My experiment with seeing how diet — especially sugar — affected my acne started back in 2012. At 36, I was undergoing laser treatment for scarring while simultaneously trying to deal with painful, new cystic acne, something I never thought I'd still be struggling with at this point.
I'd been dealing with acne since I was 14, and it was only getting worse as I got older. The dermatologist I saw had fancy degrees on her wall and came with glowing recommendations, but her course of treatment for me was a prescription for harsh ointment that dried out the acne and then rich emollient creams to combat the dryness.
She also tried to put me on Accutane, but I'd once heard a dermatologist refer to the drug as a nuclear bomb for acne: It destroyed the acne-causing bacteria, but everything else went with it. I wanted clear skin, but I wasn't ready to destroy my body for it.
I was desperate for clear skin and losing patience (and confidence) that I'd ever get it, but I was tired of all the treatments, and using products that showed no signs of working. It took a year, but I finally decided to make a change. I stopped all treatments and started doing some research of my own.
Over the years, I'd asked dermatologist after dermatologist whether my diet could be contributing to my acne, and they all said "no" emphatically. But I was beginning to doubt them. If decades of experimenting with different topical treatments weren't working, what could possibly be left?
I started to notice that on days when I was more mindful of what I was eating (less sugar, etc.), my skin was calmer and looked much better than normal. I'd also seen a video from a doctor that detailed how exactly the body was impacted by sugar, and that certainly knocked some sense into me.
Despite the fact that I generally eat healthy, I do love desserts. So I decided to stop eating all sugar except for fruit and a tiny bit in my tea every day. I also kept a diary of everything I ate and how my skin looked.
Within two weeks, I noticed a difference. My skin was less red and much clearer. The acne I had was healing nicely, and nothing new was popping up. For the first time in years, my face — dare I say it — looked good. I even went out for dinner without makeup, something that was a HUGE deal as I tended to get depressed whenever I looked at my bare face in a the mirror.
From looking at my logs, I noticed a pattern emerge: two weeks after I ate something sweet, I broke out. It didn't matter how healthy I ate for rest of the time, one bit of something sugary and it showed up on my face two weeks later. Not that I did, but I could have eaten raw carrots for a week and then had once small piece of cake and ... BAM! My skin was acting up.
This was the last piece of the puzzle.
Listen, I'm not saying cutting sugar out completely will cure everyone's acne, but it's worth the experiment. As someone who had tried everything imaginable before, only to have sugar be the sneaking culprit behind my skin woes, I can say with confidence that it's helped me and my complexion immeasurably. If you're up for it, you'll probably have to cut it out completely for at least two weeks to see any kind of improvement.
I'll be completely honest, though, and admit that I do have a teaspoon of sugar in my tea every day. There are certain things I just won't give up!