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Can a Mass Gainer Cause Acne? (A Dermatologist Answers) 

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Last updated: August 1, 2023
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If you've never had to deal with acne, count your blessings. The rest of us have to deal with this nuisance at least occasionally in our lives.

While everyone wishes there was a magic solution to making acne disappear, we can at least avoid using products that lead to acne outbreaks.

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

I've checked what the research done on the topic says, and I've talked with a dermatologist friend.

Here's what I found out.

Quick Summary

  • Mass gainer can cause acne as it contains dairy, namely whey, and casein, which have been proven to trigger acne in some people.
  • To stop acne outbreaks while on mass gainer, consider substituting the milk supplement for the mixed ones.
  • Avoid overdoing your mass gainer if you notice acne outbreaks.

Do Mass Gainers Cause Acne?

man with acne on his forehead

Maybe yes, maybe no. The jury is still out on this one.

When you’re trying to bulk up, protein powder is the crucial part of your diet.

It’s made up of amino acids that are vital for both gaining muscle mass and repairing muscle.

Because of this, it’s common for people who want to gain weight to add protein powders to their diet.

How do people consume a weight gainer? It can be done in many ways, but the most popular is the smoothie or a shake.

While the experts say you should consume the weight gainer in the hour after your workout, some research says it can cause an acne breakout.

The reports that say that protein shakes can cause acne are mainly focused on bodybuilders, as they drink up to 12 liters of milk a day and have acne on the chest and back.

However, other reasons may be causing bodybuilders to have acne apart from milk proteins, such as anabolic steroids and high BMIs.

So, while there are some claims that weight gainers can trigger acne, more research is needed.

How Can They Cause Acne?

whey protein with scooper inside a container

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
  • Whey (1)

Whey, more than casein, is the cause of acne flares because it increases the production of insulin-like growth factor hormone or IGF-1.

Moreover, it also triggers hormones that overstimulate oil glands, which results in clogged up pores, which also leads to acne.

The milk protein also affects the body’s ability to process blood sugar, which causes skin inflammation. This leads to an increase in sebum, which also causes acne.

What’s more, if the weight gainer or whey protein you’re using has added sugars, this also leads to more acne breakouts because sugar increases the level of IGF-1.

"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?

man pointing at his head thinking while holding a jug

No, you don’t have to stop using mass gainers. But, there are some changes you should make to your shakes.

Start by switching the milk you use for the mix. For example, go plant-based and use milk with soy protein or almond milk.

Vegan protein powder, such as pea protein powder or hemp protein supplement, is a safer and healthier option.

In addition, it’ll be easier for your body to break down the plant-based protein shake than a dairy product.

Another thing you can do is make your own mass gainer. In this way, you can even end up taking more protein and achieving serious mass and better muscle growth than with a store-bought product.

You can even add certain foods with a high glycemic index that can help you bulk up and build muscle.

For example, you should avoid dairy products, but you can use peanut butter.

You can also cut the mass gainer from your diet entirely and use other supplements instead.

You should try this if you’ve been overdoing it with mass gainers or if you’ve recently noticed new breakouts.

How to Get Rid Of Breakouts?

washing machine with clothes inside, pink towel inside a washing machine

Apart from taking a break from the gainer and going the vegan route, here’s exactly what to do to get rid of acne.

Consider that your whole weight training routine might be the issue. Here’s what not to do:

  • Re-were work out clothes
  • Share gear
  • Use a dirty towel

Instead, you should wear loose-fitting clothes and shower immediately after your workout to get rid of sweat and bacteria.

Use a cleanser without salicylic acid, as they’re great in unclogging the pores and helping you have clear skin.

Another thing to do is use Omega 3. It’ll help regulate hormones that are causing acne. It also has fish oil which at the same time fights blemishes and is great for heart disease. (2)

Finally, you can use benzoyl peroxide to get rid of bacteria and dead skin cells. It’s another excellent product for unclogging pores.

If none of this helps, consult a dermatologist for help.

Do You Struggle With Mass Gainers-Caused Acne?

While the research is inconclusive, and the experts I talked with have opposing views on the questions, there's a chance that high gi carbs in the weight gainer are the cause of your breakouts.

In this case, the best thing you can do is to stop taking the supplement for a while or opt for the superior mass gainer. If the issue gets worse, ask the expert's help.

Did you ever struggle with acne caused by a weight gainer? Let me know your experience and how you dealt with breakouts in the comments below.


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