Among the die-hard skin-care fans on reddit.com’s community SkincareAddiction, there’s a prevailing belief that committing to a dairy-free diet will majorly affect the prevalence of acne. Take the user andbutter, who writes that “giving up dairy was the best thing I’ve done for my skin.” Or the user umidkmybffjill, who claims, “I cut out dairy and switched to almond milk (not soy because I read it can negatively affect skin as well) about 3 years ago and my skin is better than ever!”
Dairy-free is far from the only diet prescribed as a cure-all for problematic skin. An abundance of pimple-treatment advice online has acne sufferers trying a whole variety of unproven diets and taking up anecdotal stories of improvement as gospel. Some people who go on the low-carb ketogenic diet claim that ridding their diet of sugar helps keep acne and oily skin at bay. Conversely, others are convinced that a low-fat diet rich in unrefined carbohydrates such as potatoes almost entirely eliminates acne. A small 2016 study found that 46 of the study’s 49 dermatologic patients believed that diet affects acne, with greasy foods as the No. 1 suspected culprit.
With this abundance of often conflicting advice, acne sufferers’ confusion over treatment tactics seems inevitable. The American Academy of Dermatology, or AAD, doesn’t currently recommend diet changes to manage acne, citing lack of sufficient data. And it doesn’t help that misinterpretations of 1960s-era research has acne sufferers throwing their chocolate bars in the trash. Multiple correlations between breakouts and diet have been found, but these correlations are more complicated than Reddit advice columns may lead people to believe. Often, it’s not a one-to-one scenario.