A Clear Skin Diet?

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I think we can all agree that no one likes acne. But like baldness and dimpled thighs, acne is an indelible nuisance that just won’t go away for an unfortunate few.

But we certainly try.

After the spot treatments, masks, and borderline manic cleansing, an enduring theory remains: is it something that we ate? As children we were told sweets lead to breakouts—a tiresome axiom disproven many times over. Recent studies introduce new food enemies that run the grocery gamut.

There’s strong evidence that dairy causes breakouts. Hormones from lactating cows transferred tableside in milk, cream, and cheese; stimulate oil glands in our bodies. This excess oil production leads to clogged pores and blemished skin.

Over the winter, I decided to test this theory and ditched dairy for nearly six weeks. Two weeks into this experience I learned a few things: 1) consciously eliminating dairy is as easy as lifting a baby grand piano onto the third floor of a Brooklyn walkup, and 2) my breakouts actually started to decrease (especially around the chin and forehead). After six weeks with nary an ounce of lactose, I began to integrate dairy back into my diet. This slow integration allowed me to isolate the most problematic foods. Soft, processed cheese marked my skin like it was playing a game of Battleship, while hard cheeses were kinder (especially those made with goat’s milk).

The link between diet and acne doesn’t stop at dairy. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietics pinned dairy and high glycemic foods as acne aggressors. Another recent study led by the University of Maryland tied gluten sensitivity to acne. Researchers noted gluten sensitivity (which is not as severe as gluten intolerance—Celiac disease), causes inflammation in the gut that spreads to others parts of the body. This inflammation appears on skin in the form of irritated and sometimes painful blemishes.

A trip down any drugstore beauty aisle makes it clear that we’re not alone in our troubled-skin suffering. So in light of the new scientific evidence, is it a good idea to focus less on what we put on our face, and more on what we put in it?

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