If you’re searching “how to get rid of acne caused by whey protein”, you are not alone. It’s a widespread problem.
Were you acne-free before you started supplementing with whey protein? Or have you always been prone to acne, but you found that it got way worse after consuming whey protein?
Whey protein could very well be the cause of your acne.
There are many reasons that acne occurs, which we’ll explore briefly. You should rule those out if you aren’t 100% sure that your acne is caused by whey protein.
Getting to the route of the problem is the best way to deal with the situation.
So let’s dive into how to get rid of acne caused by whey protein and how to prevent acne from whey protein too.
Does Whey Protein Really Cause Acne?
In some people, yes.
Dairy contains a lot of hormones. It’s meant to raise calves after all. Cows end up a lot bigger than us.
If you are prone to hormone imbalances or you have a bad gut, products derived from dairy, such as whey protein, can cause or worsen acne.
One of the most problematic hormones in whey protein is IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor).
As this study points out, IGF promotes the growth of skin cells and oil production. One of the causes of acne is dead skin cells clogging the pores.
Instead of the dead skin falling off, the oil keeps it trapped.
IGF also increases LH (luteinizing hormone) . This hormone is responsible for the production of estrogen in women.
Excessively high testosterone and estrogen are both possible culprits for acne too as we’ll see shortly.
What are Other Causes of Acne?
Eating High GI Foods
High GI (glycaemic index) foods are high in sugar and low in fiber. These foods include white bread, cake, cookies, chips, and sweets.
These foods cause your blood sugar levels to spike quickly which raises your insulin levels. This in turn can worsen your acne.
If your whey protein shakes are high in sugar, this could also be contributing to your skincare woes.
Excessive sebum , or oil, leads to clogged pores since it traps dead skin and bacteria. Oily skin can simply be your skin type but also be caused by hormones or a bad diet.
All forms of acne aside from blackheads and whiteheads are inflamed.
Contrary to popular belief, inflammation is a necessary action by the body. It fights off pathogens and heals damaged tissue.
However, too much inflammation is a problem. The cause of the swelling, redness, and pain in your pimples is inflammation.
Stress may cause an imbalance in your hormones, cause changes in your skin, have a negative impact on your digestion, cause inflammation, and cause acne.
Hormonal Changes and Imbalances
Pregnancy, PMS, and menopause are just some of the things us gals need to deal with.
Unfortunately, for some of us, the hormonal changes and fluctuations during these times result in acne.
We have a delicate balance between all our hormones , particularly estrogen and progesterone. If these levels are out of whack, they cause all sorts of issues. Sadly it doesn’t take much.
A not so great diet, alcohol, lack of sleep, even too much sleep can affect them. Too little or too much exercise as well. And let’s not ignore the issue that none of seem to be able to escape, stress.
These sex hormone levels can play a role in our cortisol levels (stress hormone), testosterone levels (yip, we have testosterone too, just not as much as guys), thyroid hormone levels, and insulin levels.
Issues such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) can also cause hormonal acne .
How to Get Rid of Acne Caused by Whey Protein Step by Step
Step 1- Stop Using Whey Protein
If you know that this is what’s causing your acne, stop using it.
Right away, this may be triggering some panic or “no freaking way” reactions in you. But just take a calming breath.
There are great alternatives that will provide you with all the protein you need.
As someone who has struggled with cystic and nodular acne, I can tell you that prevention is better than the cure. Those suckers stick around for months, and they hurt.
Check out step 8 for a more detailed explanation about what nodules and cysts are.
No one should put up with cystic acne from whey protein. So here are your options:
Sticking to regular food is the first option. There is plenty of protein in meat, eggs, beans, peas, and lentils.
Plant-Based Protein Powder
If you are short on time, try a plant-based option. Pea protein contains all the essential amino acids. These are the components of protein that our bodies are unable to make so we need to eat them.
Pea protein is low in methionine, one of the essential amino acids. This shouldn’t stop you, however. You will get it from food too.
If you are still concerned, look for plant protein blends that compliment each other.
A blend of pea protein and brown rice protein automatically gives you all the essential amino acids in adequate quantities.
Try Naked Pea Protein for pure unflavored pea protein.
If you prefer a blend, try Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein. It’s available in vanilla, vanilla chai, chocolate, and unflavored. It’s sugar-free and contains pea protein, rice protein, and sprouts.
Grass-fed Growth Hormone Free Whey
If you insist on using whey protein, choose a brand that is rBST and rBGH-free.
Added recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) and recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) are added hormones to increase milk production. They wreak havoc with your hormones.
Try Naked Whey for an unflavored option. If you enjoy flavored shakes, try Garden of Life Organic Whey Protein. It comes in vanilla, chocolate, lightly sweet, chocolate peanut butter, and strawberry.
Both options are growth hormone-free, sugar-free, and source the protein from grass-fed cows.
Garden of Life Protein
Step 2- Keep Your Skin Clean Without Harsh Chemicals
When you go about your day, you encounter dust and air pollution.
When it’s hot or humid or when you train, you sweat. It then helps to trap all that dust and pollution in your pores. Not that acne is a dirt problem, but it pays to keep your pores happy.
Shower immediately after your workout and use a mild soap. This will take care of the dirt, sweat, excess oil, and p.acnes bacteria.
There are body washes and soaps that combat acne, but many have very drying ingredients. Look at the ingredients list. Always go alcohol-free. That is, stay away from these particular alcohols:
- Ethyl alcohol
- Alcohol denat
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Methyl alcohol
You don’t want to irritate your skin or dry it out. Save high concentrations of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide for spot treatments.
The same goes for your face. You don’t want to strip natural oils, just remove dirt, makeup, and excess oil. Wash your face twice a day and after workouts.
Washing your face is better than using wipes. Unfortunately, wipes push around as much dirt as they remove whereas washing your face properly will get rid of it all.
Step 3- Keep Makeup to a Minimum
I don’t mean eyeshadow and mascara. I mean the concealer and foundations.
Even non-comedogenic concealer and foundation which doesn’t clog pores sometimes get trapped on the skin or stop the skin’s natural exfoliating process. So you need to remove it properly.
A vicious cycle is what it is. You break out, so you cover it up with makeup. This causes you to break out more so you cover it up some more.
On and on it goes. Sad, but true.
So if possible, always try to go for non-comedogenic and oil-free makeup . You may be able to get away with wearing it more often. But give your skin a break when you can.
Those times that you do wear makeup, use makeup remover and/or a good face wash. Again, mentioned in step 2, don’t use harsh products on your face.
And I’m sure everybody knows this, but we all at some point decide not to do it. I am guilty here too. I am going to say it again. Wash all your makeup off before bed!
Step 4- Don’t Pop or Scratch at Your Pimples
The temptation is strong. I know. But don’t pick at your spots.
Especially nodules (hard, sometimes painful bumps) and cysts (large painful red or white bumps). These two types of acne scar easily.
If you must, use an extraction tool. When your pimples form that white or yellow head. You can gently prick it with the sharp end and then place the end with the circle over and gently push down.
Blackheads can be extracted by heating up your pore and then applying the circular side over the blackhead.
But only do this if absolutely necessary. Squeezing your pimples and blackheads in the wrong way can cause scarring, push the bacteria into the surrounding skin, and even lead to more severe acne.
It may be best to get a facial and have the professionals deal with them.
Don’t try home extractions on nodular or cystic acne. They are trapped too deeply underneath the skin.
Step 5- Wear Clean Loose Clothing
This doesn’t apply to your sports bra . You need to protect the girls during workouts, particularly bouncy ones. Your chest and back will thank you too.
If you’re like me, you know chest acne is a thing.
So make sure that you wear a clean one each time and don’t sit in it for hours after your workout. Get out of it and get cleaned up as soon as possible.
Acne germs spread. So make sure you wear clean clothing. As with your bra, make sure you get out of those workout clothes asap too.
Looser fitting clothes will rub against your skin less which is great especially if you have painful back acne from whey protein.
You will minimize the risk of accidentally popping your pimples and the risk of contaminating your clothing.
Step 6- Keep Your Bedding and Towels Clean
This is something that many people don’t think about. After all, we use our towels to dry off after we’ve cleaned ourselves. We go to bed clean.
But as mentioned before, pimples can open up from even the slightest friction when they develop the white or yellow head.
If you’ve been scratching or picking at them, then the bacteria can leak onto your bedding and towels.
Wash these items at least once a week.
Step 7- Speak to Your Doctor or a Dermatologist
Acne comes in different forms of severity.
Whiteheads and blackheads don’t usually require medical treatment.
Papules (small to medium pink bumps) and pustules (the end result of papules where the tip is white or yellow and the pimple fills with pus) only require medical treatment if the issue is severe.
Usually, products that contain salicylic acid, retinoids, and benzoyl peroxide will clear them up.
But nodules (hard, sometimes painful bumps) and cysts (large painful red or white bumps) generally require medical treatment to prevent or minimize scarring. They are considered severe.
Nodules and cysts form deep under the skin so topical treatments don’t really help.
If it’s just whey powder that caused your breakout, then discontinuing use should help. Your hormones will normalize again.
Usually, you would receive a cortisone injection directly in the nodule or cyst.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or blue light therapy to kill the bacteria if there is still an issue.
They can also advise you on scar prevention and how to lighten the residual marks.
Step 8- Home Remedies
If you don’t like going the commercial route or just prefer natural remedies you can try these:
Essential oils that fight p.acnes and have anti-inflammatory effects include thyme, tea tree, lavender, oregano, rose, cinnamon, and rosemary.
Always dilute them in a carrier oil. Not all oils clog your pores or make your skin oily.
Choose carrier oils with a low comedogenic rating of between 0 and 2. An oil with a rating of 0 won’t clog your pores. 1 means there’s a slight chance, and 2 means there’s a low to moderate risk.
Try one or a combination of:
- Hemp seed oil- 0 ( Suitable for most skin types, especially acne-prone skin)
- Safflower oil- 0 (Suitable for most skin types)
- Sunflower oil (excluding high oleic)- 0 (Suitable for most skin types)
- Argan oil- 0 (Suitable for most skin types, may help to fade acne scars)
- Blackberry seed oil- 0-1 (Suitable for aging skin and may help for blemishes)
- Rosehip oil- 1 (Suitable for acne/prone and aging skin)
- Castor oil (combine it with another carrier oil)- 1 (May help to combat acne)
- Cloudberry seed oil- 1 (Suitable for oily/acne-prone skin)
- Grapeseed oil- 1-2 (Suitable for most skin types, may heal acne faster)
- Neem oil (mix it with another carrier oil)- 1-2 (Good for acne)
- Black cumin seed oil-2 (Suitable for most skin types, may help to heal acne scars)
- Jojoba oil- 2 (Closest to our own sebum/oil, may help to balance oily skin)
- Olive oil- 2 (Better for acne sufferers with dry skin)
Combine 15 to 60 drops of essential oil per 6 teaspoons of carrier oil. My skin is quite sensitive, so I dilute my essential oils at an even lower ratio, between 8 and 12 drops per 6 teaspoons.
If you use a combination of essential oils, be sure to divide the 15-60 drops between the oils.
I feel it’s important to mention that if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, double-check with your doctor before using any essential oils.
Also, do a spot check just to make sure that you aren’t allergic or sensitive to any of them. Trust me, having a rash all over your face, back, chest, or anywhere really, sucks monumentally.
Drink White, Black, Oolong, and Green Tea
All forms of the camellia Sinensis plant combat the p.acnes bacteria.
The difference between these teas is that white tea is harvested young and is unoxidized. Green tea is harvested later, but also not oxidized.
Oolong tea is partially oxidized, and black tea is fully oxidized.
Drinking 1-3 cups a day may help with acne. This is more for papules, pustules, blackheads, and whiteheads.
Unfortunately, this may not help for nodular or cystic acne.
Step 9- Go for a Facial
Sadly acne can leave scars, hyperpigmentation (pink or brown marks) or hypopigmentation (white marks). It can also affect the texture of your skin negatively.
A facial may help.
A chemical peel may also be helpful in getting rid of the scars or at least helping them to fade. It can also speed up the clearing process for the aftermath of nodular and cystic acne.
It is in fact possible for people with sensitive skin to get a chemical peel too, but speak to the technician about it first.