Gluten Vs. Skin

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I have struggled with my skin for what feels like most of my life time. I was put on the pill at a young age to control and prevent breakouts – wasn’t that the cure for everything a few years ago? I still experienced the occasional break out, but it never really bothered me until I began modeling and it became detrimental to my work.

I was sent straight to a doctor who put me on antibiotics and prescribed topical cream. I was also spending a lot of money on dermatological treatments to try to control the breakouts and help with the resulting scarring. This held off the breakouts for a period of time but the acne always returned, rearing its ugly head. I was on antibiotics for my skin for years, and I think that my body eventually just got used to them. I asked doctors to prescribe me Roaccutane/Accutane (depending on the country you live in the name is different). Yes that is plural, I visited many doctors to try to get this drug. Not one would prescribe it to me because of the severe side effects, because I have depression in my family history (one of the many side effects) and because I was told my acne wasn’t bad enough. Of course my skin always seemed to calm down right before going to the doctor’s office (isn’t that always the way) and I had become a pro at hiding it with layers of foundation, concealer and powder – which I never left the house without.

I struggled with my skin for years, cursing it for losing me work and for the pain, anxiety and embarrassment it caused. When I would have break outs, they were clusters of small, angry, red spots with some larger cystic pimples. It was itchy and painful. I was embarrassed to leave the house without my mask of makeup and I felt like it was all anyone was looking at when they spoke to me – which sometimes was true. My agencies were trying to get me on stronger drugs and they couldn’t understand why doctors weren’t giving them to me. I tried Proactive after many people told me I just HAD to do something about my skin. This helped for a short period, but my skin is so sensitive that it felt like it burnt my face off.

It was constantly affecting my life, both socially and professionally. I was so embarrassed to go to work as models are meant to show up with a clean face – which I never did because I didn’t want to scare the client or makeup artist (let alone anyone that would see me on my way to the job!). I was afraid to go into my agency back then and would always wear my hair down in an attempt to hide my bumpy face. My skin was always something I was aware of, to the point that if I was talking to someone I made sure to turn my head so the clearer side faced them.  I would get so anxious sleeping over at friends’ places that I would try to wake up before them so I could run to the bathroom and cover my face with a fresh coat of foundation and concealer. Of course my friends would never have cared, it was more my insecurities that made me act like this.

My skin was at its worst from ages 18-21. When I realized that I was reacting to Gluten and started to cut it out of my diet, surprise surprise, my skin began to clear up. At first I thought it was just coincidence but when I accidentally ate gluten my skin would once again flare up into this painful, itchy acne rash. No one else in my family that was celiac ever struggled with acne or bad skin so this was a brand new side effect that only I seemed to suffer from. I couldn’t believe it, all the money and embarrassment I could have saved if only I had known. Better late than never I suppose.

Gluten has been linked to other skin problems including psoriasis and eczema. I know some people that will use a certain shampoo and break out in psoriasis around their hairline. A lot of shampoos, moisturizers and makeups contain gluten. The shampoo (Kiehl’s) at my gym contains wheat starch, which of course I learned through experience – after using the shampoo I broke out around my temples and cheeks. Our skin is our largest organ, so it’s only logical to experience side effects from something that makes us react when ingested if it is used externally as well.

Don’t get me wrong, my skin isn’t perfection now that I have completely cut Gluten out of my life for 6 years. I still get the monthly breakouts and things like travel and lack of water or sleep affect my skin. My work affects my skin, the amount of makeup that is put on my face then rubbed off then reapplied (and don’t get me started on unclean brushes) is also going to irritate and upset my skin.

My skin was trying to tell me about my gluten allergy long before my gut. I wish that I had known about the link between gluten and skin problems years ago. In this day and age we are being told what pill we can take to cure what ails us, always looking for a quick fix. Listening to our bodies can sometimes be difficult but when we hear what it is trying to tell us we can work on figuring out how to resolve the problem.

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