Almond milk is one of the most popular plant-based milks, serving as a non-dairy alternative for people who want or need to avoid cow’s milk.
Although typically regarded as a healthy beverage, some people argue it should be avoided by anyone who is struggling to achieve clear skin.
But does almond milk really cause acne? I decided it’s time to weigh in and offer a dietitian’s perspective.
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What is almond milk?
Almond milk is a creamy beverage made from almonds that have been soaked and blended with water.
It’s relatively easy to make at home — simply soak one cup of raw almonds overnight, then blend with five cups of water in a high-quality blender until smooth. Strain out the pulp using cheesecloth or a nut milk bag.
For those who don’t want to make their own, store-bought almond milk is a convenient option. Just keep in mind that it may also contain other ingredients, such as:
- Sweeteners (cane sugar)
- Micronutrients (calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, etc.)
- Thickening agents (gellan gum and locust bean gum)
- Emulsifiers (sunflower lecithin)
- Preservatives (ascorbic acid or D-alpha-tocopherol)
- Natural flavors
These additives aren’t dangerous, but some people may wish to avoid them for various reasons.
Almond milk nutrition facts
One cup (8 ounces) of unsweetened almond milk (store-bought) provides the following nutrients (1, 2):
- Calories: 37
- Carbs: 3 grams
- Fiber: 0.5 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 2 grams
- Calcium: 449 mg (35% DV)
- Magnesium: 15 mg (4% DV)
- Phosphorus: 22 mg (2% DV)
- Potassium: 163 mg (3% DV)
- Sodium: 176 mg (8% DV)
- Vitamin A: 220 mcg (24% DV)
- Vitamin E: 7 mg (47% DV)
- Vitamin D: 2.4 mcg (12% DV)
Compared to cow’s milk, almond milk has less protein, carbohydrates, and calories (1, 2).
It’s important to include protein from other food sources or supplements if using almond milk to replace cow’s milk.
Does almond milk cause acne?
Unfortunately, there isn’t any research on the effects of almond milk in people with acne.
Still, some people claim that almond milk triggers breakouts and should be avoided for the following reasons:
- Almond milk is high in estrogen, which contributes to hormonal acne.
- Almond milk is high in inflammation-promoting omega-6 fatty acids.
- Almond milk is high in added sugars, which is bad for skin health.
But is there really any truth to these claims? Let’s examine them below.
Claim #1: Almond milk is high in estrogen.
Almonds are high in phytoestrogens, a group of plant compounds that have a similar structure to estrogen (3).
Phytoestrogens are able to bind to estrogen receptors, but their effects are much weaker and can change depending on whether your estrogen levels are high or low (4).
Some people claim that eating foods high in phytoestrogens can lead to hormone imbalances, but there isn’t any solid evidence to support this (5).
Lignans, the main type of phytoestrogen in almonds, are also found in a variety of other foods, often at a higher concentration than almonds.
For example, flax seeds are the richest source of lignans, with more than 3,000 times the amount found in almonds (6, 7).
Some research suggests that eating flax seeds can lead to lower levels of androgens, a group of hormones that increase sebum (oil) production in the skin (8, 9, 10).
Theoretically, this could actually help with acne, but more research is needed.
Verdict: Almonds are high in phytoestrogens, but there’s no evidence that eating them will cause hormonal acne. They may actually help with acne!
Claim #2: Almond milk is high in omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-6 fatty acids (also called linoleic acid) are a type of unsaturated fat found mainly in nuts, seeds, legumes, and vegetable oils (11).
Not getting enough of these essential fats can lead to skin problems, poor wound healing, and increased infections (12).
However, having too many omega-6s in your diet promotes inflammation, which can sometimes cause acne and other inflammatory skin diseases (13, 14, 15).
Vegetable oils, such as sunflower, safflower, corn, and soybean, are the main sources of omega-6s in the typical Western diet (11).
These oils can be used for cooking but are mainly found in processed or fried foods, like granola bars, chips, fries, salad dressings, and mayonnaise.
A single tablespoon of vegetable oil contains 5 grams of omega-6 fatty acids, which is about the same amount you’ll find in a medium serving of fries from McDonald’s (16, 17).
In contrast, a 1/4 cup serving of almonds has 3.5 grams omega-6s, and almond milk has even less — about 0.5 grams per 8-ounce serving (1, 18).
Whole food sources of omega-6s, like nuts and seeds, are also packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that you won’t find in vegetable oils and highly processed foods.
Verdict: Almond milk contains small amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, but it’s probably not enough to trigger acne. Focus on limiting vegetable oils and the processed foods that contain them instead.
Claim #3: Almond milk is high in added sugars.
While it’s possible to buy (or make) unsweetened almond milk, most products have at least some added sugars.
It’s true that consuming lots of sugary foods and beverages — like cookies, cakes, and regular soda — has been linked with acne (19).
That’s because a high sugar diet can cause your blood sugar to spike, which triggers the release of hormones that instruct the skin to produce excess sebum (oil) (20, 21, 22).
Unless labeled “unsweetened,” most almond milk is going to include some added sugars.
Chocolate flavored almond milk tends to have the highest amounts (up to 19 grams), while “original” flavor has only about 7 grams per serving (23, 24).
To give some perspective, the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to 25 grams per day for women and 36 grams for men (25).
It’s easier to reach the limit than you might think, especially considering added sugars are found in so many common foods, like bread, pasta sauces, and condiments.
Verdict: Certain flavors of almond milk might cause acne breakouts due to their high added sugar content. Choose unsweetened almond milk instead.
Is almond milk good for acne?
There are several benefits, but also a couple of downsides to using almond milk for acne.
Benefits of almond milk for acne
Despite the criticism, almond milk is actually a great choice for anyone who struggles with breakouts.
It can serve as a replacement for cow’s milk, which has been linked with acne in multiple studies (26, 27, 28, 29).
Almond milk also provides plenty of skin-friendly nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E (1, 30, 31, 32).
Downsides to almond milk for acne
The main downside to almond milk is its low protein content — just one gram per cup (1).
Protein slows digestion and helps prevent the post-meal blood sugar spikes that can trigger acne (33, 34, 35).
Boost your protein intake by adding some acne-friendly protein powder to smoothies and beverages made with almond milk.
Another downside to almond milk is that some people are allergic to almonds.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other plant-based milks that don’t include nuts, such as soy milk, flax milk, and coconut milk.
Although some people argue that everyone with acne should avoid almond milk, there isn’t any solid evidence to support their claims.
This creamy, plant-based beverage serves as a delicious alternative to cow’s milk, which has been linked with acne in numerous studies.
Choose unsweetened almond milk (or making your own) to reduce your intake of added sugars and prevent blood sugar spikes.