By Holly Rhue
To get some clarity on the relationship between whey protein and acne, we tapped board-certified dermatologists Alicia Zalka, M.D., and Hadley King, M.D.
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Whey protein might not be on your radar as a source of dairy but it most definitely is. In other words, it may trigger breakouts.
Whey protein is a type of protein derived from a cheese byproduct called whey. It’s easily dissolvable in milk — dairy, oat, almond milk… you can take your pick — and water, so you can easily blend it up into a shake, bake it into your favorite brownie recipe, or even froth it up in your coffee to increase your daily protein intake.
Dairy products (like whey protein) can cause a spike in testosterone production, which can increase sebum production and clog your pores, which ultimately leads to breakouts. “Studies suggest that people who consume dairy foods regularly may be more prone to acne compared to those who do not consume dairy foods,” says Dr. Zalka.
Whether or not whey protein can trigger breakouts depends greatly on your genes. “We think that this is because dairy products promote insulin secretion and the production of hormones, such as IGF-1, which is known to be a major contributor to acne development,” explains Dr. King.
“The best approach is to avoid whey protein altogether if you suspect it is affecting your complexion,” says Dr. Zalka. Instead, try a vegan protein source, like soy protein or pea protein, which can give you just as much protein per dose, sans any dairy.