Three Simple Ways to Keep Sugar from Wreaking Havoc on Your Skin

Three Simple Ways to Keep Sugar from Wreaking Havoc on Your Skin

It’s not just abs that are made in the kitchen, but your complexion, too.  We used to think that it was an old wives tale to avoid certain foods if you’re prone to breakouts, but in fact dermatological textbooks from the 1950s had information recommending that patients with acne avoid chocolate, fats, sweets and soft drinks. It became a passé point of view when studied failed to show a clear and concrete between these foods and breakouts.

New evidence has shifted health professional perspectives that there has to be a link between food and skin. In non-Westernized island cultures, acne is non-existent, even in kids going through puberty. These cultures survive from hunting and fishing and their diets consist mainly of vegetables, fruits and animal proteins with no processed foods or added sugars. This helped to start the research that high-sugar diets that then trigger high insulin levels can result in acne.

Foods that are high in sugar are considered to be high glycemic foods. The glycemic index is a ranking system based on the sugar levels in foods and how they affect blood sugar levels. Foods with a Glycemic Index GI of 55 or less have sugars that are absorbed slower in to the body and then cause less of a blood sugar spike and less of a hormonal reaction with insulin. Foods that have a GI of above 70 are considered high GI foods that will cause an immediate spike in blood sugar levels. Too much sugar much causes AGEs (advanced glycation end products) in our system. When our body tries to repair the damaged proteins from the AGEs, the immune system has to work and secretes cytokines. These are inflammatory messengers that can cause everything from breakouts to arthritis to premature aging. 

Acne and breakouts are a result of a hormonal surge or imbalance. The foods that are high glycemic, high in sugar, are what cause this hormonal reaction in the body. Insulin is a hormonal response to sugar in the blood stream. When we eat a high GI food, the body rapidly absorbs sugar and it’s now in our blood stream. Once that sugar is there, the body signals for insulin to be released. Insulin is a hormone that’s supposed to tell the body where to put all that blood sugar- mainly for fat storage. In fact, when insulin is active, the body goes into fat storing mode which is why high sugar diets cause such rapid weight gain and why you can’t lose weight without reducing the amount of sugar you’re consuming.

With skin, the hormones that come along with eating high sugar foods also stimulate oil production, which increases the proliferation of skin cells that block and clog pores. Many dermatologists are now recommending a low glycemic index diet along with medications to help treat acne.

So it’s great to know to avoid sugar or foods that are high in sugar but where do you start? When it comes to anyone wanting to lower their sugar consumption- be it for skin, weight, energy or just overall health there are three main steps to do to drastically reduce the amount of sugar you’re eating every day.

  1. Ditch the sodas, artificial sweeteners and candy. There is no place in any healthy lifestyle or clear skin for any of those.
  2. Focus on the times where you physically add sugar into things: coffee, tea, yogurt, oatmeal, etc. Also as part of this rule think about the things that come already sweetened, like flavored yogurts or dairy and instead opt for plain flavors and sweeten them naturally with fresh fruit.
  3. Read the ingredient label. Skip the nutrition label- it gets too confusing to separate between natural sugars and added sugars- that’s why I always ask my clients to read the ingredients. If sugar is in the ingredients of a food that isn’t a dessert or shouldn’t be sweet, think salad dressings, pasta sauce, bread, then that’s one to skip!

A lot of clients worried about breakouts and acne ask me about fruit. Fresh fruit is often high in sugar but it’s also loaded with tons of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and more that’s all beneficial to your skin and well as your overall health. I’d much rather your sugars be coming from fruits than other places like refined sugars that don’t have additional health benefits. Some fruits are better options than others as they’re lower in sugar, like berries and apples compared to a banana and pineapple, but I’d still rather any of those over a dessert!

Clear skin comes from many components of how you treat your body, hydration, rest, stress, skincare and more not just diet alone. But lowering your sugar intake can greatly reduce the amount of breakouts not to mention have tons of other health benefits. You don’t have to give up all sweets but most importantly it’s smart to reduce the amount of sugar you’re eating in your everyday foods, that’s what the three steps are mainly for. If your daily diet is lower in sugar that just makes the times you do indulge in a sweet treat all that more sweet!


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