Does Yogurt Cause Acne?

Are you experiencing random breakouts, or troublesome acne that’s more prevalent than usual? Think your diet – specifically yogurt consumption – may be the cause of acne?

There’s a common belief in the world of beauty and skin care that dairy—namely yogurt—causes acne. In fact, studies show that consuming dairy products in any amount is correlated with an increase in breakouts. While it’s true that acne is primarily the result of hormonal fluctuations, diet can play an important role in the health and clarity of your complexion.

Is yogurt either a regular dietary staple or treatment to your face? Read on to learn more about whether yogurt is the cause of acne. We’ll help you take the right steps to achieve clear, blemish-free skin.

does yogurt cause acne

How does diet affect acne?

Diet plays a huge role in achieving and maintaining beautiful, healthy skin. It the key to increased energy, a healthy BMI, and reduced risk of several diseases. In addition, it also plays a huge role in the condition of your skin, hair, and nails. 

Now, let’s take a closer look at acne. Acne forms when excess sebum (naturally-occurring facial oil) gets trapped in pores, or when dead skin builds up and is not exfoliated or cleared. While everyone secretes their own amount of sebum, it can worsen or get out of hand if you’re not eating a balanced diet.

If you consume a diet that’s low in essential nutrients, you’re missing out on a powerhouse of nutritional aid that can help you manage your acne holistically. Such nutrients are complex carbohydrates, zinc, Omega 3s, and Vitamins A and E.

Moreover, consuming sugary foods regularly—such as simple or refined carbohydrates (white or refined breads and grains), sugary drinks, and candy—you’re not helping your case. Sugar absorbs quickly into your bloodstream, which raises your blood sugar and increases insulin levels. This, in turn, causes inflammation, which is the culprit behind acne flare-ups and a host of other undesirable side effects.

One common misnomer is that greasy food, such as potato chips, fried food, and other “junk food,” causes acne. This is actually a myth, despite the fact that these same foods may cause other health complications. Studies do show, however, a correlation between consumption of dairy products and acne flare-ups.

Yogurt and acne: the dairy correlation

Why does yogurt and other dairy products cause or exacerbate acne? 

For one thing, many commercial yogurts today are loaded with sugar. Some of the most popular brands have up to 36 g of sugar per cup of yogurt. On average, a woman’s daily sugar intake shouldn’t exceed 25 g! 

If yogurt is a regular part of your diet, check the nutrition label to see how many grams of added sugar your yogurt contains. Note that added sugar is the problem. Natural sugar found in all natural, plain Greek yogurt is fine!

If there is a lot of added sugar in your yogurt, it could be that sugar is more to blame for your acne than the dairy product itself.

If you eat yogurt with no or little added sugar and are still experiencing acne breakouts, there’s another possible reason: whole-fat dairy is thought to be inflammatory.

This is primarily due to high amounts of saturated fat, which can exacerbate existing inflammation. While an inflammatory response is your body’s way of protecting you against infection or disease, it can also trigger acne production.

The good news is that small or moderate amounts of dairy, including whole-fat varieties, is probably safe for acne. In fact, some studies show that dairy can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body if consumed in moderation.

However, if you’re really struggling with persistent acne that you can’t seem to shake, it’s probably safest to opt for low or nonfat yogurt varieties, which contain less saturated fat than their whole-fat counterparts. These also contain less natural sugar than whole-fat dairy, which can reduce the frequency of breakouts.

Low-fat or nonfat dairy alternatives

Need some low-fat or nonfat yogurt suggestions? Try these options to replace your full-fat yogurt, and keep an eye on your acne to see if there’s an improvement. 

  1. 2% Fage Low-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt

Not only is this product all-natural, with no added sugar, but Greek yogurt tends to be a lower-glycemic yogurt option than regular types while containing all of the same vitamins and minerals. Your skin may thank you for this switch!

  1. Siggi’s Nonfat Vanilla Icelandic Style Greek Yogurt

Made with simple ingredients and minimal sugar, this is a great yogurt alternative to the full-fat, regular varieties you may have been eating previously.

  1. Chobani Greek Yogurt – Madagascar Vanilla & Cinnamon

This low-fat Greek yogurt variety packs a protein punch and tastes delicious with vanilla, cinnamon, and other natural flavors. Note that there is some added sugar in this product, but only 9 g total, which is a reasonable amount.

Yogurt as a skin care treatment

So, we’ve already covered how and whether you should incorporate yogurt into your diet if you’re struggling with acne…but did you ever consider using it as a spot treatment or topical solution for breakouts?

One online search will pull up hundreds of results for yogurt as skin care, including face mask recipes and other homemade concoctions. This is because yogurt contains lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid that gently clears away dead skin cells. In this sense, yogurt acts as a natural exfoliant that works perfectly for sensitive skin types. Rather than using abrasive or harsh ingredients for brighter, glowing skin, yogurt gets the job done without any irritation. 

When selecting a yogurt for a holistic acne treatment, always select varieties without added sugar (or unflavored varieties). The more that’s added to yogurt, the greater likelihood of unnecessary topical irritation. 

Clearing up acne

In addition to considering yogurt as a potential antidote and irritant for acne (depending on your body’s reaction to dairy), there are a few other steps you can take to mitigate your breakouts and find some relief. They include: 

  • Washing your face twice per day to manage excess sebum production. Always use a mild or even holistic cleanser with acne-fighting ingredients (i.e. alpha and beta hydroxy acids);
  • Applying a lightweight moisturizer after cleansing. This can be a homemade yogurt moisturizer, as we discussed above. Alternatively, other mild moisturizers can do the trick, too. Find the best moisturizer for your skin through our Product Rankings.
  • Exfoliating 1-2 times per week. Be careful not to over-exfoliate, as doing so can further irritate your skin and cause increased breakouts;
  • Go easy on the makeup. If you must wear makeup to cover blemishes, select brands or varieties that are noncomedogenic or oil-free. It may also be helpful to wash your makeup brushes on a regular basis to prevent caking on unnecessary makeup. Always remove your makeup at the end of the day with an oil cleanser. Find the best right oil cleanser for you in our Product Rankings.

Best Ingredients to Eat for Acne

There are several good holistic solutions for acne, including nutrition and supplementation. As we know, it’s equally important to put the right things into your body as well as on your body. There are many vitamins and nutrients that may prove beneficial for clearing up skin, such as:

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for skin health and repair. These fatty acids help regulate sebum production, improve skin barrier function, and soften and moisturize dry skin. By eating foods rich in Omega 3s (such as salmon and other fatty fish, Chia seeds, walnuts, and plant-based oils), or by supplementing with a fish oil pill, you may improve your skin conditions and, subsequently, your acne.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is widely-touted for its anti-inflammatory benefits, making it an essential nutrient for kicking stubborn acne to the curb. In fact, not getting enough Vitamin D is thought to actually worsen acne symptoms. Studies show that supplementing with 1,000 IU of Vitamin D each day over a period of 2 months improved acne significantly in those who had been formerly deficient. 

While you can certainly soak up the sun’s rays as your primary source of Vitamin D, supplementation might be a good idea in colder weather or overcast months. It’s difficult to get an adequate amount of Vitamin D through your diet, though fortified milk and fruit juices will provide a decent amount. 

Green tea extract

Antioxidants are powerful for their anti-inflammatory properties, so when it comes to managing and preventing acne flare-ups, green tea is a great avenue to explore. Containing enough antioxidants to significantly reduce inflammation, both green tea and green tea extract may be instrumental in fighting acne lesions and banishing blemishes.

Vitamin B-5

Research largely shows that B vitamins have a beneficial effect on clearing up acne, though the best results come from vitamin B-5, specifically (or pantothenic acid). This vitamin promotes oxidation in the body, and is known for its role in maintaining eye, skin, and hair health. Some natural sources of Vitamin B-5 include eggs, meats, poultry, lentils, broccoli, potatoes, nuts, and beans, to name a few. B-5 is prevalent enough in a well-balanced diet that supplementation probably isn’t necessary for most people to reap its skin benefits. 


Zinc plays an important role in maintaining skin health, among many other essential functions. While zinc is available in foods such as whole grains, milk, lean meats, and seafood, acne sufferers may also find zinc supplementation beneficial to give skin an extra boost. 


In addition to promoting a healthy gut and supporting immune health, probiotics may contain potent anti-inflammatory properties that mitigate acne. While the most effective strains have not yet been pinpointed, supplementing with a daily probiotic is a good choice for most people who don’t consume yogurt or other fermented foods on a regular basis. 

Conclusion: so, does yogurt cause acne?

Yogurt isn’t necessarily the acne-causing monster you might believe it is. While some research correlates high dairy intake with increased breakouts, eating unflavored Greek yogurt in moderation (throw in some berries for flavor, whose antioxidants will work as an anti-inflammatory agent) can be beneficial for acne.

Moreover, applying yogurt as a topical solution sparingly to treat acne may yield benefits, as well. 

Play around with the use of yogurt in your diet and skin care regimen to find out what works for you!

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