Q. I have acne and it seems that every time I eat anything with sugar I break out. It also seems that milk makes me break out. Is this all in my head or does diet make a difference for complexion?
A. It is not in your head. Dermatologists used to assure their acne patients that diet didn’t matter, but sophisticated research now establishes that foods like sugar and refined starches (carbohydrates) that raise blood glucose and insulin promote acne (Bodo Melnik, Dermato-Endocrinology, Jan/Feb/March, 2012). The amino acid leucine, abundant in milk, also contributes to the biochemical processes that underlie acne. The current recommendation is to eat more vegetables and fruits, and avoid dairy products and highly refined foods. That may not clear up a breakout overnight, but with time that dietary pattern should help make acne easier to control. It is also better for heart and brain health.
There are also some topical remedies to try. Many readers have found that Milk of Magnesia applied to the face overnight and removed with a gentle cleanser in the morning can be helpful for acne. Here is one mother’s testimonial:
“My daughter’s skin cleared up after she started using MoM, and I was convinced that it worked when her only occasional breakouts were all along the edges of where she applied it – her hairline and around her lips. She ran out of MoM while I was out of town and now we have proof – her forehead completely broke out before we got to the store for more!
“Her skin with MoM is so smooth that her friends ask her what she uses. They have all tried expensive treatments like Proactive without the results she gets from MoM.”
Other readers have reported that using Pepto-Bismol in a similar way may be helpful. Perhaps the salicylates in Pepto-Bismol have some activity.