A new billboard campaign coming soon to Salt Lake City will feature a young woman with blemishes and the now iconic milk mustache.
"Got Zits?" the sign asks in large letters.
Sponsored by the worldwide animal-rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the new advertising push aims to get teens to "ditch dairy" not only to help clear their skin but also to ease the suffering of cows and their offspring.
PETA issued a statement citing a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that suggests a connection between diet and acne, with diary products being among the major villains.
However, an abstract for that study, "Acne: The Role of Medical Nutrition Therapy," states that "to date there are no randomized controlled trials investigating the relationship between frequent dairy or milk consumption and acne."
A Harvard School of Public Health study published in 2005 concluded that a positive association exists between acne and milk consumption, hypothesizing that hormones and bioactive molecules in the milk could be the culprits.
PETA also suggested that dairy-free diets can lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity, allergies, ear infections and the juvenile onset of diabetes.
However, PETA's primary message is that cows on dairy factory farms suffer because of genetic and chemical manipulation that unnaturally boosts the amount of milk they produce.
"Newborn calves are torn away from their mothers, and the males are sold to veal farms, where many are chained for months inside crates so small they can't even turn around or lie down comfortably," the PETA statement said.
Salt Lake City is one of three cities nationwide selected by PETA for billboard placement Austin, Texas, and Kansas City, Mo., will also feature the signs.
"We were looking for a buzzing metropolis with a young population and Salt Lake City is just a starting point," said Carrie Poppy, senior special projects coordinator for PETA,
David Allen, an Ogden dermatologist and president of the Utah Dermatology Society, said that the link between acne and dairy products remains controversial.
"The thinking [in one study] is that the hormones given to the cattle may worsen acne," Allen said.
"I get some patients who say if they eat cheese, milk, pizza or greasy foods, their acne worsens. So I suggest they eliminate those foods. But it's not an across-the-board blanket statement," Allen added.
Allison Triplitt, assistant professor for the University of Utah's Dermatology Department, said there are no "gold standard" studies really showing that dairy intake affects teen acne.
"I don't counsel my patients to avoid dairy, and I don't know any dermatologists who do," Triplitt said. "When patients ask, I tell them the biggest thing they can do is avoid sugar and candy rather than milk or cheese."