Does Whey Protein Cause Acne?

Acne can be caused by a variety of factors, and one of these could be whey protein. Research results are still inconclusive, but they do point to the likelihood that whey protein can trigger acne breakouts in some individuals. 

Does Whey Protein Cause Acne?

Whey Protein and Acne

There might be an association between whey protein consumption and a sudden acne breakout, but experts have yet to establish if and how whey protein causes acne. In scientific research, correlation does not always mean causation – this means that while there may be an observable relationship between whey protein intake and acne, it does not necessarily mean that one causes the other.  

Questions about whether whey protein is the culprit behind sudden or worsening acne breakout have mostly been raised by bodybuilders – who rely heavily on whey protein supplements. However, there are other factors related to their lifestyle that may have contributed to the appearance of acne – usually on the chest and back. The use of anabolic steroids and a high body mass index are just a couple of possibilities. 

Diet and Acne

The relationship between food and acne has always been a complicated one. It is well-known that certain foods can lead to acne breakouts in some individuals, and these foods vary for each individual. Likewise, there are foods that can prevent or minimize breakouts and promote healthy skin. 

Risk factors for acne include blockage of the pores, overgrowth of bad bacteria in the skin, excessive sebum production, and inflammation. 

Scientific data show that foods with a high glycemic index, or foods high in sugar, carbs, and dairy, are usually associated with acne. These foods cause spikes in blood sugar levels and stimulate insulin production. And insulin also increases sebum production. 

Because whey is a byproduct of milk, consuming whey protein increases your usual dairy consumption. And this is one of the likely reasons why some people have breakouts when they take the protein supplement. 

Does Whey Protein Cause Acne?

Should You Stop Taking Whey Protein?

Firstly, you need to determine if it is whey protein that is causing you to break out. You can do this by cutting it out of your regular diet for a few weeks or up to a month, and observing if your skin clears up. 

If it does, you can try switching to a different formula as it is possible that some other ingredient in your original brand may be the actual culprit. Again, see if your skin will have the same reaction. Alternatively, you can switch to plant-based protein powders if you are able to establish that your skin does not agree with whey. 

If you rely on whey protein for your fitness and/or weight-loss goals, but consuming whey protein leads to rogue breakouts, there are other and more natural ways to increase your protein intake. It is recommended, even for bodybuilders and athletes, to get most of the dietary requirement for protein from one’s diet, instead of supplements. You can simply add more protein-rich foods to your diet if you really have to kick your whey protein habit for the health of your skin. 

High-protein foods you should eat more of for lean muscles or muscle gain include: eggs, chicken breast, turkey breast, lean beef, salmon, tuna, tilapia, shrimp, scallops, beans, edamame, chickpeas, peanuts, almonds, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, soybeans, tofu, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese. Of course, if dairy makes you break out, then you should keep it to a minimum. 

Does Whey Protein Cause Acne?

Whey Protein and Acne – Final Thoughts

Every individual reacts differently to different foods. This means that it’s possible that whey protein will not make you break out. But if it does aggravate your skin, you should avoid it and eat other dairy products in moderation. 

Most of the data that show an association between whey protein and acne are anecdotal. But the incidence is high enough that it can be said that whey protein may be a risk factor for acne for certain individuals. In fact, anecdotal evidence has also shown that elimination of whey protein from the diet often results in the improvement of acne. 

If whey protein is an important part of your fitness and/or weight-loss strategy but it does not agree with your skin, you can switch to plant-based protein powders such as pea protein or soy protein. You should also definitely increase your protein intake from food as this is still the best way to meet all your protein needs. 

If you need further guidance on how to achieve your health and fitness goals and stay motivated long-term, check out Modern Fit’s customizable offerings to get you on the right track!

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