in PCOS:

Testosterone levels may be too high largely due to insulinemia

Estrogen and/or progesterone levels may be too low due to psychological and physical stress

DHEA-S levels may be too high due to psychological stress

Causes of PCOS and causes of acne

So in a very brief, very simplified nutshell: PCOS is caused by and large by an imbalance between male sex hormones and female sex hormones. If testosterone or DHEA-S is elevated, PCOS may result. If estrogen or progesterone is low, PCOS may result. Any of these things can happen at the same time, and often do.

(For more on the details of how all this happens, check out the PCOS manual here.)

This hormone imbalance is also one of the primary causes of acne.

How hormones and acne work

There are three separate layers to the skin, and pores traverse these layers. In order to adequately protect your body and keep toxins on the outside, the outer layer of the skin has to be hydrated and strong.

Pores deliver oil to the out layers from the bottom up. In healthy skin, oil comes up through the pores and oozes onto the surface, lubricating the skin and making it look soft and glowy. Think of it like a well, or a hot spring, or an oil rig.

In acne-prone skin, debris from the surface clogs pores, bacteria clog pores, and oil coming up from the bottom clogs pores. Then all this oil oxidizes and bacteria go on a feeding frenzy – which makes the pores become infected and inflamed.

The problem for women with PCOS is that male sex hormones increase oil production.

Estrogen performs an opposite function, and helps sooth the skin.

When estrogen levels are low, and when oil production increases from elevated testosterone or DHEA-S, acne is often the result.

The kind of acne that usually accompanies PCOS is around the chin, the mouth, and the jaw. It can spread to other areas of the face and the body, particularly the shoulders, buttocks, and back of the thighs, because these are the areas where the skin has the most testosterone receptors. If you have acne in these places there is quite a decent chance that your hormones are at least a bit  out of balance, PCOS or no.

For more on hormones and acne, check out this post: cystic acne and hormones: everything you need to know.

PCOS and acne: what to do about it

So what do you do about your acne and PCOS?

For one, tackling PCOS should be a priority.

You can do so by utilizing the manual for overcoming PCOS I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve used with thousands of women, which you can read all about here.

You can also read some other posts I have on PCOS:

What is PCOS?

The PCOS Diet

5 Things I wish I knew when I was diagnosed with PCOS

PCOS and hypothalamic amenorrhea: What’s wrong with the contemporary understanding and how you can have both

You may also wish to consider tackling your acne from more than one angle. PCOS and underlying hormone problems are in all likelihood a significant factor in your acne, yet there are probably other factors at play. To that end you may wish to check out the posts:

The ultimate hormonal acne treatment plan

Acne: thinking beyond hormones

And, most of all, I highly recommend the remarkable acne program by my favorite thinker on the topic of acne, Seppo Puusa. I have learned so much of what I know about acne from Seppo. You can read all about his work, his program, and what he has to offer HERE. 


And that’s it! Please let me know your thoughts, your problems, your experiences in the comments! I and everyone else in our community would be honored to learn through your life and wisdom 🙂


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PCOS and Acne - Paleo for Women


So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

Dairy and Acne: Everything You Need to Know

Dairy and Acne: Everything You Need to Know

One of the first things I ask women when they tell me they struggle with acne is: “Have you tried eliminating dairy yet?”

I ask because I personally struggle with dairy, because I’ve met and worked with so many people who struggle with dairy, and because I have read the studies. If Nestle admits that dairy is a problem, then there’s a fairly good chance that dairy is a problem.

Dairy and acne are quite closely linked. There are two primary reasons for this: dairy is hormonal, and dairy affects the gut. I will first talk quickly about how acne is formed, then I will highlight how the hormonal and intestinal aspects of dairy affect this process.

Dairy and acne: how acne is formed

Acne is caused by a combination of many different factors in the layers of the skin.

There are three layers to the skin. Pores and hair follicles traverse these layers. In healthy skin, a nice, lubricating oil is delivered to the surface of the skin from the bottom up through the pores. You may want to think of it like a river. Oil flows through the pores passing by the lower layers of the skin and ends up on top, and spreads out over the skin to moisturize it.

Unfortunately, in acne prone skin, the river becomes dammed.

On one end, the oil production increases. When this happens, there can be too much oil trying to push up through the pore, and it will get stuck.

On the other end, skin cells from the top layer of the skin fail to separate and shed properly. This is a process known as keratinization. Sometimes skin cell keratinize too much, clump together, and get stuck in pores and hair follicles.

With all of this extra material in the pores, from both the oil “below” and the keratinized skin cells “above,” this creates an excellent breeding ground for p acnes bacteria.

The bacteria infect the clogged pore, and then the immune system attacks the bacteria. This looks like inflammation, and will usually result in a red sore, often with a hard white pus that is difficult to resist popping.

So in sum (and acknolwedging that there is a whole lot else going on, more about which at this brilliant site), the primary problems affecting skin health are oil production, keratinization, and inflammation.

Dairy and acne: how dairy increases oil production

Dairy, moreso than any other food, increases oil production in the skin.

This is because dairy is a product of nursing cows (which are always in a cycle of nursing and pregnancy). Nursing cows (in fact, all nursing animals) have tons of hormones in their milk that are designed to promote growth and proliferation. These growth- and proliferation- forming hormones are necessary to stimulate the development of infants.

They also, unfortunately, stimulate the production of oil in the skin.

One such hormone is insulin. 

Insulin is a growth hormone. When the sebum-producing cells near the surface of the skin (called sebocytes) detect insulin in the bloodstream, their activity increases. Insulin causes oil production to increase in pores.

Insulin levels ordinarily spike in the blood in response to eating carbohydrates, and, to a lesser extent, protein. Medical professionals have a scale they used called the insulin index value for foods. The foods which have the highest insulin index values spike insulin the most and tend to be refined carbohydrates. White bread, for example, is benchmarked at an index value of 100. Apples are 60.

Milk and yogurt, on the other hand, have values higher than 100. Milk is near 100 (and higher in skim than in full fat milk). Yogurt (I’m assuming with sugar added) is a whopping 115.  This study found that when milk or yogurt is added to a meal it has no effect on blood sugar but  does significantly increase insulin levels.

Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) may be even worse than insulin. 

IGF-1 is one of the primary growth hormones responsible for cell proliferation and production in human beings. It is quite healthy much of the time and can be helpful for people who are trying to build muscle and the like. It is found in super high concentrations in milk, as milk is the one thing we consume that is specifically designed to spur cell growth.

IGF-1 works together with insulin much of the time and we find that whenever one of them increases so does the other. IGF-1 makes skin cells grow faster which will speed up the rate of keratinization and pore clogging before normal skin cleaning mechanisms have a chance to intervene.

IGF-1 and insulin also directly stimulate testosterone production in the ovaries. 

Testosterone is a big problem for women’s health because even a slight imbalance between testosterone and other female hormones will lead to irregular periods, infertility, poly cystic ovarian syndrome, facial hair growth, balding, low libido, mood dysregulation, insomnia, and, of course, acne.

Testosterone (and other male sex hormones, called androgens) causes acne because it increases oil production in the skin, stimulates the growth of skin cells, and, importantly, increases the body’s inflammatory response. This means that testosterone is implicated not only in clogging pores, but also in inflaming them, and turning them into large red sores on the face.

You can often tell if you have testosterone driven acne if it is cyclical and seems to regularly occur during ovulation (around day 14) or some other time in your menstrual cycle. Other indicators of testosterone-driven acne are location: testosterone-driven acne is located most commonly around the mouth, on the chin and jaw, and in more severe cases on the shoulders, upper back, buttocks, and lower thighs. This is where the skin has the greatest number of testosterone receptors.

Moreover, it appears as though testosterone may play a role in weakening skin barrier function. It appears as though caffeine, when applied to the surface of the skin, may be able to mitigate this effect. This company has some excellent, clean skin care products with caffeine in them.

Dairy and acne: how dairy can cause inflammation

Some people have adverse reactions to milk and other dairy products not because of the hormones but because of the sugars or the proteins in milk.

The primary carbohydrate (or sugar) in milk is called lactose. Many humans become lactose intolerant throughout the course of their adult lives for one reason or another. Lactose intolerance is characterized by an inability to break down lactose properly, which results in feeding bad bacteria in the gut. It causes disruptions in digestion which can lead to constipation, diarrhea, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, and a disrupted gut flora population. All of these things, taken together, can cause irritation and inflamation in the gut lining, which goes on to send inflammatory molecules all throughout the body, including the skin.

The two primary proteins in milk and other dairy products are called casein and whey. Many people develop a significant sensitivity to these proteins, which function in the gut in a way not unlike that of gluten. They can irritate the gut lining and may be identified by the body as foreign invaders, which then causes an autoimmune-like attack and systemic inflammation. Any kind of disruption to the gut lining will cause an inflammatory response, which has a negative impact on the skin by increasing the amount of inflammatory molecules available to acne to become inflamed.

Dairy and acne: recap

So far, we have seen how acne occurs when pores become clogged from the bottom up by oil and from the top down by keratinized skin, and then gets attacked by the immune system. Certain hormones, particularly testosterone and other male sex hormones, insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 increase oil production and clog pores. The sugar lactose and the proteins casein and whey may cause gut irritation and therefore increase the number of inflammatory molecules in the bloodstream.

What to do about it

So far as food options go, not all dairy is created equal. Milk is the worst offender for acne, and skim milk the worst of all, since it is so high in sugar and hormones without any fat in it to dampen their effect. Cream has high amounts of hormones but is full fat so may decrease the impact of insulin, and if it is full-fat cream then it has not been proccessed and therefore may be healthier. There’s some reason to believe that yogurt doesn’t have as strong hormonal effect as pure milk does. For example, fermentation deactivates a large portion of IGF-1 in milk. The same would go for kefir. Some cheese is high in casein but not in whey and vice versa. Hormones will still be present in cheeses but due to its processing not quite as much.

Butter may be the safest bet of all dairy, since almost no sugars or proteins are left in it. However, the best dairy to consume of all is gheewhich is butter that has been clarified by being boiled and having all of the leftover proteins and solids skimmed off and removed. Hormones will still be present to some extent but less so, and sugars and proteins least of all.

This is my favorite ghee.

There are also dairy alternatives.

You may wish to try almond or soy milk, though I personally find those problematic as they can also have strong hormone effeccts since they contain not insignificant amounts of phytoestrogens for someone with as sensitive a hormone system as I have.

My favorite “alternative” is coconut. Coconut yogurt is especially delicious, and they even make coconut kefir now.

You may also wish to combat the hormonal effects of dairy.

Spearmint tea has been rumored to reduce testosterone levels in women.

An  enzyme called 5-alpha reductase can convert testosterone to a hormone called DHT which is up to 10 times more potent than testosterone. One powerful 5-alpha reductase inhibitor is green tea.

To learn more about green tea and how to best steep it for it’s acne-fighting effects, check out the brilliant research of Seppo Puusa.

If you have PCOS or suspect that you may, since many women who suffer from testosterone-related acne do, check out my post What is PCOS?, PCOS treatment optionsor my step-by-step manual or overcoming PCOS, PCOS Unlocked: The Manual.

And, again, I really cannot recommend highly enough the resources you can find at, which is where the only person I have ever anything new about acne from writes.



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