For some time, dermatologists and nutritionists have noticed a trend: many patients taking protein supplements notice new or worsening acne flares. In fact, a few smaller scientific studies confirm these findings (Cengiz et al 2017, Silverberg NB 2012). Individuals who ate more whey protein- containing foods and supplements experienced worsening acne. Whey protein, which is one of the main protein isolates in milk and other dairy products, is a common ingredient in protein bars, cookies, shakes, smoothies, and supplement powders. Studies show that whey protein raises levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and androgens that can increase sebum (oil) production. The rise in sebum may contribute to clogged pores, bacterial overgrowth, and inflammation which can become acne.

Bottom Line: If you are taking protein supplements and experiencing worsening acne, consider switching to a plant-based form of protein supplement.