I've always had pretty good skin. Not just blemish-free, but glowy - to the point where people sometimes stopped me in the street to ask what skincare brand I used, or which foundation I wore. Then, about a year ago, my cheeks flared up. I blamed it on the cold weather and assumed it would pass. Nope, it just got worse.
A Visit to The Derm
I made the most of my beauty-industry contacts and visited a top dermatologist, who prescribed me an acne cream and told me to simplify my skincare routine. Great advice, and it definitely worked for a while, but within weeks it flared up again, as if the root cause was still there, bubbling away under the surface. A lot of other people I spoke to blamed stress - which was laughable, as I'm really relaxed in my life right now.
The Truth About Dairy
Then I came across an article about dairy, and how an intolerance to it can cause skin and sinus problems. That's when I finally pieced it all together. About a year ago I acquired a bit of a latte addiction and started drinking a large one every morning for breakfast. As well as the skin breakouts, I was also waking up deaf every morning, and feeling like I had a constant head cold…
I cut out my daily latte immediately, and within a week my skin had calmed dramatically. Buoyed by this quick progress, I skipped my weekly Ben & Jerry's fix and switched to soya milk when I fancied tea or coffee. I haven't 100% cut out dairy (let's not forget, my skin was fine before the lattes), but in just under a month, my skin has dramatically improved, and dare I say it, nearly cleared up completely.
Now, that's not to say dairy is the cause of everyone's adult acne, and I have no time for people who cut out entire food groups because it's the trendy thing to do. But it is worth investigating if you keep hitting brick walls when it comes to diagnosing the cause of your skin issue.
What The Experts Say
Integrative cosmetic and skin doctor Terry Loong explained to me that food intolerances cause inflammation in the gut.
"The gut contributes to 70% of our immune system, and when it is compromised, a whole host of symptoms can present themselves, including acne, skin rashes and even sinus problems."
Dairy is a common trigger, apparently, as many people have difficulty digesting it.
"Soya and almond milk is a better alternative, although some are also sensitive to those, so it's best to check," Dr. Terry advises.
"If you can make your own almond milk (soaking almonds at home, blending them, then straining the milk they produce), that would be best, as it doesn't have the high sugar or salt content that store-bought almonds typically have."
How To Diagnose
Unfortunately the NHS does not test for food intolerances, so you would have to seek advice from a nutritionist if you suspected you had one and wanted it in writing (most can do a blood test to confirm your food triggers).
"A cheap way to check if you are intolerant to certain foods is to do the Elimination Diet," explained Dr Terry. "Cut out the common culprits (including dairy) for at least three weeks and then reintroduce them one by one every three days, monitoring your skin's response."