While milk and other dairy foods do not actually cause acne, the hormones found in cow's milk are thought to cause inflammation as well as overstimulate the oil glands in humans. The increase in oil production leads to clogged pores (combined with bacteria in the follicles), which leads to more inflammation and pimples. I take very good care of my skin (I'm a beauty editor after all), but I do eat a lot of dairy, so I thought giving it up might be the missing link in my quest for clear skin.
I first had the idea to try (temporarily) going dairy-free when my mom became lactose intolerant about three years ago and seeing her suffer through the pain and agony after eating her favorite foods (and at the time, not knowing what she was allergic to). After various testing and elimination of different foods, dairy was found to be the culprit. So as an act of solidarity and concern about the possibility of one day becoming lactose intolerant myself, I thought I would give it a go for two weeks. I knew it would be hard to give up omelets, yogurt, cheese boards and so many other yummy foods. On the flipside, could this be the answer to clearer skin, better digestion and possibly the shedding of a few pounds? Instead of phasing out dairy, I gave it up cold turkey. I had no idea how challenging the two weeks were going to be.
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Starting my no-dairy challenge on the right foot
Image courtesy Hannah Savin
Bet you didn't know there was dairy in that...
Image via Instgram @hailmerrysnacks
The challenges of going dairy-free
The one time I most felt like cheating during the two weeks was when my boyfriend's cousin was visiting from New York. We showed him all around Los Angeles and he mentioned that he wanted to try Salt & Straw ice cream, a place I've been dreaming of going, but the line is always so long that I've never gotten to try it. (I should also mention that ice cream is one of my most favorite foods.) Lo and behold, when we arrive at Salt & Straw there was absolutely no line. They sampled all of the delicious delicacies before deciding on a flavor while I sampled a sorbet — good, but by no means ice cream. I realized that these are situations my mom deals with on a regular basis.
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Final thoughts on being dairy-free
In terms of pros to giving up dairy, I did feel lighter, more energetic overall and my digestion was more regular. I can honestly say that I did not notice a difference in the condition of my skin. It remained just as oily as when I started, however, had I given the experiment more time or had I not gotten my period in the middle, the results could have varied greatly. Also, my weight stayed absolutely the same. Though I had given up dairy for two weeks, it seems that most "creamy" substitutes are more nutrient and calorically dense than your average dairy product. So even though I wasn't consuming milk products, I was probably consuming more (healthy) calories overall.
My no-dairy experiment definitely gave me a greater appreciation for people struggling with food sensitivities — especially my mom. Not being able to enjoy the things you love can leave you feeling isolated and extremely limited in your food choices. Also, you have to do the research, read the labels and be your own biggest health advocate. I attempted to cut out dairy to gauge the effects from a beauty standpoint, but if it were a question of my health, I would make those cuts no matter what. As with all things, moderation is key. There are some dairy-based foods that I will happily continue to sub out for the occasional non-dairy alternative (they were pretty good), while some foods, like half and half in my coffee, are non-negotiable. I will say this, in my two-week quest, I did help my mom (who's as big of an ice cream connoisseur as I am) find an ice cream substitute that actually tastes like the real thing — So Delicious Cashew Milk Ice Cream is one non-dairy treat that we will both continue to enjoy together.
Image via Instagram @so_delicious