Can Mass Gainer Cause Acne? (Dermatologist Insights)

Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD
Published by Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD | Medical Doctor
Last updated: January 26, 2024
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Many of us deal with acne occasionally. While there's no magic solution for acne, we can avoid products that cause outbreaks.

After I started suspecting that mass gainers have been the cause of acne outbreaks, I decided to research the matter.

As a practicing physician, I've checked what the research done on the topic says. Here's what I found out.

Quick Summary

  • Mass gainers can potentially cause acne due to ingredients like dairy, specifically whey, and casein.
  • Dairy in mass gainers, especially whey, can trigger acne by increasing the production of insulin-like growth factor hormone (IGF-1).
  • Reports from the National Library of Medicine explain that bodybuilders, who are significant consumers of protein shakes, can drink up to 12 liters of milk daily, resulting in acne on their chest and back.
  • While mass gainers offer muscle-building benefits, it's essential to be aware of potential skin reactions and choose products wisely.

Do Mass Gainers Cause Acne?

A man with acne on his face

While the experts say you should consume the weight gainer the hour after your workout, research from the American Academy of Dermatology Association says it can cause an acne breakout [1].

Reports from the National Library of Medicine indicate bodybuilders drinking large amounts of milk with their protein shakes may experience more acne, especially on the chest and back [2].

Yet, acne in bodybuilders could also stem from anabolic steroids or high BMIs, not just milk proteins. While there are claims about weight gainers causing acne, more research is needed.

Factors in Mass Gainers that Trigger Acne

Three ingredients in mass gainers can influence the onset of acne. When selecting a supplement, it's vital to be informed about:

  1. Specific ingredients, like certain proteins or added sugars, can increase sebum production.
  2. How certain additives can cause skin inflammation, triggering acne outbreaks.
  3. The alternatives and solutions available for those experiencing acne when consuming mass gainers.

How Can They Cause Acne?

Mass gainer powder on a white bowl

A mass gainer can cause acne because it contains dairy — whether in the product itself or if you’re using milk as a mixer.

Milk has two proteins:

  • Casein [3]
  • Whey [4]

Whey, more than casein, is the cause of acne flares because it increases the production of insulin-like growth factor hormone or IGF-1. Additionally, it stimulates hormones that overactivate oil glands, clogging pores and causing acne.

Milk protein disrupts blood sugar processing, leading to skin inflammation and increased sebum, another acne trigger.

Weight gainers with added sugars may worsen acne due to higher IGF-1 levels.

"Insulin increases the production of sebum, which is associated with the development of acne."

- Meghan Feely, M.D., Board-Certified Dermatologist in New York City

Do You Have to Stop Using the Mass Gainer?

Soy beans and soy milk on a kitchen table

No, you don’t have to stop using mass gainers, but consider tweaking your shakes. Switch to plant-based milk like soy or almond or opt for the superior mass gainer for mixing.

Opt for vegan protein powders, like pea protein powder or hemp protein supplements, which are healthier and easier for your body to digest than dairy.

Make your own mass gainer for more protein and muscle growth. Use high glycemic foods like peanut butter, avoiding dairy. Consider other supplements if overusing mass gainers or facing acne issues.

FAQ

Can You Have Too Much Mass Gainer?

No, you shouldn't have too much mass gain because it can lead to unwanted weight gain and potential health issues.

Is It Good to Drink Mass Gainer Every Day?

No, it's not good to drink mass gainer every day as it can exceed daily caloric needs and increase the risk of acne for those susceptible.

References:

  1. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/causes/workouts
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23257731/
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307943580
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313715199
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