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Does Protein Powder Cause Acne

Does Protein Powder Cause Acne? (Key Ingredients Causing Acne)

Protein powder is probably the most popular supplement used in the fitness industry to aid muscle growth.

Protein powder is used to increase the amount of protein in your diet to help maximize muscle growth and recovery. This is done by increasing muscle protein synthesis, but, you probably already know this (or don’t care) and it’s not the reason you’re reading this… 

You probably take protein powder for this reason but, unfortunately, protein powder varies in the ingredients used and some of these cause side effects. Does protein powder cause acne though as the two seem to definitely be linked, especially if you take whey protein? 

Does Protein Powder Cause Acne?

The link between protein powders and its causing acne is a debated topic. 

This is because the actual cause of acne is yet to be discovered. In addition, acne can be caused by several different factors, individual to everyone, so it is hard to determine whether protein powders alone cause acne.

That being said, there have been several tests that show the links between acne and protein powder. However, this is not all protein powder, only those that contain dairy. 

Studies (1)(2)

The most significant ingredient that is likely linked to acne is whey. This is because whey contains milk and casein. As there is a link between dairy and acne, it is believed that protein powders which include whey can cause acne.

It is suggested that those who struggle with their skin and acne breakouts to not drink or consume whey protein powder products.

However, it is not one hundred percent confirmed (or agreed) that whey protein causes acne breakouts. 

Other factors such as poor sleep, high blood sugar, and obesity can all have an element to play in acne breakouts. Therefore, it can’t be assumed that protein powders such as whey cause acne, you’d instead need to look at the aspects in isolation and try to eliminate one at a time and see the impact.

Related – Can bulking cause acne

What is Whey Protein Powder?

Whey protein is composed of the liquid part of milk that separates during cheese production. To turn it into whey protein powder, it must undergo multistep processing to remove undesired ingredients.

There is an argument that taking whey protein supplements made from milk can cause acne. However, there is no solid evidence to back this up, and there are many other reasons for acne.

Limited research exists on whether protein supplementation like whey can cause acne. Only a few case reports show an increased risk of acne in professional bodybuilders that supplement with whey protein powder. Still, there is no solid statistical evidence to support this claim.

Case reports are not controlled like randomized controlled trials are. Consequently, they do not have the ability to establish causation.

However, some people are genetically predisposed to acne, which may be worsened by whey protein consumption.

Does Whey Protein Powder Cause Acne?

Whey contains a lot of amino acids, which may increase your body’s response to the supplement, which, in turn, may lead to acne or breakouts. Milk products are rich in amino acids and have been linked to acne.

Whey protein is a by-product of milk, which could also impact your skin. Part of the issue with whey protein is that it increases IGF-1 levels (which is a hormone), causing an increase in sebum production which can, in turn, cause an acne breakout.

Similarly, it can increase the production of hormones, called androgens, that in turn create an excess amount of oil on your skin. This could then lead to acne.

Another side effect of the milk in whey protein powder is that it can interfere with the blood sugar process, which can cause skin inflammation, though this is not the same for everyone.

There are strong links to suggest that whey protein powders can cause acne due to it containing milk. However, this can differ from person to person as it depends on how your body reacts to dairy products.

Some people are okay with dairy products, and it does not affect their skin or cause acne. However, others can react differently to whey protein powders if they are prone to acne breakouts when consuming dairy.

Check out this video which also highlights some things you can do to reduce acne when working out:

Alternative to Whey Protein Powder For Acne Prone Skin

If you notice that whey protein causes acne breakouts, it may be best to switch over to a different type of protein powder. Thankfully, there are many options out there for protein powders. These are just some of the top choices:

Bone Broth Protein

Don’t be put off by the word bone broth; we can confirm it does not taste like bones! It offers you all the good nutrients of bone broth, such as amino acids and collagen, but in a more consumer-friendly form. It comes in the same flavors as most proteins, such as chocolate, and does not taste as ‘meaty’ as it sounds.

Vegan Protein

Vegan protein powder uses a variety of plant-based ingredients to form a vegan-friendly protein supplement. 

Myprotein makes an amazing clear vegan protein powder. This essentially means without the whey and therefore without the milk/dairy. This is a lot more friendly for those who get acne breakouts when consuming dairy. 

It comes in several fruity flavors and tastes just like squash. You still get the same amount of protein per serving as the ordinary whey protein powder, just without the added milk.

Protein Works similarly have their Vegan Wondershake (use code BYRNE15 at checkout for a 15% discount) which has a variety of flavors, mixes great, and provides 21g of protein per serving.  

Pea Protein

Vegan snacks or vegan drinks that are high in protein tend to contain pea protein. It has a smooth texture and is popular in the plant-based protein world for snacks and drinks. It has a mild taste, so perfect for adding to things as you can barely taste it. 

This is great for those prone to acne breakouts when drinking protein powders containing dairy, as it still gives you a high amount of protein. You don’t need to be vegan to enjoy vegan protein powders.

Brown Rice Protein

Like pea protein powder, brown rice protein powder has been around for a little longer and is used in many plant-based snacks and drinks. 

It doesn’t really have a taste and can be used as a supplement in drinks or added to recipes to increase the protein. In addition, it does not have any links to acne breakouts as it is allergen-free and dairy-free.


It is not entirely true that protein powders cause acne, as it depends on which protein powder you use and how many other factors in your life contribute to causing acne.

As there is no real defined reason why people get acne, it is hard to say that protein powders are linked, specifically, protein powders containing milk products.

It is speculated that dairy products such as milk can be linked to acne breakouts. Therefore, whey protein powders or casein that contain milk could acne cause breakouts in the same way regular milk does.

However, we can’t confidently say that specifically drinking whey protein powder will cause acne breakouts because it could also be factors such as poor sleep, being overweight, or a high sugar diet.

Suppose you do find yourself experiencing acne breakouts when consuming whey protein powders. In that case, we suggest using a different type of protein powder. There are many options on the market these days, especially vegan proteins.

Overall, we suggest cutting out whey protein temporarily to see if it is the cause of your acne breakouts. If you find it does not get better, you might want to consider other areas of your lifestyle and diet that could be the cause of acne.

We recommend you try whey protein as there is no confirmed link between whey protein and acne. So don’t be scared to try it.

You don’t have to get rid of protein powder at all if one does not agree with you. Instead, just test out the different protein powders available and work out which one is the best for you in terms of helping you achieve your long-term goals as well as avoiding acne

breakouts if you are prone to them. See also – Does mass gainer cause acne

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