Do you struggle with adult, hormonal acne? Here’s how cutting out dairy affected my adult cystic acne. Hint: it’s never looked better!
Friends, let’s talk about skin woes, shall we? My current acne lurks under my chin and jawline. These painful bumps live underneath the surface of your skin and no amount of squeezing or coaxing will make them go away. (Believe me, I’ve tried and I now have lots of stubborn scars to prove it).
I’ve heard of elimination diets, such as Whole 30, that help people pinpoint sources of inflammation. I had a hunch that something that I was eating was contributing to my acne, but I didn’t want to commit to Whole 30 (I love grains and legumes).
I’ve heard of eliminating dairy before, and since I already don’t drink milk or eat yogurt, I thought I may try to eliminate dairy 100%. I don’t consider eggs dairy since they don’t come from mammals, so those stayed.
Before I dive into my results, I wanted to explain my reasons for eliminating dairy. In case you’re reading this and also suffer from acne, I wanted to paint a full picture and share what I tried before decided to go dairy-free for my acne. The TL;DR version: eliminating dairy worked for me!
What Did Not Work for My Hormonal & Cystic Acne
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve talked about acne products on the blog. I shared which paraben-free acne products I used a few years ago, but I haven’t updated my skincare routine in a while. In that post, I also describe my history with acne during my teenage years and my 20s.
After paying attention to the ingredients in my beauty products, I thought I’d clean up my act and nix the benzoyl peroxide and sulfur. I thought ‘I’m now 35, so surely I don’t need those harsh products.’ Not to mention, I want to start a family soon, and since you shouldn’t use benzoyl peroxide during pregnancy, I wanted to find safer alternatives.
Salicylic acid, which is considered a safer alternative to benzoyl peroxide, still doesn’t work for me. In fact, my hormonal acne only got worse when I swapped benzoyl peroxide for salicylic acid.
In the history of my oily skin, it had never produced so much sebum ever. I had to wash my face two to three times a day and use oil blotting sheets in between! Which, if you have oily skin like me, will make your oil glands go into overdrive in an attempt to protect it from further dehydration. This cycle had me at my wit’s end.
I heard hitting the gym and building up a sweat helped your skin purge toxins. Specifically, getting rid of build-up in your pores and reducing breakouts. But, nope. No change. (Disclaimer: I exercise for overall health, not solely to fight acne.)
How could a healthier lifestyle wreak havoc on my skin? I’d drink more water, to help flush out toxins from my system. While it did help reduce the amount of oil I produced, I’d still have painful bumps that makeup wouldn’t cover up.
Ironically, a few years ago I noticed that my skin broke out more than usual when I drank whey protein shakes after weight-lifting. I switched to an organic plant-based shake and my skin calmed down. In hindsight, this should have been a wake up call.
How I Decided to Cut Dairy
Comfort Food Overload
During the shorter nights of November and December, our hibernation instincts kicked in and we ordered more pizza than usual, especially the stuffed-crust kind.
After several indulgent (and delicious!) meals I noticed that my skin was breaking out so badly it reminded me of why I went on Accutane as a teenager. It got so bad that not even going back to my tried-and-true benzoyl peroxide and sulfur helped.
This was the turning point for me. I realized I needed to cut dairy cold turkey to save my skin.
It Started with Sugar
I wanted to change things up on my weight loss journey, too, since I hit a plateau. So I started substituting the sugar in my morning coffee with stevia. I rotated through several ones until I found one that wasn’t bitter tasting.
I heard that sugar can feed bacteria and, while we all have gut bacteria, I didn’t want to necessarily feed the bacteria breaking me out. This didn’t do much for my skin, but it taught me that I didn’t need super sweet coffee.
I Stopped Using Coffee Creamer
The only consistent dairy I consumed every day was my Natural Bliss coffee creamer. Aside from my coffee, creamer is what I looked forward to in the morning. So, I switched to almond milk. This was hard. I will often sacrifice taste for health but this was really hard. My morning coffee no longer sparked joy.
I crowdsourced suggestions from my friends on Facebook for non-dairy creamers that were close to the real thing. My Whole 30,
I learned that I prefer the richness of unsweetened coconut milk. The texture alone is all I need, and I don’t even need stevia! Califa Farms also has a new dairy-free version of half-and-half called Better Half that I will also test out.
I Cut Out Dairy
It wasn’t too difficult since I already don’t consume milk or yogurt and I rely on plant-based protein shakes after weight-lifting.
I stopped using butter on my pan to cook eggs and instead use an avocado + coconut oil blend. I stopped adding shredded cheddar cheese on scrambled eggs. I switched from milk ice cream to an artisanal coconut milk ice cream from Mayday Ice Cream, a local ice-cream shop.
The hardest part has been cooking meals for both me and my husband.
My Acne Completely Cleared Up
It has now been five weeks since I eliminated dairy from my diet. My skin is the clearest it has ever been in 20 years! I haven’t had to use my acne products as often, and I can finally use anti-aging moisturizers without clogging my pores.
I haven’t had any more painful cystic breakouts below my chin since cutting out dairy. I haven’t had to rely as much on the drying sulfur products. I still have dark post-acne scars, as seen in this post, but I don’t have any new spots beneath the surface of these scars.
However, I have slipped up. One day after we had homemade fajitas with cheddar cheese and sour cream, my skin revolted. I had one painful cystic bump under my chin and jaw. Since that was the only change in my eating habits, I was able to pinpoint exactly what caused it.
I feel like a new woman and I cannot wait until my acne scars clear up.
Have you tried an elimination diet for your skin? What helped your acne?