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The Influence of Dairy on Seborrheic Dermatitis: A Digestible Overview

Seborrheic dermatitis, often marked by flaky scales and itchy red skin, is a source of discomfort for many. Intriguingly, lifestyle and dietary choices, such as dairy consumption, might interact with this skin condition.

This research summary sheds light on the potential connections between seborrheic dermatitis and dairy intake, presenting findings in an accessible fashion for those without a medical background.

TLDR: While some anecdotal evidence suggests improvements in symptoms after eliminating dairy, the diverse effects of different dairy types, such as whey’s potential benefits on skin barrier function, emphasize the need for further research.

Understanding the Connection: Dairy Consumption and Skin Health

Dairy and Acne: A Mirror to Seborrheic Dermatitis?

  • Association with Acne: Studies suggest a correlation between dairy, especially low-fat/skim milk, and acne vulgaris [1][2][3]. Acne, much like seborrheic dermatitis, involves sebaceous glands and inflammation. This raises questions about a possible link between dairy and seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Sebum Composition: Dairy intake influences sebum components. Higher phospholipids and cholesterol, along with more n6-polyunsaturated and fewer n3-polyunsaturated fatty acids, were observed in dairy consumers [4]. Since seborrheic dermatitis is also associated with sebum changes, could dairy be a contributing factor?

Impact of Whey and Probiotics on Skin Barrier

  • Positive Effects: Whey, a component of dairy, shows promise in enhancing skin barrier function and inhibiting enzymes related to skin aging [5]. What’s more, probiotics found in yogurt might reduce sebum production, influencing conditions like seborrheic dermatitis [6].
Banner noting the possible benefits of some dairy and especially probiotic beverages for inflammation and sebum secretion

Dandruff and Dairy: Analyzing the Anecdotal Evidence

  • Reddit Reports: Some anecdotal cases on Reddit illustrate improvements in dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis symptoms after eliminating dairy Source. But can these personal experiences be universally applied?

Dairy’s Role in Systemic Inflammation and Digestive Health

  • Inflammation: Dairy products have shown a neutral to beneficial influence on biomarkers of inflammation [7]. While some individuals may experience increased systemic inflammation due to dairy, the evidence remains mixed.
  • Lactose Intolerance: Difficulty digesting dairy can lead to gastrointestinal distress, which might influence skin inflammation [8]. Could the gut-skin axis explain the link between dairy intolerance and seborrheic dermatitis?

Probing the Link: Dairy Intake and Seborrheic Dermatitis

What the Studies Say

  • General Dermatitis Research: While dairy’s impact on seborrheic dermatitis is under-studied, existing research on atopic dermatitis shows that fresh milk consumption correlates with milder disease [9]. This implies a complex and individualized relationship between dairy and dermatitis.
  • The Tricky Terrain of Skin Conditions: The overlapping symptoms and triggers of various skin ailments, such as seborrheic dermatitis and acne, hint at a deeper connection with dairy. Still, concrete evidence specific to seborrheic dermatitis is lacking.

Does Reducing Dairy Help?

  • Unclear Evidence: Cutting out dairy may benefit some individuals with seborrheic dermatitis, but these outcomes vary widely. Personal anecdotes on platforms like Reddit do point towards a trend, yet scientific validation is essential Source.

Sifting Through the Science: Dairy’s Diverse Effects

  • Acne and Beyond: The well-documented connection between dairy and acne adds weight to the argument that dairy might influence seborrheic dermatitis. Evidence indicates that dairy consumption increases IGF-1 levels, exacerbating acne, and potentially impacting seborrheic dermatitis similarly [10].

The Role of Full-Fat Products and Inflammation

  • Full-Fat Dairy: Some research points to full-fat yogurt decreasing facial sebum production [11]. This intriguing finding suggests that not all dairy affects sebaceous glands equally and that fat content could be crucial.

The Influence of Milk and Skin Diseases

  • Risk and Protection: Specific types of dairy, such as whey and fermented products, may offer protective effects against certain skin conditions, while others pose risks [7, 12, 4]. Understanding these nuances is key to unraveling dairy’s role in seborrheic dermatitis.

Considering Lifestyle Factors Beyond Diet

  • Multiple Triggers: Other factors, including stress and environmental allergens, must be acknowledged when exploring dairy’s impact on seborrheic dermatitis. This complexity renders a direct dairy-dermatitis link challenging to establish.

Conclusions and Dietary Considerations

Summarizing the research on the correlation between seborrheic dermatitis and dairy consumption:

  • Acne as a Model: Dairy’s established relationship with acne offers clues about a similar connection with seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Individual Reactions: Anecdotal accounts of dairy elimination improving seborrheic dermatitis symptoms are compelling but should be approached with caution.
  • Different Dairy Types, Different Outcomes: Specific dairy constituents like whey may benefit skin barrier function, potentially affecting seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Further Research Needed: Current data is insufficient to draw firm conclusions. Each case is unique, and dermatological advice should be personalized.

For individuals grappling with seborrheic dermatitis, considering dairy’s role in their diet might be a step towards symptom management. But it’s a journey laced with individuality; what relieves one person’s symptoms could exacerbate another’s.

Anyone considering dietary changes should consult with a healthcare professional, particularly a dermatologist or a nutritionist, to tailor an approach suitable for their specific skin and health needs.


  1. Andrea L. Zaenglein, Diane M. Thiboutot, Caroline L. Larosa "Consumption of dairy in teenagers with and without acne: Response to letter to the editor" Elsevier BV 88.5 (2021): e265.
  2. Harisma Harisma, Bambang Wirjatmadi, Stefania W Setyaningtyas "The Correlation of Milk Consumption and Acne Vulgaris" Maranatha Christian University 4.2 (2022): 203-218.
  3. F. William Danby "Measuring dairy components in teenage acne studies" Elsevier BV 88.5 (2023): e263.
  4. A. A. Mahmood, Y.Y. Al-Tamer "Effects of dairy-products’ consumption on sebum lipids and fatty acids" University of Mosul 35.1 (2019): 18-25.
  5. Aleksandra Augustyniak, Davide Gottardi, Barbara Giordani, James Gaffey, Helena Mc Mahon "Dairy bioactives and functional ingredients with skin health benefits" Elsevier BV 104 (2023): 105528.
  6. Bagus Nurprialdi, Viesta Olivia Thahuurun Gani, Siti Halda, Peby Ardiani Pratama, Riong Seulina Panjaitan "QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE IDENTIFICATION OF CARBOHYDRATES IN COMMERCIAL YOGHURT PRODUCTS" LPPM Universitas Muhammadiyah Sumatera Barat 2.2 (2023): 11-21.
  7. Emily C. Fraschetti, Lauren E. Skelly, Joel L. Prowting, Ali A. Abdul-Sater, Andrea R. Josse "The Acute Effects of Milk Consumption on Systemic Inflammation after Combined Resistance and Plyometric Exercise in Young Adult Females" MDPI AG 14.21 (2022): 4532.
  8. Azra Shafi, Qayyum Husain "Intolerance to Milk Lactose, Diagnostic Tests and Dietary Management: A Recent Update" Maad Rayan Publishing Company 10.1 (2022): 71-81.
  9. K. L. Hon, Y. C. Tsang, T. C. W. Poon, N. H. H. Pong, N. M. Luk, T. N. H. Leung, C. M. Chow, T. F. Leung "Dairy and nondairy beverage consumption for childhood atopic eczema: what health advice to give?" Oxford University Press (OUP) 41.2 (2015): 129-137.
  10. Lea Sell, MariuAnn Flyvholm, Gitte Lindhard, Karen Mygind "Implementation of an occupational skin disease prevention programme in Danish cheese dairies" Wiley 53.3 (2005): 155-161.
  11. Ana J. Mosquera-Martuednez, Josue U. Sepufalveda-Valencia, Huector J. Ciro-Veluesquez, Sandra Vargas-Duedaz, Laura Puerez-Escobar "Whole yogurt sweetened with glucose-galactose syrup obtained by nanofiltration: Effect on galactooligosaccharides concentration, physicochemical and sensory properties" Elsevier BV 3.1 (2023): 100272.
  12. Zoya Huschtscha, Pascale Young, Alexandra Parr, Judi Porter, Ricardo Costa "Does intestinal epithelial integrity status in response to high-protein dairy milk beverage with or without progressive resistance training impact systemic inflammatory responses in an active aging population?" Public Library of Science (PLoS) 17.9 (2022): e0274210.
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About Michael Anders

After being affected by seborrheic dermatitis, I have made it my goal to gather and organize all the information that has helped me in my journey.

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