If you're anything like me, you probably know at least a handful of people who have done (or are currently on) the Whole30 diet and rave about the health benefits. I've heard all kinds of good things can come from it, from weight loss to less bloating to better sleep, which left me wondering: what kind of effects would this diet have on my largest organ? A slew of skin issues (breakouts, allergic reactions, assorted bumps and redness) that I couldn't seem to get in check had led me to believe that perhaps something in my diet was the culprit. Combined with the fact that I felt the need for a dietary reset going into the new year, I decided that trying Whole30 might be a good move. Here's what happened to my skin.
In its simplest form, it's a diet that eliminates dairy, sugar, grains, legumes and processed foods for 30 days. The thinking is that these are the most common blood sugar-disrupting and inflammation-causing food groups and may potentially be causing a slew of health issues. To be fair, my diet was already fairly clean and in-line with this type of eating to begin with. I eat a very limited amount of processed food, if any, genuinely don't like sugar and rarely eat gluten. My weakness? Cheese. (I'm sorry, but if you don't appreciate the glory that is a creamy brie, we can't be friends.)
It's a big one. The "you are what you eat" saying most definitely applies to your skin. As your largest organ, dietary choices — both positive and negative — can clarify manifest in a variety of different ways. There's no shortage of studies that have shown a correlation between dairy intake and acne, often citing hormones in today's mass-produced dairy products as the culprit. Sugar is known to trigger advanced glycation end products (appropriately known as AGEs), which damage collagen and elastin, leading to signs of aging such as lines and wrinkles. And then, of course, there's the issue of inflammation, which can exacerbate many skin conditions, including eczema, rosacea and acne. In theory, the Whole30 diet addresses all of these, so one could realistically expect an improvement in their skin.
Image via Imaxtree
Spoiler alert: It worked.
Let's cut right to the chase: I definitely noticed some positive changes in my skin with the Whole30 diet. (Oh, and I should also be totally honest and mention that I definitely slipped and ate cheese and drank wine a few times over the past month, so keep that in mind as you keep reading about my experience.) One of the biggest things I noticed was a reduction of my perioral dermatitis. AKA POD, it's a very unattractive condition that manifests as red bumps around your mouth. Often affecting women in their 20s and 30s, there's no known cause, or real cure, for that matter. I've been dealing with it for years and have tried everything from prescription creams to natural remedies to oral antibiotics, all with limited success. Even after only a few days of changing my diet, my POD had cleared up and was way more manageable. Since it is an inflammatory condition, that makes perfect sense.
Overall, my skin looked much more vibrant and less dull but the biggest change I saw was how soft and smooth my skin felt, even without moisturizer. Healthy fats are encouraged on Whole30 (ALLLL the avocado, please), so I suspect that that may have had something to do with it. As far as breakouts go, I'm still dealing with a pesky batch of whiteheads that I can't seem to get rid of, but maybe that's because I wasn't as stringent with the diet as I should have been.
To make sure I wasn't an anomaly, I asked a few friends who had recently done Whole30 to share what changes they noticed in their skin (so scientific of me, I know). One also noted that her skin was a lot smoother and that her eczema, while still there, was much less irritating and more manageable. A few red patches on her face had also cleared up and she told me people were commenting on her glow. Another girlfriend also said her skin was better while following the diet, saying it was much clearer with fewer blemishes.