296: Dairy vs Non-Dairy Milk: Which Is Better For You, Your Skin + The Planet? (PART 3)

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If you have any type of chronic skin issue, I’ll bet you’ve probably gone down an internet rabbit hole to figure out if dairy is bad for chronic skin issues.

Well, in Part 3 of this three-part series, I’ve got some really eye-opening research to share with you that even surprised me!

I’ve spent the past two parts diving into why I think we need to rethink the ideas we believe about dairy and how to assess whether dairy or plant-based milk is better for you.

If you missed them, I highly recommend you go through Parts 1 and 2 first as each episode builds upon the next in this series.



But even with all of that, there are some extremely practical questions that still need to be answered especially when it comes to food allergies as well as the accessibility and cost of dairy and plant-based options.

I hope that you’ve found this series enlightening + eye-opening whether you agree with my take or not.

Ultimately it’s up to you to decide what’s best for you, so let’s dive in!


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In this episode:

  • Cost + accessibility of dairy vs plant-based milk products
  • Recipes for making plant-based milk at home
  • Thoughts on raw milk
  • Allergies to dairy AND plant-based milk options
  • Is dairy REALLY bad for skin problems? (RESEARCH)
  • Final thoughts on what’s best


Consider what your needs, allergies, health concerns, access, financial flexibility, and values are about how both people + animals are treated – and make a decision that is best for you.

Lactose intolerance can make dairy challenging for some, but it’s not as serious of a concern as a dairy allergy (which for some can be life-threatening).


Fresh milk

296: Dairy vs Non-Dairy Milk: Which Is Better For You, Your Skin + The Planet? (PART 3) (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Welcome back to episode #296 of the Healthy Skin Show!

In the final episode of the three-part Dairy vs Plant-based Milk conversation, we’ll round things out with some points that I didn’t get to yet in Part 1 and Part 2.

I felt it important to also consider more practical matters that directly impact what you might or might not be able to purchase.

What’s often missing from the emotional conversation about dairy versus plant-based is a discussion about allergies (which for some is a matter of life or death depending on the severity of the reaction) and whether you can find and afford to purchase various dairy options.

I’ve had people write me saying that they’ve been constantly made to feel bad about still consuming dairy, but due to a variety of allergies and celiac disease, many of the plant-based options were off the table for them.

Plus, I know that most people believe that dairy is inherently bad for the skin especially if you have skin problems.

But I’d like to see what the research actually says about this so I’ve got quite an interesting bit of info for you on that question.

So we’ve got a lot to cover so let’s kick things off!


Rice milk

Accessibility of Dairy vs Non-Dairy Milk

Another factor that we MUST consider is the accessibility of various different milk options.

Some are more readily available than others depending on where you live as well as what you can afford not only to purchase, but also to potentially make yourself.

Prices of milk options greatly vary – meaning that someone of a lower socioeconomic situation may be priced out of regenerative + plant-based options.

Cow’s milk tends to be the least expensive (around $4 to $5 per gallon) and the most readily available thanks in part to a heavy amount of US government subsidies. (1)

Regenerative cow’s milk can run upwards of $21 per gallon. It’s available at food coops, farmer’s markets and more upscale grocery stores, but definitely not easily found for all. Likely organic and grass-fed cow’s milk is more readily available – but still not in every grocery store.

Goat milk costs between $8 to $20 per gallon + can be tricky to find. It is available in some local grocery stores, but not all.

Other animal milks like sheep ($40+ per gallon) and camel ($160 per gallon) are even more expensive and tricky to locate due to a variety of factors (like how camels don’t produce nearly as much milk as cows).

As for plant-based milk – almond and soy seem to be the most affordable costing between $5 to $7 per gallon.

Rice and cashew cost about $8 to $10 per gallon.

Coconut is about $8 to $13 per gallon.

Oat ranges from $10 to $16 per gallon and Hemp is about $16 to $20 per gallon.

Almond, soy, oat, rice and coconut milks are all relatively easy to find with cashew, hemp and macadamia nut milks being harder to locate and typically available at grocery stores in more affluent areas.

Aside from US government subsidies supporting lower cow dairy prices, plant-based products typically cost 2 times more than cow’s milk. The reasons cited include research, recipe development, stability testing, bottling procedures, packaging + marketing costs. (2)

Obviously unless you have one of these animals, producing dairy yourself isn’t that simple. If you live near someone who does, that certainly makes things easier!

But making many of these plant-based options is a fairly straightforward process (though making soy milk is actually labor intensive).

Almond milk recipe

Soy milk recipe

Oat milk recipe

Rice milk recipe

Cashew milk recipe

Coconut milk recipe

Hemp milk recipe

Just remember that these homemade plant-based milks do not have the same shelf life as a boxed product nor do they contain the same nutrient profile compared to dairy.


A glass of raw milk

Is Raw Milk Better?

I was asked in the process of sharing all of this to include information on raw dairy.

This topic honestly feels like one that could deserve its own entire episode as the history of dairy is complex since the first statewide pasteurization requirement was passed in Michigan in 1947.

The pasteurization argument ultimately gained steam such that the FDA then issued a mandatory pasteurization requirement in 1987.

The reasons cited for this shift were to reduce the risk of infection from bacteria such as Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Listeria, Brucella, and Salmonella. (3,4)

Here is a map of the US states based on their laws on the sale of raw milk from 2012 to 2019.

And here is a resource on the laws in different countries on the sale of raw milk.

I’ve certainly heard from colleagues + listeners who feel that raw dairy was a huge game-changer for them.

But I do have to acknowledge the difficulty we faced in finding data suggesting a superior nutritional profile or a reduction in allergenicity compared to pasteurized dairy products.

There’s a lot of conflicting information on this topic so if you’re interested in this further, I’d recommend researching it further especially since its availability may be limited depending on where you live.

This could be a good podcast to check out on the topic.


Oat milk

Milk Allergy vs Non-Dairy Milk Allergies + Reactivity

One reason that I think having options is crucial is because of allergies.

I mean TRUE IgE allergies to various different foods including cow’s milk, soy + nuts.

Obviously, lactose intolerance can make dairy challenging for others, but it’s not as serious of a concern as an allergy (which for some can be life-threatening).

That said, it is possible to have an allergy to pretty much anything so that’s why I think variety in this case can be really helpful!

In terms of allergenicity, rice is the least allergenic.

Though not super common, it is possible to be allergic to hemp especially as it shows up in more foods. (5)

Soy milk would be off the table for someone with a soy allergy.

Whereas nut allergies can be a bit more complicated since someone could be allergic to all nuts, while others are only allergic to specific nuts. Thus a nut milk option would really depend on what nut(s) the individual is specifically allergic to.

An allergy to oats is uncommon, but gluten contamination + immune reactivity for those with Celiac disease complicates things. It is important to know that oats tend to be highly contaminated with wheat + gluten due to how they are grown and processed. From my understanding, the Purity Protocol is a safer type of oat assuming that there is no oat allergy or significant reactivity due to Celiac. (You can learn more about the Purity Protocol here, but be aware that oats labeled gluten-free do not carry the same level of safety as Purity Protocol oats.)

Even dairy allergies are rather complicated as a cow’s milk allergy isn’t the only type of animal milk that one can react to. Though not as common, it is possible to have an allergy to goat’s milk.

And then we have the matter of lactose intolerance which is a digestive issue where your body doesn’t produce the lactase enzyme in your GI tract. As a result, they will develop all sorts of GI symptoms to milk containing lactose.

To help with this, there are a variety of animal options including lactose-free cow milk, goat milk and camel milk. (6)

Goat milk contains about 1% less lactose when compared to cow’s milk (and it’s also naturally homogenized due to the smaller fat globulins in it). (7)

A2 cow milk may also be better tolerated especially if you have an issue with the A1 casein proteins that can trigger symptoms similar to lactose intolerance. Goat’s milk has a higher amount of A2 proteins.

If you have any allergies, having different options is so important and must be factored into your choice!


Dairy products

Is Dairy Bad For Your Skin Rashes? (What Does The Research Say?)

One of the most common questions I’m asked – “is dairy is bad for skin problems?”

It’s usually on diet lists under the AVOID category if the list is focused on some sort of skin problem.

Since we’re really asking questions in this series, I thought it would be interesting + helpful to share what RESEARCH has to tell us on this matter.

To be fair, research is constantly evolving so this is not the end-all, be-all on this topic.

Let’s start with eczema!

If I’m not mistaken, dairy is pretty demonized in the eczema community.

Most clients are incredibly confused about whether it's okay for eczema or not. And what the research tells us is that unless you have an IgE allergy to a specific animal’s milk, avoiding it may not actually make much difference in your symptoms.

While there seems to be an increase in the chances that someone with an allergy to milk would have eczema, it doesn’t necessarily work the other way around. (8)

And the cases where this is more present are really in very young children + infants – not generally adults.

And of these little kiddos who have a dairy allergy, 61% of them outgrow it by age 5. (9)

Even a Cochrane review from 2008 looking at nine different randomized controlled trials on whether there was any benefit to children removing eggs + dairy to help with their eczema was disappointing. (10)

It found that results were generally inconclusive and that any results from doing such an elimination were more likely the result of having an existing allergy rather than just from having eczema – and thus did not recommend eliminating these foods if no allergy was present. (10)

We couldn’t locate any studies that conclusively found that dairy actually caused a problem triggering eczema or that it would worsen eczema UNLESS the individual had pre-existing IgE antibodies to that particular dairy protein to begin with.

Rosacea also was a mixed bag.

The one study we found looking at 1347 rosacea patients demonstrated that higher dairy intake (more than 2 cups of dairy per day) could positively impact two different types of rosacea (specifically erythematotelangiectatic rosacea and papulopustular rosacea) while it didn’t have any impact on phymatous rosacea. (11)

But when the National Rosacea Society surveyed 1,066 rosacea warriors, only 8% acknowledged dairy as a trigger. (12)

There was absolutely no research at all on dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis) and dairy.

And for chronic hives (or urticaria), research points towards reactivity due to a milk allergy or fermented dairy exposures. However fermented dairy would be high in histamine and thus shouldn’t be surprising that it would potentially trigger a problem. (13,14,15)

When we looked for research on psoriasis, no strong research or evidence exists that dairy is indeed a trigger.

One paper from 2017 postulated that perhaps it is the arachidonic acid content in dairy that potentially irritates the mucosal lining of the GI tract in psoriasis, but could find no other explanation why it could be a trigger. (16)

If you’ve listened to enough episodes of the Healthy Skin Show, you likely have stumbled over the information that there is a significant gut component to psoriasis.

And the only other piece of significant information we could locate was a survey of 1206 psoriasis patients that demonstrated dairy as a trigger in 6% of the respondents. That said, 47.7% of those surveyed said that they noticed their psoriasis improved after removing dairy (though it was unclear if this was the sole elimination or done in tandem with other foods). (17)

There seems to be a slightly more clear-cut answer for acne. Research showed a weak association to an increased odds ratio for acne with the intake of any type of animal-based dairy product (even yogurt). (18,19)

However the reasons aren’t entirely clear. Most research seems to point to the impact on insulin and IGF-1 which seems to impact androgen bioavailability.

And a similar issue was found with Hidradenitis Supporativa in that going dairy-free may be beneficial because of the potential impact on insulin and IGF-1.

That being said, the quality of the HS research + dairy isn’t great. While it did show that 83% of the 47 HS patients studied experienced varying degrees of improvement, the details of the intervention are extremely unclear. (20)

One survey of over 700 HS patients found a subgroup of 237 individuals who identified HS-exacerbating foods. Dairy was said to be a trigger for 50% of this smaller group, however it is not clear if this was a single elimination or done in conjunction with other food eliminations. (21)

So to sum this all up – there’s just no slam-dunk case in terms of research confirming that dairy is absolutely bad for skin problems. I really thought that we’d have a bunch of damning studies to share, but that simply isn’t the case!

Clearly, more research needs to be done.

But I also think it’s worth adding here that in my private clinic, we often find that clients have a tremendous amount of gut dysfunction, gut microbiome dysbiosis as well as gut permeability (more commonly called leaky gut).

So one factor in all of this is that perhaps the mess of what’s going on in the GI tract increases reactivity to a commonly consumed protein (assuming that no IgE allergy exists).

Perhaps with time, tolerance could be found again (as we’ve witnessed clinically for many – though not all) when the system has been rebalanced.


A glass of coconut milkFinal Thoughts On Dairy vs Non-Dairy

This topic is incredibly complicated and one that I wish there was a simple answer to.

Unfortunately how I approach consuming dairy is likely going to be different than what you may choose to do.

As I shared in Part 1 of this series, I don't have any allergies that I am aware of so that is not a factor that I need to consider.

However I personally feel that the treatment of workers is equally important to how we treat animals and the earth.

I find it frustrating that companies have spent millions of dollars creating an emotional connection between drinking plant-based milk with some sort of idyllic notion of non-harm when in reality there is a heck of a lot of harm involved in many of these plant-based milk options.

As I’ve learned more about the options that I was consuming such as cashew milk and oat milk, I became very unnerved by the lack of transparency from many companies producing these products.

Their websites are loaded full of pictures of happy people, cute animals, and promises of doing better without any specific mention of how they actually accomplish this.

I'm not willing to simply trust that a company charging $6, $8 or more for a dairy-free product is truly doing everything it can to prevent harm all throughout its supply chain.

So my choices are to support local farmers whenever possible using regenerative methods, and opt for options that include the fewest ingredients while still allowing for maximum nutrient density.

Will I never eat anything with oats or almonds or cashews or rice in it again?

No, I certainly enjoy these foods, but because of the issues associated with these plants, it reinforces the idea of eating local foods while seeking out companies that “do better” and care about minimizing harm.

That said, I recognize that I can afford to do this while others may not have this type of access and financial means to do so.

Which is why I told you at the beginning of this conversation that I won’t tell you what to do.

I think for most people, nutrient density is extremely important (especially when food access + affordability are significant factors).

So my recommendation would be to consider what your needs, allergies, health concerns, access, financial flexibility, and values are about how both people + animals are treated – and make a decision that is best for you.

And at any point, you’re allowed to change your mind and make a different choice when presented with new information.

Of one thing I’m certain – there is no “right” choice.

But at least you’ll know that you’ve weighed all of the factors to ultimately make the most informed decision for you – without guilt, shame or fear.

Are there topics + issues that I missed in this series?

Absolutely – I didn’t even mention in Part 2 about the lawsuits associated with glyphosate causing cancer. (22) There’s just so much to this conversation that this entire series could have easily been five times as long!

Were all of the topics I shared super sexy + fascinating?

Probably not – I get that the nutritional content of various milks isn’t the most entertaining to talk about.

Do you have to agree with me or my approach?

Not at all! You’re free to make your own decision without fear or judgment. I wanted to share with you what I’ve been considering and I hope that you’ll also share with me what you discover along the way.

This series is not set in stone – it’s about starting a conversation + asking questions about the things we think we know to be true.

And all of that could also change in time – which I anticipate.

Because the truth is complicated + what we know now may be different a year or two from the present moment.

But I think questions deserve to be asked especially when it comes to such a controversial topic!

If you’ve got any questions or thoughts to share about this, leave a comment below so I can address them.

Thank you so much for tuning in and I look forward to digging deeper with you in the next episode!


Reference books in library


  1. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/animal-products/dairy/policy.aspx
  2. https://mintecglobal.pagetiger.com/whitepaper/plant-based-foods
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/phlp/publications/topic/anthologies/anthologies-rawmilk.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-questions-and-answers.html
  5. https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(15)02711-6/pdf
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20857626/
  7. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/goat-milk-versus-cow-milk-a-comparison
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29685016/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723735/
  10. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD005203.pub2/abstract
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30656725/
  12. https://www.rosacea.org/patients/rosacea-triggers/rosacea-triggers-survey
  13. https://acaai.org/allergies/allergic-conditions/food/milk-dairy/
  14. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0738081X21002200
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6936629/
  16. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320959022_ROLE_OF_DIETARY_INTERVENTION_IN_PSORIASIS_A_REVIEW
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5453925/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4106357/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6115795/
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26470617/
  21. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32860476/
  22. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/product-liability/roundup-lawsuit-update/

Consider what your needs, allergies, health concerns, access, financial flexibility, and values are about how both people + animals are treated – and make a decision that is best for you.