At least five days a week (and sometimes seven), I employ a full-coverage regimen—moisturizer, foundation, concealer, pressed powder, bronzer—to transform my skin into the smooth, uniform canvas I wished it was naturally. Although I’ve never been plagued with particularly poor skin, it’s not perfect either. I suffer the occasional breakout. I have mild hyperpigmentation (due to years spent frequenting a tanning bed … I know, but that’s another story). And I was born with a generally dull, ruddy complexion. So, when I heard InStyle collaborated with a slew of dermatologists, nutritionists, and integrated wellness experts to build a “Good Skin Diet” for our July issue, I jumped at the opportunity to test it out.
The premise of the diet is basically that clear, glowy skin comes from within; if you’re filling your gut with salty and sugary foods, there isn’t a product in the world that will get you a Jennifer-Lopez complexion. The guidelines were clear enough: Give up or lower your intake of irritants like dairy, sugar, and gluten and up your intake of organic, lean proteins, cruciferous vegetables, and healthy fats. Motivated by the article’s promised benefits of healthier, brighter skin, I tossed away my processed foods, moved my omnipresent bottle wine to the back shelf, and hid my cheese board for 30 days. Here, my experience on the Good Skin Diet.
As I reviewed the diet’s rules and requirements, my first thought was ‘this is basically how I already eat.’ A celiac diagnosis benched gluten from my diet months ago, and my enthusiasm for health and wellness keeps me from eating lots of sugar or processed foods. ‘Piece of (dairy-, gluten-, sugar-free) cake!’ I thought. I hit the grocery store to stock up on organic chicken and eggs, antioxidant-rich foods like sweet potatoes and carrots, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale, and a slew of omega-3s (aka healthy fats) like walnuts and avocados.
The next few days passed expectedly easily. It’s true what they say: eat good, feel good. And I enjoyed the meals I made out of my skin-cleansing haul. Until the first happy hour invitation hit my inbox mid-week. Wine is “basically fermented sugar,” says Nigma Talib, an N.Y.C. naturopathic doctor and author of Younger Skin Starts in the Gut ($11, amazon.com). “I can always spot a ‘wine face,’” she says. But what does one drink on a warm Wednesday evening if not wine? In my case, nothing. In fact, I abstained from alcohol for that entire weekend.
Skin Summary: “Significantly less puffy. That’s all for now,” I typed into my iPhone notes one week into the diet.
Fresh off my alcohol-free weekend and armed with a new bundle of good-skin-approved groceries, I was feeling refreshed and my skin was looking less florid than usual post-weekend. The Good Skin Diet includes a round up of “boosters” that tackle specific skin woes like acne or fine lines. I decided to add HUM’s Gut Instinct probiotic supplement ($25, humnutrition.com) into the mix to balance out my good-to-bad gut bacteria ratio (aka combat the breakouts I sometimes battle). “An acne flare-up is almost always an indicator that bad bacteria is outnumbering good in the gut,” says N.Y.C. integrated wellness expert Dr. Frank Lipman. Week two’s challenges came in the form of my office’s snack machines. You don’t realize how much you visit the M&M and popcorn dispensers until you no longer can. I read in the piece that “good fats” can help quell sugar cravings. So, before I cracked under the pressure of snack time, I ran to Rite Aid and bought the largest bag of walnuts I could find. Crisis averted.
Truthfully, my sugar cravings continued throughout the week. I silenced them at night by sipping tea and actually going to sleep at a decent hour, but I struggled every time I came within 15 feet of a candy aisle and pretty much avoided the office kitchen for fear of caving.
Skin Summary: “Puffiness still low as ever. Nose and cheeks noticeably less rosy. I think the whites of my eyes are less dull in the morning, too!” I noted in my iPhone after week two.
The third week of my diet aligned with a previously-scheduled weekend getaway to Miami. I was nervous about managing my clean diet on vacation, but took solace in the fact that Miami, while full of sugary alcoholic beverages (hello, Miami Vice!), is also full of fresh seafood and high-end restaurants up to speed with dietary trends like living gluten-free. I encountered zero difficulty when it came to avoiding dairy, gluten, and processed foods while there. But this was meant to be a fun girls’ trip and, honestly, unwinding in the warm weather with a glass of wine remained on my mind the entire weekend.
That said, I remembered that clear shots of alcohol (think: vodka, tequila, gin) are less corrosive than sugar-laden liquors. So, I spread a few vodka-sodas throughout the weekend and actually did not wake up with any visible negative effects to my skin. With the addition of a light sun-kiss, my complexion really was glowing. I felt comfortable going completely bare-faced, and not just to the beach.
Skin Summary: At this point I started to realize it wasn’t what was happening to my skin, it was what wasn’t. “No breakouts. Literally not even a single baby one!” read week three’s note.
Admittedly, I was missing my occasional date with processed foods and cheese, but the lack of breakouts and eye puffiness motivated me to finish the diet strong. I had this routine down to a science by week four. Sunday night, I cooked grass-fed burgers, whipped up a blend of roasted butternut squash (vitamin A!) and Brussels sprouts, and packed my lunches for the week. It should come as no surprise that the Good Skin Diet is also a good body diet and I found myself feeling physically lighter and less bloated by the time the last seven days rolled around. Clear skin plus looser pants makes skipping a few wine and cheese parties totally worth it.
Skin Summary: “So, this actually works pretty well,” read the final iPhone note check in. The biggest change is the lack of puff in my cheeks and under my eyes. Also nice? Not breaking out once over an entire 30 days, which is basically unheard of for me. Otherwise, my results are subtle changes in redness and dullness, which I might not have noticed without the before and after images to prove them. I would be interested to see what my skin might look like after a second month on the Good Skin Diet, but for now, I think I’ll hit pause for a moment and raise a glass of Pinot to the fact that I’ve replaced the foundation and powder in my beauty routine with a light BB cream.