Does Whey Protein Cause Acne? We Investigate

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Whey Protein Acne

You may want to put the ‘new year, new me’ and subsequent whey protein intake on hold till you read this piece. Whey protein has recently garnered a reputation (like most dairy products) for causing pesky breakouts. Diet-induced breakouts are the worst kind of skin inflammation. And aside from the regular processed foods and refined sugars, dairy seemed to steal the top spot for causing them. But does the same status extend to its broken down proteins as well?

Is there actually any ‘whey-t’ (corny, we know) to these accusations? Let’s start by understanding where this popular muscle-mass builder comes from and how it could potentially be a breakout’s BFF.

Whey protein milk

There are two essential proteins found in fresh dairy milk:

1. Whey protein, which makes up about 20 per cent of the whole structure

2. Casein protein, which makes up about 80 per cent of the whole structure

Both whey and casein proteins can be converted into powders. They are both rich in branched-chain amino acids and are known to fuel muscle growth – making them a key component in workout protein blends. However, whey protein (even though less in percentage) is almost always preferred for consumption by fitness enthusiasts. This is because, compared to casein protein, whey can be digested relatively easily.

So, Is There A Direct Correlation Between Whey Protein And Breakouts?

Whey Protein acne

Dr Janet Alexander Castelino, Founder of DermaZeal Clinic, stated, “Despite there being insufficient scientific evidence to link protein supplements like whey protein to acne, there is conclusive evidence that milk and milk products can cause acneiform eruptions. Milk and milk products are believed to promote acne by releasing bioactive compounds such as Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which stimulates skin cells to multiply excessively, increases sebum production, and releases androgen hormones that produce acneiform eruptions.”

Confused? We got you. To put it simply, whey protein induces a spike of testosterone (the most common androgen) production in the body. Testosterone helps keep bones and muscles strong but also increases sebum production. Sebum, as you may know already, is produced by your sebaceous glands and an incline in its production tends to cause clogged pores and, subsequently, acne.

Who Does This Protein Whey Down?

Whey Protein Breakouts

Everyone is susceptible to breakouts and blemishes caused by whey protein, whether male or female, young or old. Individuals who otherwise have no problem with dairy consumption or are not lactose intolerant could still develop breakouts when consuming whey protein on the regular. According to Dr Chytra V Anand, founder of Kosmoderma clinics and SkinQ, skin types prone to acne and oiliness and women with PCOD/PCOS should especially avoid whey protein. She also recommends using plant-based protein powders or amino acids like glutamine instead.

Which Whey Do We Go Now?

Plant Protein Acne

There are numerous alternatives to whey protein. They may give slower results but do not come with as many pesky pimples as whey. Think of whey protein as a quick fix, and the alternatives, albeit requiring a head start, but get the job done. Some may even work just as well as whey protein. Brown rice protein, hemp seed protein, bone broth protein, pea (yellow, not green) protein – just to name a few – could be strong contenders to replace whey protein in your regular diets (and no, they do not taste a whole lot worse than milk-based proteins).

Apart from causing breakouts, Dr Chytra states that one must be cautious because whey protein can also cause adverse effects when mixed with antibiotics, tremor medicines, or anything similar in consistency and functionality.

In conclusion, we’re well aware now that dairy induced skin concerns are not a myth and they do, in fact, exist. Choosing another option will have you with clearer skin. The same nutritional quality will aid the growth of stronger muscles.

Photos: Pexels, Instagram

Aaliya Panju

- Beauty Contributor

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