Above photo: @actuallylowcarb
As someone who has always considered mozzarella sticks a food group, I never thought I'd need to give up my beloved cheesy treat—until I did.
Upon graduating college and heading home to New York City for a year, my skin went through the worst change I'd ever experienced. As a teenager I'd regularly visited a dermatologist thanks to my mother (who is a skincare aficionado), and a series of chemical peels and topical treatments meant I had never suffered from real acne. So now, struggling to find the culprit behind the newfound cystic pimples on my chin and blackheads sprinkled across my T-zone, I head back to my trusty doctor, Herbert Feinberg, MD.
Photo: Getty Images
I'm in a state of desperation—is it my makeup, is it birth control, is it pollution? I literally have no idea. Then the topic of my diet comes up and I suddenly feel like I'm in the hot seat. I have to own up and admit to Dr. Feinberg—who has advised me how important a healthy diet is for clear skin—that I've taken it upon myself to get familiar with as many bagel shops, pizzerias and bakeries as humanly possible. The good old "beauty comes from the inside" adage finally makes sense. I know that certain foods can build up an excess amount of acid in your stomach, which in turn can affect your skin. What I didn't know was that hormones often found in dairy—specifically growth hormones—are a common cause of acne. I'm left to face the tough question: Will I give up dairy in hopes that my clear skin will return, or continue to indulge and allow my face to suffer?
Around the time of this doctor visit, I accept my current job, which requires a move across the country to the health-conscious city of Los Angeles. This lifestyle change couldn't come at a more convenient time, so I decide I'll attempt a healthier diet for a month. As I settle into my new apartment and begin this new chapter of my life, I make sure that my first trip to the grocery store doesn't include any dairy at all.
I'm being entirely honest when I say it's a lot less difficult than I thought it would be. Cooking for myself allows me the willpower and determination to avoid lactose at all costs. The only hard part is staying away from restaurants, as the temptation of ordering cheese fries—or my first love, macaroni and cheese—is real. Above all, living in a city that's considered a wellness mecca is very motivating.
Now onto the reason you’re all here—the results. A month in, my acne has cleared up significantly. I still battle the small whiteheads, blackheads and blemishes we all experience, but I no longer need cortisone injections to reduce the size of a cyst—my skincare routine is enough. That routine consists of cleansing my face followed by a toner, BHA treatment, facial oil, moisturizer and spot treatment.
The dairy-free diet is also helping me in other areas of my life, including my digestion and energy level.
I'm less bloated, which is an issue I've routinely complained about. It no longer hurts to sit at my desk all day in a pair of high-waisted pants after eating lunch, and I no longer go to bed feeling heavy. Before, I would get tired easily and struggle to wake up in the morning, but I assumed that happened to every busy girl. It turns out not having a dairy-filled dinner helps me sleep better and allows me to wake up energized.
I no longer have to pack makeup onto my face in an effort to hide bumps. Typically shying away from cameras, I never snapped a makeup-free selfie, and that has changed.
I can't say that I'll keep this going forever, unless mozzarella sticks just happen to disappear off the face of the earth. But as they say, everything in moderation … right?