Booze, Bread, or Dairy: Which Is the Worst for Your Complexion?

Tag a friend who will hate you forever for forcing her to confront the truth.

They might be amongst the most regretful-making substances known to man, but gluten, alcohol, and dairy might as well be the three essential food groups—or at least can be found in anything you might derive satisfaction from eating. But at what cost to your skin?

Although research still hasn't proven a direct cause-and-effect relationship between any of these and the zit that's apparently signed a 99-year lease on your chin, you might like to know which is the least of three evils before you go eliminating them all from your diet. (Because, as Trumpkin would say, "Sad.") So first, we'll evaluate their effects separately. Et puis, we'll see how two top skin experts ranked them in order of badness. It's going to be a *bumpy* ride. (So sorry.)

You know the drill: Dries you out, yet simultaneously makes you puffier than Will Smith before he could CapriSun a bottle of Benadryl.

In excess, it also increases blood flow and dilates blood vessels, causing redness. You will feel pretty, but you won't look it.


Despite the current anti-brioche atmosphere, not everybody's face will reflect that they had one focaccia square too many with dinner last night. However, if you are sensitive to gluten, the inflammatory reaction in the gut could lead to severe small intestine damage, a location where acne is thought to originate.


Another one that depends on your individual constitution, but the thinking is that Mont d'or and skyr and all those other lovely things are mucous-forming and hard for the body to digest, while the hormones involved in milk production mimic those that trigger blemishes. And since hormones are fat-soluble and there are more sebaceous glands in the face, that explains the constellation that takes residence on your jawline after you order a New God Flow at Morgenstern's.


The Rankings (DUN DUN DUN)

The experts: Renée Rouleau, top aesthetician and founder of the Renée Rouleau Skin Care collection, and Dr. Rachel Nazarian at Schweiger Dermatology Group. The rankings: completely different, though that's part of the fun, no?

"[Dairy] by far has the most visible consequences, which is cystic acne—those hard, painful bumps that develop deep within the skin and take forever to go away," Rouleau says. She then follows that with booze, then bread, for the dehydrating properties illustrated above and the relatively small population it affects, respectively.

Dr. Nazarian's lineup, on the other hand, goes booze, bread, dairy. "Alcohol is the greatest skin offender with three strikes," she says. Dullness and flushing make two, and rosacea adds a third, if you're predisposed. Gluten comes next, because "evidence has shown that high-glycemic foods may be the trigger for inflammatory conditions, like acne." And dairy brings up the rear, because she says there's not quite enough science to back the hormone-oil correlation.

What It All Means

It's quite simple, really, if you listen to your body and are honest with yourself about your vanity priorities. Which of the three has historically given you the most trouble? And are you more concerned about your appearance tomorrow or won't you need to give a sh*t until weeks from now? Or, as Dr. Nazarian put it, "you could just have a slice of rum cake with a scoop of ice cream on top, and find yourself a good dermatologist." Because YOLO.

Follow Marie Claire on Facebook for the latest celeb news, beauty tips, fascinating reads, livestream video, and more.

Assistant Editor

Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at Marie Claire. She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.